Issue 977

Australia

Zane Alcorn, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Newcastle, scored equal top in a survey of candidates on environmental issues.

The Hunter Central Rivers Alliance conducted a survey of 17 questions designed to compare the different parties policies on coal and coal seam gas and related issues.

The Hunter Central Rivers Alliance campaigns for “an alternative vision for the Hunter, where sustainable industries, historic communities, and public health are more valuable than the boom — bust cycle of coal industry profits.”

A protest to defend welfare rights and public housing was held in Coburg on August 3. The rally called for a rise in all welfare payments to a liveable income, the restoration of the sole parents pension, an end to welfare quarantining and public housing for all who need it.

Moreland city councillor and Socialist Alliance member Sue Bolton told the rally: "The single parent payment is important because it allows women to leave violent relationships and gives parents the right to decide  to be at home with their children."

About sixty people attended a meeting on “America’s Pacific Push” on July 25.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, spoke about the growing US military presence in the Pacific.

Examples included the expansion of a missile test range in Hawaii, the building of a naval base on South Korea’s Jeju Island despite strong resistance from local people, and the plan to station 2500 US troops in Darwin.

Gagnon said that US bases in Australia play a crucial role in US military strategy.

Nauru's terrible poverty, stagnant economy and unstable administration has paved the way for its main aid-provider, the Australian government, to sign it up for a similar refugee “deal” as Papua New Guinea.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that refugees who arrived in Australia by boat could be sent for processing and then would “settle and reside” on Nauru.

Asylum seekers are welcome on Aboriginal lands in Australia despite the inhumane approach of both major political parties, the Aboriginal Provisional Government said on July 29.

Secretary Michael Mansell said: “As people who know what it’s like to be invaded by boat people we are in a better position to judge how the current boat people should be treated. Where the original boat people who took over our country were armed to the teeth and bent on conquest, asylum seekers in 2013 are unarmed and seeking sanctuary.

While Australia’s mining sector shows signs of resilience, there is one mineral whose outlook may be terminal. 

There are five significant events that have occurred recently that send a clear message about the future of the uranium sector and the wider nuclear industry.

The uranium price dropped to US$34.50 a pound Energy Resources of Australia, the operator of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu, announced a $54 million loss.

A public meeting held in the Tasmanian town of Oatlands on August 2 discussed the application by PetroGas, an offshoot of Petratherm, to explore for shale gas and oil in more than 3000 square kilometres of southern Tasmania.

About 80 residents attended the meeting. Tim Kirkwood, general manager of Southern Midlands council, said it was the best-attended public meeting ever held in Oatlands.

The process of “fracking” for gas requires millions of litres of water and a major concern for many of the farmers present was the question of where the water would come from.

Several hundred people gathered in Greeves Street, St Kilda, on August 8 for a candlelit vigil for local street sex worker Tracy Connelly, who was murdered in the street on July 21.

The vigil was a chance for her family, friends and, importantly, her community to honour her as well as protest against violence against women.

The vigil was held outside the St Kilda Gatehouse, a drop-in centre and community resource for street sex workers. 

About 40 people gathered in Wollongong on August 6 to commemorate the 68th Hiroshima Day.

The day marks the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the United States in 1945. The bomb caused tremendous devastation and instantly killed between 70,000-80,000 people. By the year’s end the bomb had claimed 140,000 lives.

The Koori community and supporters rallied on the historic Redfern Block in on August 3 to show their solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the young black man who was followed and shot by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Florida, and to oppose racism and racial profiling anywhere in the world.

The action was organised by Koori community activists Chris Bonney and Dan Munro. Bonney told Green Left WeeklyIt is 2013 and I don't want my children to grow up experiencing the racism all us Kooris experience today. It is not right in the United States and it is not right in Australia."

World

United States: Seven-year-old banned from mentioning 'fracking' ― ever

“When a property owner reaches a settlement with an oil or gas driller, it's not unusual for the company to demand that the plaintiffs in the case agree to a gag order that bars them from talking about the agreement. But a recent case in Pennsylvania is unusual.

“That's because the gag order prohibited the 7- and 10-year-old children of a couple that sued several gas companies not only from talking about their specific settlement, but from mentioning fracking at all. Ever …

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main party representing Tamils in Sri Lanka’s parliament, has selected 36 candidates to contest the Northern Provincial Council elections, to be held on September 21.

Sri Lanka’s northern province, which is mainly inhabited by Tamils, has been under military rule since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. The LTTE fought for nearly three decades for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the island.

Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated as the president of Iran on August 4. He was elected in June, after mass mobilisations swept the country in support of his candidacy.

Those who supported him saw his election as the best way to open up space for reforms within the country. However, he is not an outsider to the system.

Rouhani was on Iran's nuclear negotiating team and was the country's top negotiator with the European Union on Iran's nuclear program from 2003 to 2009. He received official endorsement from Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, on August 3.

Back in 1989 a schoolmate of mine showed me some copies of Tribune, the newspaper of New Zealand’s Socialist Unity Party.

The SUP had for decades been convinced of the infallibility of the leadership of the Soviet Union, and the pages of Tribune were full of recycled press releases from the Kremlin and large airbrushed photographs of crumbling Soviet leaders like Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov.

In April last year, many Palestinian political prisoners in Israel went on hunger strike calling for rights to family visits and the end of solitary confinement. Israel eventually conceded their demands.

But now Israel says the deal did not apply to the Palestinian political prisoners who held Jordanian citizenship. These prisoners are still prohibited from family visits and various other basic rights.

For a good part of his 33 years in power, Robert Mugabe has presided over a ruthless dictatorship. From the thousands killed in the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres and misery for millions under structural adjustment plans, Operation Murambatsvina and hyper-inflation of 2008.

Yet in the July 31 general election, endorsed by Southern African Development Community and the African Union, the 89-year-old ruler annihilated the hitherto iconic working-class leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), who beat him in March 2008.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cost United States workers 700,000 jobs. But another effect was to drive Mexican small farmers out of business.

In the brave new world of free trade, Costco makes tortilla chips and salsa in the US and trucks them to its stores in Mexico.

US Congress will soon debate whether to “fast-track” a trade deal that would make job-killers like NAFTA look puny. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

One year after a huge explosion and fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, there was a demonstration of thousands of people directed against the oil giant on August 3.

Richmond is part of the sprawling San Francisco Bay Area, where I live.

A significant aspect of the action was that it brought together environmentalists from the Bay Area and nationally, and activists from the Richmond community.

As more people start to share scientists' long-expressed concerns over climate change, revelations of big bank energy market manipulations highlight Wall Street's entrenched stake in the fossil fuel economy that is heating up the planet.

For more than a month, more than 400 prisoners in seven Californian prisons have refused to eat in protest at the use of long-term solitary confinement and other abuses.

This is the longest hunger strike in California’s history and is provoking a predictably savage response from prison authorities. Prisoners are being denied medical attention, those accused of being representatives of the strikers are put in administrative segregation to further isolate them and many are being denied their mail.

The critical moment in the political trial of the century was on February 28 when Bradley Manning stood and explained why he had risked his life to leak tens of thousands of official files to WikiLeaks.

It was a statement of morality, conscience and truth: the very qualities that distinguish human beings. This was not deemed mainstream news in the United States; and were it not for Alexa O'Brien, an independent freelance journalist, Manning's voice would have been silenced.

A rally, titled '1984 Day' was held in New York on August 4 to protest the National Security Administration’s surveillance programs exposed by whistleblow Edward Snowden. It was organised by a group called Restore the Fourth, which campaigns to restore the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution that bans unjustified searches by state authorities. Photos by Edward Leavy.





Analysis

Prime minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement of the “PNG solution” — where refugees who arrive in Australia by boat will be denied resettlement and sent to Papua New Guinea — has sparked the largest refugee rights rallies in Australia since John Howard was in power, as well as opposition from within PNG itself.

On August 2, 2000 students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) held a protest against the proposed plan.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is Australia's national security service, and promotes itself as being responsible for protecting Australia from all kinds of attacks — from terrorism to politically motivated violence.

This fairytale should not be taken seriously. Established in 1949 by the Ben Chifley ALP government, ASIO’s primary purpose has always been to carry out spying, disruption and provocation against left and progressive forces on behalf of the established order.

It is Australia’s political police — our very own secret police organisation.

The United States has led the world in deregulation of the financial sector, the economy and social services on the basis of “the market rules”.

This facilitated the great financial crisis from 2007 onwards with devastating impacts on the welfare of the majority of citizens globally. Yet when it comes to US women’s right to control their own fertility, just the reverse has taken place.

Increasing regulation has become the norm undermining the reality of individual choice.

Tony Abbott has promised a 1.5% cut in the company tax rate if the Liberal-National Coalition wins the September 7 election. It will cost about $2.5 billion a year and it is exactly the opposite of what Australian society needs.

Big business needs to pay more, not less, tax.

The ancient Athenian democracy that emerged in the 6th century BC is often cited as a model for more modern democracies.

In some ways, it had some features that were superior to the once-in-three-year vote we get in the parliamentary democracy we have in Australia today. It was based on regular assemblies where the citizens exercised direct, rather than just representative, democracy.

But ancient Athenian democracy was democracy only for slave-owners. The majority of the population were slaves, and they, along with women and foreign residents, were excluded.

A great part of being a candidate for the federal elections is that people want to talk to you. They want to tell you what’s happening in their lives and they want to let you know their opinion on lots of different issues.

Recently I was invited to address an Electrical Trades Union branch meeting in Geelong, Victoria. After I’d had my say, some members told me they agreed with me.

Campaign group Save the Tarkine has condemned federal environment minister Mark Butler’s July 31 decision to approve an iron ore mine in the Tarkine wilderness in Tasmania’s northwest, saying it could guarantee the extinction of the Tasmanian devil.

The Tarkine is home to more than 60 rare and endangered animal and plant species. It is also home to the last remaining disease-free population of the Tasmanian devil. Since 2008, the devil has been listed as an endangered species.

Letters

It's 200 years too late to stop the boats. Almost everyone of non-Indigenous origin is an economic migrant or a refugee. Greeks left Egypt in the 1950-1970s because the government passed laws decreeing that only 15% of any company's wages could be paid to non-Egyptians.

The laws were meant to help poorer Arabs get jobs, but they also resulting in one overpaid European company manager pocketing the 15% while refusing to employ any of his fellow Europeans.

Resistance!

It's election season once again. For the first time in three years, the government is allocating us all our piece of democracy. People in suits are frantically talking about the issues of the day, in the hope that they can win over enough of us to put them into parliament.

Two of the defining issues in this battle are refugees and education. In both cases, candidates line up one after the other to show they are able to make the tough decisions.

Culture

Love & Struggle, My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground & Beyond
By David Gilbert, PM Press, 2012
336 pp, $22.00

From the earliest anti-capitalist revolutions, starting almost as soon as capitalism cemented its political mastery of Europe in the late 1700s, there has been dispute between those whose moral outrage at oppression led them to conspiratorial methods and those saying that open political struggle is superior.

Originally this debate was between the Blanquists and Marxists and later between Bakuninite anarchists and (again) Marxists.

Born Free
Ben Iota
Butterthief Records
June 20, 2013
www.beniota.com

Radical rapper Ben Iota stands out in Australian Hip-Hop like a refugee boat in an empty ocean. Green Left's Mat Ward spoke to him about his new EP "Born Free".

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Lyrikal Kombat
Red Eye Balaz
www.facebook.com/RedEyeBalaz

Kerser is one of the best-known acts in Australian Hip-Hop. The south-west Sydney emcee has built a huge following by pitching his hardened battle-rap skills against some of the biggest names in the game.