Issue 982

Australia

About 1000 protesters marched through the streets of Melbourne on September 21, in opposition to the Coalition government’s attacks on refugees. It was the first refugee rights rally since the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The rally heard from several speakers, including Bishop Philip Huggins, from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Ingrid Stitt from the Australian Services Union, Janet Rice, newly elected Greens Senator for Victoria, and Karen Jones from the Refugee Action Collective.

Hundreds of blind people and their supporters have linked white canes in front of Vision Australia Enterprises in support of blind manual workers facing the sack at the end of this month. The white cane chain stretched more than 200 metres, doubling back across the length of the Kensington worksite. It received widespread media coverage.

The crowd, which gathered on September 15, chanted, “people before profits” and “have some vision, change your decision”, referring to Vision Australia’s decision to close its supported employment program because it failed to make a profit.

Hundreds of people gathered at Federation Square in Melbourne on September 14 to oppose the planned construction of a McDonald’s restaurant opposite a primary school in the Dandenong Ranges town of Tecoma.

The demonstration included performances by the Tecoma flash mob and musicians, colourful handmade signs and costumes, passionate speakers, and the launch of a documentary about the campaign, which detailed the events of Tecoma’s ongoing fight against the corporate bullying of McDonald’s over the past year.

Members of Sydney's Chilean community and supporters protested outside New South Wales Parliament on September 16 to demand Premier Barry O'Farrel sack Liberal MP Peter Phelps.

Socialist councillor Sam Wainwright is one of three Fremantle councillors facing a challenge in the local government elections that open on September 26. Mayor Brad Pettitt, a member of the Greens, also faces a challenge from defeated federal Liberal candidate Matthew Hanssen.

The city of Fremantle has a relatively progressive council. All the challengers are more conservative than the incumbents.

"Over the past 20 years since the Oslo Accords were signed, we have seen the continued reduction of Palestinian sovereignty over their legitimate territory,” Richard Falk told a forum at Sydney University on September 19.

“Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere are consigned to a permanent never-never land. The oppression of the Palestinians by Israel over the past decades is one of the most unspeakable denials of human rights in the world today.”

Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, and a leading legal academic from the US.

Jeff Halper, the leader of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), spoke about his ideas on the future of Palestine and Israel at Melbourne University on September 19.

The ICAHD campaigns against the demolition of Palestinian houses by the Israeli occupation regime. It has rebuilt 187 houses that had been demolished.

Large stop-work rallies were held across Western Australia on September 19 to fight the Liberal state government’s education cuts.

About 15,000 people attended the rally in Perth and another 5000 attended stop-work meetings across regional WA, including 2000 in Bunbury, 500 in Albany, 520 in Pinjarra and 200 in Port Hedland.

Even small schools in the remote north-west of the state took part. A total of 62 schools were shut down for the morning.

World

A terrible disaster unfolded in 2010 in the Hunza Valley in Gilgit Baltistan (a formerly self-governing territory occupied by Pakistan since 1948). For protesting for people's rights in the aftermath of this disaster, three left-wing activists have been sentenced to 10 years jail.

In July 2010, a huge landslide blocked the Hunza River and formed a gigantic 19 kilometre-wide lake, which submerged four villages. About 25 people lost their lives and 6000 people were displaced.

Hong Kong-based business executive Bruce Rockowitz told the New York Times recently that consumers are ultimately the ones responsible for dangerous conditions in garment assembly plants in the global South.

The problem is that improved safety would raise the price of clothing, according to Rockowitz, who heads Li & Fung Limited, a sourcing company that hooks up retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s with suppliers in low-wage countries like Bangladesh.

“So far”, he said, “consumers have just not been willing to accept higher costs”.

Florida medical examiner claim prosecution threw Zimmerman case

“In a bombshell allegation, Florida medical examiner Dr Shiping Bao claims that Florida state prosecutors were biased against Trayvon Martin [an unarmed Black teenager shot dead by George Zimmerman] and purposely threw the case [in which Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges], and he is suing the state for $100 million ...

Ahmad Qatamesh is a 62-year-old Palestinian University academic, writer and political activist who has been held in an Israeli jail under administrative detention for more than two years.

Under Israel’s policy of administrative detention, people can be held without charge or trial for indefinite periods.

Threats of a new United States-led war in the Middle East abated, at least for now, on September 20 when Syria met a deadline set in a September 14 agreement between the US and Russia.

As part of the deal, Syria submitted details of its chemical weapons to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The US threatened military action against Syria after an August 21 sarin gas attack killed 355 people in the East Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

Venezuela has rejected the United States’ version of events in the dispute over Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s passage through US airspace on September 19.

The diplomatic fallout reached media attention when Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua told reporters that Maduro had been denied permission to fly through US airspace.

Venezuelan officials said the presidential flight was prohibited from passing over Puerto Rico, a US colony in the Caribbean. Maduro considered changing the flight path to reach Paris, France.

Bolivian President Evo Morales plans to file a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity, RT.com reported on September 20. Morales criticised the US for its intimidation tactics and fear-mongering after a plane carrying Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was blocked from entering US airspace.

A leaked submission prepared by a New Zealand government department raising serious concerns about the risk of water pollution to a Hawke’s Bay river has been suppressed by the government, the New Zealand Labour Party and the Greens Party said.

The Department of Conservation prepared a draft 32-page submission on the proposed Ruataniwha Dam. It said the plan poses threats to water quality, habitats and fish species and that reversing damage caused by the proposal would present real problems.

The school year should have already begun on the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula), but it hasn’t. Since September 16, high school and primary teachers have been on an indefinite strike.

In Palma, capital of Mallorca, up to 6000 teachers have been demonstrating daily outside the main government building. When the ceremony marking the start of the Balearic Islands’ university term was held, a swathe of lecturers walked out to express their solidarity with the thousands of teachers protesting outside.

For the second time in three months, a CP Rail train carrying toxic and flammable hydrocarbons has derailed in the city of Calgary, in Alberta province.

On September 11, eight railway wagons carrying close to one million liters of a highly flammable gasoline product (diluent) used in the pipeline transport of tar sands bitumen derailed in the Inglewood neighbourhood.

Two related anniversaries were marked this September.

The first was the collapse five years ago of Lehman Brothers, which came to symbolise the financial crisis, the subsequent Great Recession, and the anemic recovery.

The second was the upsurge of the Occupy movement two years ago in response, which popularised the idea that the richest 1% are the enemy of the rest of us. This slogan has taken hold in mass consciousness ― an enduring legacy of Occupy.

If after Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and Darius Simmons, you thought that you could be sickened by racist violence but no longer shocked, you need to know the story of Jonathan Ferrell.

Analysis

Research by The Australia Institute has found Australian gas prices are set to double over the next few years — not because there is a gas crisis, but because gas companies are exporting Australian gas for much higher prices, driving up the price of domestic gas.

Mark Ogge from The Australia Institute explained this research in a speech to a meeting of Stop CSG Illawarra in Wollongong on September 15.

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A media campaign began this month to discredit the findings of the fifth major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released on September 27.

The Australian published a front page story on September 16 headlined: “We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC”.

The death of a young man from a suspected drug overdose at a dance music festival in Sydney on September 14 showed not just how inadequate prohibition is at dealing with drugs, but how it also unnecessarily risks lives.

Defqon.1 is an annual music festival featuring hardstyle electronic dance music. It takes place in the Netherlands and Australia at different times each year. Each festival has its own anthem or theme song; the anthem for this year's Australian festival was “Scrap the System”.

Sam Wainwright and Margarita Windisch stood for the Socialist Alliance in the federal election in the seat of Fremantle in Western Australia and Wills in Victoria, respectively. Green Left Weekly spoke to them about their campaigns.

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What were some of the highlights of your election campaign?

A push to give a foetus “personhood” has been, until now, quietly making its way through the NSW parliament.

About 100 people packed out the NSW Parliamentary gallery on September 19 to witness a debate on a bill to amend the NSW Crimes Act to give foetuses of 20 weeks, and more than 400 grams, “personhood” or legal rights.

One of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s first acts has been to abolish the Climate Commission. Set up under Julia Gillard in 2011 and chaired by Tim Flannery, the commission’s role was to explain climate science to the public.

It is well known Abbott will abolish the carbon price, but other climate programs in Abbott’s sights include the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

This is a clear sign the new Abbott government believes the environment can be sacrificed for profit.

The new Prime Minister Tony Abbott is infamous for his homophobia. Only recently he dismissed the equal marriage rights campaign as the “fashion of the moment”.

The equal marriage rights campaign is about much more than marriage. It’s about a prejudice that kills people. Particularly for young people, life in the queer community keeps them constantly on their toes.

All around, queer people are self-harming, and every day young people worry that somebody they care about might commit suicide. These are the consequences of homophobia and transphobia.

About 1000 people packed the Sydney Opera House on September 16 for a public forum featuring Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs, independent US journalist Alexa O’Brien and Australian academic Robert Manne.

It has been 30 years since the death in custody of 16-year-old Yindjibarndi youth John Pat after he was assaulted by five off-duty police officers in Roebourne, Western Australia.

John Pat’s murder, and the subsequent acquittal of the five police, started the movement against black deaths in custody. That movement was built from the anger of ordinary people when, again and again, someone died or was murdered in custody, leaving their distraught relatives struggling to find answers.

Liberal PM Tony Abbott can't abolish the truth, but he is trying. Whether it is his new government's attempt to keep refugee boat arrivals secret or the abolition of the Climate Commission, Abbott has moved quickly to keep the public in the dark.

Former Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery warned after the commission was disbanded: "As global action on climate change deepens, propaganda aimed at misinforming the public about climate change, and so blunting any action, increases."

After the ALP caucus deposed Julia Gillard in June this year, her recycled replacement, Kevin Rudd, thanked them by making sure that they wouldn’t get the chance to sack him a second time.

In what many of them saw as an ambush, he proposed to a surprised caucus that, in future, Labor leaders should be elected by ballot of both the caucus and the party’s rank-and-file members. It would not be open to caucus to depose any leader again unless 75% of them decided that he or she had “brought the party into disrepute.”

Tony Abbott was officially sworn in as prime minister on September 18 at Government House in a ceremony that seemed to involve the ritual blood sacrifice of public servants.

Featuring the sacrificial slaughter of three top public servants that day, the ceremony appears to have enabled the new PM to commune directly with the Dark Lord Margaret Thatcher from the deep fiery pits of Hell where the baroness demon has presumably dwelt since April.

Culture

Clive: The Story of Clive Palmer
Sean Parnell
HarperCollins, 2013
328 pages, $39.99 (hb)

When the local council denied planning permission for the Queensland National Party’s media director, Clive Palmer, to build a 66-story townhouse development on peaceful rural land in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast in 1984, Palmer’s party and state government mate, Russ Hinze, helped the rich guy out by overturning the council decision.

When he was assaulted by a gang of black-shirted Golden Dawn thugs on the night of September 18 in the Keratsini district of Athens, 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas — a big and powerful man — was with his girlfriend and another couple.

Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music & Country
By Mat Ward
100 pages
Download for free

Australian hip-hop pioneer Urthboy told The Music Network last year: “I was asked to write about the state of hip-hop in Australia. I’d prefer to shine a light on what may be the future of it: Indigenous Hip-Hop.

“Indigenous artists carry a profoundly engrossing and intriguing story for international audiences, yet it’s barely understood by many Australians.”

It smells like everything sweet and nice but you can never get enough of it.
It tastes like chocolate that turns into vinegar but you can’t stop eating it because the chocolate’s so good and you think one more bite can’t hurt.
It sounds like drums echoing in the hallway drawing you into a small room, almost controlling you.
It feels like you have everything but not enough.
It looks like a moth attracted to a burning flame only soon to turn into ashes.

[Jada Pearl Narkle is a 12-year-old student in Perth.]

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

World's longest running strike sets example

Mike Marquesee looks at the ongoing struggle of South Africa's ex-Midrand Council workers. They are engaged in what is surely the world's longest running industrial dispate, starting in 1994. They are still fighting.

Capitalism, sexual violence and sexism