Issue 971

News

About 90 people gathered in the Coburg library on June 6 to oppose the Moreland Council’s plans for a mini-CBD in the central Coburg shopping centre. The meeting was organised by the Save Coburg Residents Network which formed in January to oppose the council’s C123 planning amendment. Most residents only discovered the plans a couple of weeks before the deadline for public submissions. The plan includes a row of 10-storey buildings along both sides of Bell St on the western entrance to the shopping centre and 10-storey buildings along one side of Sydney Road to the north.
Australia's four biggest banks — the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac — dubbed the "banksters", were condemned for crimes against people and the environment during a protest in Melbourne on June 29. Protesters marched to each bank, cordoned of the entrance to create a symbolic crime scene and read out a charge sheet. The action was called by the Socialist Alliance. Margarita Windisch, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Wills, argued the big banks, mines and energy companies should be nationalised and put under community control.
About 400 activists from across Australia converged on Sydney over June 21-23 for Australia’s Climate Action Summit 2013. As the science of climate change becomes ever more alarming, and as the refusal of business and political elites to act becomes ever more glaring, the activists met to share ideas and strategies to build a strong movement for a safe climate.
Paul Mees, well known to many Victorians, was an academic specialising in urban planning and public transport. He was an associate professor in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. He died of cancer on June 19. Mees was an indefatigable campaigner for sustainable public transport. One of his last public appearances was in a video shown at the launch of the Yarra City Council’s “Trains Not Toll Roads” campaign, just days before his death.
A prominent Bahraini surgeon and human rights defender, Dr Ghassan Dhaif, has been barred from entering Australia for a speaking tour organised by Amnesty International Australia and the Bahrain Australia Youth Movement. The Department of Immigration rejected DrDhaif's visa application on the grounds that he may seek asylum even though he applied for a Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) Visa (Subclass 400) with the support of Amnesty International Australia, the Australia Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Nursing Federation and the Australian Education Union.
The Illawarra regions of Shellharbour, Shoalhaven and Kiama combined have the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 15.3%, the Australia Bureau of Statistics said. This is 178% higher than the national average of 5.5%. If Wollongong is included, the average figure is 10.2%, 85% higher than the national average. The decline in manufacturing has hit the region hard. In 2011, Bluescope announced it would sack 700 workers at its Port Kembla steelworkers. In response to those sackings, Patrick Stevedoring announced the next month that it was sacking 160 wharf workers at Port Kembla.
More than 100 people encircled by chalk rainbows greeted the weekly meeting of Newcastle city council on June 25. Chaired by Save Our Figs veteran Debbi Long, the rally heard from Greens councillors Michael Osborne and Therese Doyle; federal Labor candidate Sharon Claydon; Michelle Lancey from support service Parents, Friends and Family of Gays and Lesbians; and Miss La Bang, a flamboyantly dressed bridal drag queen representing the radical rainbow army.
About 100 people attended a public meeting jointly organised by Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative in Sydney on June 25. The meeting discussed how a united left would be in a stronger position to campaign against a conservative Coalition government. Speakers from both organisations, Pip Hinman and Diane Fields, raised ideas about how a possible united socialist party could organise.

Analysis

The eight-storey Rana Plaza collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during working hours on April 24. The official death toll stands at 1129. However, workers’ rights groups believe the number could be higher. Another 2000 workers were injured in the collapse, many losing limbs.
In the next few weeks, protests will be held around the country against the Australian government’s complicity in the PRISM spying scandal. These demonstrations were called in response to the anger and frustration many Australians felt at the eroding of their civil liberties for the benefit of Australian and US imperial interests with the support and assistance of large internet companies.
This is part two of an interview Green Left Weekly journalist Linda Seaborn conducted with Dr Bob Boughton who helped initiate a Cuban supported literacy program in the NSW town of Wilcannia. Part one of this interview can be read here. *** How did it the literacy campaign change the lives of the graduates?
As the global financial crisis unfolded in October 2008, part of the Australian government’s response was to provide unlimited guarantees of bank deposits and wholesale funding. One result was that the big four banks got bigger while little was said of the $13.8 trillion in off-balance-sheet derivatives to which they were exposed. Derivatives operate in a global over-the-counter (OTC) market that is almost totally unregulated.
Nauru camp detainees have made allegations of brutal beatings by security guards, as newly leaked documents from the Salvation Army detailed the early “chaos” of the camp. A protest of recent arrivals that began on June 25 was met with a violent crackdown by guards that reportedly left six Palestinian men unconscious. The protesters were mostly Palestinian, Sudanese and Lebanese refugees. They had just learned from Australian officials that assessment of their claims for protection would be delayed.
Most of Australia’s fossil fuel reserves — coal, oil and gas — must stay in the ground if we are to keep the climate below a 2°C rise and avoid catastrophic climate change, a new report by the Australian Climate Commission says. The report, The critical decade 2013: Climate change science, risks and responses released on June 15, said “the best chance for staying below the 2°C limit requires global emissions to begin declining as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest.”
Whatever their views on the relative merits (if any) of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, there were many people inside and outside the Labor party who breathed a sigh of relief when Rudd replaced Gillard as Labor leader and prime minister. The reason was simple. It offered the hope that Tony Abbott and his Liberal National Coalition would not have the landslide victory in the next election predicted by all opinion polls for many months. It offered the hope that even if Abbott won, perhaps he would not capture both houses of parliament.
You have to hand it to the United States authorities. When they were caught red-handed engaging in almost unimaginable levels of illegal spying and espionage against citizens and governments around the world, they responded, rather than sheepishly apologising and begging forgiveness, by furiously demanding other governments hand over the man who exposed its crimes against them. It is like being caught at the scene of a murder with the murder weapon in your hand and shouting at police: “This is an outrage! I demand you give my knife back!”
Israel and Australia’s joint projects normalising Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity have sunk deeper in the degenerate mire of hasbara — propaganda and lies. Australia Post and Israel Post collaboratively issued two stamps last month commemorating the Australian Light Horse and the World War I Battle of Beersheba in Palestine.
Nearly 60 years have passed since Totem 1, a British nuclear test in the Australian desert, was recklessly conducted in unfavourable meteorological conditions. Nuclear testing of any sort, even in the most “controlled” of circumstances, is inherently abusive, a crime against the environment and humanity for countless generations to come. Yet the effects of Totem 1 were particularly bad, even by the warped standards of the era.

World

Protests by local people forced the abandonment of a plan to train Sri Lankan military officers at India’s Defence Services Staff College in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The Times of India said at least two towns in Nilgiris were shut down by a strike on June 24 in protest at the plan. The Indian government then offered to train the Sri Lankan officers elsewhere in India, but the Sri Lankan government turned the offer down.
The Network of Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity express their indignation at the criminal attack perpetrated in the afternoon of Tuesday July 3 against Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma, by the government of the United States and with the clear complicity of various European states.
Texas executes 500th prisoner since 1976 “The US state of Texas has executed its 500th convict since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, a record in a country where capital punishment is in decline elsewhere. “Kimberly McCarthy, 52, was declared dead by lethal injection at 6:37pm (local time) in the Walls Unit, a red brick prison in the small town of Huntsville, prison officials said … McCarthy, who is black, received two last-minute reprieves in January and April due to allegations of racial discrimination during the selection of what became her all-white jury.
Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks via Skype to the Socialism 2013 conference in Chicago regarding Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's mass surveillance program. His speech was introduced by Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater and the filmmaker behind Dirty Wars, and Sherry Wolf, author of Sexuality and Socialism.
The Unified Workers Central (CUT), other trade union confederations and the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) decided on June 25, to jointly organise a protest on July 11 across the entire country. They also decided on the items to present to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The planned strikes and demonstrations will aim to unleash the agenda of the working class in Congress and in ministries, as well as building on and promoting the agenda that has emerged from the recent street protests.
Just hours after pro-choice advocates and lawmakers defeated a bill that would have shut down nearly all abortion clinics in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry announced he is reviving the bill by calling another special session of the legislature on July 1. "I am calling the legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas," Perry said.
The latest opinion polls in the Spanish state have stirred concern in the elites, hopes on the left and storms of comment in the media. Nationally, they show the radical federation United Left (IU) closing the gap on the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). In the June Metroscopia poll, IU trailed just 4.7% behind the PSOE (16.8% to 21.5%). Regionally, Spanish social democracy’s decline is most advanced in Catalonia and Galicia. In Madrid city council IU would jump from 10.7% to 20.5% of the vote, just 1.6% behind the PSOE.
Faced with several days of overt threats from the Obama Administration and top senators threatening to revoke a key US-Ecuador trade pact if they dare to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, the Ecuadoran government has told the US what they can do with their frozen broccoli and fresh cut flowers, and has cancelled the pact themselves.
Stephen Murney is a political and community activist who lives in Newry in the north of Ireland. He is also a member of Eirigi (“Arise”), a legal, registered Irish socialist republican political party. Murney has frequently documented, photographed and recorded incidents of harsh Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) stop and searches of people, house raids and other rough treatment in the Newry area. Murney regularly highlighted these issues in local newspapers and on the internet.
Frances O’Grady, head of the British Trade Union Congress (TUC), set the tone in the opening session of the People's Assembly in London on June 22, declaring: “The Bullingdon boys are waging class war against ordinary people. We will retaliate, it is time to fight back against a government of millionaires.” O'Grady's reference to Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne by the exclusive upper-class Oxford University society they belonged reflects the anger at the Conservative-Liberal Democrats war on the poor.
The June 27 general strike in Portugal, the fourth since the country became an economic protectorate of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund “troika” in 2011, was marked by several important firsts. It was the largest general strike to date, with 80%-100% support from public sector workers and a clear rise in support from private sector workers.
Iran's presidential election on June 14 resulted in a large victory for self-described moderate, Hassan Rouhani, who received 50.7% of the vote in the first round, a high enough vote to ensure a second round vote was unnecessary. Rouhani's win led to celebrations in many cities across Iran, as his candidacy had picked up momentum during the campaign. There were big pro-Rouhani mobilisations ahead of the vote.
The news in May that carbon dioxide levels had broken through the symbolic barrier of 400 parts per million (ppm), a level not seen since the beginning of our species’ evolution on planet Earth, 3 million years ago, caused a barely perceptible ripple in the mass media.
Edward Snowden remained in the transit area of the Moscow airport as of June 26, as Washington stepped up its threats against China and Russia for not turning the NSA whistleblower over to the US. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that China’s decision to allow Snowden to leave Hong Kong would “without question” affect US-China relations and “have consequences”. See also: Ecuador offers US 'human rights' aid, cancels trade deal
The United States Supreme Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, made two very significant rulings that affect the rights of oppressed peoples across the US on June 26. The Supreme Court voted to strike down the Defence of Marriage Act, which allowed individual states to outlaw equal marriage without any repercussions from the federal government. The court ruled that such a law was unconstitutional, as it repressed the civil rights of a certain section of the population, in this case LGBTI people.

Culture

This year marks 100 years since the opening of the Kahlin compound in Darwin, a place where Aboriginal children, stolen from their families, were forced to live and work. The compound was closed in 1938, but lives on in the memory of many who were held there — many of whom are still in Darwin today, and would like the site to be recognised and protected as part of their heritage.
One Day in December: Celia Sanchez & the Cuban Revolution By Nancy Stout Monthly Review Press 457 pages, US$28.95 Read an excerpt Revolutions are great processes. Thousands and then millions of people, who had previously been excluded from their societies, take centre stage to challenge existing structures. In doing so, these movements of people can create history. These movements can propel people from relative obscurity to truly amazing heights as they are thrust into leading roles by the forces in motion.
On June 27, as Nelson Mandela was reported to be lying in hospital on life support, London-based activist and hip-hop producer Carlos Martinez released the track "Madiba’s Message".

Resistance!

High school has always been turbulent at best, but never before was I confronted with institutionalised oppression in the way that I was when it came to Year 9 sex education. Year 9 is the final year in my school where all students have access to sex education regardless of their subject choice, after this a student has to choose a physical education (PE) subject to learn more about it.