Issue 963

News

This weekend unionists around Australia will march to celebrate the achievements of working people. While May 1 is the traditional day to remember the struggle of workers to form unions and fight for a better life, in Australia the marches and parades usually occur on the first weekend of May. This year, a range of socialist and activist groups will be marching together in joint contingents across Australia behind banners saying, “It's time for a fightback”.
About 10,000 workers rallied in Melbourne on April 30, demanding better safety on Grocon construction sites. The rally marched to the Grocon-owned site in Swanston street where a wall collapsed onto a public footpath in March and killed three people. The march then moved to another Grocon site where a crane operator was killed earlier this year. Protesters demanded industrial manslaughter laws for bosses be introduced.
The Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority released this statement on April 22. *** It is with considerable sadness that we announce the passing of Thomas Trevorrow at the age of 58 from a heart attack at his office at Camp Coorong, Meningie. Trevorrow was a strong and proud Ngarrindjeri man and a leading advocate for Aboriginal rights in Australia. He worked throughout his life to better the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and to support the advancement and recognition of the Ngarrindjeri people.
Robert (Bob) McMahon, a founding member of Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill (TAP), died in his sleep on April 17. The anti-pulp-mill activist passed away at the age of 62, leaving behind his wife and fellow activist Susie McMahon, as well as two children and five grandchildren. TAP was founded in June, 2006, as a grassroots community opposition group to the proposed Gunns Bell Bay pulp mill.
The Tamil Refugee Council released this statement on April 18. *** Two world-renowned authors, American Noam Chomsky and Australian Thomas Keneally, have called on the Australian government to end indefinite detention of refugees after a 10-day hunger strike ended at the Broadmeadows detention centre in Melbourne. “The true measure of the moral level of a society is how it treats the most vulnerable people,” Chomsky said in a message this week to the Tamil Refugee Council in Australia.
A range of socialist and activist groups will be marching together in joint contingents in this year’s May Day rallies across Australia behind banners saying, “It's time for a fightback”. Initiated by the Socialist Alliance, the contingents have been supported by a range of groups, including Resistance, Socialist Alternative, Latin American Social Forum, Solidarity, the Indigenous Social Justice Association, Committee in Solidarity with Cuba, and Sydney University Education Action Group.
Construction unions have announced they will make a submission to the Victorian Coalition government that will call for unused government-owned sites in inner-city Melbourne to be used for public housing. Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union state secretary John Setka told the Age on April 22 that the proposal would cut the public housing waiting list and provide jobs for unemployed construction workers.
Prospects for left unity will be one of the key discussions at the NSW state conference of the Socialist Alliance on May 12. The Socialist Alliance will also discuss their election campaign and taking the people “before profits” message to a wider audience. There has been more collaboration on the left in recent times. These are positive steps, and form part of the unity process that the leaderships of Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative initiated last year. The other major report and discussion will focus on the Socialist Alliance's participation in the federal elections.
Does Australia really need another party for the billionaires? Aren't the Liberal and Labor parties enough? Surely both have proved that they are loyal servants of the rich? But when a billionaire mining tycoon like Clive Palmer sets his mind on becoming prime minister, he just goes out and buys himself his own instant party, the "United Australia Party", which he announced will contest 127 House of Representative seats and all Senate seats in the coming federal election.
Socialist Alliance members hit the front page of the Fremantle Herald as part of the campaign for free speech at Notre Dame University in Fremantle. The university — a private institution — maintains strict control over many aspects of student life, including the student association. The only way student clubs can get any recognition is by affiliating to the university. But the university won't allow clubs who violate "Catholic social teachings" to affiliate.
Stop CSG Illawarra (SCSGI) held its monthly organising meeting on April 21, attended by just over 80 people. The community feels it is in limbo, waiting on a decision from the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) on the local coal seam gas project. A PAC decision was expected several weeks ago on whether to approve Apex’s application to extend drilling deadlines, enabling them to start work on the project.
Lock the Gate Alliance released this statement on April 23. *** The Lock The Gate Alliance has slammed mining giant Rio Tinto after its Hunter Valley subsidiary Coal and Allied appealed to the Supreme Court to allow the Warkworth Extension coalmine project to go ahead. The project was rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court last week after the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association challenged the NSW government's approval of the mine.
Environment activists, academics, politicians, trade unionists and resident groups will gather in Parramatta Town Hall on May 11. They will discuss and plan actions around some of the many environmental and social issues facing the population of western Sydney. Climate change and the fossil fuel industry will be a big focus of the conference, after the Climate Commission report, The Critical Decade, found that climate change is already much worse in Sydney's western suburbs than anywhere else in New South Wales.
Refugee Rights Action Network members who visit refugees in the Yongah Hill Detention Centre every week have been denied the right to visit during the weekend of the national convergence for refugee rights.
This live blog recorded some of the activities that took place as part of the national convergence for refugee rights at Yongah Hill Detention Centre, April 26-28. Photos uploaded here 3:46pm, Sun April 28 WA Today: Northam protest ends in dance-off 1:30pm, Sun April 28

Analysis

Socialist Alliance released this statement on May 1. *** As workers around the world take to the streets to celebrate May Day, we are sharply aware that the capitalist system has reached a point of development where it threatens the habitability of the planet on which we all live.
An article by journalist Elizabeth Farrelly, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on April 11 titled “Protecting a cultural right to abuse”, starts by posing the question, “At what point does autonomy slide into apartheid?” It argues that a policy of self-determination for Aboriginal people will lead to violence in Aboriginal communities, based on the claim that violence was endemic to pre-contact Aboriginal culture.
This speech was given at a rally in Sydney on April 19 as part of a global day of solidarity with Venezuela. * * * Sadly, we have been witnessing over the last few days a course of events that has been all too familiar in our time, especially in Latin America. The world's richest state, the one that has just 5% of the population but consumes 25% of the world's fossil fuels, produces 72% of the world's waste and accounts for nearly half of the world's military spending, conspires to destabilise a democratically elected progressive government through violent means.
The wealthiest people, banks and corporations have long avoided paying tax by hiding their assets in tax havens, outside their own countries. Many of these tax havens are so secret that even the banks themselves do not know who owns the accounts. But now, a huge leak of secret documents has led a global network of journalists to expose the world’s richest tax evaders.
The fertile plains of the Ord River Irrigation Area around Kununurra in Western Australia are being transformed by plantations of Indian sandalwood, Santalum album It is the largest commercial production of Indian sandalwood in the world. In more than 60% of the total farming area around Kununurra, about 3500 hectares, sandalwood has supplanted food crops such as melons, pumpkins, legumes, chick peas, bananas, and many other crops.
After two community meetings on public housing estates and the start of legal action, the Department of Housing has partially backed down from its ban on politics in public housing estates. Just three days after a March 24 rally on the Atherton Gardens public housing estate in Fitzroy, the Department of Human Services released a policy banning political meetings and door-knocking on public housing estates.
It must be great to have the ability to simply declare people you don't like “illegal”. This is the Liberals’ response to “boat people”. I get that the Liberals hate dark-skinned foreigners with the gall to arrive at our borders and ask for asylum rather than staying where they belong, getting bombed by our military in Afghanistan or tortured by a regime we support in Sri Lanka. But it actually takes more than simply hating something to make it illegal. You usually find it requires an actual law to be broken.
After being forced to admit that “clean coal” will never happen, the coal industry has fallen back on an old argument to justify itself — that Australia cannot live without the industry because it does so much for the economy by providing jobs and creating wealth.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell signed onto Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s national education reform agreement on April 23. Many saw this as a windfall for public education, but little analysis regarding the detail has been made. On the surface it would seem that $5 billion over the next six years will be spent on students in NSW. However, it appears to be at the cost of tertiary education, namely university and NSW TAFE.
Three interesting pieces of information were released over the past week. Overall, they warn of a decline in women’s equality and in quality of life for the majority. First, JP Morgan said women’s employment figures this year have sharply fallen from about 390,000 last year to less than 360,000 — the drop is as sharp in rate (but not in overall numbers) as during the global financial crisis (GFC). While there has been employment growth since the GFC first hit there has been an overall shift in hiring from full-time to part-time work.

World

A mob led by Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka attacked a clothing shop owned by Muslims in March, setting fire to clothes while police looked on. The attack on the Fashion Bug shop in Pepiliyana, a suburb of Colombo, followed the spreading of a false rumour that a Sinhala Buddhist employee had been raped by a Muslim employee on the premises.
As the packed galleries burst into an impassioned version of “Pokarekare Ana” (a well-known traditional Maori love song) in response to the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill by 77-44 votes on April 17, a crowd of more than 1000 celebrated outside parliament in Wellington. The vote made New Zealand the 13th nation to legalise same-sex marriage. France has since become the 14th.
West Papua has been gaining international support recently, especially in its pursuit of inclusion in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional intergovernmental organisation that has supported the independence movements of its members. Controversially, Indonesia, which has occupied West Papua for decades, has had observer status in MSG since 2011.
The 39th anniversary of Portugal’s 1974 “revolution of the carnations” that overthrew a 48-year-long dictatorship, was marked on April 25 by a huge march against austerity in Lisbon. The symbols of that revolution — the carnations and the song “Grandola, Vila Morena” (broadcast in the early hours of April 25, 1974 as the signal to start the revolt )— were massively present. They now stand for the need for another rebellion, this time against the austerity imposed on the country by the “troika” -- the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
In the wake of Margaret Thatcher's departure, I remember her victims. Patrick Warby's daughter, Marie, was one of them. Marie, aged five, suffered from a bowel deformity and needed a special diet. Without it, the pain was excruciating. Her father was a Durham miner and had used all his savings. It was winter 1985, the Great Strike was almost a year old and the family was destitute.
The close-knit Texas town of West, population 2800, was shaken to the core, literally and symbolically, on April 17 when the West Fertilizer Co facility exploded with the force of a small earthquake. The blast killed 14 people and injured more than 200. Today, West resembles a war zone. Up to 75 homes and buildings were destroyed, including the local high school and a 50-unit apartment complex that was reduced to a skeleton. A nursing home near the facility was also damaged ― 133 residents had to be evacuated during the explosions and fire that followed.
The citizens of the Spanish state awoke on April 14 to shocking news ― acts of “pure Nazism” were spreading across the country. Not only that, but they were being organised in concert with “elements close to ETA” (the armed Basque independence group that has declared a permanent ceasefire). Who was responsible? A Spanish equivalent of the Greek neo-Nazi outfit Golden Dawn? Some surviving cell of the Falange (one-time shock troops of the Franco dictatorship and admirers of Hitler’s New Order in Europe)?
A 700-strong march wound its way through the medieval streets of Freiburg, in the south-west German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, on April 20 to protest against the imminent resumption of deportation flights from the state. The theme of the protest was “Those who want to stay should stay”. Those targeted for deportation are Roma refugees who fled Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, and their German-born children.
On April 23, Chris Carlson wrote at Venezuela Analysis: *** Opposition leader Henrique Capriles claimed yesterday that the presidential elections were “stolen”, and demanded further audit measures that the Venezuelan government has said are “impossible”. Capriles made the statements during a press conference on Wednesday in which he gave the government an ultimatum regarding the audit.
Most of the news on Venezuela in the week since the April 14 presidential election focused on the efforts of losing candidate Henrique Capriles to challenge the results. But another campaign, based in Washington, was quite revealing ― and the two were most definitely related. Without Washington's strong support ― the first time it had refused to recognise a Venezuelan election result ― it is unlikely that Capriles would have joined the hardcore elements of his camp in pretending the election was stolen.
The owner of the eight-storey Bangladesh factory complex that collapsed on April 24 killing at least 362 people has been arrested at the country's border with India. Three owners of garment factories in the collapsed building on the capital's outskirts have also been arrested. They are suspected of forcing staff to work, ignoring safety warnings. Two government engineers involved in approving the building's design have also been detained.
The Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) is contesting four seats in the May 5 general elections, one federal parliamentary seat and three state assembly. The PSM won two of these seats in the 2008 election: Jeyakumar Devaraj, or “Kumar” as he is better known, won the federal parliamentary seat of Sungai Siput from a high profile former minister. PSM chairperson Nasir Hashim won the Selangor state assembly seat of Kota Damansara.
The horrific bombing of runners and onlookers at the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts was a criminal act, which nothing can justify. The murderous attack must be condemned. Children, adults and elderly were murdered and terribly injured. Limbs were torn off in the blasts. There were more amputations in the hospital. Of the over 280 injured, many were riddled with shrapnel. The victims were from many nationalities, since the historic race attracts people from all over the world.

Culture

The Campaign Kings Konekted Class A Records April 19, 2013 www.classarecords.com Kings Konekted have just released some of the choicest cuts in Australian hip-hop - and they were inspired by some of the whackest cuts in Australian politics. The Brisbane b-boys' new EP The Campaign paints a pretty gritty picture of life under cost-cutting Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.
A selection of this week's politically-relevant celebrity news... Rebel Diaz Arts Collective finds new home http://bit.ly/11ztAet Cuban video game recreates revolutionary history http://gu.com/p/3enpq/tw Pussy Riot member denied early release from prison: http://gu.com/p/3fedq/tf Hear the new Neon Neon concept album about Italian publisher and leftwing activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. http://gu.com/p/3fak2/tw Rapper Danny Brown Gets Oral Sex On Stage, Continues Rapping http://bit.ly/ZUUbEF
Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Volcanoes Bill McGuire Oxford University Press, 2012 303 pages, $35.95 (hb) It is easy to forget, says Professor Bill McGuire of University College London in Waking the Giant, that human civilisation has thrived only in the broadly benign climate of the past few thousand years following the end of the last post-glacial era.
The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China John Bellamy Foster & Robert W McChesney Monthly Review Press, 2012 There is growing evidence that the global economic crisis will not end any time too soon. Most mainstream economists have proven time and again to be incompetent when it comes to predicting the course of events in an economic crisis, never mind predicting the crisis itself.