Issue 942

Australia

Refugees held in indefinite detention on Nauru shared the following letter on their Facebook page on October 26. They addressed it to human rights commissioners, communities of oppressed people and “world independent news channels”.

It has been published with minimal edits.

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About 3000 people joined Stop CSG Illawarra's human sign protest on October 21 at the Bulli Showgrounds.

The Human Sign - Protect H2O Stop CSG! from Stop CSG Illawarra on Vimeo.

Reclaim the Night Sydney released the statement below on October 24.

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Reclaim The Night, an annual worldwide campaign against all forms of violence against women, will hold its annual march this Sunday October 28 at Hyde Park at 7pm.

“In the wake of the Jill Meagher case, it is more important than ever that we highlight the effect violence against women has on our community,” Reclaim the Night spokeswoman Annabel Osborn said.

Speakers at the rally this year include:

Front Line Action on Coal released the statement below on October 25.

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Front Line Action on Coal has vowed to continue its 82-day-long blockade camp in Leard State Forest today following the Barry O'Farrell state government's approval of the the Maules Creek coalmine, claiming the government has “buckled to pressure from its mates”.

Refugees held in the Nauru detention camp have authored several letters detailing the conditions and despair they are now experiencing in the detention camp, where hunger strikes, self-harm, and disease and ill-health have erupted in just a few weeks.

Three letters are republished below with minimal edits.

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October 22:
Nauru refugee camp today at 10am in charge of all interviews held with representatives.

About 200 people rallied in Melbourne for refugee rights on October 21. The Refugee Action Collective Victoria called the protest.

Michelle O'Neill from the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia told the rally: “In reality, we are condemning asylum seekers to languish for indefinite periods of time. The effect of this on many asylum seekers will be extraordinarily severe psychological harm.

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on October 21.

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Just over 3000 people rallied in the Illawarra on October 21 to spell out: "Protect H20, Stop CSG!". Following a slew of broken promises by the state government last month, and a failure to rule out CSG development in drinking water catchments, people across the Illawarra came out in force once again.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said: "It's astonishing that the community is having to fight the state government to protect our water supply.

Hundreds of people are expected to take part in Reclaim the Night in Fremantle on October 26. The annual march to stop violence against women has been held in Perth since 1978, the rally. But this year's march and festival will be a first for the port city of Fremantle.

The event is being held to demand an end to violence against women at home and on the street, an end to victim blaming, and the implementation of comprehensive consent education in schools and communities. 

Twenty-four hours after telling the world that "people need to start showing some respect for the environment they live in", WA environment minister Bill Marmion showed what he meant by that statement by approving Western Australia's first uranium mine.

The October 9 decision gives state approval to Toro Energy for its Wiluna uranium mine. The mine still requires approval from the federal Labor government, but the state approval is considered to be a major hurdles passed.

Elders and activists from the Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth took to the streets on October 18 in a march to state parliament in defiance of Premier Colin Barnett's attempts to do away with native title.

Traffic was stopped as the crowd of 50 people took over St George's Terrace in Perth's CBD  and made its way to parliament.

The protest delivered a petition putting the Barnett government and the South West Land and Sea Council (SWLSC)  “on notice” because they are illegitimate bodies to make policy decisions affecting local Aboriginal people.

Protesters at a save TAFE rally in Geelong on October 19 chanted, “No cuts, no second term. We all have a right to learn, learn, learn!”

Almost 200 people took part in the rally. It coincided with the VECCI business convention at the Mercure Hotel in Geelong, which Premier Ted Baillieu was to speak at.

Protesters were angered to learn Baillieu had made his appearance but had left through the back door two hours before the rally began.

The Refugee Action Collective Sydney released the statement below on October 19.

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Another 38 asylum seekers, Iranian and Afghan, arrived in Nauru this morning (Friday 19 October) taking the number of asylum seekers, in the increasingly crowded detention centre to around 330.

But asylum seekers on Nauru continue to protest. A united protest of all detainees was held on October 17, demanding that processing of refugee claims start immediately and that the Australian government stop sending asylum seekers to Nauru.

More than 100 people attended an October 17 talk by Professor Damien Kingsbury of Deakin University titled “Why are the Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka?”. The meeting was organised by the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project.

Kingsbury outlined the history of Sri Lanka. He said that British colonialism created a centralised administration of the previously separate Tamil and Sinhalese areas of the island. After independence in 1948, Sinhalese politicians established a “majoritarian” political system that discriminated against the Tamil minority in terms of language, employment and education.

About 200 people staged a pro-choice counter protest on October 13 in response to a fundamentalist Christian-organised "March for the Babies", which called for the criminalisation of abortion in Victoria.

Pro-choice protesters were joined by people who took part in Global Noise rally in Melbourne that day.

More than 200 refugees held in a "tent city" on Nauru held a protest on October 14, saying they were horrified with the lack of health care, hygiene and entertainment at the camp.

They said that "no immigration officials, no human rights organization" have arrived to hear their claims for asylum, sparking fear and doubt about how long they will be held on Nauru.

The statement below was released by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition on October 15.

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Members of the Forgotten Australians rallied in Melbourne on October 13 to demand a Royal Commission into the sexual abuse, emotional and criminal assault, and torture of children in church and government-run homes, orphanages and foster care homes. The term Forgotten Australian refers to children who were placed in care outside of their family home during the 20th century.

The Australian government is set to give notorious private security firm G4S the contract to run the refugee detention camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. G4S has been dumped from previous contracts — including running Australia's refugee detention centre network — for medical negligence and incompetence.

Reports from Christmas Island suggest many families, teenagers, women and children will be among the first to be sent to the island in coming weeks, where the army is finishing a “tent city” similar to that built on Nauru.

The Lock the Gate Alliance released the statement below on October 15.

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Thousands of people from across Australia turned out over the weekend for the start of Lock the Gate's national week of action against coal and coal seam gas in our communities, our farmland, bushland and water catchments.

Many residents of the Blue Mountains are discovering for the first time that coal seam gas (CSG) drilling is an immediate, local issue for them. Gas giant AGL has a licence to explore for CSG in a huge area covering the Blue Mountains communities from Lapstone, Glenbrook, Blaxland, Warrimoo and Winmalee through to Springwood, and everything in between.

The newly formed campaign group Stop CSG Blue Mountains joined the national week of action against CSG, organising a residents’ rally in Glenbrook Park on October 13.

Our dear friend and comrade PA (Ram) Subramaniam, a tireless and courageous supporter of Tamil freedom and the liberation of all humanity, died on the morning of October 4.

When PA called to advise us of his cancer diagnosis less than two months ago, he did so in a completely matter of fact way. There was not a hint of self-pity or regret. In fact there was a renewed impatience and urgency.

World

Former Israeli paratrooper Avner Gvaryahu, now an activist with Breaking The Silence explains to Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle how 850 former Israeli soldiers have given testimony about the gross injustices against the Palestinian people they have witnessed and made to participate in as part of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He was visiting Australia to promote the book "Our Harsh Logic" (Scribe Publications).

The resolution below was adopted by the national board of the Left Bloc in Portugal. The Left Bloc in Portugal was founded in 1999 by the People's Democratic Union and Politica 21, a current from the Portuguese Communist Party. It is abridged from the October issue of International Viewpoint.

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The United Nations has warned that world grain reserves have fallen to critically low levels as world food prices have risen to levels close to that of 2008 — a year in which food riots took place in more than 30 countries.
 

The article below was presented by Karl Cloete, deputy general-secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) on October 10 at a conference at Cornell University in New York. NUMSA is South Africa's second-largest union, with almost 290,000 members in the smelting, manufacturing, auto and electricity generation industries. It is abridged from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

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Cuba’s ongoing socialist revolution has consistently shown it is adaptable and capable of renewal in the areas of feminism, environmental sustainability, political participation, health and education.

Despite the constant and concerted campaign by the United States to undermine the Cuban Revolution, it has achieved many great outcomes, including universal health care, universal education, eradication of illiteracy, low levels of birth mortality and low levels of HIV and AIDS.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was re-elected in October 7, winning more than 55% of the vote. He stood on a detailed 39-page program to deepen the popular revolution his government is leading, which has already lowered extreme poverty by more than 70%. The plan to push for a socialist transition over Chavez's next six-year term will be debated in communities and popular organisations across Venezuela over the coming months, before it is put to the National Assembly for adoption early next year.

Recently re-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his next six year term would mark a period of “greater advance” towards building socialism, as well as “greater efficiency in this transition from capitalism”.

The Venezuelan president made the comments on October 10 during a ceremony with the National Electoral Council (CNE). Three days earlier, Chavez beat right-wing candidate Capriles Radonski by 11.11% in presidential elections. Chavez took more than 55% of the vote.

The European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 12. The chairperson of the committee tasked with awarding the prize, Thorbjoern Jagland, praised the EU for transforming Europe “from a continent of wars to a continent of peace”.

The results of October 21 election for the parliament of Euskadi, the Basque autonomous community within the Spanish state, are expected to confirm the rising popularity of the left nationalist coalition, Euskal Herria Bildu (EH Bildu―Basque Country Assembly).

Regardless of whether EH Bildu tops the vote or is pipped by the conservative Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), progressive politics in Euskadi seems certain to record its best ever result.

Over the past three years Christian Super, a not-for-profit industry fund, has engaged in dialogue with Australian company Wesfarmers over its sourcing of phosphate rock from Western Sahara. Phosphate is used in its production of agricultural superphosphate.

“Western Sahara is a disputed territory where human rights abuses have been reported,” said Tim Macready, chief investment officer for Christian Super. “Companies doing business in this area may unwittingly aggravate the conflict or become complicit to oppression.”

Johnny Mao, Brit Schulte and Ben Silverman detailed in the US Socialist Worker the case of three activists in the United States north-west who are in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. On October 17, Leah-Lynn Plante -- the third to be jailed -- was released. For more information, visit www.freeleah.org.

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The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai has unleashed a wave of revulsion and protest in Pakistan, along with a wave of media attention around the world.

Across the political spectrum people are, quite naturally, interpreting this brutal crime through their own ideological lenses.

Unfortunately, leaps of logic and aggressive, violent non-sequiturs abound. This is in both the misogyny-addled justifications for this brazen assassination attempt and in the attempts to use this sickening attack as cover or justification for deadly and destructive foreign interventions.

This election year has seen some of the most extreme weather in the US for some time. Heat records were topped in many cites for a prolonged period. The most devastating drought in decades has ruined crops in a large area of the country.

Yet there has been hardly a peep from either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney about global warming and climate change.

Both have championed dangerous new methods of drilling for oil and natural gas, and promoted the very dirty tar sands oil from Canada.

Analysis

Former Israeli paratrooper Avner Gvaryahu, now an activist with Breaking The Silence explains to Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle how 850 former Israeli soldiers have given testimony about the gross injustices against the Palestinian people they have witnessed and made to participate in as part of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He was visiting Australia to promote the book "Our Harsh Logic" (Scribe Publications).

In 1988, then Labor Prime Minster Bob Hawke famously promised: “By the year 1990, there will be no Australian child living in poverty.”

Yet the recently released 2012 Poverty In Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reveals that 2,265,000 people, including 575,000 children, are still living below the poverty line in Australia.

PM Julia Gillard's sharp serve against opposition leader Tony Abbott’s sexism gave many, especially women, long overdue cause to fist-pump the air and think, “Finally, a point for us.”

She threw a verbal hand grenade on top of the simmering indignation that had pent up due to radio broadcaster Alan Jones’ relentless misogyny and the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of ABC journalist Jill Meagher. The speech rapidly went viral, hit global news and connected with thousands of women fed up with being told to shut up and accept the double standards.

Channel 9's morning news program showed footage of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stumbling and falling during her official visit to India over and over again — at least 10 times in succession.

Then for “balance” it showed footage of a similar stumble by former PM John Howard (who, unlike Gillard, wasn't wearing high-heeled shoes on grass at the time) — replayed just three times.

A debate about sexism erupted when female prime minister Julia Gillard attacked the opposition leader in Australian parliament for his misogynist attitudes.

It was a reminder that even after all the advances in the past 40 years, many women still face high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault, they shoulder the burden of child care and housework, in the workforce they make up most casual and underpaid jobs while earning 70% of what men earn, and battle daily with sexism in culture and relationships.

Unionist Bob Carnegie was charged with 54 counts of contempt of court on October 17 for taking part in a community protest during a dispute between builders' unions and building firm Abigroup at the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) construction site.

It is a sign of things to come for community activists. About 650 workers took strike actions against Abigroup for refusing to meet demands over working conditions, subcontractor terms and an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

It is that time of year again, when a bunch of Norwegian politicians decide who deserves a Nobel Peace Prize with an apparent disregard for any involvement in actual wars.

This year, the European Union was declared the winner. Coming just three years after the Norwegians gave the gong to US President Barack Obama, the decision is actually beginning to make me wonder if they have ever even heard of a place called Afghanistan. Perhaps we should all chip in for an atlas.

The Guardian’s description of Australia’s opposition leader Tony Abbott as “neanderthal” is not unreasonable. Misogyny is an Australian blight and a craven reality in political life. But for so many commentators around the world to describe Julia Gillard’s attack on Abbott as a “turning point for Australian women” is absurd.

It’s just before the turn of the 20th century, and colonial Australia is desperate to forge a “nation” and pull away from self-governing British colonies.

So-called native-born Australians are swept up in a wave of nationalism, keen to cut the apron strings of mother England. At the same time, on the southern edge of the Kimberley, another battle for independence is underway.

But this one won’t result in a constitution or the formation of a Commonwealth; it will end in rivers of black blood and the deaths of many.

Prominent Perth activist Kamala Emanuel faces court on November 28 in an important case dealing with the right to protest. She is charged with “failure to obey [an] order given by an officer”.

The charges relate to an April protest rally against coal seam gas "fracking" that was attacked by Perth City Council rangers. Rangers tried to close down the rally, claiming that it was in violation of council by-laws, including one by-law that prohibits a person from carrying a sign without authorisation.

More than 3300 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia by boat since the August 13 “expert panel report” on refugees. The Australian government has made no moves to hear the asylum claims of those sent to Nauru or held in mainland detention.

The decision to stop processing refugee claims from people arriving by boat was part of Labor’s government return to the “Pacific solution” under a so-called “no advantage” system. It has already created an alarming backlog and distress for many.

Culture

Pulling Strings
Izzy n The Profit
www.izzyntheprofit.com

It’s midnight in midwest Sydney and Izzy n The Profit are whipping a crowd into a full-blown frenzy. The audience is tiny, but the rappers are leaping around the Rooty Hill RSL like they’re ripping the roof off a stadium.

I deplore his politics, yet cannot help admiring his fiction. Are there two Mario Vargas Llosas out there? Will the real one please stand up?

Like the conflicted characters who populate his novels, the Peruvian novelist, 2010 Nobel laureate and one-time Peruvian presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa embodies contradictory tendencies that make him difficult to dismiss entirely as a rightist reactionary (though it is certainly tempting at times).

Fanaticism, On the Uses of an Idea
Alberto Toscano, Verso 2010
269 pages, $43.00

Review by Barry Healy

“Nothing great has been accomplished in history without fanaticism,” Leon Trotsky wrote in 1938. Certainly, the great turning points in human history, such as the Anabaptist peasant revolt in Central Europe or the Russian Revolution, required their participants to set aside their normal dispositions and assume a single-minded dedication to a cause greater than the self.

November marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut album.

For two decades, the US band has helped activists all over the world ruin their stereo speakers by giving them something truly worthy of cranking up. Rage’s unique sound — a fusion of rap, hardcore punk and metal — is one of the most recognisable sounds in music, up there with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Primus.

Lead singer Zack de la Rocha, of Mexican heritage, writes incredible lyrics and raps them just as well. His voice is indispensable in making Rage's sound so recognisable.