Issue 952

News

About 100 people rallied in Sydney on February 5 to oppose the Julia Gillard government's slashing of welfare payments to single parents. Single parents, their kids, and their supporters joined in the action. Event organiser Samantha Seymour said: "Moving single parents from Parenting Payment to Newstart Allowance when their youngest child turns 8 years of age will have many well documented negative impacts for single parent families. Such changes will have a ripple effect and the social ramifications are already horrendous."
More than 40 people came to hear Miguel Angel Nunez, a co-founder of IPIAT (the Institute for Production and Research in Tropical Agriculture) in Venezuela and a former coordinator of the Latin American Agroecological Movement at a public forum in Sydney on January 30. The speaker was welcomed by Miriam Navarro, representing the Venezuelan embassy in Australia. The forum was organised by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network and supported by the embassy and the Latin American Social Forum.
Residents of the south Gippsland town of Poowong are preparing to hold a public protest against coal seam gas (CSG) exploration in their area on February 17. Local group CSG Free Poowong conducted an extensive survey of the area last year. They asked: “Do you want to declare Poowong coal and coal seam gas free?” The survey results showed over 95% of the community does not want CSG mining in their region. The event on February 17 is being organised as a celebration of this result.
About 100 people gathered at the Jerrys Plains community hall on January 29 to outline concerns about the encroachment of the coal industry on their township and to begin a united fightback.
Socialist Alliance national conference supporting the campaign for UNESCO world heritage listing for the oldest rock art in the world at the Burrup in northern WA.
This statement was released by the Melbourne branch of Socialist Alliance on February 1. *** Labor and Coalition governments are both to blame Hospital administrators and staff are reeling. The Ted Baillieu state government axed $616 million from its last two health budgets and the Julia Gillard federal government has recently cut $107 million from Victorian hospitals.
This statement was released by the Huon Valley Environment Centre on January 23. Click here for more information. *** The Wilderness Society today announced it would be travelling to Japan accompanied by staff of the controversial [Malaysian] timber company Ta Ann, to lobby customers and secure its international markets.
Protect Arnhem Land is a campaign to fight offshore exploration, mining and drilling around the entire coastline of the Northern Territory Arnhem Land region. Last August, it came to light that there are more than 40 potential petroleum exploration sites off the coast of Arnhem Land. The people living on this country had not been informed of the submission of such exploration permits nor were they aware of what mining exploration entails.
Front Line Action on Coal released this statement on January 30. *** Front Line Action on Coal has hit Whitehaven’s Tarrawonga mine and federal environment minister Tony Burke’s office in Roseland with simultaneous actions, unfurling huge banners that read: “The Burke stops here”.   The banners call on the Federal Environment Minister to reject coal expansions that would decimate the Leard Forest.  
Solidarity released this statement on January 30. *** Trade union activist Sulthoni Farras, a leader of the Indonesian union federation Progresip, union alliance Sekber Buruh, and member of Indonesian political organisation KPO-PRP, is in danger of arrest for leading a strike last year. Another activist, Bona Ventura, may also face charges. The Indonesian government and bosses are using these kinds of tactics against a growing workers’ movement in Indonesia. * * * Dear Comrade/Friend,
A possible malaria scare in the Manus Island refugee detention camp has sparked new calls to label the offshore detention regime a violation of human rights. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said on January 27 that a 10-year-old girl had been in the camp's medical centre with malaria-like symptoms — high fever, shivering and bodily pain.
This statement was released by the Refugee Rights Network on January 30. *** Refugee rights groups across Australia will be converging on the remote Yongah Hill detention centre in Perth on the long weekend of April 25 to 28. We will protest against the mandatory detention of asylum seekers in hellholes such as Yongah Hill and the offshore processing of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
A new report by the Australian National Audit Office has found the federal government spends more than $100 million a year to administer income management in the Northern Territory. Over 17,000 people were on income management at the end of June last year, while welfare quarantining remains a key component of the controversial NT Intervention, The scheme costs the Commonwealth Government between $6600 and $7900 per person, per year. Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney's Paddy Gibson says he condemns the government's decision to maintain compulsory income management.
A packed-out meeting of tenants from Fitzroy's Atherton Gardens public housing estate established a resident’s committee to lead a campaign against the government’s plans to sell off open space and playgrounds to developers. The meeting was initiated by Socialist Party Yarra councillor Steve Jolly, and was also attended by nearby private residents, including members of the local African, Chinese and Vietnamese communities, construction union members, Greens MP Adam Bandt and an ALP councillor.

Analysis

Last month a South Australian Police (SAPOL) officer asked me to monitor the activities of political activists in Adelaide.   On January 17, a plain-clothed officer approached me in a coffee shop. He explained that he recognised me as an activist, and told me he was with a special area of “security and intelligence” that aimed to create links between the police and the activist community.   He appeared interested in gaining information on the activities of environmental groups, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israeli products and Tamil solidarity actions.  
The NSW Coalition government announced plans on December 13 last year to cut the Newcastle rail line at Wickham station. As part of the urban renewal strategy document, passengers would have to transfer to buses to complete the last two kilometres of their journey to Newcastle. A long-running community group, Save Our Rail, has twice stopped former Labor and Coalitions governments' attempts to cut the line. Here are ten reasons why the campaign needs to continue: There is no solution proposed for rail users affected by the cut
The international media totally misreads the Venezuelan people on President Hugo Chavèz (currently battling serious illness) argues Professor Miguel Angel Nuñez, an adviser to Chavèz on agro-ecology, in an interview with Green Left TV. The interviewers were Jim McIlroy and Coral Wynter, authors of Voices from Venezuela. Filmed and edited by Peter Boyle.
The latest weekly "Our Common Cause" column of the Socialist Alliance argues the time is well-over due to phase out fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy. * * * It's been another summer of record-breaking extreme weather in Australia.
This is surely a country that could use a bit of good news. It has been a tough few weeks with raging bushfires, severe flooding and, just when it seemed it couldn't get worse, the heartbreaking news we will be subjected to the longest election campaign in Australian history.
Sam Wainwright has been a Socialist Alliance councillor on the City of Fremantle council since 2009, when he was elected in the Hilton ward with 33% of the vote. He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Mel Barnes about what he has been able to achieve while on council. ***
Veteran political commentator Michelle Grattan has dubbed PM Julia Gillard's early announcement of a September 14 federal election as the opening of the “longest election campaign in history”. She says it's “clever tactics” on Gillard's part. Another prominent political commentator, Lenore Taylor, says that this is an attempt by an embattled ALP government to “reboot the political debate”.

World

Minister of State for Finance Saleem Mandviwalla confirmed on January 23 that murder charges against the owners of the Baldia Town factory that caught fire on September 11 last year had been withdrawn. The investigation officer was also changed. On January 24, there was no general strike. The apparent silence of the working class was a result of the systematic targeting of unions by the state apparatus. With over 259 workers killed in the fire, the final death toll is still unavailable.
Representatives from Venezuela's National Institute of Statistics (INE) have revealed that the 14th National Census of Population and Housing, conducted during 2011, showed significant cuts to poverty levels during the previous 10 years. In 2001, 11.36% of the population were measured to be suffering from extreme poverty. President of the INE, Elias Eljuri, said the 2011 census showed that only 6.97% did, a cut of nearly half in a decade. Other conclusions included a rise in life expectancy, from 74.5 years to 79.5 years.
Professor Miguel Angel Nuñez is an adviser to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on agro-ecology. He was recently in Australia and spoke to Green Left TV about the impact of Chavez's ill health on the Venezuelan revolution, and how the international media are misrepresenting the situation. He also spoke on the role of oil in the revolution, the environmental consequences and prospects for eco-socialism in Venezuela.
The illness of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has created uncertainty over the future direction of his government, and specifically its commitment to revolutionary change and socialism. Throughout the 14 years of his presidency, the key to Chavez’s political success was the constant deepening of the process of change, which invigorated the rank-and-file of his movement.
Katu Arkonada, a researcher at the University of the Cordillera in La Paz, Bolivia, gives a 2012 balance sheet of Bolivia's achievements and challenges. It was translated from Spanish with additional notes by Richard Fidler and is reprinted from Bolivia Rising. ***
Hashim bin Rashid is the general secretary of the Lahore branch of Pakistan'sAwami Workers Party, which was recently formed by three left-wing groups uniting. Hasmim was a special guest at the Socialist Alliance national conference in Geelong 18-1-13, where the gave the talk in this video. The video is by Green Left TV.
The horrific murders of 20 children aged six and seven, along with six adults, at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December has ignited a debate about gun violence in the US. This was the latest in a series of such massacres to occur at schools, malls, religious institutions, theatres and similar places over the past few decades. In many of these instances, rapid-fire military-style weapons were used that sprayed big numbers of bullets in seconds, as was the case in Newtown.
Sri Lanka's parliament voted on January 11 to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. This enabled President Mahinda Rajapaksa to dismiss her and appoint a new chief justice, Mohan Peiris. Bandaranayake was appointed as chief justice by Rajapaksa in May 2011. However, she antagonised him by ruling that a new law was unconstitutional. This law is aimed at setting up a new government body, known as Divi Neguma (a Sinhalese phrase meaning “raise the island”), which is supposed to promote economic development and social welfare.
The French-led intervention in the west African nation of Mali has captured the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. As the Islamist rebels flee to mountains in the north, the French are contemplating what comes next, amid concerns of a prolonged guerrilla war and war crimes committed by their Mali army allies. As with other recent examples of Western interventions, the capture of the major urban centres could prove the easiest part of the French-led intervention into the resource-rich region.
Political tensions within the Spanish state have reached a new pitch after the January 23 declaration by the Catalan parliament of Catalonia’s sovereign right to decide its political future. Antagonism is intensifying between the Catalan and national governments and polarisation continues to rise among and within all main political forces.
“January 26 was just an ordinary work day at the Smart Fashion Export factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh — until the fire broke out at 2:30 p.m,” Global Labour Rights said on January 29. “As heavy black smoke filled the shop floor, workers rushing to escape found locked exit doors. “Within an hour, seven young women were dead — crushed to death in the panic or asphyxiated by the toxic smoke. Three of them were teenagers, Kohinoor, 15, Razia, 16, and Nasima, 17 years old.
If you want to understand why Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has declared a “state of emergency” or if you want to understand why the country’s defence minister warned on January 29 of “the collapse of the state”, you first need to understand the soccer fan clubs in Egypt - otherwise known as the “ultras” - and the role they played in the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
It is now two years since spontaneous mass uprisings against political and economic injustice started to sweep through the Arab countries. This began a period of heightened class struggle known in the West (but not the Arab countries) as the Arab Spring.
A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media. The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism”, and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine.

Culture

A selection of this week's celebrity news... Beyoncé's Sexy 2013 Super Bowl Outfit Slammed by PETA—Too Much Skin! http://eonli.ne/Uw4OxT N-Dubz rapper Dappy guilty of assault and affray. http://bit.ly/XmSGcY Russell Brand hits on Katharine McPhee HARD. Funny or creepy? http://eonli.ne/VBWMOF Kate Middleton's Cousin Strips Down for Men's Magazine—See the Provocative Pics http://eonli.ne/XfIy7M Pregnant Kate Middleton, Prince William Take Mustique Babymoon: Report http://eonli.ne/Xfu33F
Vibes, Love, Revolution Fear Nuttin Band Released 2012 www.fearnuttinband.com Fear Nuttin Band blend Jamaican yardie culture with American hardcore punk in the hybrid genre of “yardcore”. The Massachusetts-based group also throw in plenty of pugilistic politics and sharp satire. Front man Prowla and guitarist Christafari Regan spoke to Green Left's Mat Ward.
Song by David Beniuk: January 26 Video by Green Left TV

Resistance!

The recent floods in Queensland, as well as bushfires in three states, have dramatically shown that climate change is a serious threat and is getting worse. Climate change is not an abstract issue that will be a problem at some point down the track; it is having real impacts now. Extreme fires and floods are becoming the norm in Australia, rather than infrequent disasters. It is expected that there will be more frequent and more damaging extreme weather events if action to stop climate change soon does not happen soon.