Issue 953

Australia

The Save Coburg group has already registered a win. The group was formed at a public meeting of about 60 residents, facilitated by newly elected Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton. The main concern at the meeting was the scale of a development proposed by Moreland Council, which will create two huge corridors of 10-storey buildings on Louisa, Waterfield and Bell Street.

The article below first appeared on TamilNet on February 5. *** Tamil diaspora activists in Europe, Canada and Australia staged protests on February 4 coinciding with Sri Lanka’s official 65th “independence day”, with activists alleging that this so-called “independence” was only a freedom given to the Sinhala nation to commit a protracted genocide of the Tamil Eelam nation.

About 100 people gathered outside the Queensland state government’s executive building on February 1 to voice concerns over the coal industry’s destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. The rally was organised under Greenpeace's Save the Reef campaign. It was supported by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth and Beyond Zero Emissions.
Perth activist Trish McAuliffe had a run-in with Stirling City Council in Perth's northern suburbs over a banner on her property advertising a public meeting about gas fracking. McAuliffe is a member of grassroots campaign group No Fracking Way and put up a hand-painted banner on her property that said “Fracking = pollution”. The sign also gave details for a public meeting organised by the Clean Water Healthy Land Alliance featuring a speaker from the Lock the Gate Alliance.
Unemployed workers staged a protest at a Werribee construction site where they say workers have been brought from overseas on subclass 457 work visas, without advertising the positions locally.   “We've spoken to management on site, they have confirmed there's 457 visa workers here,” protest spokesperson Nick Donohue told Green Left Weekly.   “The 457 workers are welding tanks. We've got an abundance of skilled labour in the area that can do the same job, so there's no necessity for these workers to be brought here,” Donohue said.  
The open letter below was released by the Aboriginal Tent Embassies in Canberra and Brisbane of February 8. *** We are disappointed and outraged at the racist message conveyed in the Australian article "Rivers of Grog" on February 6. Those of us gathered at the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra, in preparation for the protest against legislative changes, completely reject the stereotypes being used as wedge politics by the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. 
The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition (SAWC) is inviting people to join their float in this year’s Mardi Gras parade on March 2. Spokesperson Linda Pearson said: “SAWC is entering a float in this year’s Mardi Gras to raise awareness about Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and to demonstrate our solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities. We also wanted to offer our supporters this opportunity to take part in what will be a unique and enjoyable event.
Last August, La Trobe University was engulfed in protests from students demanding a reversal of cuts to the humanities and social sciences faculty. More than 600 subjects and 41 full-time positions were permanently wiped out by the corporate-minded vice-chancellor, John Dewar.   The campaign of peaceful protest and civil disobedience has been faced with severe repression and violence from the university security. One piece of video footage clearly showed a member of the security team physically assaulting and injuring one of the protest organisers.
The Refugee Action Coalition has condemned the deal with New Zealand to take 150 refugees processed in Australia each year. “This deal does nothing to provide security for a greater number of asylum seekers or refugees. Australia can easily resettle 150 a year itself.
A branch of the James Connolly Association was established in Melbourne in November last year. The Association was formed in Australia in 2011 and is named after the Irish patriot who lived and died in defence of Irish socialist republicanism.
This statement was released by The Wilderness Society on February 8. *** The Wilderness Society is deeply disappointed that the Tarkine National Heritage listing does not recognise the extraordinary natural values of this iconic region.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is scheduled to meet the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in Casula on February 13, but he’s not going to enjoy a quiet lunch. Anti-coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners are planning a protest to show their opposition to CSG mining in the area. Greens activist Suzie Wright and Socialist Alliance Parramatta branch convener Fred Fuentes organised the action with anti-CSG groups.

World

It started in Colombia in 2000, moved on to Mexico in 2008 and now rages in Central America. Since the beginning of the century, the US-backed “war on drugs” has progressively spread throughout the northern part of Latin America, leaving tens of thousands of lost lives in its wake. An in-depth investigative piece published by the Associated Press explains how this so-called “war” ― which relies on US funding, training, equipment and troops ― has grown in recent years to become “the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War”.
The doctrine of national security imposed by the United States on Latin America, which fostered the dictatorships of the 1970s and '80s, is making a comeback in Honduras. A new law is combining military defence of the country with police strategies for maintaining domestic order. The law created the National Directorate of Investigation and Intelligence (DNII), a key agency in the security structure that does not appear to be accountable to any other body, and does not appear to be under democratic civilian control.
“I saw men, women and children die during that time,” former US drone pilot Brandon Bryant told the December 10 Der Spiegel. “I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”
There has been much speculation in the international media over the future of Venezuela in light of the poor health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan government reported on February 4 that Chavez's recovery in Cuba, from a cancer-related operation in December, was proceeding well.
Protests against the Al-Khalifa regime have escalated in Bahrain ahead of the two-year anniversary of the uprising's start in mid-February and planned national talks between the opposing camps. The protests were spurred on by court rulings against jailed activists and more deaths caused by security forces. On January 13, 88-year-old Habib Ibrahim Abdullah died after inhaling tear gas fired by security forces at a protest in Malkiya, sparking protests in the capital. Security forces attacked demonstrators at his funeral the same day.
For a moment he lost himself in the old, familiar dream. He imagined that he was master of the sky, that the world lay spread out beneath him, inviting him to travel where he willed. It was not the world of his own time that he saw, but the lost world of the dawn -- a rich and living panorama of hills and lakes and forests. He felt bitter envy of his unknown ancestors, who had flown with such freedom over all the earth, and who had let its beauty die. -- Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars Capitalism stands as a death sentinel over planetary life.
“France is in Mali for the long haul.” That was the headline of France’s daily newspaper Le Monde on February 4. The newspaper's front page, as well as pages 2 and 3, were devoted to a discussion over “what next” for France in Mali.
Statement on the military intervention in Mali by the Africa Network of the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (CADTM), January 29. * * *
The shale gas industry-commissioned white paper, The Global Anti-Fracking Movement: What it Wants, How it Operates and What’s Next, makes for some very interesting reading. It was produced late last year by Control Risks, an “independent, global risk consultancy specialising in helping organisations manage political, integrity and security risks in complex and hostile environments”.
President Barack Obama's nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA underscores the administration's drive to assert absolute executive power in the “war on terrorism” without any outside constraints or possibility of review. Brennan was a public defender of the use of torture and "special rendition" under the Bush administration.
Furious protests have exploded onto Tunisia's streets and a general strike has been called after the assassination of left-wing politician and lawyer Chokri Belaid on February 6. Belaid was head of the far-left Party of Democratic Patriots (PPD). His killing is Tunisia's first reported political assassination since independence.

Analysis

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch's propaganda machine has a penchant for using Green Left Weekly as a metaphor for left-wing opinion. This was on the sports page of the February 4 issue of its giveaway tabloid mX: “Shane Warne played Statesman last week with his ambitious Where is Australian Cricket At? Volume 1 ... it contained more utopian fantasy than your average issue of Green Left Weekly.”
Ten years ago, the February 14-16, 2003 global protests against the looming US-led invasion of Iraq involved more than 12 million people in 700 cities around the world. A million people marched around Australia — 500,000 of them in a huge protest in Sydney that was so big that most participants could not move (let along march) from Hyde Park. It was the biggest globally coordinated protest ever — certainly the biggest global anti-war protest.
The Labor federal government and the Greens said on January 23 that an 8.6% fall in emissions from the energy sector proved the new carbon price scheme was working. But evidence from Europe suggests Australia’s emissions trading scheme is likely to hinder, not help, emissions cuts.

Thousands of government and private school teachers plus education support (ES) staff will stop work for 24 hours on February 14. They will attend two separate stop work meetings, then join to march together on the Victorian parliament to show their determination to win better working conditions and pay. Why are teachers and ES staff striking?

A report has found that focusing on the treatment and rehabilitation, rather than imprisonment, of Aboriginal people facing drug and alcohol-related charges would save state and territory governments up to $110,000 a year for every person.
A highly publicised report by the United Nations' refugee agency labeled conditions in the Manus Island refugee camp “unlawful”, but stopped short of pushing the government to close it completely. The report was released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on February 4 after a visit to the detention centre over January 15-17. It principally called for the release of children from the “closed” detention camp. It said the Australian government's regime of “arbitrary, indefinite detention” with no legal framework was “deeply troubling”.
National protests have been held around the country to oppose changes to welfare payments for sole parents. The federal Labor government is forcing parents to switch to the Newstart allowance once their youngest child turns eight, leaving parents up to $140 a fortnight worse off. A new group, the Single Parents Action Group (SPAG), coordinated protests across the country on February 5. Rallies took place in every state and territory.
It was great to see all big health unions in Victoria hold a joint community rally on February 3 to protest against the state and federal governments’ slashing of health funding in Victoria. But any casual observer couldn’t help feeling that a re-elect Labor strategy was lurking. It was true that all of the secretaries from the key health unions roundly condemned the state Coalition and federal Labor governments for the $107 million cut to be implemented by June this year. The cut will result in more than 300 beds closing, elective surgery delays and job losses in many hospitals.
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 Barnesabout what he has been able to achieve while on council. The first part of this interview “Making Fremantle a 'social justice town'” was published in last week’s issue. *** What are the challenges to working on council?
Naturally, once Julia Gillard called the federal election for September 14, it was all hands on deck in Labor to spruik the party and its many great achievements to ensure Tony Abbott is denied keys to The Lodge.
Soon after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the September 14 federal election, opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison confirmed the Coalition's startling plans to turn back every refugee from Sri Lanka without exception. This would include a new plan to enlist the Australian and Sri Lankan navies to detain and return to Colombo any refugee trying to flee the country by boat, Morrison told ABC's Lateline on February 4.
The arrest on February 6 of an Indigenous elder and another Githabul traditional owner on a coal seam gas (CSG) blockade should act as a siren call to all those concerned about our future. They were arrested along with farmers and other Lock the Gate campaigners for mounting a blockade at Doubtful Creek in northern NSW to stop CSG company Metgasco carrying out test drills. See also: White paper reveals gas industry scared of global protests

Resistance!

Important rallies were held across the country in defence of the single parent payment on February 5. After having the welfare safety net in Australia for some time, it seems insane there is a need to protest to protect such rights. But protests like these made welfare a reality in the first place. These protests are defending an unprecedented attack, it's a return to the action that made social welfare possible. To do so, it is important to understand the reason that welfare is under attack in the first place.

Culture

A selection of this week's celebrity news... Vivienne Jolie-Pitt's Salary Revealed: Angelina Jolie's Daughter Earns $3,000 a Week for Maleficent http://eonli.ne/V48fvL Zero Dark Thirty: Osama bin Laden Shooter Says Jessica Chastain's Performance Was "Awesome" http://eonli.ne/XGhSgJ Kate Upton, Katherine Webb, Fellow Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models Do Late Show Top 10 http://eonli.ne/V1tGxv Alyssa Milano's Dog Diesel Dies of Cancer: "Rest in Peace," Actress Tweets http://eonli.ne/V0vLd9
Greenwash: Big Brands & Carbon Scams Guy Pearse Black Inc., 2012 264 pages, $29.99 (pb) The response of big business to global warming, their propaganda would have us believe, is to ride to the rescue by reducing their carbon emissions. As Guy Pearse shows in Greenwash, however, this is just a marketing ploy to attract the dollars of environmentally concerned customers.
It appears that the movement for a cultural boycott of Israel can claim another victory. On January 5 guitarist Stanley Jordan announced he will not be performing at the winter installment of Israel’s Red Sea Jazz Festival. In a brief statement on his Facebook page, Jordan stated: “My performance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival has been cancelled. I apologize for any inconvenience to anyone.” Jordan, an acclaimed an innovative guitarist, had been billed as a headliner at the festival.
Fasayi'il, in the Jordan Valley, 8pm on a Friday evening; a desert community bathed in the glow of the moon, with barely an artificial light visible for miles. In the centre of the village a single tent shines, accompanied by a soundtrack of music, singing and laughter. Inside, four black-clad Palestinian actors mime interpretations of stories shared by locals.