Issue 978

Australia

More than 500 people, mainly from the Egyptian community, rallied at Sydney's Town Hall Square and marched through city streets to the Egyptian consulate on August 18, in opposition to the military crackdown over recent days in Egypt.

Speakers condemned the massacres committed by the military regime in Egypt against peaceful supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Chants during the march included, "Free, free Egypt!", "Egypt will soon be free!", and "General al-Sisi, assassin!'

About 30 people rallied outside NSW state parliament on August 15 to protest plans by the Liberal state government to change regulations to allow native forest biomass to be burned to generate electricity.

Environment groups are worried the change will lead to wholesale destruction of native forests and woodlands to feed the power generators.

Protests were also held in Bega and Bellingen on the same day. The rallies were sponsored by an alliance of environment conservation organisations.

Locked-out Yallourn power station workers were joined by hundreds of people at a rally outside the offices of their employer, Energy Australia, in Melbourne on August 16.

The company, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based China Light and Power, locked out all 75 shift operators, members of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), on June 21.

The workers had been limiting power output as part of a campaign of protected industrial action in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement.

About 40 people gathered at Reg Hillier House in Darwin’s rural area on August 15 to discuss threats posed by petroleum companies wanting to explore for oil and gas.

Applications for exploration under the Petroleum Act, which could include oil or gas, have reached the outer rural areas including the entire Cox Peninsula, parts of Humpty Doo and Howard Springs, the Dundee area and Litchfield National Park. Exploration may involve using the controversial method of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) if shale gas is found.

About 200 people attended a lunch at Geelong Trades Hall on August 11 to raise money for the hundreds of refugees who have arrived in the community.

Many refugees are not allowed to work as a condition of their visa and are forced to live on less than the unemployment benefit.

This has left some families lacking basic necessities such as adequate clothing and food. A great deal of pressure has been placed on charities to take up the slack.

Energy use in buildings accounts for about 20% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. A new report says Australia’s existing building stock could be made emissions-free in 10 years, while saving about $40 billion in energy bills over 30 years.

A fire ripped through Nauru's main hospital on August 14, destroying the pharmacy, medical stores and x-ray facilities.

Joanna Olsson from the Nauru government's information office told the ABC that the fire ruined a quarter of the building and could entail a “medical emergency” for Nauru.

The cause was believed to be electrical. Like many services on the island, Nauru's hospital is rundown and relies on Australian aid for maintenance and repair.

About 350 paramedics surrounded Victorian Health Minister David Davis's Melbourne office on August 12 to protest in support of their year-long campaign for better wages.

Victoria has Australia's most highly trained and lowest paid paramedics. Supporters came from as far away as Gippsland and Shepparton.

“Ambulance Victoria is in serious trouble unless they can become competitive with other states,” said Ambulance Employees Australia organiser Danny Hill.

About 260 people gathered at a mass meeting in Tecoma on August 11 and vowed to continue to fight against a McDonald’s Restaurant in their town.

Demolition of the site began on August 8 but the meeting reaffirmed their determination to maintain a protest on the site.

Support for the protest continues to grow. The Victorian branch of the Australian Service Union released a statement on August 10.

Kep Enderby, former attorney-general in the last year of the Whitlam Labor government, has declared publicly that he's decided not to vote for the Labor Party because of the ALP government's terrible treatment of asylum seekers.

He declared this in a short letter published in The Australian on August 2, repeated it to Linda Mottram on ABC Sydney Radio 702 and confirmed this directly to Green Left Weekly.

“I've decided not to vote Labor even though I've voted Labor all my life and I was a member of the Whitlam government,” he told GLW.

This statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on August 16.

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Kevin Rudd says he is now in favour of equal marriage rights, but Labor’s policy allows its politicians a "conscience vote". This is simply unacceptable, and lets homophobic MPs off the hook.

Why does Labor have a "conscience vote" on equal marriage? It doesn't have a conscience vote on other issues, such as sending asylum seekers to PNG or cutting sole-parent pensions — even though Labor's policies on these issues violate the conscience of any decent human being.

About 160 people attended the Sydney premiere of Nuclear Nation on August 9, also known as Nagasaki Day.

This new documentary by Atsushi Funahashi explores the lives of refugees from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Queensland government has approved a $6.4 billion coalmine to be owned by Clive Palmer.

The huge mining project, located in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, is expected to produce about 40 million tonnes of coal a year for 30 years, much of which will be shipped to booming industrial centres in China.

On top of that, hundreds of kilometres of railway will be laid to the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen, one of the many ports along the Queensland coast that is used to ship coal overseas.

It took a federal magistrate five minutes to dismiss charges against veteran unionist Bob Carnegie in a Brisbane courtroom on August 16.

Carnegie faced 18 charges related to contempt of court, which were pushed by anti-union building firm Abigroup.

Abigroup had accused Carnegie of defying court orders to avoid the site of a community picket that was campaigning for safety and conditions on behalf of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and its workers.

World

United States: Socialist wins 35% in Seatlle poll

Seattle voters sent a clear message to an out-of-touch political establishment on August 6 that they are fed up with business as usual, and are looking for an alternative to corporate-pandering politicians like Democrat Richard Conlin.

Kshama Sawant, who was recently written off by The Seattle Times as “too hard left for Seattle”, won a stunning 35% of the vote. Sawant is a member Socialist Alternative.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on August 15 for his government to give greater support to the construction of communes in the country. He proposed several initiatives by which this could be done.

Communes have their origin in Venezuela's communal councils, which are grassroots bodies made up of members of the local community. These self-managed bodies receive public funds to undertake community projects and small-scale public works.

Workers at Diana Industries have welcomed the appointment of a new company manager, claiming victory in their fight to prevent the “imposition” of businessperson David Mendoza as head of the worker-run company.

Nationalised in 2008, production at Diana Industries is organised by workers through assemblies and a Socialist Workers’ Council. The company produces cooking oil, margarine, soap and other products, 80% of which are destined for state-run distribution networks.

“I want all the people to come to the court and see what democracy in Israel really is,” said the mother of Palestinian youth Ali Shamlawi, being held in jail by Israel on fabricated charges.

On March 14, there was an accident near Salfit in the West Bank when an Israeli settler’s car crashed into the back of Israeli truck. Four people in the car were hurt, one seriously. The truck had stopped on the road due to a flat tire.

Later, this accident was described by the car's settler driver as a stone throwing attack by Palestinian youths.

Palestinian families celebrated on August 14 as Israel released 26 prisoners on the eve of long-stalled peace talks.

Buses carrying the inmates left the Ayalon prison in central Israel late on August 13. Celebrations erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where thousands of Palestinian well-wishers awaited the buses' arrival.

Fireworks lit the sky in Gaza, where rival Hamas and Fatah supporters alike celebrated to the beat of drums. Some danced while others flashed victory signs and waved flags of the Palestinian factions.

UPDATE: Green MP Caroline Lucas was one of more than a dozen people arrested on August 19 after police broke an anti-fracking blockade of a West Sussex drilling site.

Snatch squads were seen dragging demonstrators from the front gates of energy giant Cuadrilla's Balcombe site after police declared the picket a breach of public order, alleging that it could potentially block emergency services from reaching the site.

The protest's organisers No Dash For Gas reported 19 arrests.

* * *

TransCanada Corp. announced on August 1 that it will proceed with plans to create a pipeline capable of shipping 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil and tar sands bitumen from western Canada to refineries and ports in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Called “Energy East”, this west-to-east pipeline would dwarf the oil delivery capacity of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the US. Keystone would ship 830,000 bpd.

Fukushima spilling containimate water 'for years''

“Workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have told the ABC that contaminated water has most likely been seeping into the sea since the disaster two-and-a-half years ago. Japan's nuclear watchdog has described the leaks as a 'state of emergency'

“Workers have told ABC's AM program that they do not have much faith in Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) ability to handle the situation and they claim another accident is inevitable.

I have known my postman for more than 20 years. Conscientious and good-humoured, he is the embodiment of public service at its best. The other day, I asked him, “Why are you standing in front of each door like a soldier on parade?”

“New system,” he replied. “I am no longer required simply to post the letters through the door. I have to approach every door in a certain way and put the letters through in a certain way.”

“Why?”

“Ask him.”

The Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM), a Filipino socialist party, released the statement below on August 12.

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The PLM joins the campaign to protest against the recent spate of killings of labour leaders, the most recent case being the assassination of transport workers’ leader Antonio “Dodong” Petalcorin on July 2.

Petalcorin joins the ranks of assassinated workers’ leaders this year, such as Emilio Rivera and Carlos Cirilo, who were also members of the national labour centre, the Alliance of Progressive Labor in the Philippines.

The streets of Cairo are running red, as Egypt's military carries out a brutal crackdown on supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamad Morsi.

On August 14, after weeks of threats and violent harassment, the Egyptian army moved to shut down protest camps in Nahda Square and outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya in Cairo, where supporters of Morsi have been staging sit-ins since his overthrow on July 3.

By the evening, more than 500 protesters had been killed and thousands wounded. The army also killed three journalists in the attack.

Daily protests are demanding the dissolution of Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in the wake the assassination of Popular Front leader Mohamed Brahmi.

In the face of the protests, leader of the Ettakatol party and speaker of the NCA Mustafa Ben Jafaar announced the suspension of the body on August 6.

However, the main party of government, Islamist group Ennahda, has refused to concede the dissolution of the NCA, in which it holds the largest number of seats. Ennahda now looks to have negotiated the NCA's resumption.

A new whistleblower has come forward with a chilling new revelation concerning Washington’s surveillance of its citizens. But he is not allowed to blow his whistle under threat of jail.

All the whistleblower could do was report his act of resistance and that there was a threat. He did so on the United States' progressive TV show Democracy Now! on August 13.

Ladar Levison is the owner of Lavabit, an email provider that offers users a secure service the government cannot easily get into. It employs sophisticated encryption -- putting user's messages in hard-to-crack code.

As US President Barack Obama continued his economic speaking tour, walkouts at fast-food restaurants rippled across cities nationwide in early August, calling attention to the nation’s growing wealth gap.

At the franchise stores of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and KFC and other grease-slinging corporations, thousands of people protested the low wages dished out by the biggest names in the industry and raised a common demand: US$15 (A$16.30) an hour and the right to unionise.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has condemned the violence that has erupted in Egypt and the death of more than 750 people, and expressed solidarity with their families.

Morales chaired a public ceremony in the capital and took the opportunity to condemn the violence in the Arab nation, criticising "those countries and powers that boost this kind of genocide".

"We vigorously condemn and repudiate these events and send all our solidarity with peoples like Egypt fighting for democracy, for its restoration and unity of their people," Morales said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on August 16 that he would withdraw the country's ambassador from Egypt because of the conflict there and confrontations between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the defacto government, which has seen over 700 people killed.

"We have witnessed a blood bath in Egypt." Maduro said. "We warned that the coup against Morsi was unconstitutional ... the responsible party for what is occuring in Egypt is the empire."

He said: "The United States doesn't have friends, it has interests, and what it wants is to control the planet".

The statement below was released by the national executive of the Australian Socialist Alliance on August 16.

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Socialist Alliance condemns the massacre of protesters by the Egyptian army during the dispersal on August 14 of sit-ins at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square by supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa has withdrawn its ambassador to Egypt on August 14 amid bloody massacres of supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, Reuters said.

Analysis

Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney, confronts the racism of Liberal and Labor, and explains Socialist Alliance's pro-refugee alternative.

Jim McIlroy, the lead NSW Senate candidate for the Socialist Alliance (ticket AM), explains the party's policy in support of workers' rights and union organising.

Student protesters will take to the streets in all capital cities and some major regional centres on August 20. The protests will stand up against the planned cuts to tertiary education by the federal government. Earlier this year, the government announced $2.8 billion in cuts to higher education, via cuts to universities and student welfare services.

But the demands will go further than an end to cuts. “Education for all” is one of the demands of the protests. But is a free and accessible education even possible in the age of austerity politics?

The Victorian Blind Workers’ Union and United Voice Queensland are battling to save the jobs of 73 vision-impaired workers employed by Vision Australia Enterprises in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

Rupert Murdoch upset a few people by using the media outlets he owns to campaign for the Coalition in the federal elections, with his Daily Telegraph going so far as to greet Labor PM Kevin Rudd's announcement of an election date with a front page urging readers to “KICK THIS MOB OUT!”

The Socialist Alliance is using the federal election to popularise the idea that we need bring mines, banks and power companies into democratic public ownership. Here are five reasons why this is a good idea.

1. Wealth distribution

The richest 20% in Australia own more than the rest combined. Mining company profits rose 540% between 2000 and 2009, while the share they paid as tax or royalties dropped from 40% to 14%.

We recently suffered the very sad loss of Mick Goldstein. Goldstein was a stalwart of Jews Against the Occupation (JAO), who campaign for the rights of Palestinians. Like Bernie Rosen, whom we lost earlier this year, Goldstein was in the proud Jewish tradition of the international socialist left.

The mass participation of Jewish people on the left was largely decimated by the Nazi Holocaust, and lamentably, it has been overtaken by a reactionary Zionism which has now come to dominate Jewish communities around the world. But activists like Goldstein reminded us of what once was.

This statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on August 16.

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The Socialist Alliance demands a total ban on fracking. The method of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — to extract gas from coal seams involves pumping out large quantities of water that can release salt and toxic chemicals into groundwater.

Coal seam gas (CSG) wells have been found to leak methane, which is a major greenhouse gas and has a far higher global warming effect than carbon dioxide.

The Australian environmental movement is under attack by populationist and anti-immigration forces in a calculated attempt to divide the Green Party vote at the federal election.

The Stable Population Party (SPP), the Stop Population Growth Now (SPGN) Party in South Australia and their mother organisation, Sustainable Population Australia, are “green washing” their anti-immigration policies to make them more palatable to the electorate.

There are approximately 60,000 public and community housing tenants in NSW and about 85% of them are receiving welfare benefits.

Several non-government organisations (NGOs) such as Mission Australia are now providing clothing, food, job training and housing to welfare recipients.

As more and more public housing gets transferred into the hands of NGOs as part of a push for privatisation, many of the organisations who were traditionally advocating for the poor have now become their landlords. These organisations receive a large part of their clients’ income through their rent assistance.

Sam Wainwright is a Fremantle city councillor and the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Fremantle. Being passionate about sustainable transport he is active in the local Bicycle Users Group and the Fremantle Road 2 Rail campaign.

Wainwright worked on the waterfront for 12 years during which time he edited the MUA WA journal Rank & File Voice. He now works as a disability support worker and is a member of the Australian Services Union.

Wainwright told Green Left Weekly why he decided to run as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance.

Before the 2007 federal election, Julia Gillard turned her attention to what the Labor Party needed to do to win back government in a book called Coming to the Party.

She said reforming Labor’s factional system was high on the agenda because, “we are no longer talking about factionalism, we are talking about fractionalism – a Party in which almost anyone with a pocket full of votes, often procured in dubious circumstances, believes it is their right to demand something from the Party in return.”

Liberal leader Tony Abbott's statement that marriage equality was a passing “fashion of the moment,” has galvanised anger in the lead up to nation-wide marriage equality rallies.

It follows Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s promise to introduce a bill for marriage equality within 100 days of being re-elected.

During the August 11 debate between Rudd and Abbott, instead of committing Labor to passing the bill, Rudd said his party would have a conscience vote, and called on the Liberal Party to do the same.

The latest unemployment figures have revealed symptoms of a long rise in inequality and falling living standards for working Australians. The unemployment rate now stands at 5.7% — the highest level since the beginning of the financial crisis back in late 2008.

According to the latest figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of full-time jobs fell by 4400 in the month of June alone, while the number of part-time employment positions increased by 14,800.

Resistance!

It is often said young people do not care about politics. A survey by the Australia Institute in July found that more than one million young Australians under 25 feel that no political party represents them. On top of that, 45% of respondents also said they were “disinterested” or “not really interested” in the upcoming federal election.

It is not hard to imagine why young people might be switching off when neither of the two big parties is dealing with the issues young people are most concerned about.

Culture

There are few people in the sports world I respect more than Cyd Zeigler, the founder of the website Outsports, which deals with the sporting lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes.

I tweeted Zeigler's excellent article titled “Don’t Boycott Olympics Ban Russia From Competing Instead” precisely because it was incisive and made me think. I do, however, feel that on principle I need to state that I strongly disagree with his central premise.

While waiting at Tokyo's Narita International Airport to board his flight to New Zealand on August 13, US progressive singer-songwriter David Rovics was informed that he was banned from entering New Zealand.

The Portland, Oregon-based Rovics is known for his extensive touring, doing concerts in support of progressive causes and workers' struggles in the US, Europe, and Australia.

Birdz Eye View
Birdz
Impossible Odds Records
July 11, 2013
www.birdz.bandcamp.com

Most rappers use their publicity photos to show off their bling, but Nathan Bird uses his to show off something a little more challenging - his books.