Issue 965

Australia

About 70 people campaigning to save Peron Point from becoming another unwanted canal project braved heavy storms in an action on May 8. They marched from the property of the developer, Cedar Woods, to state parliament in Western Australia to present a petition of more than 8000 signatures.

Greens MP Lynn MacLaren accepted the signatures and addressed the rally with several Labor politicians looking on.

The vocal crowd chanted and listened to speakers including Greens candidate Dawn Jecks and outspoken town planner Greg Gooroo at an “open mic”.

"Why are Sri Lankan Tamils seeking refuge in Australia? And why are we keeping them locked up?" was the theme of a forum on May 8, sponsored by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) and the Sydney Peace Foundation. About 30 people attended the meeting held at the University of Sydney.

Brami Jegan from the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project told the audience that up to 100,000 Tamils were massacred by the Sri Lankan military at the end of the 28-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger guerrilla forces in 2009.

About 20 people gathered outside the Department of Immigration offices in Sydney on May 10 to demand freedom for a Tamil refugee named Ranjini and freedom for all refugees with negative ASIO assessments.

Another protest was held outside Villawood detention centre on the same day.

A statement by the Refugee Action Collective said: "The Sydney actions are part of national protests to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the detention of Ranjini and her two children in Melbourne. Ranjini has since had her third child, Paari, born in detention in January 2013.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia released this statement on May 9.

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The Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) has warned that the state government could be repeating the mistakes made on James Price Point by rushing into a major new industrial gas fracking project in the Kimberley that risks serious and irreversible damage to the cultural and environmental values of the region.

“Last month’s announcements by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and federal energy minister Tony Burke on coal seam gas mining far from guarantee the health of western Sydney’s water”, said local anti-CSG campaigner, Fred Fuentes.

“Since those announcements, ‘No CSG Blacktown’ has been told that under licence 463, which is held by Macquarie Energy and covers Eastern Creek, right next to the Parramatta LGA, drilling is definitely to go ahead.”

World

A truck delivering waste from a fracking operation in Greene County, Pennsylvania, on April 19 was quarantined after being rejected by a hazardous waste landfill as too dangerous.

The truck was carrying highly radioactive radium-226 in concentrations 86 times higher than allowed per Environmental Protection Agency limits.

After being quarantined at the landfill, the truck was sent back to the fracking site, which is operated by Rice Energy.

Radium, it should be noted, is a routine by-product of fracking — the fossil fuel extraction method behind the ongoing “natural gas boom”.

In 2006, a generation of Chilean secondary students learnt how to mobilise, blockade streets, raise demands and carry out occupations. But they also learnt how they could be defeated by a system capable of accommodating and coopting mobilisations.

It is important to note that this revolt, referred to as the “penguin revolution”, did not arise out of nowhere. Its origins lay in the mobilisations for student transport concessions in 2001 and the creation of a series of collectives and small groups.

Demands

Hundreds of protesters from the indigenous advocacy NGO Survival International gathered outside Peruvian consulates and embassies in London, Paris, Madrid and San Francisco on April 23. They had gathered to urge the Peruvian government to reconsider expanding the Camisea gas mega-project.

Camisea’s Bloc 88, deep in the Amazonian jungles of south-eastern Peru, is thought to contain over 10 trillion cubic feet of gas.

When terrorist bombers killed three people in Boston, the FBI moved heaven and earth to apprehend them. When suppliers to Wal-mart and other big brands in Bangladesh killed more than 950 people (as of May 9) on April 24 in one of their garment factory death traps, the FBI sat on its hands.

But those responsible — Wal-mart’s board of directors — are well known and could be easily apprehended.

Ten years ago, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent 2000 Australian soldiers to join the US-led invasion of Iraq. Like US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Howard lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to justify an illegal war of aggression.

The Labor Party hoped to gain political advantage by opposing the unpopular war, but did so only on a technicality: the lack of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) authorisation for the invasion.

A truck delivering waste from a fracking operation in Greene County, Pennsylvania, on April 19 was quarantined after being rejected by a hazardous waste landfill as too dangerous.

The truck was carrying highly radioactive radium-226 in concentrations 86 times higher than allowed per Environmental Protection Agency limits.

After being quarantined at the landfill, the truck was sent back to the fracking site, which is operated by Rice Energy.

Radium, it should be noted, is a routine by-product of fracking — the fossil fuel extraction method behind the ongoing “natural gas boom”.

In the aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the Obama administration is broadening its definition of “terrorism” to include fighters for Black rights in the US.

Washington has already used the term so indiscriminately against enemies internationally that it has become virtually meaningless. For example, every act of resistance to US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is labeled “terrorism”.

By that definition, George Washington and the other American revolutionists were “terrorists” for resisting British rule.

Before a May 7 visit to US Congress by South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the Workers Solidarity Student Group — the student section of socialist group Workers Solidarity All Together — issued this statement about the threat to war on the Korean peninsula. It was translated by Chris Kim and is abridged from US Socialist Worker.

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Amid the continuing rise of military tensions on the Korean peninsula, South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, will make her first visit to the US since her inauguration in late February for a US-South Korean summit.

The impact of austerity has thrown politics in Britain into turmoil. Both parties of the ruling coalition government — the Conservative Party (Tories) and the Liberal Democrats — lost heavily in municipal elections in England on May 2 to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

The UKIP is a right-wing, populist, anti-immigration party that is pulling all the main parties to the right. Labour’s performance was better but poor, since its answer to austerity is its own brand of austerity and it has pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment.

With photos by Lee Yu Kyung in Kuala Lumpur

Up to 120,000 people packed and overflowed a large stadium in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur on May 8 to protest the fraudulent re-election of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government on May 5.

The crowd defied a police threat to arrest all who attended the opposition-called rally. The police did not dare confront the huge crowd but, since the rally, the police have called in 28 rally speakers for questioning.

The mass, democratic uprising that broke out in Syria in 2011 against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad has increasingly turned into a prolonged civil war, with violence worsening and accusations of war crimes levelled against the regime and sections of the armed opposition.

The situation has been worsened by the intervention of Western-allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, selectively arming Islamic fundamentalist sectors of the anti-Assad forces.

Analysis

The federal Labor government is desperate for you to believe that its “no advantage” refugee policy is working. And from offshore detention to impoverished “living in the community”, children and teenagers will be no exception to its increasingly cruel measures.

Immigration minister Brendan O'Connor derided the mounting calls to have children and families removed from the Manus Island detention camp after its appalling conditions were exposed by the ABC’sFour Corners.

What do a conservative leader and a radical feminist have in common? More than we would have guessed, it seems.

Recently an Islamic group held an event at the University of Melbourne. The seating was arranged according to gender, as is common with such events. A reporter from the Australian newspaper decided to go along and search for controversies; the promise of discussing jihad at the event must have lured the newspaper into seeing an easy opportunity to vilify Muslims.

This has become a lucrative industry nowadays.

The first School of Rebellion, held in association with Marxism 2013 over the Easter weekend in Melbourne, drew about 30 kids for a weekend of thinking, talking, making noise, art, music, poetry, mess and friends.

It was declared “awesome” by a random sample of kids, teachers and parents and the program will definitely be back, bigger and better, for Marxism 2014.

“The anti-Semite Stephen Hawking can’t even wipe his own ass." “Someone should release the hand brake when he’s on a hill." “He should die already." These were just some of the comments left on Facebook after the most famous cosmologist in the world, Stephen Hawking, announced he was respecting the academic boycott of Israel.

As the 2013 federal budget looms, both the Labor government and the Opposition insist on the need to cut social spending. All the talk is about bringing the budget back into surplus as soon as possible and the cuts, they argue, will be needed to end the federal deficit.

Ministers in Julia Gillard’s government have warned of a huge shortfall in government revenue, estimated at $7.5 billion by treasurer Wayne Swan and $17 billion by finance minister Penny Wong.

The environment movement in Tasmania has split over support for a forest “peace” agreement the Tasmanian Greens and environment groups made with the logging industry.

The environment groups have been in negotiations with the industry for almost three years. As the industry declined, environmentalists saw a chance for reform to win an end to the forest wars permanently.

The agreement was passed in state parliament on April 30, supported by the Greens and Labor, and opposed the Liberal party.

However, many people in the environment movement disagreed with the bill.

Seventeen kilometres 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.

Liberal Premier Colin Barnett has proposed reforms to license and register some forms of sex work. And again people are referring to the bill as “legalisation” and “partial decriminalisation” when it is not. It’s deeply concerning when big party politicians and mainstream journalists do not understand the proposed sex-work laws, and describe them as the opposite of what they are. Most Western Australians seem unaware that Barnett’s proposed bill is unnecessary, perpetuates stigma towards sex workers and will result in worse working conditions.

The United Nations General Assembly met after World War II in 1948 and committed to 30 articles on human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has been signed by most nations and serves in many cases as a legally binding document on human rights. Article 25 in the UDHR says: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care.”

University students across Australia will take to the streets on May 14 to protest the federal Labor government’s $2.8 billion cuts to higher education. The call by the National Union of Students (NUS) for a “student strike against education cuts” has not only received support from students, but also the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), which covers university staff. On a number of campuses, NTEU members have been resisting cuts that university administrations claim are necessary due to lack of government funding.

Finally, we have a reason to get excited about elections. Yes, billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer has formed a political party and is determined to become Australia’s next prime minister.

For the first time in god knows how long, we have a real alternative to the tweedledum-tweedledee politics of the big parties. Palmer's bid for PM poses a crucial question: why shouldn’t those who own this country, run it too?

Culture

No Local: Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won’t Change the World
Greg Sharzer
Zero Books, 2012

Against a backdrop of global climate disasters, financial panics, and inequality, localism — the creation of small-scale local systems of production and distribution — seems to make sense.

Start small and stay close to home. Forge community ties, grow your own food locally, and create alternatives that can eventually replace the current system of global capitalism with a sane, sustainable way of life.

Fighting Fund

The online Sydney Morning Herald published an interesting interactive table of possible federal budget expenditures and cuts. You can click on an icon for several costed items listed as "Cuts to programs" or "Raise taxes or end concessions". As you click on a cut or revenue measure the budget balance shifts.