Issue 949

News

A protest to boycott Sri Lankan cricket was held in Melbourne on December 26. Photos by Tony Iltis.
The members and supporters of Socialist Alliance join progressive minded people across Australia and around the world in mourning the heart wrenching and tragically unexpected loss of Gavin Mooney and Del Weston. Del and Gavin were as kind and loving in their personal dealings with everyone they met as they were committed to the liberation and freedom of all humanity. They were strong supporters of Green Left Weekly; making regular donations, hosting fund-raisers and recently making a significant contribution to the new Green Left TV project.
The Wilderness Society released this statement on December 20. *** The Wilderness Society Western Australia and Goolarabooloo traditional custodian Richard Hunter have commenced legal proceedings against the WA Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and environment minister Bill Marmion in the WA supreme court over the approval of the controversial James Price Point gas processing complex.
The joint statement below was released by Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative. * * * The National Executives of the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative agreed on December 13 to terms under which Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly will endorse and take part in the Marxism 2013 conference to be held in Melbourne, from March 28 to April 1.
Joint statement by Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative. *** The National Executives of the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative agreed on December 13 to terms under which Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly will endorse and participate the Marxism 2013 conference to be held in Melbourne, March 28-April 1. This first significant national co-operation between our two organisations is a product of discussions that began between the two organisations on November 4 to explore the possibility of closer collaboration and unity.
Resistance released this statement on December 14. *** The Sydney University (USYD) Resistance club condemns the attack by the Australian on the university’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies for its decision to uphold a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
The statement below was released by students charged over protests against cuts at Melbourne's La Trobe University. * * * Three La Trobe students are under threat of expulsion from the university for their participation in a campaign to stop major cuts in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) department.
The Tamil Refugee Council released this statement on December 14. *** The Tamil Refugee Council (TRC) strongly rejects the claim by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia that Tamils in Australia have terrorist connections. TRC spokesman, Mal Bala, said the high commissioner Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, had cast unjust and unproven aspersions upon many groups that have spoken out against the murder and persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Residents at Glenugie, near Grafton in NSW, have been peacefully blockading a road to prevent work starting on a coal seam gas project in their town. Click here to follow updates. CSG Free Northern Rivers released this video on December 11.
Two motions supporting refugee rights were passed at the Victorian Trades Hall Council on December 7. They were: Oppose offshore processing and mandatory detention
Alia Amirali is a leading left activist, general secretary of the National Student Federation (Punjab) and a member of the new united left party Awami Workers' Party who will be visiting Australia in January 2013 to be the international guest speaker at the 9th national conference of the Socialist Alliance. She is also a researcher on the Baloch National Movement and a lecturer at Quaid-e-Azam University.
The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) is calling for people to sign a petition to reinstate internet access for refugees on Nauru. They released a statement on December 6 that said: “The Salvation Army administration has come under fire for drastically reducing the time allowed for an appointed representative, Mahdi, to maintain the Nauru asylum seekers Facebook page and website.
Friends of the Earth released this statement on December 5. *** Friends of the Earth's Radioactive Exposure Tour will take place from Friday March 29 to Sunday April 7 next year. These tours have exposed thousands of people first-hand to the realities of “radioactive racism” and to the environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.
The Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition released this statement on December 7. *** Wikileaks supporters in Sydney and Melbourne staged sit-ins in Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) buildings on December 7, to mark the second anniversary of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s detention without charge in Britain.   They demanded that the Australian government seek a guarantee from the US that Assange will not be subjected to prosecution there.
Environmental campaigners have won a reprieve from plans by the federal government to hand environmental protection powers to state governments and fast track applications for some developments. A discussion paper by the Business Council of Australia, prepared for the Commonwealth of Australian Government (COAG) meeting on December 7, made several proposals. These included:
Activists rallied in Melbourne on December 8 to defend and extend public housing. The Victorian government and housing minister Wendy Lovell are attempting to privatise public housing and give greater power to the non-transparent Housing Associations. These Housing Associations have been criticised for not being accountable to the people and communities they claim to serve.
In a spectacular workplace accident at a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) construction site on November 27, an intense fire broke out in the cabin of a crane before the arm collapsed onto scaffolding below. No one was injured, but hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby office buildings. The incident took place next to Broadway, one of Sydney’s busiest roads. The November 28 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the crane’s driver swung the arm away from the street before escaping from the fire. It is believed the fire was started from leaking diesel fuel.
The Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) published this statement on December 4. *** The state government’s budget and job cuts across Queensland Health are out of control, are not based on any serious clinical plan, have been announced without proper consultation with nurses and midwives or their union and are starting to threaten patient safety. QNU secretary Beth Mohle said the likelihood that nurses and midwives will have to take action to protect patient safety, in many Queensland Health facilities and services, is increasing by the day.
Socialist Alliance will run three candidates in the March 9 elections in Western Australia. The main message of the campaign is that the state government should take steps to bring the big mining companies operating in the state into public ownership. This will make it possible to fund urgent social justice and environmental projects in WA.
The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations released this statement on December 5. *** The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), the umbrella body of the peak Tamil associations in Australia and New Zealand, welcomes the news that the deportation of 56 Tamil refugees was halted after a dramatic hearing at the High Court in Sydney late on Monday.
The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on December 3. *** Tamil asylum seekers at Wickham Point detention centre in Darwin staged a 24-hour hunger strike protest on December 3 in response to increasing numbers of Tamils being screened out and returned to Sri Lanka. A plane-load of 35 mostly Tamil asylum seekers was arrested on Friday, November 30, on return to Sri Lanka and have been taken to Negombo prison, outside Colombo.
Stop CSG Illawarra released this statement on December 4. *** Today the suburbs of Wombarra and Scarborough were declared coal seam gas-free, by a vote of residents. Local Stop CSG members have been surveying households and an overwhelming majority of respondents in these suburbs want: their suburb to remain CSG-free, a ban on CSG development in the drinking water catchment and a freeze on the industry state-wide to investigate the impacts. 

Analysis

Australian gas company Santos have recently commenced commercial drilling for shale gas in the Cooper Basin in Moomba, South Australia. Like coal seam gas, shale gas is a form of unconventional gas that requires "fracking" to release it. The Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN) held a protest on December 14 in front of Christmas shoppers in Adelaide's Rundle Mall, before marching to Santos HQ. Their message to the SA state government was: "No to unconventional gas - Yes to renewables". The text below is a speech given at the protest by CLEAN activist Gemma Weedall. ***
Beyond Zero Emissions released this statement on December 17. *** “Fracking” to tap unconventional gas resources could destroy the much-hyped “clean coal” carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
Mick Armstrong, a national leader of Socialist Alternative, has written the response below to Socialist Alliance national co-convenor Peter Boyle's article What politics to unite Australia's left?. The two organisations are holding discussions over the possibility of greater unity, and released a joint statement on Socialist Alliance andorsing and taking part in Marxism 2013.
Trevor Grant, former cricket writer for The Age, makes the case for boycotting Sri Lankan cricket. Grant maintains the website What's the Score, Sport?. * * * For all its international posturing about human rights these days, Australia has a sordid history of being a denier, or passive follower, rather than a leader in protecting the most vulnerable people in our world. There is one exception, which makes this attitude all the more damning.
Hundreds of Aboriginal West Australians who had their wages withheld from successive state governments could miss out on a reparations payment, after the Barnett Liberal government refused to extend the deadline. The Stolen Wages Reparations Scheme was announced earlier this year, offering a $2000 ex-gratia payment in exchange for the millions of dollars in Aboriginal wages and entitlements withheld within a system of trust accounts from 1905 to 1972. The withholding of wages and pensions compounded the disadvantage and poverty of Aboriginal people throughout Western Australia.
The recent visit of the NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard and his departmental bureaucrats to Lismore was always going to be a fiery one. There’s an important context in Lismore. This city voted 87% against coal seam gas (CSG) mining in September 2012, and three days later the NSW government renewed expired licences and gave one of the first approvals for CSG production to gas company Metgasco, that operates exclusively in the Northern Rivers region.
Sam Wainwright is a Socialist Alliance councillor in Fremantle. Below is a talk he gave on the topic of how to achieve social change in Australia. * * * It's pretty obvious for anyone that cares to look that capitalism is a socially destructive and ecologically unsustainable system. Based on the unequal distribution of wealth, it condemns billions to living in poverty worldwide.
Where to start with an analysis of the mining boom in Australia? Perhaps ironically, with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It is now holding an inquiry into the dealings of former NSW resource minister Ian Macdonald, his mate and Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid, and another mate, John Maitland, former president of the Construction, Mining, Forestry and Energy Union (CFMEU), and part owner of the new coalmine in Doyle's Creek, to the tune of $9.8 million.
Once again the question of left unity is on the agenda in Australia. There have been exploratory talks between the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative and also between the Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). The Socialist Alliance and the CPA worked together in a Housing Action election ticket in the Sydney City Council elections this year.
Several recent scientific reports on climate change have warned we are headed for disaster, giving frightening evidence of just how bad things could get. It’s just as frightening how little world governments intend to do about it. But it’s maddening to think how easy it would be to take serious action on climate, and staggering to add up the benefits of doing so.
For a brief moment last month, as the bombs fell and destruction spread, Gaza was a lead story for the world's media. But now the plight of 1.5 million people living in an over crowded open-air prison, routinely attacked and denied essential medicines, has made way for a far more important story: an English aristocrat is knocked up.
Resistance is an activist youth organisation that is involved in campaigns for the environment, for queer rights, feminism and anti-racist issues. Sometimes it can be useful for even the most experienced activists to renew our skills and examine what, how and why we do things. To do this, Resistance is holding an activist skills camp in Melbourne from January 21 to 23. Workshops covering practical activist skills and socialist theory will be held over three days.
This is the last issue of Green Left Weekly for this year. Our small staff which works very hard, week after week, to get out this publication will take a much-needed break after a hectic political year, and get ready to relaunch in mid-January. The 2012 Green Left Fighting Fund has now raised about $193,000 so we have to try to raise a further $57,000 by the end of the year to get to our $250,000 target — or as close as we can get.

World

The Venezuelan government has responded to opposition and private media accusations that it is being “mysterious” regarding information on Chavez’s health situation, and has called such statements as well as rumours being spread on social networks “psychological warfare”.
We’re supposed to admire people who think “outside the box”, so you have to be impressed with Americans who still rage against gun control. For example, if you were in an office and someone gasped, “I’ve just been informed there are some deranged lunatics amongst us”, it would take a certain imagination to reply, “In that case, the main thing is to make sure everyone in the building has access to plenty of guns”.
US Socialist Worker's Nicole Colson looks at the facts about the terrible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- and asks where the real causes of violence lie. * * * The news was heartbreaking: 20 children, all aged six and seven, shot and killed, along with four teachers, a principal and a school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother earlier in the day, before later killing himself.
For the first time ever, the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in South Africa, today made the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel part of its official policy. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of BDS South Africa said the decision “by the ANC’s National Conference, its highest decision making body, is by far the most authoritative endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign”.
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assangen delivered his speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he's been holed-up for six months., Despite being granted political asylum by the South American nation, British authorities insist he will arrested if he sets a fo outside the embassy. The full transcript is below, as copied from the WikiLeaks website: * * *
Venezuelans went to the polls for the second time this year on December 16, and delivered another overwhelming victory to President Hugo Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Chavez is leading a process of social change, known as the Bolivarian revolution, that has halved poverty in the oil-rich nation and promoted participatory democracy. After presidential elections returned Chavez with more than 55% of the vote, the PSUV increased its majority of state governorships and legislatures.
Sibylle Kaczorek and Jody Betzien, from the Australian Socialist Alliance, interviewed Yiannis Bournous in Athens. Yiannis is a leading activst in the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), Greek's rapidly growing left party.
Egyptians again rise against tyranny and dictatorship. Politically, they have made significant gains from the street pressure, leading to a significant retraction from President Mohamad Morsi. But his concessions are superficial. By and large, the Muslim Bortherhood's Morsi stubbornly continues to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Mubarak. If the recent history is any predictor of the future, Morsi’s future looks bleak.
Venezuela Analysis is the main English-language website, read around the world, providing serious news and analysis on the Bolivarian revolution under way int he Latin American nation. Green Left strongly supports VA's work, regularly reprints its articles and is proud of its collaboration with the site. Below, is an appeal for financial support from VA to ensure it continues to get out the real story of the inspiring struggle of Venezuela's people for "socialism of the 21st century" * * *
The Filipino Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses -- PLM) released this statement on December 11 in response to the impact of Typhoon Bopa (Pablo). read more about the PLM's activities here. * * * * A total ban on all logging and mining activities! * Implement massive reforestation and a sustainable development plan! * Climate justice now! We demand full reparation from rich countries and their corporations!
It’s a warm night in the small village of Chuao in Venezuela. Dozens of children are playing in the square in front of the old colonial church, and a local man, beating a drum he holds between his knees, sings: “This is the taste of my cocoa. This is what we have, we black people of Chuao.” The people of Chuao, descendants of Africans brought to Venezuela’s coast as slaves by the Spanish, have been growing cocoa for more than 400 years.
President Hugo Chavez announced on public television on the night of December 8 that he would return to Cuba to receive surgery for new malignant cells, and that vice-president Nicolas Maduro will be in charge during his absence. Chavez said Cuban doctors informed him that the area where he has previously been affected will need to be operated on again, as new malignant cells have appeared. He also said that “there are always risks in processes like this” and that “if anything happens to me that hinders me [from performing as president]”, Maduro was his preference to replace him.
Indonesian police captain Kiki Kurnia told West Papuan independence leader Victor Yeimo, “We are ready to wreak havoc and clash with all of you,” during Yeimo's arrest at a protest in Jayapura on December 1. Security forces blocked the West Papuan “independence day” march and arrested two other independence leaders along with Yeimo for organising the rally, West Papua Media said on December 2. The three were released the next day.
The latest economic data for the European Union, released on December 6, confirms that the region has officially entered a “double-dip” recession. Over the year to September, Gross Domestic Product fell by 0.4% in the 27-state European Union (EU27) and by 0.6% in the 17-state eurozone. On the same day, the European Central Bank revised its September forecast of 0.5% growth in the eurozone in 2013 down to -0.3%.
Venezuela has abolished entrance visas for Palestinian visitors among a set of new agreements with the Middle Eastern country. Venezuela became the first country to abolish visas for Palestinians carrying civil or diplomatic passports as part of talks in early December in Caracas between representatives of the two countries. Venezuela also committed itself to build a new hospital in Palestinian territory and made new agreements in the areas of health, education and tourism.
Protesters have taken to Tunisia's streets to insist the transitional government of Hamad Jebali fulfill the demands of the January 14 revolution that overthrew dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The regional city of Siliana, located 130 kilometres south-west of the capital Tunis, was rocked by days of protests over the lack of investment and jobs in the region.
At a one-day assembly of more than 500 delegates on November 28, the militant socialist Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) introduced its candidates for national elections scheduled for May 13 next year. The PLM, which now holds positions in several Barangay (neighbourhood) councils, is running 20 candidates for municipal councillor, vice-mayor, mayor and Congress. They include candidates in Negros and Iligan, in the Philippine archipelago’s south. Most candidates, however, are in Metro Manila or the semi-urban provinces surrounding the capital: Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan and Laguna.
A call by 62 top football players, many from English Premier League and first division teams in Europe, condemned Israel’s recent attack on Gaza and the decision by UEFA, the European football federation, to hold its 2013 Under 21 tournament in Israel. The call has received wide and favourable coverage. This takes the Palestinian campaign for the boycott of Israel, especially the sporting boycott, to new levels of international mainstream prominence and legitimacy.
The People’s Coalition Against Regressive Taxation held a 4000-strong blockade of the upmarket Manila Shangri-La Hotel from December 5 to 6. The Bicameral Conference Committee, representing the upper and lower houses of the Philippines parliament, were inside debated the Sin Tax Bill, which will double the prices of cigarettes and alcohol. Workers and farmers were represented in the blockade, whose ranks were drawn predominantly from the urban poor.
Refugees coming to Germany right now are largely from known regions of crisis. They come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, many African countries and the Turkish-ruled part of Kurdistan. They also include many Roma who want to escape extreme poverty and racial discrimination in Kosovo and other East European countries.
In the recent elections, Latinos, Asians and Blacks voted against the extreme racist policies and rhetoric of the Republicans. A central plank in the Republican onslaught has been attacks on immigrants who lack documents. Romney said he would make life so miserable for them they would “self-deport”. In the aftermath of the elections, immigrant youth without papers have remobilised to fight for their own rights and for citizenship for all of up to 12 million undocumented migrants working in the US.
In the week Lord Leveson published almost a million words about his inquiry into the “culture, practice and ethics” of Britain's corporate press, two illuminating books about media and freedom were also published. Their contrast with the Punch and Judy show staged by Leveson is striking. For 36 years, Project Censored, based in California, has documented critically important stories unreported or suppressed by the media most US people watch or read.
Sydney's prestigious Hilton Hotel hosted the “PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Investment Conference” over December 3-5. The event summed up the nature of the resource industry in PNG. PNG Mine Watch said on December 1: “The Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Conference in Sydney will be a room full of white men dicing and slicing PNG’s assets with little or no participation or informed consent from the people of Papua New Guinea.
Immigrant Chinese bus drivers in Singapore began a two day strike on November 26. This is the first major strike in the tightly controlled city state since 1986. The drivers were employed by SMRT, a state owned public transport company. The strikers were all mainland Chinese – part of a growing number of immigrant workers in Singapore that perform low paid and menial jobs. The drivers are being paid less than local drivers for the same work. The workers are unhappy with housing provided, due to overcrowding and poor facilities.
The Plurinational State of Bolivia released the statement below on December 5 about the United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar. It was translated by Richard Fidler. Below that is Bolivia's official statement to the Doha talks. Both are reprinted from Bolivia Rising. * * *
One year has passed since the community of Cajamarc, in Peru's northern highlands, rose up against the “Conga” copper and gold mine, a US$5 billion mega-project proposed by the World Bank-backed Newmont-Buenaventura consortium. The unified cry of the protesters is still: “Conga no way!” The region bordering the mine site is home to an agricultural population that relies on the natural highland water system. Destroying this precious and fragile asset would end the viability of their existence.
There is no political will among rich nations to find funding for developing countries experiencing the brunt of changes in global weather patterns, South African Professor Patrick Bond, an analyst and activist on climate change, told the Inter Press Service as the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change met in Doha. The talks took place in the capital of Qatar from November 26 to December 7.

Culture

Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation Sarah Irving Pluto Press, 2012 As one of the first of the Revolutionary Lives series of critical biographies published by Pluto Press, Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation could not have been a better subject.
The Wikileaks Tapes Directed by Cathy Vogan Featuring John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Christine Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Mary Kostakidis, Senator Scott Lundlam, Julian Morrow & many more Dual-layered DVD Thing2Thing.com
For its final issue of 2012, Green Left asked staff, contributors and others to name their book of the year. Mel Barnes Co-editor of Green Left Weekly Mine-field By Paul Cleary Black Inc http://bit.ly/NdE39u In his follow-up to Too Much Luck, Paul Cleary travels throughout Australia to speak to people affected by the rapid coal and coal seam gas expansion taking place.