Issue 962


It’s a blight on the landscape. Participants of this year’s 11th annual refugee rights convergence gasped as the bus pulled off the Great Eastern Highway in Western Australia at the sight of the Yongah Hill detention centre. The detention centre was built in June last year and was described by immigration media spokesperson Sandi Logan as “one of the most secure” centres in the entire refugee detention network.
In an attempt to stop students protesting against the federal Labor government's $2.3 billion cut to higher education, NSW police pushed protesters off the road as they marched from Sydney University to Labor MP Tanya Plibersek's office in Broadway, central Sydney. Julia Gillard's government also plans to increase public funding to private schools by $2.4 billion to $85 billion over four years.
An emergency speak-out: "Hands off Venezuela" was called by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) at Sydney Town Hall on April 19. Almost 100 people attended the rally, plus a small counter-protest of about a dozen Venezuelan supporters of the right-wing opposition. The rally called for "an immediate end to the opposition-initiated violence [in Venezuela], and to demand that the US and Australian governments come out and recognise [Nicolas Maduro] as Venezuela's head of state."
To mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting of four Aboriginal teenagers in Kings Cross, a rally will be held on April 26 to demand an end to police investigating cases of police violence. The rally will gather outside the Kings Cross police station to voice disapproval of the police involved in the shooting of the unarmed youths in April last year. Since January 1, 1980, over 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have died in police custody.
50 people rallied on April 18 to save the gender studies department from being cut at the University of Queensland. UQ has been teaching gender studies for 41 years and it is the only university in Queensland that still does. The university has announced it will discontinue the gender studies major from this year and has plans to cut all gender studies courses by 2018. Students marched from the great court to the UQ senate meeting where they were barred from personally delivering a petition signed by hundreds of students.
A 10-day hunger strike and protest carried out by a group of refugees in a Melbourne detention centre ended on April 17. Twenty-seven refugees in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre in Broadmeadows were refusing food and water, and sleeping on the ground outdoors to draw attention to their lives in limbo. Despite being found to be genuine refugees by Australia, they have been denied a protection visa due to adverse ASIO security checks. This means they will never be allowed to live in Australia, but cannot be deported because they have a genuine fear of persecution.
Australia Post workers are now in enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) negotiations with their employer. Last financial year Australia Post made an after-tax profit of $281 million after it paid the federal government a $213 million dividend. Workers have been falling behind the consumer price index which has grown 2.7% per year while wages only grew by 1%.
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network released this statement on April 17. *** The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network joins with all those voices for democracy and peace to call for an immediate end to the opposition-initiated violence now occurring in Venezuela. On April 14, a majority of Venezuelans voted for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) presidential candidate, Nicolas Maduro. In doing so, they voted to continue the Bolivarian revolution previously led by Hugo Chávez.
A protest was held outside Labor minister Tanya Plibersek's office in Sydney on April 17 to protest the Julia Gillard government's $2.3 billion cut to tertiary education over the next four years. The government says they are cutting money from tertiary education in order to increase funding to school education, but the government plans to give a $2.4 billion increase to private schools over the same period. This will increase public funding of private schools to $85 billion over that period. Another protest will be held at Sydney University on April 24 at 12pm.


The truth about Anzac Day is that it is as much about denial as it is about remembrance. It is a denial that functions for both sides of the original conflict. The two countries that have invested much energy into sustaining the Gallipoli industry — Australia and Turkey — also have a genocidal past. Not coincidentally, both countries have used the device of “Gallipoli, Inc” to blot out shameful historical memories that they would rather not address. See also:
The federal government’s plan to cut $2.3 billion from university funding is wrong. The government should end public funding to private schools and make mining companies and banks pay instead. It makes no sense for Julia Gillard’s government to fund primary and secondary education by cutting $2.3 billion from the budget of university education. Described as a “razor-gang”, the cuts to universities will turn a student scholarship scheme into a loans scheme, disadvantaging thousands of students.
New research has found workers suffer many problems associated with working 12-hour shifts and rotating shifts. These problems include a disturbed body-clock, shortened and distorted sleep, and disturbed family and social life. This resulted in acute effects on fatigue, mood and performance. Without adequate coping strategies, this leads to chronic effects on mental and physical health, including elevated risk of cardiovascular gastrointestinal problems, and heightened safety risks.
The NSW Coalition government’s decision to privatise two large ports was announced in July last year. It expected to receive $3 billion from the sale. NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said on April 12 that the consortium NSW Ports would buy 99-year leases for two of the state’s international ports — Port Botany for $4.31 billion and Port Kembla for $760 million. The total cost of the sale would be $5.07 billion. An additional yearly lease payment of $5 million would be paid to the government and the annual on cap container movement of 3.2 million would be abolished for Port Botany.
“We want our country to be alive. We don't want it to be dead because that’s our country, that’s our spirit country, we come from that country,” said Aboriginal traditional owner Teresa Roe to a crowd outside Woodside's office on April 12. The gathering was a celebration after the announcement that Woodside Petroleum has shelved plan to build a liquid natural gas hub at James Price Point in Western Australia’s Kimberley.
Two years ago, refugee advocates learned five men detained in Darwin's Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) had sewn their mouths together and were protesting against delays to their cases. Advocates alerted the media of the self-harm in July, 2011. But immigration spokespeople contacted by media denied lip-stitching had taken place. A spokesperson told AAP on July 2, 2011, that a detainee had been taken to hospital after an incident of self-harm, but: “Nobody has sewn their lips together.”
This is a speech given to a speakout in Sydney on April 10 against the Gillard government’s racism towards overseas workers employed on 457 visas. *** What this debate is about isn’t a particular category of visa. What it’s about is racism, and the zero tolerance that Australian society and the Australian left should show for it. Regardless of the other debates we might want to have about 457s, we should only condemn the kinds of contemptible dog-whistling Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been using those visas as an excuse for.
Business Council of Australia (BCA) chief Tony Shepherd was on his bipartisan and diplomatic best when he addressed the National Press Council on April 17 to outline the peak corporate body's “economic vision and action plan for Australia”. But if you sweep aside the verbal camouflage, these were the core messages from the corporate rich delivered in the BCA chief's speech: 1. “We own you.” “We are not doing this work because we see ourselves as having special authority,” he said.

Some things should never be forgotten, and some things should never be forgiven. Both apply to the mass slaughter of ordinary people in World War I, including Gallipoli.

The federal Labor government has announced it intends to dramatically increase funding to primary and high school education as part of the Gonski reforms. But before you think that maybe, just maybe, the government might be making some policy that could be defended by progressives, there's a devil in the detail.
The first coalmine in the Illawarra began operating at Mount Keira in August 1849. As the industry developed, the Illawarra Mercury of 1857 confidently asserted: “Our Black Diamonds will promote commerce and add to our social industry.” Mining coal by hand was dangerous work anywhere it was carried out, but miners in the Illawarra had to contend with “firedamp” — a mixture of gases leaching from the coalface that were prone to explode.
The Victorian state council of the Australian Education Union (AEU) held a special meeting on April 17 to consider an offer from the Coalition state government to commit to a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The AEU and the state government have been in dispute over the EBA for more than two years. AEU members had previously voted to continue the industrial campaign until their demands for improved working conditions and pay were met. This decision was taken at a mass stopwork meeting of over 12,000 teachers and education support staff on February 14.
As Venezuelan people fight to have the elected government of Nicolas Maduro recognised, the nation’s democracy and election processes have been questioned by Australian media. Australians, as well as being told how lucky they are to live in such a prosperous country, are also told how lucky they are to live in a democracy where opinions are heard, unlike in other countries. But this onerous truism doesn’t really stand up to comparison. There have been some historical achievements in Australia, even if this was still marked by ugliness.
Socialist Alliance member and TAFE student Sarah Hathway spoke at a rally at Geelong TAFE on April 16. Her speech is abridged below. *** I’m currently studying a Diploma of Community Services at the Gordon [TAFE]. Like many of us here, I also studied at the Gordon before these insidious TAFE cuts took effect, so I’ve seen the devastating impact the cuts have had on services that used to be provided on campus.


The average worker in Britain's south-west has lost £1522 a year ($2255) in earnings since the coalition came to power, new research from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) showed, Morning Star said on April 19. The figures, which do not take into account rises in consumption taxes or cuts to benefits, came to light at the start of the South West TUC annual conference.
Thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails marked Prisoners' Day with protests on April 17, joined by supporters outside the wire. More than 3000 detainees refused breakfast as part of a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with Samer Essawi, whose on-off fast has lasted more than 250 days and stoked weeks of street protests. Essawi is receiving nutrients via an intravenous drip but refusing food and his lawyer says his low heart rate means that he could die at any time.
The New York-based National Lawyers Guild released a statement on April 16 on the Venezuela elections it helped monitor. An NLG spokesperson said: "The U.S. would do well to incorporate some of the security checks and practices that are routine in Venezuela to improve both the level of participation and the credibility of our elections." The full statement is below. * * *
An armed squad stormed the main office of Uthayan, a Tamil language daily newspaper published in the city of Jaffna in Sri Lanka's north, At 4.45am on April 13. The attackers set fire to the printing presses and copies of the paper that were ready for distribution. The Tamilnet website said the squad was believed to be operated by Sri Lankan military intelligence. Jaffna, like other Tamil areas, is under military rule. The attack is the fourth this year against Uthayan, which is owned by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of parliament E. Saravanapavan.
On April 2, 1911 women all over Britain were holding all-night parties, staying out at concerts and late-night restaurants, skating at ice rinks until the morning and generally having a very good time. But this was also a huge act of civil disobedience because the April 2 was Census night and these women staying out all night were refusing to have their details recorded in protest at the government’s refusal to grant votes for women.
Chinese leaders are aware that visiting Western leaders will be under some pressure from their domestic constituencies to raise Tibet, human rights and other “sensitive” issues. So a mechanism has been considerately created to cater for this need. It consists of a meaningless piece of theatre otherwise known as the “obligatory-behind-closed-doors-human-rights-discussion”. According to the well-worn script, the elected foreign official heads to China on a trade mission, accompanied by a media circus and some high-level trough-snouting capitalists (like Andrew Forrest).
The continued rightward shift of capitalist politics in the United States was underscored with the official release of President Barack Obama’s proposed budget. In it, Obama proposes to cut the already inadequate pension program for the elderly known as Social Security and the medical insurance program for the elderly, Medicare. These and other programs for the elderly and poorer sections of the working class are under attack. Both major parties claim that spending on social welfare must be cut in the current economic depression.
Hundreds of working-class people waiting outside of a closed grocery store for the possibility of getting the remaining food is not the picture of the “American Dream.” Yet on March 23, outside the Laney Walker Supermarket in Augusta, Ga., that is exactly what happened.
N THE 60 years since the end of the Korean War, U.S. policy toward North Korea has fluctuated between the options of "containment" and "rollback." Sometimes, the policy has shifted in the course of one presidency. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both started out as advocates of rollback--regime change, either by military force or by provoking an internal collapse--but ended as caretakers of containment.
Ever since Malaysia was granted independence in 1957, the party that the British colonial rulers groomed and installed as their neo-colonial puppets, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), has clung on to power by hook or by crook. At various points in history, UMNO (the central party in the governing Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition) have relied on colonial military might, ethnic pogroms, jailing dissidents, media control, gerrymandering, vote rigging, corruption and patronage to stay in power.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has the potential to become the largest “free trade” deal in the world. Negotiations began in Melbourne in March 2010, involving Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and the US. The combined GDP of these countries was about US$20.7 trillion in 2011. Japan is now close to being accepted into the negotiations.
The April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon were another gut-wrenching reminder of how precious and fragile human life can be, how suddenly and cruelly it can be taken away. In the aftermath of this tragedy, we are offered a glimpse of some of the worst aspects of humanity — the actions of the as-yet-unknown perpetrators of the attacks, as well as the call for racist, genocidal attacks against Muslims in response. But we also can see some of the best aspects of humanity.
As the Venezuelan opposition is emboldened by chaos on the streets, reactionary propaganda on the private airwaves that still dominate Venezuela's media landscape and firm support from Washington, now is the time for the international left to galvanise support for the Bolivarian revolution. Under the false pretext of electoral fraud, the right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles tried for a power grab after losing presidential elections on April 14, threatening to destabilise the country.
A US jury ordered oil giant Exxon Mobil to pay US$236 million to the state of New Hampshire on April 9 to clean up groundwater contamination from fuel additive MTBE, the Morning Star said. Jurors sat through nearly three months of testimony in the longest trial in New Hampshire history. They said Exxon had been negligent in adding MTBE to petrol, saying it was a defective product. They found the company liable for failing to warn distributors and consumers about its contaminating characteristics.
“The coup has already been defeated” declared Nicolas Maduro, the winner of the April 14 presidential elections, mid-morning on April 16. By that time, seven people had been assassinated by fascist bands who were activated the night before in attacks at headquarters of the governing Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), popular health centres and houses recently turned over by the government to displaced families. Also at that point of the day, the call for a general strike did not materialise. The call was made by the fascist high command led by the failed candidate of April 14.
Socialist Worker contributors Khury Petersen-Smith and Sofia Arias attended the Boston Marathon as spectators. They had left the finish line area only an hour before two explosions ripped through the crowd. So far, the death toll stands at three, with more than 100 people injured, a number of them very seriously. Khury and Sofia talk about their response to the nightmare -- and the consequences of the witch-hunt to find a culprit to blame.
The statement below was released by the Party of the Labouring Masses, a socialist party from the Philippines, on April 5. * * * The situation on the Korean peninsula has taken a belligerent new turn drawing the entire region into a threatening climate of war preparations. According to the line promoted by the US government: the new young North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, is making unprovoked threats ― including a nuclear threat ― against South Korea and the US and that even China, North Korea's only close ally, supported tighter United Nations sanctions against the North.
In the aftermath of Venezuela's April 14 presidential elections that was won by the candidate of the Boliviaran revolution, Nicolas Maduro, the right-wing opposition has refused to respect the result and is carrying out a campaign of often-violent street protests.


A selection of this week's celebrity news... Talib Kweli: Rapper says of Boston bombing, 'violence begets violence'. Lauryn Hill To Record New Music To Pay Tax Bill? Yoko Ono To Unveil Not-For-Profit John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Flavor Flav Court Hearing Postponed For Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Rolf Harris Named As Man Arrested In British Sex Abuse Case
Last year, multi-award-winning playwright Angela Betzien undertook a three week residency in the Queensland town of Mt Morgan where she researched and developed a play exploring the impact of mining. Tall Man, a 50-minute two-hander, received standing ovations when it toured for one night only in three mining towns in Central Queensland. “The play made us cringe and laugh,” said one Mt Morgan resident. “It challenged a room to acknowledge its story.” Green left Weekly's Brianna Pike talked to Betzien about the play.
The dead. The injured. The anguish. All the result of bombs that were set to explode at the finish line just over four hours after the start of the Boston Marathon. There will be time to mourn. We will mourn the dead and injured. I also mourn the Boston Marathon, and how it's now been brutally disfigured. The Boston Marathon matters in a way other sporting events simply do not. It started in 1897, inspired by the first modern marathon, which took place at the inaugural 1896 Olympics. It attracts 500,000 spectators and over 20,000 participants from 96 countries.
Greening The Media Richard Maxwell & Toby Miller Oxford University Press, 2012 246 pages, $44.80 (pb) There is a reason why the typical electronic product warranty lasts only 12 months, say Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller in Greening the Media. Most digital devices are designed to “break or become uncool” after just a year, requiring regular product replacements or upgrades.
Latin America's Turbulent Transitions: The Future of 21st Century Socialism By Roger Burbach, Michael Fox & Federico Fuentes Zed Books, 2013 In a quirk of history, Margaret Thatcher died a little more than one month after Hugo Chavez. Thatcher was a figurehead for the global class war in the 1980s and '90s known as “neoliberalism”. Chavez was a figurehead for the struggle against it and the alternative starting to be built in Latin America over the past decade.