Issue 976

News

"Thirty Years But Still No Justice!" was the theme of an Aboriginal deaths in custody forum held in Redfern on July 27. Speakers addressed issues of deaths in custody, victims of police brutality and other social justice concerns. The forum was also the Sydney launch of the National Deaths in Custody Coalition (NDCC), established in February this year to organise for a national day of action on Saturday, September 28 to mark 30 years since the death at police hands of WA Aboriginal youth John Pat in 1983. The meeting was sponsored by the Indigenous Social Justice Association.
This statement was released by Gasfield Free Seaspray on July 28. *** A crowd of more than 600 hundred people came together in Seaspray today to celebrate the results of a survey that showed 98% of the community wants the area to remain gasfield free.
A forum at the University of Wollongong on August 1 called "Trouble in the Edufactory: The Sydney Uni Strike and the Struggle for the University" heard from Sydney university PhD student and casual academic staff member Mark Gawne. Gawne, a graduate of the University of Wollongong, described this year's series of strikes at Sydney as the product of years of dissatisfaction among staff and students over increasing cutbacks.
Dave Kerin from the Victorian Earthworker Cooperative toured the Hunter region on July 30 and 31 to talk about the Eureka Future Cooperative. The cooperative plans to make solar hot water units in the LaTrobe Valley of Victoria, with the support of trade unions, the Uniting Church, Victoria Trades Hall, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and community fundraising. The project is particularly relevant to the Hunter, whose coal industry is in the midst of an overproduction crisis, fuelled by lower than expected demand for steaming coal from China and the rise of renewables worldwide.
Stop CSG Illawarra released this statement on August 2. *** The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, released the initial report from her review into coal seam gas (CSG) on July 31. The findings — particularly the contaminants involved and risks to water resources — confirm risks that community members have been talking about for years. However, the recommendations from the review are framed by the terms of reference, and focus on how to develop the industry, not if or under what conditions development is safe.
The Israeli Law Centre, Shurat HaDin, has filed a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act with the Australian Human Rights Commission against the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Stuart Rees and Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies’ Jake Lynch. The complaint claims Rees and Lynch are supporting racist and discriminatory policies through their support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli government. It is the first time Australia’s anti-racism laws have been used against people involved in the BDS campaign.
Doggedly loyal to the struggle for socialism and a member of five different socialist organisations over his life, Allan Little departed our ranks in Brisbane on July 12 at the age of 81. A person of incredibly modest means, he began his working life as a cane cutter in Queensland’s north and finished as a unionist and manufacturing worker in the Brisbane suburb of Rocklea. Ferociously independent and always reluctant to burden anyone with personal requests — even when bed bound — Allan rarely talked about his life’s experiences.

Analysis

Recent polls say the refugee rights movement is in the minority on the issue. An Essential Report shows 61% of Australians support the “PNG solution”, which proposes to expel all refugees that arrive by boat to Papua New Guinea. But we can win people over on this question because we have truth and justice on our side. I am old enough to have taken part in the movement against the Vietnam War. I remember that at the start about only 30% of the public was against that war. But the anti-war movement went on to decisively win the battle through a persistent campaign out in the streets.
Groups in Australia have claimed for several years that low-frequency noise and inaudible sound levels from wind farms have affected people’s health by causing sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fast heart rate, poor concentration and episodes of panic. In 2011, the Victorian Liberal government used these claims to place a ban on windfarms being built within two kilometres of residential areas. Is there any basis to these claims?
In recent years, there has been the emergence of a career path in the Labor Party that runs from the union movement to political office. Then, after office, to lobbyist and company director. Of the 23 key lobbyists in the five mainland states in 2010, 17 had connections to the Labor Party. In a reflection of cross-party unity in NSW, 134 of the 272 officially registered individual lobbyists are former MPs or ministerial staffers.
It was a powerful moment of solidarity as more than 200 Green Left Weekly supporters who had filled Balmain Town Hall for this publication's annual Sydney fundraising dinner held up Bradley Manning masks. Looking down from the stage it was an amazing sight. The guests at the dinner included tables of freedom fighters from all around the world: from Latin America to Asia.
After promising not to “lurch to the right” on refugees if he returned as prime minister, Kevin Rudd dramatically did just that with his plan to send refugees to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement. He says no refugee who arrives by boat will ever be settled in Australia. This is a draconian plan beyond the dreams of hardline racists like Pauline Hanson and John Howard. Yet despite this, leaders of the ALP left, such as Doug Cameron and Melissa Parke, have defended the policy.
This statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on August 2. *** “Both Liberal and Labor governments have squandered the fruits of the mining boom,” said Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Sydney, in response to the Rudd government's August 2 economic statement. “And the only real solution lies in reversing the tax cuts given to the rich by the Howard and Gillard-Rudd governments and by nationalising the mines, banks and energy companies and put them under the democratic control of the community.
Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson unveiled the state's worst-kept secret on July 30, when they announced their plan to slash the number of councils in Perth from 30 to 14. Buoyed by the two-thirds parliamentary majority the conservative parties gained in the March 9 state election, they junked the explicit pre-election promise they made that there would be no forced council amalgamations. The move rescinds the provision that allows a council to refuse a merger if it has been rejected by a majority of residents in a referendum.
The federal government is considering a proposal to force young unemployed people into strict military-style boot camps. The plan is an inadequate, simplistic response to the complex problem of youth unemployment. The fact that Labor is seriously exploring the scheme is another indication of how increasingly right-wing the party has become on welfare policy. The proposal, promoted as a “possible vote winner” to be announced before the upcoming election, would force early school leavers aged 15 to 21 into tough, hard-line boot camps, though precise details remain sketchy.
I was very glad to read about the US military exercise that involved bombing the Great Barrier Reef, because let's face it, climate change is just taking too damn long to kill the thing.
The election campaign in Australia is being fought with the lives of men, women and children. Some drown, others are banished without hope to malarial camps. Children are incarcerated behind razor wire in conditions described as "a huge generator of mental illness". This barbarism is considered a vote-winner by both the Australian government and opposition. Reminiscent of the closing of borders to Jews in the 1930s, it is smashing the facade of a society advertised as benign and lucky. Read More:

World

A member of Israel's cabinet has declared his backing for killing Palestinian prisoners, rather than bringing them to trial, 972mag.com reported on July 29. The Huffington Post said on July 29 that Israel announced it would release 104 Palestinian prisoners, as part of the US-brokered plan to renew peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Uruguay took a major step on July 31 towards becoming the first country in the world to put its government at the centre of a legal marijuana industry. President Jose Mujica's Broad Front coalition narrowly squeezed the measure through the lower house of Congress after 13 hours of debate, with all 50 government deputies overriding the 46 opposition MPs present. The measure will now go to the senate, where it is expected to pass.
If Bangladesh represents the worst of exploitation in clothing factories, India is home to the most rapacious conditions for auto workers. Auto workers and union supporters in Manesar, India, launched an indefinite dharna (sit-in and hunger strike) on July 18. They demanded the release of jailed co-workers. A staggering 147 workers have spent a year in jail on trumped-up criminal charges after a company-provoked altercation led to the death of a human resources manager who supported the union. Hundreds have pledged to take part in the dharna.
Detroit hit the Trifecta on July 18 — the third in a series of body blows that politicians have landed on the city’s working people. The Michigan legislature passed “right-to-work” in December and gave the governor the right to impose “emergency managers” on cities two days later. When Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr announced Chapter 9 bankruptcy on July 18, he was following a predicted trajectory that will lead to further impoverishment and privatisation.
Cuban Vice-President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura praised Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on July 31 for their fight against US imperialism. Machado said greater Latin American integration was aiding development across the region during the closing session of the 12th summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in Ecuador. But he stressed that social movements should lead the charge.
The 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington led by Martin Luther King Jr will take place on August 24. In 1963, a quarter of a million people marched for jobs and freedom. They gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial where King got up to deliver his “I have a dream” speech. A year later, in 1964, the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. It outlawed racial segregation in public places, introduced equal employment opportunities, and guaranteed the right to vote regardless of colour.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden finally left Moscow's airport, where he had been stuck for weeks evading capture by the United States government, on August 1 after being granted political asylum for one year in Russia. Snowden had sought to apply for asylum in places such as Ecuador and Venezuela.
Nicolas Maduro completed his first 100 days since being sworn in as president on July 29 — a period marked by his new street government initiative, Latin American solidarity, and debate over spiked inflation and moderate economic growth. Maduro’s presidency began amid protest and claims of electoral fraud from Venezuela’s right-wing opposition. They continue to reject the results of the April 14 presidential election in which Maduro won 50.6% of the vote, a 1.6% margin over Henrique Capriles. Since then, polls have pegged his approval rating around 56%.
Towards the end of 2008, I joined thousands in Toronto to protest Israel’s attack on Gaza. At York University, where I was a student, we mobilised the campus to defend Palestinian rights. A few months later, bombs were falling on my own people ― in the predominantly Tamil Vanni region of northern Sri Lanka. And once again, we hit Toronto’s streets in protest. I realised then that even though our homelands are oceans apart, Palestinians and Tamils have much in common. Through the “war on terror”, the Israeli and Sri Lankan armies have waged war on civilian populations.
Outsourced truck drivers contracted to perform work for the Australian multinational company Boral have been on an indefinite strike since June 25 in Dangjin in South Korea’s South Chungcheong province. Boral specialises in the supply of building materials. Its headquarters are in Sydney and it employs more than 15,000 people in Australia, the United States and across Asia.
What a week! Oh such boundless joy that transports us to the very heavens! It began with BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell gasping statements such as: “I am informed the royal cervix has currently widened to 9cm, and the Queen is said to be ‘thrilled’ at this level of dilation.” “The world waits” were the words the BBC put up, and indeed the whole world was thinking of nothing else. Somali fishermen abandoned their nets, saying: “Today I cannot concentrate on mackerel to feed my village, as we pray that Nicholas Witchell soon brings us news of the royal head emerging.”
August 9, 1971 is a date firmly etched in the minds of many people in six counties in Ireland's north occupied by Britain. It was the date of the start of the occupying British Army's Operation Demetrius — more commonly known as the start of internment. Internment was the military response to a popular uprising against a politically bankrupt Stormont regime. As part of Operation Demetrius, thousands of British soldiers descended on nationalist areas, smashed into homes and dragged hundreds of men away to be incarcerated in prison camps without charge or trial.
For the second time in six months, Tunisia's government has been thrown into chaos after the killing of a left-wing leader. Mohamed Brahmi, a leader of Tunisia's Popular Front, was assassinated on July 25. Brahmi was attacked by two men on motorbike outside his home in Ariana, a suburb of Tunis, and was shot 11 times. He was taken to Mahmoud Matri Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His widow M'barka told radio station Mosaique FM: “He died as a martyr to his opinion and position”, Tunisia Live said. She added that “he was killed by a terrorist gang”.
In the aftermath of the April 24 Rana Plaza collapse, the plight of Bangladeshi garment workers occupied global media attention in a way it never had before. The inconvenient thing about Rana Plaza, as far as the fashion brands that rely on outsourced sweatshop labour were concerned, was that so many workers — more than 1100 — died in one spectacular incident.
The mainstream press has focused on the decision of the judge in the military courts-martial of Bradley Manning to find him not guilty of “aiding the enemy”. However, judge Denise Lind's conviction of of the whistleblower who exposed war crimes for 20 other charges amounts to a full-scale assault on democratic rights. The courts-martial now enters the sentencing phase. Manning faces a maximum of 136 years behind bars. Whatever the final sentence is, it is widely believed it will be decades in the military stockade.
Former Brazilian president Lula, who helped found the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) and governed from 2003–2010, took his time to comment on the wave of protests that erupted in mid-June, bringing millions onto the streets. But when he finally gave an interview, he warmly welcomed the protests: “Brazil is living an extraordinary moment in the affirmation of its democracy. We are a very young democracy ... It’s only to be expected that our society should be a walking metamorphosis, changing itself at every moment.”
Fearing state repression, farmers in the Cataumbo region of Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, have formally requested asylum in Venezuela. Farmers in the Rural Workers’ Association of Catatumbo (Ascamcat) erleased a public letter on June 21 asking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for refuge. They have been protesting and blocking roads since June 10 in response to a campaign to forcefully eradicate coca cultivation in their area. They say they fear military reprisals.
The Barack Obama administration has proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on 756 million acres of public and tribal lands. The rules were written by the drilling industry and will be streamlined into effect by a new intergovernmental task force, established by the president, to promote fracking ― a practice that has been linked to water poisoning, air pollution, methane emissions and, most recently, earthquakes.

Culture

In The Shadow of Gallipoli: The Hidden History of Australia in World War 1 By Robert Bollard New South Publishing, 2013 223 pages (PB), $32.99 Every year, around ANZAC day on April 25, hordes of Australian tourists and backpackers descend on the shore of Gallipoli in Turkey to commemorate the first battle in which Australians took part in World War I in 1915. ANZAC day has experienced a resurgence in popularity over recent years. Governments have helped by promoting nationalistic myths about how the unsuccessful campaign was “where Australia was born”.