Issue 943

Australia

The following “Appeal of asylum seekers” was released by refugees on Nauru on October 31. It was addressed to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australian MPs, the Nauru government, human rights commissions and the “rest of the world”.

The men said on November 1 that they would begin a group hunger strike "for unknown time".

"This is a clear message that we are not happy here, we want to go back from this Hell to Australia and we request to the Australia government to start our processing."

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The statement below was released by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition on October 31.

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At 6.00pm Nauruan time, an Iranian asylum seeker attempted to hang himself from a light pole inside the detention centre. The man jumped from the pole with a sheet around his neck but was other asylum seekers quickly took his weight.

Asylum seekers had gathered around the pole appealing with the man, who was on the pole for around 15 minutes before he jumped. He was crying and saying, “I want to die,” and “I am tired of my life”.

*URGENT UPDATE*
Refugee solidarity activists in Melbourne have called for supporters of asylum seekers to join them outside the Maribyrnong Detention Centre. They've been protesting since 7am this morning. Police have arrived to break the community blockade of the detention centre in mass numbers.

The protest is taking place at Maribyrnong Detention Centre, 35 Hampstead Road, Maidstone.

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The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on October 31.

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About 500 people protested at the Fremantle Reclaim the Night rally, which took place on October 26. The rally demands were: end violence against women, stop victim blaming and consent education in schools.

For details see: Freo holds biggest women's rally for a decade

The University of Sydney ended last year with a $117 million surplus, but is moving close it's Koori Centre. The Koori Centre has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the university since 1989. It also coordinates the teaching of Indigenous Studies and provides a library, comfortable meeting space and computers.

The Centre provides support staff whose role was to help Aboriginal students through their degree. Instead of maintaining and expanding the Centre, student says the university is seeking to close it.

The statement below was issued by asylum seekers on Nauru following their protest on the afternoon of October 29. Republished from the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney.

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ASYLUM SEEKERS IN NAURU

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

We heard several times from different authorities that the sending of us [to Nauru] is an argument of giving lessons to those who have intention of coming to Australia through the sea by people smugglers.

In what one longstanding Perth feminist activist described as the biggest Reclaim the Night march in Perth in 20 years, over 300 people — women, children and men — rallied and marched in Fremantle on October 26, for an end to violence against women.

Gathering at Pioneer Park, participants heard incoming Murdoch University women's officer Amy Hoogenboom argue the need for consent education. “You need consent every time,” she said. “Consent is not ‘no’ or ‘not now’ or ‘maybe’”.

Brazilian Roberto Curti was fleeing from 11 police officers down Sydney's Pitt Street when he was tasered, handcuffed, capsicum sprayed and set upon on March 18.

Minutes later, after being tasered up to 14 times, having three cans of capsicum spray used on him, and with the weight of what one police officer called "half a tonne" of police on him, while restrained by two sets of handcuffs and a baton, the fit 21-year old student and soccer player was dead.

Australia’s big electricity generators are feeling the squeeze of electricity demand falling in recent years and growing competition from renewable energy.

This year, some environmentalists criticised the federal government for scrapping the “contracts for closure” negotiations, which would have made the federal government compensate operators to close up to 2000 megawatts of coal-fired power stations. However, more than 2000 megawatts of coal power plant has now been closed or “mothballed” across the country without paying the contracts for closure.

The threat facing Western Australia’s Kimberley region received national attention on October 5 when 10,000 people attended a concert for the Kimberley in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

The John Butler Trio and Claire Bowditch performed and Missy Higgins and former Greens leader Bob Brown spoke to the crowd. The concert was organised by The Wilderness Society to raise support for the protection of the iconic area.

Stop Pilliga Coal Seam Gas released the statement below on October 24 about a new report prepared for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment and the Coonabarabran and Upper Castlereagh Catchment and Landcare Group.

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A new ecological study of the Pilliga Forest in north-west NSW has found it is a “Noah's Ark” or refuge for many bird and mammal species that are declining across Australia.

Rollback the Intervention released the statement below on October 24.

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Another death of an Aboriginal man potentially involving police in the Northern Territory has sparked calls for an inquiry and urgent action to stop police harassment and brutality.

Mr E Lewis, a Warlpiri man living in Katherine, passed away shortly after being released from police custody on September 23.

More than 60 people met in Footscray on October 17 to plan the next steps in the Save TAFE campaign. Community group “Friends of Victoria University” hosted a public forum to discuss the Victorian state government’s $300 million cuts to the TAFE system and its impacts on communities in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

The NSW Liberal government is planning to put vital community services on the chopping block.

An October 12 article titled “Child sex assault services on hit-list” by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Josephine Tovey said a “leaked departmental briefing note” showed “funding for child sexual assault services and the child protection helpline are on a hit-list as part of cuts of almost half a billion dollars over the next four years to community services in NSW”.

“Violence against women is everybody’s business, and it has to stop!” proclaimed Margarita Windisch, one of the speakers at the Reclaim the Night march in Melbourne on October 20. One determined heckler from the crowd could not stop her as she passionately defended the rights of women and children and “played the gender card” proudly for women everywhere who have been “forced into this gender game”.

Menaha Kandasamy, the president of the Ceylon Plantation Workers Red Flag Union, recently visited Australia at the invitation of Australia-Asia Worker Links.

Kandasamy told Green Left Weekly the union mainly represents workers on tea and rubber plantations, though recently it has begun organising domestic and garment workers.

World

A popular movement against tar sands oil production and pipeline transport is on the rise and gathering steam in Canada.

Its biggest expression so far came on October 22 when 4000- 5000 people rallied in front of the British Columbia legislature to send a forceful message to the tar sands industry and its political representatives. “No tar sands pipelines across BC! No oil tankers in coastal waters!” read the lead banners.

The International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) released a report on October 8 documenting a forced eviction that took place in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, on May 12. Residents of Paga Hill had their homes demolished en masse by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

As of October 27, Hurricane Sandy, a storm so freakish it has been termed “frankenstorm”, had killed at least 38 people in Caribbean nations and was bearing down on the north-east of the United States.

The economic, social and territorial crisis facing the Spanish state is morphing into a crisis of the two-party system that has provided either Popular Party (PP) or Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) governments for 30 years.

Those who have been gaining electorally are Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalist forces (left and right), and the United Left (IU) and Union, Progress and Democracy (UpyD).

In a cabinet meeting with his top ministers on October 20, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez strongly criticised his political team for failing to show commitment to the participatory democratic model proposed by his government. Chavez urged them to undertake serious “self-criticism”.

It was the first cabinet meeting since the October 7 presidential elections, in which Chavez won a third presidential term with more than 55% of the vote.

Indonesian security forces attacked West Papuan independence rallies in several cities on October 23.

West Papua Media (WPM) said the worst violence took place in Manokwari where four people were shot by army soldiers and many others were beaten.

There were fears a massacre would take place during a confrontation between protesters and security forces, after authorities blocked people's attempts to protest. Eleven student activists were arrested, including some who had been injured, Jubi said on October 24.

Under the stewardship of several British Columbia indigenous First Nations, close to 5000 people from all over the Canadian province came together on October 22 to demand the planned Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines be stopped.

For the past few months, people all over BC had been recruiting people to join the rally and to engage in peaceful civil disobedience.

The presidential election victory of Hugo Chavez is a vital component in the continuation of the Bolivarian revolution, which has now been under way for 13 years.

A defeat would have resulted in a massive attack on the working class of Venezuela. There is no doubt that, had Henrique Capriles Redonski won, he would have begun undermining and where possible breaking up the social missions and putting an end to nationalisations and returning to a pro-US foreign policy.

About 200,000 people marched in London, Glasgow and Belfast on October 20 against the austerity programs of British Prime Minister David Cameron's government.

The trade unions that called the actions put the numbers of participants at: London 150,000, Glasgow 10,000 and Belfast 10,000. Marchers were of all ages and backgrounds — trade union members, students, families affected by cuts to health and social services and women's rights advocates, among others.

Women and girls are among the hardest hit by the anti-working-class policies of Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

A report published in The Guardian earlier this year showed that rising taxes and cuts to social spending have hit women three times as hard as men.

Women aged 50-64 have been hit hardest by rising unemployment since the coalition came to power. It is up 31% compared to an overall rise of 4.2% in the country (to 2.6 million people).

Bolivia is one of the few countries that has consistently opposed treating biodiversity as a commodity at the United Nations Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity held in Hyderabad, India, over October 1-19. It has raised its voice against pro-market approaches in implementing the Strategic Plan and Aichi Targets of the UN's Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).

The ongoing siege of Gaza by the Israeli government looked set for a worrying escalation following a visit to Gaza by the emir of Qatar. Just three days earlier, Israel's navy had boarded a Gaza aid ship and used tasers on activists. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani entered Gaza via Egypt's Rafah border crossing on October 23. Israeli leaders condemned al-Thani's visit, the first by a foreign head of state since 1999. Al-Thani promised $400 million in aid projects to Gaza, undermining Israel's economic blockade.

In a lengthy editorial on October 13, the United States’ most important ruling-class voice concluded that the war in Afghanistan has failed, and that the US should get out as soon as possible.

New York Times editors said in an editorial titled "Time To Pack Up and Leave Afghanistan" that:“The United States will not achieve even President Obama’s narrowing goals, and prolonging the war will only do more harm.”

Analysis

Socialist Alliance activist and feminist Liah Lazarou gave the speech below to Adelaide’s Reclaim the Night rally on October 26.

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The billionaires and their corporate courtiers had a sneer and snigger fest when BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto informed the Tax Office they would pay zero mining tax for the first quarter of this financial year.

The federal Labor government's mid-year budget update downgraded the tax's forecast revenue from $13.4 billion over four years to $9.1 billion. But these mining giants told the media it was not clear how much, if anything, they would pay over the rest of the financial year.

What a sorry end to the mining super-tax profits saga.

Globally, millions of women experience violence — whether in the form of intimate partner violence, rape and sexual coercion, stalking, trafficking, forced prostitution, exploitation of labour, or other violations of women's bodies and psyches.

The high prevalence of violence against women both reflects and reinforces women's lower status in society.

To end the violence against women, we need to confront both the violence directly and the structural causes of women's lower standing that makes women vulnerable to the violence.

We've been told opportunity, prosperity and more freedoms came to Australia under the banner of capitalism and the “free-market” in the 1980s and 90s after the economic slump of two recessions.

But when neoliberal ideals and rhetoric are set aside, a grim picture of the great, and ever growing, divide between the rich and poor in Australia emerges yet again.

Between 1920 and 1980, inequality in Australia was shrinking, until a perceived sense of national stagnation took hold and the Hawke-Keating Labor government made the leap into the global free market.

The Australian parliament building reeks of floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon-like portraits of prime ministers, bewigged judges and viceroys. Along the gleaming white, hushed corridors, the walls are hung with Aboriginal art: one painting after another as in a monolithic gallery, divorced from their origins, the irony brutal. The poorest, sickest, most incarcerated people on earth provide a facade for those who oversee the theft of their land and its plunder.

Feminist and Socialist Alliance activist Margarita Windisch gave the speech below at Melbourne’s Reclaim the Night rally on October 20.

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A big thank you to the Reclaim the Night 2012 collective for organising today and giving us the opportunity to get our voices heard in public

Tonight is our night — we are here to reclaim the night and our right as women to fully participate in this society of ours without the fear of sexual violence — here on Sydney Rd, all over Australia and across the world.

In a startling but not unexpected backflip, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman gave the green light to uranium mining on October 22, lifting a decades-long ban on the destructive industry.

Culture

Fallout From Fukushima
By Richard Broinowski
Scribe, 2012
273 pages , $27.95 (pb)

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year was no accident, says Richard Broinowski in Fallout from Fukushima.

Sitting a nuclear reactor on an “active geological fault line where two of the earth’s tectonic plates collide” was courting catastrophe from an earthquake and tsunami like the one that duly hit the Pacific in March last year.

Operation 8: Deep in the Forest
Directed by Errol Wright & Abi King-Jones
CutCutCut Films
www.cutcutcut.com

Operation 8 is an emotive, shocking, disturbing, informative and captivating documentary on the 2007 “anti-terror” raids that took place across in New Zealand targetting Maori activists. The film is essential viewing for indigenous peoples fighting for sovereignty, their supporters and activists in general.

The Sacrifice
By Bruce Mutard
Allen & Unwin, 2012
Paperback, 252 pages

I don't know about you, but Australia's World War II years are obscured in my mind by a melange of family reminiscences and ad hoc snippets of history.

My parents were of the generation caught up in the war effort locally and offshore, so the family album began life with pics of folk in khaki.

Us baby boomers were delayed sprogs of them days. But as far as I was concerned, and those of my generation, them days were their's not mine.