Issue 955

Australia

The 10,000 nurses and midwives involved in industrial action across Western Australia have been threatened with disciplinary action and deregistration by the state’s director general if they go ahead with a planned 24-hour strike on February 25.

The industrial dispute, which for the first time in 12 years has seen the closure of beds across the state’s public hospitals, is set to intensify in the coming week as the state government continues to ignore nurses’ demands on wages and conditions.

20,000 people turned out to hear the John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins and Bob Brown among others in a concert and rally and march for the Kimberley in Fremantle on February 24, 2013.

It was a massive outpouring of community opposition to the Barnett government's blatant attempts to steal Aboriginal land, ride roughshod over local community opposition to the project and to trash the environmental qualities of the area around James Price Point.

Geert Wilders called off his February 20 public meeting in Perth after the hotel where he was going to speak cancelled his booking.

Organisers of Wilders' tour tried to claim that protesters had intimidated the hotel and implied that Wilders' "free speech'' was threatened as people were "denied'' the chance to hear Wilders talk.

Wilders' most prominent supporter in the Australian parliament — disgraced Liberal senator Cory Bernardi — also tried to claim that there was "free speech double standard" involved.

Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) activists are marching in Mardi Gras on March 2 under the banner “Generations of Protest”, and are inviting interested people to join their float.

Mardi Gras is going to be a lot of fun this year, and already has more floats and more people marching than ever.

The event stands in the tradition of the gay liberation protest in 1978 that immediately preceded the state-by-state decriminalisation of sodomy throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Protesters gathered outside the Federal Court building on February 19 to oppose moves by Coca-Cola Amatil to overturn recently passed Northern Territory “cash-for-containers” laws. The laws are similar to bottle and plastic container return laws that have operated in South Australia for more than 30 years.

Today, 80% of bottles in SA are recycled, more than double the rate of other states.

Demonstrators displayed a large banner exposing the role of the company, owners of Mount Franklin, Fanta and Coke products, in destroying wildlife and the environment.

In an attempt to avoid anti-racist protesters, the February 18 meeting to launch the Australian speaking tour of Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, was, at the last moment, moved to a desolate, non-residential part of Somerton on Melbourne’s northern edge. More than 200 anti-racists, however, picketed Wilders’ meeting while another 100 protested in Melbourne CBD, where one of the speakers was Greens Senator Richard Di Natale.

The National Tertiary Education Union released this statement on February 19.

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National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of Sydney have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action over their claims for a new Enterprise Agreement.

The ballot for protected industrial action was counted and declared on Friday afternoon. Over 1000 members voted.

When NSW members of parliament from both Labor and Coalition start campaigning against coal seam gas (CSG) — and the federal Labor Party starts musing that it might impose “strict regulations” on state governments to control the industry — you know that the movement against this dirty fossil fuel is starting to pack a punch.

CSG was hardly known two years ago. Today, the thought of it frightens people. Gas companies have poured millions into advertising to reassure people that the industry is safe — but it hasn’t worked.

This statement was released by Stop CSG Illawarra on February 19.

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The NSW government has announced new coal seam gas (CSG) rules, including a ban on CSG development in residential areas and critical industry clusters, such as horse breeders and wine producers. But they also stated this would only apply to new CSG exploration, assessment and production activities, and they have not ruled out drinking water catchments.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released documents exposing the “appalling” extent of child self-harm in a Darwin detention centre on February 18.

DASSAN obtained the documents via a Freedom of Information request, which took the department of immigration more than nine months to release. They detail 26 cases of self-harm by detained refugees aged 9 to 17 between August 2010 and November 2011.

Spokesperson Fernanda Dahlstrom said the documents “concern one detention centre over a relatively short period of time”.

World

A Uyghur man is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting separatism”, allegedly for translating Chinese-language news related to Kashgar City, in a newly revealed case reported by Uyghurbiz.net.

The Uyghur people, whose traditional lands are in the north-west of the Chinese state, have been denied national rights and suffer severe repression.

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto is seriously contemplating reopening its Bougainville copper and gold mine, Reuters reported on February 7.

Severe water shortages in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic may become less frequent due to a Venezuelan government initiative to provide training to Sahrawi technicians.

SADR claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, most of which is occupied by Morocco. SADR administers about 20% of Western Sahara.

On February 14, the Venezuelan environment ministry said 10 technicians from SADR will be trained in hydro-geology and drilling at Venezuela’s National Hydraulics Laboratory.

Moroccan authorities have sentenced Western Saharan political prisoners to long jail sentences. The the prisoners had already spent two year in jail waiting for a trail. Amnesty International had called the trials flawed from the outset.

Eight Saharawi were sentenced to life in jail for peacefully demonstrating for the people of Western Sahara to be given a vote of self-determination, as promised by the United Nations. A further four activists received 30 years, seven received 25 years and two got 20-year sentences.

That Cuba has already developed four vaccines or inoculations against different types of cancer is without doubt important news for humanity. The World Health Organisation says each year about 8 million people die from this illness.

However, the international mainstream media have almost totally ignored this news.

WikiLeaks has published over 40,000 secret documents regarding Venezuela, which show the clear hand of US imperialism in efforts to topple popular and democratically elected leader Hugo Chavez.

France perpetrated two large deceptions in its military intervention into Mali in January. These have been universally presented as true in mainstream media reporting.

The first was that the unilateral decision to invade Mali on January 11 was hastily made. France said it was prompted by imminent military threats by Islamic fundamentalist forces against the Mali's south where the large majority live.

A professional athlete; a home with an arsenal of firearms; a dead young woman involved in a long-term relationship with her killer.

In November, her name was Kasanda Perkins and the man who shot her was Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Now her name is Reeva Steenkamp, killed by Olympic sprinter and double amputee Oscar “the Blade Runner” Pistorius.

Najeeba Wazefadost came to Australia as a child refugee in September 2000 by a perilous journey by boat. She is now president of Hazara Women of Australia and I interviewed her for Green Left TV at a 500-strong Hazara community demonstration in the centre of Sydney on February 20 to protest the ongoing massacres of Shia in Pakistan.

See the GLTV video and photos of the protest below.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro congratulated Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for his “gigantic” victory in Ecuador’s presidential and parliamentary elections on February 17.

Correa received 57% of the vote, achieving a strong lead ahead of the runner-up, banker Guillermo Lasso who got 24.06% of the vote.

“We’re very happy, and we’ve communicated our congratulations from the whole people of Venezuela, from our president Hugo Chavez, to President Rafael Correa,” Maduro said.

Venezuelans rallied in support of their president, Hugo Chavez, on February 18 after his surprise return from treatment in Cuba.

In the early morning, Chavez had announced on Twitter he had arrived in Caracas after more than two months of cancer treatment in Havana.

Chavez tweeted: “We’ve arrived once again to the Venezuelan Homeland. Thank you God! Thank you beloved people! We’ll continue treatment here.”

Upon his return, Chavez was taken to the Dr Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas, where he will continue treatment.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was re-elected in the first round of the country's February 17 presidential poll.

Preliminary results released with 30% of the votes counted gave Correa 58% of the votes, compared with 24% for the runner-up, right-wing banker Guillermo Lasso, ABC.net.au said on February 18.

Analysis

For those who believed in the “sanctity of sport” or see it as a way to escape from the harsh realities of the “real world”, it hasn't been a good month.

On February 4, Europol revealed that 380 soccer matches across Europe had been fixed, with 425 officials and players suspected of being involved.

In year 10 at age 15, everyone was talking about the imminent Iraq war at school. I remember arguments in the playground about it. I got into [student anti-war group] Books Not Bombs when some year 12 students started advertising it around the school.

The hottest show in Sydney has an unusual setting, a hearing room on the seventh floor of 133 Castlereagh Street. This is where the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating affairs involving former Labor state minister Eddie Obeid and his family, and former Labor minister for resources Ian Macdonald.

Obeid is accused of benefiting from buying farmland over which MacDonald allegedly approved a coal mine, in return for receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks.

The article below is an extract from Resistance’s Education zine, which was released on campuses this week.

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In every state and territory, at many tertiary educational institutions, students are resisting a tide of cuts, commodification and privatisation.

Universities face staff, subject and department cuts, rising fees and costs, casualisation of staff, bigger classes, less class time and less face-to-face contact.

These are stills from film footage shot by Jill Hickson and John Reynolds for Actively Radical TV of the half a million-strong march on February 16, 2003 against the impending US-led invasion of Iraq.







These are stills (Part II) from film footage shot by Jill Hickson and John Reynolds for Actively Radical TV of the half a million-strong march on February 16, 2003 against the impending US-led invasion of Iraq.

[See Part I here.]







The warnings were clear and now it’s happened: bending over backwards with carbon tax compensation to appease Australia's dirtiest electricity generators, the Gillard government has handed big coal billions in windfall profits, whilst consumers are effectively paying twice for the carbon price.

This is an extract from Towards a socialist Australia, produced by the Socialist Alliance and its affiliate, Resistance. Read the full text online at the Socialist Alliance website.

Why socialism?

The rise of resistance to dictatorships, corporate rule, military occupation and corrupt politics, which has occurred in the 21st century, brings new hope for humanity.

A civil trial expected to last eight weeks in the federal court in Melbourne was averted on February 18 by an agreement between the Victoria Police and six African-Australians suing them for racial discrimination and racial profiling.

The agreement mandates an enquiry, with submissions from the public, into allegations of police racism in the Flemington-North Melbourne area, which includes culturally diverse Housing Commission estates. The agreement also permits the six complainants to publicly tell their stories using police documents obtained through the court case.

About 120 people attended a public meeting on February 20 to discuss concerns about shale oil and gas exploration in the Northern Territory.

The meeting was organised by the Environment Centre NT and brought together a broad panel of speakers — representing the breadth of concern in the community about new and controversial methods of extracting unconventional gas.

Hall Greenland, a respected left-wing activist, writer and journalist in Sydney, is the Greens candidate for the inner-west Sydney seat of Grayndler. Greenland was a Leichhardt councillor for the Labor Party in the 1980s, and served a second term as an independent between 1999 and 2004.

He is president of the Friends of Callan Park, a community group which has waged a long struggle against the privatisation of a vital heritage area.

Greenland is also the author of Red Hot, a biography of one of Australia’s earliest Trotskyists, Nick Origlass.

Simon Butler was a 25-year-old activist who helped organise the mass mobilisations in Sydney in February and March 2003 against the invasion of Iraq. He was also a leader of the socialist youth group Resistance and the student anti-war movement Books Not Bombs, which Resistance initiated.

Lip-stitching and attempted self-immolation are among increasingly extreme acts of self-harm taking place in Australia’s two offshore detention camps in recent weeks.

Hunger strikes, cutting and attempted hangings have already become widespread in the tent city on Nauru. But, on February 19, for the first time since the “dark days” of former prime minister John Howard’s “Pacific solution,” refugees stitched their mouths closed to protest their arbitrary and indefinite detention.

Angry residents from Kemps Creek and surrounding neighbourhoods packed the local sports and bowling club auditorium on February 18 to protest against the state government’s plan to dump radioactive waste in the area.

The NSW Liberal government is proposing to shift 5800 tonnes of soil from an area in Hunters Hill, where a uranium ore processing plant once stood, to the Kemps Creek SITA dump site.

Cancer clusters have been detected in Hunters Hill, which have been linked to the contamination left behind at the former plant site.

The first day of NSW parliament this year was met with a strong protest against the announced shortening of the heavy rail line to Newcastle.

Organised by Save Our Rail, a large contingent boarded the 8:03am express from Newcastle Station. Supporters saw them off, while others hopped on at outer stations.

Leaflets were distributed and petitions were signed as activists explained to the other passengers what the state government was proposing. The media were regularly on the mobile phone to Save Our Rail president Joan Dawson.

This statement was released by the Socialist Alliance Moreland councillor Sue Bolton on February 20.

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Experienced crane driver and union activist Billy Ramsay was killed on the Grocon construction site in central Melbourne on February 18. This news was buried many pages inside the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun daily tabloid.

Culture

A selection of this week's celebrity news...

Kate Middleton's Family Bails Out Brother James From Cake Business Debt http://eonli.ne/13T46ZO

Oscar Pistorius Plans Memorial Service for Reeva Steenkamp While on Bail for Premeditated Murder Charges http://eonli.ne/13R7yUW

Alec Baldwin Smacks Down Racial Slur Allegations on Late Show With David Letterman http://eonli.ne/XzRh72

Zero Dark Thirty Torture Controversy: Senate Committee Drops Investigation http://eonli.ne/XzxTaf

Michelle Obama's Oscar Dress Photoshopped by Iranian Media http://eonli.ne/13PcFEY

Whackademia: An Insider’s Account of the Troubled University
Richard Hil
NewSouth Publishing, 2012
239 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Universities were better in the olden days, says Dr Richard Hil in Whackademia.

As an Essex University student in the 1970s, Hil joined the British Socialist Workers Party (which expanded his political horizons) and the Campaign for Real Ale (which expanded his waistline), while his lecturers stimulated his intellectual growth.

"Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not... fuck with us.”

The board members of HMV Group might be now wishing they hadn’t stocked so many Fight Club DVDs now. The massive UK entertainment retailer -- specializing in music, film, video games and other entertainment -- rang in the new year by running aground, with its British stores going into administration and its Irish locations shuttering entirely on January 15th.

That Richard Hinds needs a few lessons in sports journalism.

“Such has been the atmosphere created by the Western Sydney Wanderers' fans, usually dispassionate critics have left Parramatta Stadium raving the experience makes the Camp Nou [in Barcelona] seem like a winter night at the Wentworth Park dogs,” the chief sports columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald had the sheer gall to write on February 18.

Fighting Fund

Over the past couple of weeks, Green Left Weekly has been collecting recollections, images, impressions and analyses of the biggest-ever globally coordinated anti-war protest in history: the 30 million-strong February 14-16, 2003, marches against the launching of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

It was such a tremendous explosion of popular protest that it prompted New York Times columnist Patrick Tyler to write at the time there were perhaps “two superpowers on the planet — the United States, and worldwide public opinion”.