Issue 966

News

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on May 23. *** Ford's announcement that it will close its last vehicle manufacturing plants in Australia — in Geelong and Broadmeadows — destroying 1200 jobs is "totally despicable", said Sue Bull, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Corio, "especially as this giant multinational has collected huge public subsidies year after year supposedly to save jobs".
March Against Monsanto Brisbane said that on May 25, hundreds of people will gather to protest as part of a global day of action for “March Against Monsanto”. The global event is being held in more than 49 countries with more than 370 events and 2 million people marching worldwide.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) held a rally in Sydney on May 9 to demand that the federal budget raise the Newstart allowance by $50 a week. They also demanded all commonwealth benefits be properly indexed so they are in line with living expenses. About 100 people attended the rally with representatives from the Community and Public Sector Union, Australian Services Union, the Salvation Army and tenant advocates.
About 70 activists gathered in Parramatta Town Hall on May 11 for the second annual Climate Change-Social Change conference. Hosted by Green Left Weekly, the conference drew together a broad range of activists from various environment campaigns, anti-coal seam gas groups, the Greens and the Socialist Alliance, cementing its role as an important annual gathering for western Sydney activists.
A South Australian council has voted to swap a recreation park in St Clair with a former factory site. Under the proposal the popular St Clair reserve will be sold to developers and used for high-density housing. The Actil site —which has contaminated soil — will then be developed as an open space. The decision by Charles Sturt council, on May 13, paves the way for the parkland — which had previously been earmarked for a war memorial park for World War II veterans — to be rezoned for housing development. The council’s may described the decision as "an affront to democracy."
Newcastle Trades Hall Council (NTHC) and Lock The Gate released this statement on May 14. *** The Lock The Gate Alliance looks forward to working with the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, after the peak union body declared it is totally opposed to further coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and drilling in the Hunter Valley. The motion passed by the Council cites risks to the environment and the community, and concerns for agricultural lands and townships, and supports the NTHC working closely with groups opposing CSG until the unconventional gas mining practice is proven safe.
About 100 people packed into the Gaelic Club on May 10 for the Politics in the Pub forum: "Venezuela — A New Democracy or a Command Capitalist State?" Speakers were Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions co-author Federico Fuentes and Latin American studies post-graduate Rodrigo Acuna. The speakers rejected the "Command Capitalist State" definition of Venezuela today.
Staff and students from universities around Australia held demonstrations on May 14 to protest the Gillard government’s $2.3 billion cuts to higher education. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) called a 24-hour strike which coincided with a student strike called by the National Union of Students. Students were encouraged to skip class for the day and join picket lines and rallies.
A meeting was held in Geelong on April 30 for students to discuss and plan action against the continued cuts to public sector education. University, TAFE and High School students were invited. At this meeting, the Student Action Collective (SAC) was formed and a list of immediate demands, mid-term and long-term goals were developed.

Analysis

"By keeping, if needed, all Labor's budget cuts and by not implementing any of their budget spending measures unless specified, we will achieve the first duty of every government -- namely, to preserve the nation's finances," said Tony Abbott in his budget reply speech. This is what is to come under an Abbott government -- a continuation of Labor's cuts and restraint when it comes to spending.

The Australian ran an article on May 2 that claimed “the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has been caught on camera admitting ‘there isn't really any connection’ between Australian Max Brenner chocolate shops and Israel”. Below is a response by Palestine solidarity campaigner Patrick Harrison, who was quoted in the article. It was submitted to the Australian but not published. *** When I visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2011 to take part in environmental volunteer projects, apartheid was plain to see.

It was almost a simple formality. Rejecting any attempt by the Greens to introduce rudimentary protections, the Australian Senate voted on May 16 to excise the entire country from the migration zone. It will most likely be given approval by the lower house soon. If implemented, it will mean that for all asylum seekers who arrive by boat, Australia -- and by proxy the Refugee Convention -- will legally not exist.
The gulf between the science and the politics of climate change has never been wider. Consider the Arctic ice cap, which has lost half its volume in the five years from 2005. Experts say the Arctic ice cap is now in a “death spiral”. The region is warming two to four times faster than the global average.
The Socialist Alliance estimated in 2010 that its key policies for social justice and environmental sustainability would cost a minimum of $81-140 billion a year. Any budget devised by a party focused on putting people and the planet before profits would look significantly different to the “safe” yet largely austere budget the federal Labor government released last week.
Will the trials and tribulations of trying to be a decent, hardworking billionaire in this nation ever end? First, coalmining magnate Clive Palmer told News.com.au that billionaires “were oppressed” in Australia, and, when asked if he was serious, said: “Yes, I get ridiculed all the time.”
There are two different visions for paid parental leave (PPL) — one put forward by the federal Labor government and the other by Liberal leader Tony Abbott. Abbott’s proposal is seemingly not supported by industry or sections of the Coalition. It would provide 26 weeks’ full salary to mothers earning up to $150,000 a year. Partners could opt to be primary carer if they accept payment according to the mother’s replacement wage of up to $75,000.
The Country Liberal (CLP) government of the Northern Territory announced sweeping new police powers on May 10 that will, in effect, criminalise drinking across the NT. Police will be able to issue “alcohol protection orders” to anybody charged with an alcohol-related offence that carries a minimum sentence of six months in prison. The orders will be issued for three months at a time (up to 12 months in total), and prevent the person from consuming alcohol or being on licensed premises.
The other day, I stood outside the strangely silent building where I began life as a journalist. It is no longer the human warren that was Consolidated Press in Sydney, though ghosts still drink at the King's Head pub nearby. As a cadet reporter, I might have walked on to the set of Lewis Milestone's The Front Page. Men in red braces did shout, "Hold the front page", and tilt back their felt hats and talk rapidly with a roll-your-own attached indefinitely to their lower lip. You could feel the presses rumbling beneath and smell the ink.
“I’m in Villawood!” Jock Palfreeman exclaimed, with the cheerful exuberance he displayed throughout an interview conducted through glass and wire-mesh partitions in the gloomy surroundings of the visiting room of Sofia central prison. He told Green Left Weekly that it was the plight of refugees detained in Sydney's Villawood detention centre that first radicalised him. His first protest, as a high school student in Sydney, was a blockade of the offices of Villawood’s then operator Australasian Correctional Management on May Day in 2002.
Over the last eight months at least seven political activists around Australia have been approached by federal or state intelligence agents for information about other activists. Green Left Weekly spoke to human rights lawyer and researcher Dale Mills who explains what rights activists have — and what they should do — if they are approached for information by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) or other political police. * * *

World

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd fulfilled his campaign pledge to withdraw Australian “combat” forces from Southern Iraq on June 2008. Rudd used the occasion to condemn former Prime Minister John Howard for joining the war, but US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show the Rudd government wanted to keep more Australian forces in Iraq than it had withdrawn.
Venezuela's new Labour Law for Workers came into effect on May 7, guaranteeing shorter working hours, longer maternity leave and pensions for all Venezuelans. Described by the Venezuelan government as the “most advanced labour law in the world”, the law reduces the working week from 44 hours to 40, and requires that employers provide two consecutive days a week off. When the law came into effect, labour minister Maria Iglesias said the new working hours are part of the process towards a “just distribution of wealth”.
The open letter printed below, which was sent to the New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan was signed by more than a dozen experts on Latin America and the media. Signatories to the letter, released on May 14, signatories included academic Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Oliver Stone, Venezuela Analysis founder Gregory Wilpert and several other experts. To join the campaign, visit New York Times Examiner. * * * Dear Margaret Sullivan,
Bolivia has earned more than US$16 billion from the energy industry since President Evo Morales nationalised the sector in 2006, Spanish newsagency EFE reported government officials as saying. EFE reported that hydrocarbons minister Juan Jose Sosa said: “Seven years before the nationalisation, from 1999 to 2005, the state received around $2 billion. After these seven years, the state received more than $16 billion.” EFE said: “Morales issued an executive order on May 1, 2006, nationalising the seven oil companies, the majority of them foreign firms, operating in Bolivia.”
A right-wing wave swept Pakistan in the May 11 general elections. At the federal level, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) will form the government having won 35% of the vote. Former Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf, came second with 19% of the vote and surprised many. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the ruling party for the past five years, came third with only 15% ― thanks to Sindh where it was able to fetch most of its votes.
In February 2011, the Deputy Engineer of Gaza’s only electricity plant, Dirar Abu Sisi, travelled to Ukraine, his wife Veronika’s native country, to seek citizenship after Israel’s 2008-09 attack on the Gaza Strip. The ferocity of that war made him fear for the safety of their six children and he decided to leave the besieged Gaza Strip. Not long after Abu Sisi’s arrival in Ukraine, he disappeared while on a train. His distraught family had no idea what had happened to him.
A new scandal has erupted involving the use of the “war on terror” to crack down on the democratic rights of US citizens. The US justice department has acknowledged secretly seizing all the work, home and cell phone records of almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press (AP).
After 40 years of struggle, in the place known as “Africa's last colony”, human rights abusers continue to be given a free hand by the international community. As Western Sahara's independence movement, the Polisario Front, commemorated four decades of struggle on May 10, news broke of a Sahrawi activist who died in a Moroccan prison three days earlier.
McDonald's workers and supporters held a picket on May 10 outside the Britomart McDonald's store in Auckland, said activist Socialist Aotearoa activist Nico on a May 12 post at Unite news. Nico said a group of about 30 people created a physical picket line across the two entrances of the store, holding banners and placards reading “25c won't pay the rent” (in reference to the company's pay rise offer), and “McStrike”.
Nothing is more exciting that a field trip when you are a schoolchild; a temporary escape from the classroom to a field or a forest, enjoying (hopefully) the sunshine and the outdoors. Growing up in Israel, the only downside to the whole experience was the talks. Every so often (too often, if you ask kids as sugared-up as we were), we would all have to sit down and hear a long explanation from a guide or a teacher, about the trees, flowers, rocks and the occasional heroic war story of the Israeli army.
France’s National Assembly and Senate have voted to extend the country’s military intervention in Mali. A resolution passed both houses of parliament on April 22 with a single vote against. Three days later, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2100, creating a policing mission (known as MINUSMA) starting July 1. Its projected size is 11,200 soldiers and 1440 police.
"Haiti offers a marvelous opportunity for American investment," reported Financial America in 1926. "The run-of-the-mill Haitian is handy, easily directed and gives a hard day's labor for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day's work costs [US]$3." That may be the most honest portrayal of the offshore industry in Haiti yet.
The largest left protest ever against the policies of a French Socialist Party (PS) government took place in Paris on May 5. To the stirring sounds of the protest anthem “On Lache Rien” (“We Don’t Give In”), up to 180,000 workers, pensioners, unemployed and students marched from the Bastille to Place de la Nation.

Culture

A selection of this week's politically-relevant entertainment news... Why *did* it cost Angelina Jolie $3000 to test for BRCA1 in the first place? Because the gene is owned by a private company http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/53688 18-Year-Old Aspiring Rapper Facing Terrorism Charges After Posting Lyrics On Facebook http://bit.ly/10kJ31e Dark Mofo Festival's Mass Skinny Dip Deemed Obscene By Police http://bit.ly/18aEmfu
Black Against Empire, the History & Politics of the Black Panther Party Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr, University of California Press, 2013, 560 pp., $54.95 The United States in the 1960s was a tinderbox of unresolved racial tensions. With Jim Crow racism dominating the South and oppressive police patrolling the northern ghettos, Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement ignited hopes for change nation-wide.
A selection of this week's politically-relevant entertainment news... US singer Steve Earle says coal seam gas is not 'natural gas'. http://bit.ly/10X3RdX Rekindle The Spirit - Ken Loach’s newest film documents the greatest cultural shift in British working class... http://tmblr.co/Z0MsOtk4xVyx Rapper Seth Sentry Saves Paralympian Fan From Angry Mob http://bit.ly/18JUWUE Community Radio "May Be Forced To Shut Down” After Being Ignored In Federal Budget http://bit.ly/18JS7TA
More Light Primal Scream First International Released May 13, 2013 www.primalscream.net British indie rockers Primal Scream are best known for Screamadelica, the breakout dance-crossover album that embraced ravers in a sweaty bear hug in 1991 and left them in a state of blissed-out awe.
Live in K-Town Random Hand Bomber Music April 1, 2013 www.randomhand.bigcartel.com West Yorkshire ska band Random Hand blend hardcore, reggae, punk and dub with plenty of politics. Bassist-vocalist Joe Tilston, who is also a critically-acclaimed solo folk artist, talked to Green Left’s Mat Ward about their new live album. ***

Fighting Fund

After a week of being subjected to headache-inducing politicians posturing and spinning about the Great Budget Deficit, all that was needed was that speech from Richest-Australian-and-Walking-ATM Gina Rinehart. Billionaire Numero Uno was only outdone by Billionaire-Would-Be-PM Clive Palmer, who successfully outflanked, on Q&A, Labor and Liberals from the left on the treatment of refugees.

Resistance!

The fight against homophobia is arguably the civil rights issue of our times. It is increasingly unacceptable that, in 2013, society continues to discriminate against people based on their sexuality. This is most obviously demonstrated by the continued refusal to grant equal marriage rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) people.

We kid you not

Guilty — of cooking rice “A Saudi student living in Michigan was questioned in his home by FBI agents after neighbours saw him carrying a pressure cooker and called the police. Talal al Rouki had been cooking a traditional Saudi Arabian rice dish called kabsah and was carrying it to a friend's house ...