Issue 945

News

Green Left Weekly’s Alex Bainbridge spoke to an asylum seeker imprisoned on Nauru on November 12 as a hunger strike involving hundreds of detainees reached its twelfth day. His responses are below. On November 13, most refugees chose to end the hunger strike after news that Amnesty International would visit the camp. Six refugees, including one man who had not eaten for 33 days, were continuing to refuse food. * * *
More than 300 people packed out the Leichhardt Town Hall on November 10 for the Green Left Weekly annual dinner in Sydney with guest speaker Christine Assange. “I've come here tonight not just to support Julian but also to support Green Left Weekly," said Assange. “We need you guys to keep having the guts to tell the truth!”
The NSW Coaltion government has given James Packer's monster casino approval to take prime inner city space in Sydney, but children from an inner city public school are set to be kicked out for several years as the space is sold off to property developers.
At an October 31 demonstration at University of Sydney, Aboriginal students and their supporters rallied to demand the university’s Koori Centre remain open and won important concessions from the university management. Despite officially acknowledging the Cadigal people of the Eora nation, on whose land the university was built, the administration has pushed ahead with a new strategy for Indigenous education despite serious concerns raised by the students.
More than 100 people gathered in Wollongong Town Hall on November 8 for a public debate on the NSW government's plan to lease Port Kembla for 99 years. The government hopes to make $500 million on the lease, about $5 million a year, despite the state-owned Port already making between $25 million and $50 million a year.

Inside Sydney Town Hall on October 31, guarded by suited security, the bankers and biggest property owners were meeting in the elite Property Congress. Outside some 200 cleaners were the voices from below. Their families struggle to survive on wage rates of just $17 an hour while those at the Congress planned to spend more than a month's pay for a cleaner just on lunch today. Video by Peter Boyle/Green Left TV.

This rally and march on October 31 to protest moves by the Sydney University administration to weaken the Koori Centre has already won some ground. According to Rachel Evans, after the protest Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), promised to return the support staff to the Koori Centre and ensure the Koori students' common room remains open. Video by Peter Boyle/Green Left TV.
A protest in solidarity with hunger striking refugees on Nauru took place in Perth on November 8. It was organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network.
The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on November 8. * * * An ASIO negative Tamil refugee attempted to hang himself at the Villawood detention centre overnight. The man has been in detention for over three years. He was taken to the emergency department at Liverpool hospital and has now been admitted to the hospital.
A delegation from the Socialist Alliance had an initial meeting to discuss left unity prospects with a delegation from Socialist Alternative on November 4. The meeting was cordial and constructive. A short joint statement was issued that night, which noted that “the basis exists to begin a process of discussion to clarify our respective political positions and engage in collaborative work, with the aim of establishing if unity is possible”.
The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released the statement below on November 5. * * * The hunger strike by asylum seekers on Nauru is now in its fifth day, still with around 300 asylum seekers refusing food. The asylum seekers report that they have the signatures of 300 people who are taking part in the hunger strike but they have been prevented from scanning the document to send to the media. Today, at least five people have been taken to the medical centre, taking the total people treated over the course of the hunger to 60.

Analysis

Messages of support for Julian Assange from some of the 300 people at Green Left Weekly's 'defend WikiLeaks' dinner in November 10. Special guest was passionate advocate Christine Assange, the mother of the WikiLeaks founder, who gives a warm message to her son.
An Iranian man known as Omid, who is held in the Nauru detention camp, has been on hunger strike for 33 days. Refugees said medical staff had told Omid his kidneys and brain were going to fail and he would be moved to hospital “in the coming days”. The rest of the group decided to end their 13-day hunger strike this morning, said, after Amnesty International said it would visit the island on a fact-finding mission next week.
The Infrastructure NSW chair, former Liberal premier Nick Greiner, delivered a vision for the state for the next 20 years on October 3. For the 4.5 million people living in Sydney, the State Infrastructure Strategy, titled First Things First, will mean more roads, more congestion and more transport frustration for years to come.
A group of progressive union activists organised in the Progressive PSA group won control of the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) in union elections that closed on October 30. They won all positions on the 45-member central council and the top position of general secretary. Lindsay Hawkins is a disability support worker in Wollongong and is one of the newly elected members of the central council. He spoke to Green Left Weekly about why the group decided to run and what changes they are planning to make.
Did you think there is a housing bubble in Australia? Not so, according to the chairperson of Aussie Home Loans, John Symond, who said last month: “I am confident, notwithstanding a lot of hype from offshore analysts about a housing bubble, of Australia’s fundamentals.” Symond wants us to trust him, not those offshore analysts, because it's not as if the owner of a home loans company has any interest in the maintenance of an overpriced property market.
I have been reminded lately of that line from that famous song: “How many polls must an anti-capitalist win, before we call him a democrat?”
This month is the start of the wet season on the tiny island of Nauru, where more than 370 refugees are being detained in Australian army tents that leak and do nothing to keep mosquitoes out.   In these appalling conditions, more than 300 men are refusing food and some are refusing water in a bid to have the department of immigration hear their claims for asylum.   That’s right — people that came to Australia exercising their legal and moral right to seek protection are on a hunger strike because the Australian government has decided to make an example of them.  
In last month’s Victorian local council elections, the Socialist Alliance’s Sue Bolton was elected to Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s north. Green Left Weekly’s Susan Price asked Bolton about the significance of the result for the Socialist Alliance and her goals as a socialist councillor. * * *
Refugees held on Nauru say more than 300 men are taking part in the indefinite hunger strike, which has now entered its second week. They say they will continue until Australia’s department of immigration guarantees them passage to Australia and an immediate starts on their asylum claims. Immigration minister Chris Bowen told refugees last month that their claims for protection would not be heard for more than six months.
The Australian Secretariat of the 2012 International Year of cooperatives co-hosted a National Co-operatives Conference in Port Macquarie over October 24 and 25. More than 250 delegates attended, representing cooperatives of all shapes and sizes and across many different sectors, including agriculture, retailing, credit unions, building societies, housing, medical practices, automobile associations, renewable energy projects and food .
The Progressive PSA (PPSA) team has won important victories in elections for the 43,000-member NSW Public Service Association (PSA). PPSA member Anne Gardiner won the top position of General Secretary, and PPSA candidates took all positions on the 45-member Central Council. A recount will be held for other executive positions following an extremely close vote.

World

If the mainstream Western media is to be believed, the world witnessed a shining example of true democracy in action in the United States on November 6. In the Washington Post, Dan Balz described the US presidential race as a “contest of competing visions”. Apparently, democracy is epitomised by a race between two representatives of the 1% fighting to impose “competing” agendas that ― with differences of nuance ― bear more similarities to each other than to public opinion.
About 300 students from the Paraguayan National University and the private Catholic University marched to the national police headquarters in Asuncion on October 25 to protest the new Law of Higher Education (LES). The law passed through the lower house of the Paraguayan Congress three weeks earlier, and is currently before the Upper House. During the protest, Romilio Gonzalez and Johana Orihuela, members of the Popular University Movement, spoke to Green Left Weekly. “This is one of a number of actions we are carrying out,” Orihuela said.
While European governments continue to impose policies aimed at making working people pay for a crisis they did not cause, the Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa has taken a different course. “Those who are earning too much will be giving more to the poorest of this country,” a November 1 Reuters dispatch quoted Correa as saying. He was announcing a new measure to raise taxes on banks to help fund social security payments. Ecuador’s banking sector has registered US$349 million in after-tax profits, a November 8 El Telegrafo article said.
Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa counts on a high level of support at home. But internationally, he has been criticed for policies on development, the environment and indigenous peoples. Tackling these issues in an interview in the September-October issue of New Left Review, Correa raised some important issues for activists in the global North. See also: Rafael Correa speaks on 'Citizen's Revolution'
The statement below was released by the newly formed Awami Workers Party on November 2. * * * Three leftist parties, Awami Party Pakistan, Labour Party Pakistan and Workers Party Pakistan, will formally merge into a new party called the Awami Workers Party (AWP) on November 11. It is a first step towards building an alternative to the status quo that has brought the Pakistani state and society to the brink of collapse. This was stated by leaders of the three parties at a press conference held on November 2 at the Islamabad Hotel.
I am working with the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) based in the village of Deir Istiya in the Salfit area in central West Bank. A lot of this area has been taken over by the Israeli settler colony of Ariel. IWPS work in solidarity with the local people and has received a number of plaques in appreciation of their work over many years. We were privileged to be invited to the celebration party for the homecoming of 21 year-old Ahmed Shtawi after seven-and-a-half months imprisonment. He was arrested on March 16 after a vicious attack by an army dog.
Germany is usually presented in the mainstream media as having successfully weathered Europe’s vast economic crisis. German Chancellor Angel Merkel from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has gained enormous influence on the European political and financial scene. By contrast, in protests across Greece, Spain and other countries hit hardest by the crisis, references about Germany as the “Fourth Reich” are increasingly being voiced.
“As if the mud, misery, loss of life and homelessness in Hurricane Sandy’s wake weren’t bad enough, the worst may yet be to come for disaster-ravaged Haiti,” Caribbean360.org said on October 31. The article said: “Massive crop damage throughout the southern third of the country, as well as the likelihood of a spike in cases of cholera and other water-borne diseases, could mean that the impoverished country will experience the deadliest effects of the storm’s havoc in the days and weeks ahead.
A Brooklyn teacher on an email list said on November 2: “As I begin writing this, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is speaking in Staten Island. She is rattling off statistics on how much water the federal government is delivering and reminding residents of the island borough of FEMA’s phone number and URL. “CNN only seemed to discover the massive death toll, flooding, and destruction in Staten Island 3-4 days after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.
In 1999, I travelled to Iraq with Denis Halliday, who had resigned as assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations rather than enforce a punitive United Nations embargo on Iraq. Devised and policed by the United States and Britain, the extreme suffering caused by these “sanctions” included, according to Unicef, the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi infants under the age of five. Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for the imposition of sanctions. He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as “Mr Iraq”.
An Australian activist, Vivienne Porzsolt was gassed with tear gas on November 7 while protesting a house demolition in the village of Hares in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. She was there with other members of the International Women’s Peace Service supporting Palestinians trying to protect their homes. Of 13 homes facing demolition orders in Hares, two were destroyed that day despite the fact the legal appeal processes had not been exhausted. One house was home for 18 people, five of whom were hospitalised due to the violence of Israeli soldiers.
Protesters confronted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit to Britain on October 31. They were angry at Indonesia's ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua. Australian-born activist Peter Tatchell was arrested for holding a West Papuan independence flag near Yudhoyono's car, the Jakarta Globe said on November 1. Yudhoyono was feted by Britain's political elites, including a private lunch with the Queen, Reuters said on November 1.
After Barack Obama was re-elected United States president for a second four-year term, US Socialist Worker published the editorial that is abridged below. * * * Barack Obama has won re-election, thanks to a strong turnout by the Democratic Party's core supporters in every place the president needed to win.

Culture

Verbal Diary Sneake1 www.facebook.com/Sneake1Music When George Sambo was about seven years old, he used a wad of crooked cash to shout all his mates sausage rolls. The Queensland schoolboy couldn't have known then that those fatty rolls would set him rolling on a path to making phat rolling beats. But that's what happened. "The first time I stole was when I was, like, Grade Four, Five, jumping in someone's window," he tells Green Left, fresh from stepping off stage at the Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney.
Pages From a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader Edited by Stephen M. Ward, Wayne State University Press, 2011 401 pp, $US27.95 The Italian Marxist leader Antonio Gramsci coined the term “organic intellectual” to describe workers who educated themselves in advanced economic and social theory. Such people are essential to the task of the working-class understanding its historical role in changing society, he believed.
The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink By Michael Blanding Avery/Penguin, 2012 375 pages, $19.95 (pb) The Truth About Ikea: The Secret Behind the World’s Fifth Richest Man and the Success of the Swedish Flatpack Giant By Johan Stenebo Gibson Square, 2011 256 pages, $22.99 (pb) Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel, Nazi Agent By Hal Vaughan Chatto & Windus, 2011 279 pages, $32.95 (pb)

Fighting Fund

One of the sneering jokes passed around business circles after mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto announced they would not pay a cent this quarter under the Gillard government’s pathetic mining tax was that the government would have collected a fat cheque had it levied a super profits tax on the big banks instead.