Issue 964

Australia

The biggest Labour Day march in Australia took place in Brisbane on May 5, as thousands of unionists marched through the city in celebration.

More than 30,000 took to the streets across the state over the past weekend, expressing their anger towards the Campbell Newman government.

Workers from a wide range of trade unions proudly participated, with large contingents from the Builders’ Labourers Federation and the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union.

New South Wales’ peak advocate for housing justice, Shelter, held a conference in Sydney on April 18 to look at the challenges in housing assistance facing policymakers and decide what key steps need to be taken to improve housing outcomes for disadvantaged people.

NSW Minister for Community Services Pru Goward opened the conference.

She said the housing situation in NSW is grim due to housing being more expensive, less plentiful and inadequately funded. People who require housing also have more needs, she said.

Ten thousand building workers walked off the job and rallied in Melbourne's CBD on April 30 to protest against the poor safety record of construction companies such as Grocon.

Unionists led by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) marched from Trades Hall to Grocon's Swanston Street building site, where a wall collapsed and killed passers-by Alexander and Bridget Jones and Marie Faith-Fiawoo.

About 40 protesters rallied outside the University of New South Wales main library on April 30 to oppose the planned opening of a Max Brenner chocolate store on campus, and call for UNSW to adopt the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid.

About 50 people attended a community safety forum organised by Moreland City Council on April 24.

The forum was organised as part of the debate about how to make the streets safer following the murder of Jill Meagher last year.

The state government’s proposal to fund installation of CCTV cameras on Moreland streets was controversial. It was strongly advocated by Moreland Mayor Oscar Yildiz, and supported by federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson and state Labor MP Jane Garrett.

Social justice and anti-deaths in custody organisations around Australia formed a new national coalition on February 10.

The new group will allow for national actions to be organised when a death in custody occurs that requires a national response and coordinated action.

The organisations involved include the Indigenous Social Justice Association and the Deaths in Custody Watch committee.

Groups in other states and territories have expressed interest in joining the coalition.

About 200 people rallied outside NSW government offices on May 3 to protest the decision of the NSW Liberal government to defund the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC), an advice and advocacy service for pensioners, the unemployed and other welfare recipients.

The $400,000 cut is 40% of the WRC funding (the rest coming from the federal government) and is seen as an attempt to silence a voice for the poorest sector of society. This follows federal Labor government cuts to sole parent pensions, a step which plunged thousands more women under the poverty line.

Palestine Action Group Sydney released this statement on May 2.

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Supporters of Palestine have responded to a May 2 report in the Australian that asserted that Max Brenner Israel has no direct shares in Max Brenner Australia as irrelevant to the solidarity campaign for justice in Palestine.

Palestine solidarity activists are bemused that the Australian has given front page coverage to this “scoop”. The YouTube video of the rally in question, which took place on September 21 last year, has also just been released.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on April 30, in response to apparent plans to move children and women to high-security detention centres in Australia’s north and north-west. Wickham Point detention centre, near Darwin, was built by the Labor government in 2011. Curtin detention centre, with Christmas Island and the Northern Immigration Detention Centre, has one of the highest rates of self-harm.

World

The Ecosocialist Conference, a broad and enthusiastic all-day meeting in New York April 20, took a big step toward creating an anti-capitalist wing of the environmental movement.

The conference was arranged in just six weeks by organizers of the Ecosocialist Contingent in the mass demonstration against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Washington February 17. It was supported by 29 groups who subscribed to the Ecosocialist Contingent statement for “system change, not climate change.”

Luigi Preiti, a 49-year old unemployed man from the Calabria region of southern Italy, walked towards Palazzo Chigi on April 28, the seat of the Italian government in Rome, holding a gun. As the military police patrolling the palace tried to stop him, Preiti went on a shooting spree.

He wounded two policemen before the he was restrained and arrested by the Carabinieri. Apparently, Preiti’s intended plan was “to kill a politician” and then commit suicide.

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, veteran Irish civil rights leader, said in response to the case of Irish republican Marian Price, who was returned to jail in 2011: “It is a clear signal to everyone who is not 'on board' and who is not of the same mind as the government that no dissent will be tolerated.

“No dissent will be tolerated and you challenge the status quo at your peril.”.

More than 800 people rallied in Thellippazhai on April 29, a town in the north of the island of Sri Lanka. They marched towards the entrance of a nearby military zone.

The Tamilnet website said the rally organisers had been warned by police that a march would not be permitted, but rally participants spontaneously decided to march regardless. They were blocked from reaching the military zone by the army and police.

They were protesting against the confiscation of their land by the Sri Lankan army.

Jailed WikiLeaks whistleblower and US soldier, Bradley Manning, was named on April 25 as the grand marshal in this year’s LGBTI Pride Parade in San Francisco. But, amid controversy and pressure, San Francisco Pride president Lisa Williams issued a statement the next day rescinding the honour.

Manning was elected by former grand marshals, who form an electoral college to choose a grand marshal each year. Other grand marshals are appointed by the SF Pride board and by a community vote. Grand marshals are chosen for making significant contributions to the LGBTI community.

Australian politicians often describe India as “the world’s biggest democracy”. The reality is somewhat different.

I found this out when I attended the ninth congress of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) from April 2-7. Two CPI-ML members were killed in the lead-up to the congress.

May Day this year in Spain was not built as a special mobilisation against austerity, poverty and unemployment, and did not coincide with a general strike. Despite that, this was not a ritualistic May Day.

When East Timor won its independence from Indonesia in 1999, the country's medical infrastructure in rural areas was almost non-existent.

When then-Cuban President Fidel Castro heard about the problem at a regional summit, he offered to send Cuban doctors free of charge — as many as were needed.

So began the largest Cuban medical assistance program outside Latin America.

In 2010, after a six year program of study in Cuba, the first of nearly 500 East Timorese medical students graduated and took up their posts in East Timorese villages and towns.

There’s a new president in Latin America, and his name isn’t Nicolas Maduro. The election that brought him to power was called by an illegitimate regime following a coup d’etat, and his name isn’t Porfirio Lobo.

He’s a wealthy, conservative businessman, and his name isn’t Sebastian Pinera. His party ruled for over 60 years, and his name isn’t Enrique Pena Nieto.

It would be hard to find somewhere that celebrates May Day more enthusiastically than Venezuela. But this year celebrations were marred by claims made in a document that could easily be mistaken for a lift-out from a UFO enthusiasts' magazine.

Facing a huge hunger strike by desperate prisoners at the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, President Obama has acknowledged that the prison should be shut down. He said the same thing more than four years ago when he was running for his first term, but did nothing after he was elected.

In recent years, the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo has receded in public consciousness in the US. The hunger strike, which began in February, has begun to change that.

On this May 1, a day of international working class solidarity, we in the Philippine labor and progressive movement, stand with the Venezuelan working class and the people of Venezuela in their struggle to elect the government of their choice to pursue their demands and goals for Socialism of the XXI century.

We congratulate Nicholas Maduro from the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela on his election victory and condemn the destabilisation campaign conducted by the US backed opposition coalition of Capprilles to undermine the election results and the newly elected government.

There were large marches in Caracas by supporters and opponents of venezuela's revolutionary government on May 1, as well as smaller ones around the country, to mark International Workers Day. Government supporters celebrated a minimum wage rise and a new labour law that extends workers' rights. Government opponents, however, demanded a “fair wage”.

President Nicolas Maduro marched with the pro-government march in Caracas, while opposition leader Henrique Capriles marched with his supporters in the eastern part of the capital.

Bolivian President Evo Morales told a May Day demonstration in La Paz that his government would expel the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the BBC said that day.

The US government-funded agency provides funds and training to groups around the world that support US interests. In countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela, USAID has funded groups involved in bids to bring down elected governments.

Thousands of workers paraded through central Dhaka on May Day to demand safety at work after the collapse of garment factory on April 24 -- the country's worst industrial disaster. The collapse killed 402 people and injured 2500.

A huge procession of workers on foot, lorry and motorcycle wound its way through central Dhaka waving banners, beating drums and chanting "direct action" and "death penalty" for the owner of the factory.

From a loudspeaker on the back of a lorry, one participant said: "My brother has died. My sister has died. Their blood will not be valueless."

Tens of thousands of workers in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Turkey and scores of other countries across the world marched en masse for May Day.

More than 50,000 low-paid workers rallied in the streets of Jakarta today to demand better pay and improved working conditions.

Analysis

I received a knock on the door on April 16 from two members of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, better known as ASIO.

The two told me they would like to have a conversation. When I asked what they wanted to speak about, they told me they were doing their job — protecting “national security” — and had a few questions about my involvement in political campaigns in Sydney.

Apparently the latest threat to “national security” is “political violence” in the activist community.

Eleven miles by ferry from Perth is Western Australia's "premier tourist destination". This is Rottnest Island, whose scabrous wild beauty and isolation evoked for me Robben Island in South Africa.

Empires are never short of devil's islands; what makes Rottnest different, indeed what makes Australia different, is a silence and denial on an epic scale.

James Hansen resigned from his position as director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in April to devote more time to campaigning to cut global carbon emissions. In addition to his scientific research on climate change, Hansen has been arrested several times in recent years at protests against coal mining and tar sands mining. Bravo James Hansen — precious few scientists and academics live and breathe their politics as he does.

Economic forecasting agency BIS Shrapnel has reported that engineering work, spurred on by the mining boom, would be about $128 billion in Australia this financial year. It may be easy to suggest that, despite the rumours, the mining boom is set to continue long into the future. However, the report was quite downbeat. ABC Online said BIS Shrapnel predicted that a "slowdown in mining investment and its related infrastructure is expected to reduce activity by 5.4% next financial year … engineering construction will be 20% below this year's peak by 2016-2017."

The smuggling of cameras inside detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island by the ABC's Four Corners has added to pressure on Labor to answer for the shocking conditions in which men, women and children are being held.

Footage that was aired on April 29 showed rows of muddy tents, derelict amenities and ablution facilities and image after image of people who are losing the will to live.

It has been four years since the Tamil rebels were crushed by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The Sri Lankan government, led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, still denies that any human rights violations occurred.

In March, a second UN Human Rights Council resolution called on the Rajapaksa government “to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

This has fallen on deaf ears.

Moreland Council is proposing to install more CCTV cameras in response to concerns about safety after the murder of Jill Meagher last year. The expansion of CCTV cameras, already a civil liberties concern, would do little to make women safer on the streets at night.

People of the world, freedom is under attack! And as shocking as it might seem, this threat to liberty is emerging from within the “Land of the Free” itself.

Yes, there was actually a bill put to US Congress that sought to increase the background checks on individuals seeking to buy semi-automatic rifles of the sort that Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza used to gun down 20 children in December.

Presentation by Gaye Page-Burt to the January 31 Sustainable Transport Forum in the Fremantle Town Hall.

Page-Burt was representing the Fremantle Road To Rail Campaign.

Years of campaigning and mass protest have culminated in another round of victories for the worldwide movement for equal marriage rights. In the past month, a further three countries have voted to allow people of the same sex to marry.

A vote in Uruguay’s parliament on April 11 made it the second country in Latin America to allow marriage equality, joining Argentina, which changed its law in 2010.

New Zealand’s parliament was the site of a moving scene on April 17 when galleries packed with supporters burst into song as the parliament passed the Marriage Amendment Bill.

In an article in the Australian on April 20, Adam Creighton asserted that: “Teachers’ unions in Australia and worldwide have been astonishingly successful at hoodwinking the public into thinking smaller classes matter.”

As a teacher with over 30 years’ experience and a member of the Australian Education Union, I can say articles such as that display ignorance about what it is really like to be a teacher in front of a class.

In a different world — in a better world — Jock Palfreeman would not be in a jail serving a 20-year sentence. Instead he'd be awarded a medal for great courage, principle and instinctive support for victims of racist violence.

He would not be locked away in a jail in Bulgaria. He’d be toured around as an example of the sort of person we should all aspire to be. One who stands up for the underdog, who refuses to tolerate oppression and injustice.

Letters

Anyone who reads Green Left Weekly would probably know Bernie Rosen was an inexhaustible letter writer and so it seems fitting to compose one in his honour.

Although it should be said that Bernie’s emphasis on letters later in his life was no doubt in part because his other favoured forms of political campaigning, such as door-to-door canvassing, newspaper distribution and public oration, were less and less physically possible for him. Letters were his way of engaging in the class struggle until the very end of his 88 years.

Resistance!

Austerity almost seems like the defining feature of politics today. Across Europe and the US, crippling cuts to education, health care and welfare budgets are driving millions further into poverty.

Even in Australia, where our economy has been spared the worst of the financial crisis, both big parties are raising taxes on ordinary people and applying cuts to welfare and education.

Last year, cuts to courses and staff at several universities, including Sydney University and La Trobe University, led to strong campaigns by staff and students to defend their education and jobs.

Culture

A selection of this week's politically-relevant entertainment news...

Snoop Lion Defaces Defenceless Barack Obama With New Snoopify App http://bit.ly/12ff9gy

Unmanned Drones To Deliver Delicious Beverage Relief To Punters At Music Festival http://bit.ly/12fcLGz

As I Lay Dying Singer Arrested Under Suspicion Of Hiring Hitman To Kill Wife http://bit.ly/10ocsaz

Rapper Lauryn Hill Sentenced To 3 Months Jail For Unpaid Taxes http://bit.ly/13eJQEY

Singer Charli XCX Says Sexism Makes Collaborations Tough http://bit.ly/18qGIrC

Hearing the news made me feel like I'd accidentally walked into a wind tunnel. For as long as I had written about this issue and as many times as I had said in recent years that this will happen in a matter of months if not weeks, it still hit me like a triple shot of espresso cut with a teaspoon of Adderall.

Thanks to the courage of 34-year-old NBA veteran Jason Collins, we can no longer repeat endlessly that no active male athlete in North America has ever come out of the closet.

Lately it seems that we can’t get away from the hard, simple fact that art requires labour — both in the actual creation and in the conditions that make it possible.

Where there’s labour there’s normally a lot of hard work and sacrifice. And where there’s hard work and sacrifice, there’s normally some bastard at the top looking to squeeze as much as they can out of those of us who actually work.

Much as some of us would love to act like art exists in a separate realm from all of this, it doesn’t.

Tall Man
Written by Angela Betzien
Directed by Leticia Caceres
La Mama, Melbourne

Despite the cold I ventured out to La Mama - a small, quirky and iconic theatre in Melbourne to see Tall Man, a new work by the infamous Melbourne theatre posse Real TV – the partnership of writer, Angela Betzien and director Leticia Caceres.

Within seconds I was transported into the hot, seething heart of the Australian bush, deep in the Dee Ranges of Central Queensland.

Deep Thought EP
Caper
April 5, 2013
www.caper.net.au

Rapper Caper slams the Native Title Act as a "white bible" on his latest release.

The Narungga emcee, who has worked as a Native Title field officer in South Australia for the past 10 years, raps on his track "The Writing's On The Wall":

A lot of misconceptions about us owning land
We don’t own any, man
I work for Native Title
The government is a rival
Assholes with a white bible

Fighting Fund

The federal Labor government had a rare win when it wedged Tony Abbott and the Liberal opposition into supporting its plan to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through an increase in the Medicare levy.

But will this be enough to stop Abbott from winning the next election? If the bookies know their business, few are game to put money on this. An ALP win is at its longest odds since Sportsbet opened betting on the election result.