Issue 986

News

Father Rod Bower has been the rector at the Gosford Anglican Church for 14 years. His cheeky and very direct signs on the church board have received up to 50,000 views and thousands of shares on Facebook. He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Niko Leka about joining the convergence for refugee rights in Canberra on November 18. *** What sort of responses have you had to your messages of support for asylum seekers?
Representatives from the Nyoongar tent embassy gave a presentation forum on Nyoongar native title at Murdoch University on October 15, hosted by the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre. The focus of the forum was the ongoing negotiations between the Western Australian state government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) to extinguish native title in the Nyoongar territories of WA (roughly the region south of Geraldton and east to Esperance) in exchange for a $1.3 billion cash and land package.
NSW MPs supporting a Liberal MP's private members bill to recognise crime or harm against a foetus — dubbed “Zoe’s law” — have tried to avoid any connection between it and their reactionary anti-choice backers. But on October 24, Katrina Hodginson, National MP for Burrinjuck, publicly thanked Margaret Tighe, national president of Right to Life Australia, for her encouragement. After declaring her support for the bill, Hodginson said she believed that there was a need for more laws “from the victim’s perspective”.
Members of the Chilean community and other Latin American supporters rallied outside NSW parliament on October 23 to protest against Liberal Upper House whip Peter Phelps, who has praised Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a "hero." Protesters are demanding an apology from Phelps and disciplinary action against him from Premier Barry O'Farrell. Phelps made a speech to parliament on September 11, the 40th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. Phelps described Pinochet as a "morally courageous man”.
Cairns police arrested two people under Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's new anti-association laws on October 18. A search was carried out on their clubhouse and the two men, Peter Johnston and Mark Filtness, have been charged with being in a criminal organisation and entering a prescribed place. They were both granted bail. The Liberal-National Party used their majority to rush the new laws through parliament on October 17. The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill, Tattoo Parlours Bill and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill target bikies specifically.
The NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) is campaigning to reverse cuts to the state fire services budget by the Liberal state government. Under the theme, "Stop Fire Station Cuts and Closures," the FBEU is circulating an open letter to NSW Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell stating: "As NSW faces devastating bushfires — the worst since 1968 — your closures and cuts to fire stations puts lives at risk when we most need protection.
When Neville Cunningham died, the world lost a great fighter for peace, justice and equality. I first met Neville Cunningham through fellow communist, band mate and cellmate Harry Anderson in the 1960s.
Women and men took to the street in Brunswick for Melbourne's Reclaim the Night rally and march on October 19, to demand an end to victim blaming and violence against women. Speakers included Yorta Yorta woman Monica Morgan, chairperson of Elizabeth Hoffman House, Poppy Jacob from Hollaback Melbourne, an organisation dedicated to ending the street harassment of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals, Rose Ljubicic from the Council of Single Mothers and their Children, and Jane Green, a sex worker activist from the Vixen Collective.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of Western Sydney, Parramatta South campus, staged a half-day strike and picket at the university on October 23. Staff picketed the main entrance to the campus and persuaded many vehicles trying to enter the university to turn away, despite harassment by security guards.
About 500 people rallied in Perth on October 19 to protest against a new forest management plan approved by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in July, which could destroy 2000 square kilometres of native forest over the next 10 years.  The rally was organised by campaign group Forest Legacy, and indicates the re-emergence of the movement to protect forests in WA, important at a time of increased attacks from state and federal Liberal governments. 

Analysis

The result of the October 19 Fremantle Council election was a real glimmer of hope for us in Western Australia, particularly after the bleak state and federal results this year. Under the first-past-the post system used in WA council elections, I was re-elected in Hilton Ward with 58% of the vote, compared with 33% in 2009. In the other wards, the incumbent councillors defeated more conservative opponents. Mayor and Greens member Brad Pettitt won more than 70% of the vote, defeating former state and federal Liberal candidate Matthew Hanssen.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is a powerful right-wing lobby for big corporations, which has spearheaded the push for deregulation and privatisation in Australia for four decades. It has also led the war on trade unions and the promotion of individual contracts to replace collective bargaining.
With political advantage from a national celebration of the centenary of World War I in mind, the Julia Gillard government last year allocated an initial $83.5 million towards the “Anzac Centenary”. Through a local grants program, up to $125,000 is available for each federal MP to fund suitable projects in their electorates. But unfortunately for Labor, the project is now headed by Tony Abbott, who has appointed himself head of the Centenary. Stand by for a broadside of jingoism and a celebration of empire.
The Defence Department has confirmed it was responsible for starting the ferocious State Mine fire in the Blue Mountains that burnt over 50,000 hectares of bushland in the past two weeks. An investigation found that a large amount of explosives — exceeding normal limits — were used during a training exercise at Marrangaroo. Unlike the young boys who were arrested for lighting fires this week, it is unlikely anyone from defence will be charged.
Soh Sook Hwa, a member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia, is taking part in the conference “How to make a revolution” organised by Resistance. Resistance member Sean Brocklehurst interviewed her about the political campaigns she is involved with in Malaysia. *** What is happening in Malaysian politics at the moment? There was a historic election in May this year. Many Malaysians expected the government to lose power but the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), was re-elected with a majority of seats and 47% of the popular vote.
Last month, the High Court heard a case brought by lawyers for Ranjini, a Tamil woman who was accepted as a refugee but is being held in indefinite detention because ASIO considers her a security threat. Ranjini is one of 47 people in this situation. They face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in detention because ASIO claims that they are “likely to engage in acts prejudicial to Australia’s security”. Ranjini’s lawyers said detaining people for life without charge, trial or conviction for any crime is illegal. The High Court has reserved its decision.
PM Tony Abbott has repeatedly said climate change has absolutely nothing to do with the recent record-breaking spring bushfires in NSW. Such ideas are “hogwash”, he told News Limited’s Andrew Bolt. The claims associate his government with the most extreme climate change denial and explode Abbott’s carefully fashioned pre-election image as someone who now accepts the science but merely opposes costly action.
The Australian Capital Territory assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill on October 22. The Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Bill 2013 allows same-sex marriages of ACT residents and non-residents, and is a huge step forward for marriage equality. The ACT is the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise same-sex marriage, after a mammoth fight against a federal same-sex marriage ban. The Labor ACT government passed the bill with the support of Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury while the Liberal Party opposed it. The bill passed narrowly, nine votes to eight.
Immigration minister Scott Morrison reintroduced temporary protection visas (TPVs) on October 18 in a two-page “regulation” that amends the Migration Act and strips many rights and protections for refugees in Australia. Morrison said the move was part of the government's “border protection policy” and aimed to “discourage” people from making “dangerous voyages to Australia”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott had a really busy time last week, running around fighting fires before rushing back to his office to slash funds to those affected. Between volunteering with the Davidson Rural Fire Service brigade to help fight the fires near the Blue Mountains and tightening eligibility requirements for bushfire victims to deny funds to those cut off from their homes, the poor guy must be absolutely exhausted.
A leaked draft of the second Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, due to be released in March, gives a sobering picture of what lies ahead for Aboriginal communities in Australia as climate change intensifies. Last month, the IPCC said it was 95% certain that human activity was the main cause of climate change. The recent leaked report did not look at the science, but rather the impacts climate change will have, particularly in areas of vulnerability and adaptation.

World

The Israeli authorities must drop all charges against a Palestinian human rights lawyer now released on bail, Amnesty International said. A military judge at Ofer Military Court ordered the release of Anas Barghouti on bail because confessions from other detainees submitted as evidence failed to prove he is a security threat. The accusations against him relate to alleged activities from over a year ago.
Few people from the 20th century can really claim to have changed history. One of them was General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led the Vietnamese people to defeat the French and American empires. Giap died on October 4, aged 102. Mainly remembered as a military leader, Giap was also one of Vietnam’s most significant political leaders. He was a revolutionary intellectual, an environmentalist and a campaigner for progressive change within Vietnam.
Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on August 7 for leaking classified US government documents to WikiLeaks. These documents revealed evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses carried out at the behest of the US government. Diplomatic cables leaked by Manning also show the lengths to which the Bush administration was prepared to go to ensure that those responsible for such crimes would remain unreachable under international law. Immunity
October has been a month of sharp shifts in French politics. On October 4, an Ifop poll in the French weekly Nouvel Observateur showed the xenophobic and racist National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen leading voting intentions for next year's European elections with the support of 24% of those interviewed ― up 3% in six months. On October 13, in the second round of the by-election for the canton of Brignoles (in the Mediterranean department of Var), the FN easily defeated the mainstream conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), by 53.9% to 46.1%.
The bid by Republicans to defeat President Barack Obama’s health care program by shutting down the government and threatening to cause a default ended in failure. The result opened fissures within the Republican Party between its “moderate” right wing and the further right-wing Tea Party. The difference is not over “Obamacare”, which the whole Republican Party is against, but over the Tea Party’s tactics. The Tea Party drove the failed effort to force its way. So what does the Tea Party represent?
The results of the September 28 Portuguese local government elections would seem obvious: the big winner was the opposition Socialist Party (SP), and the big loser the governing alliance of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Democratic and Social Centre—People’s Party (CDS-PP). The pattern was the same at all three layers of local government for which the Portuguese vote — municipal assemblies (councils in Australia), municipal chambers (the councils’ full-time executives, headed by the mayor), and parish or ward committees.
Demonstrators clashed with police on October 19 as tens of thousands marched through Rome to protest against the government's intensifying austerity program. They chanted slogans against unemployment and government cuts to benefits and social housing programs. Many camped throughout the night in front of the Infrastructure Ministry.
“More than 100 survivors of a shipwreck in which hundreds of African immigrants died burst through the gates of a holding center on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Monday in a protest against the refusal of authorities to allow them to attend a funeral ceremony for the victims,” Reuters reported on October 21. At least 366 people, mainly Eritrean, died in the October 3 disaster. The survivors tried to catch a ferry to the Sicilian city of Agrigento, where an official ceremony was held.
Five months ago, I was in Tarija in southern Bolivia taking part in a forum debating the political process in this country, a process we call the “democratic and cultural revolution”. A participant asked me whether it was possible to deepen this revolution, to make it an economic and social revolution, without the participation of the working class. My immediate response was no.

Culture

Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic Anna Rose Melbourne University Press, 2012 357 pages, $19.99 (pb) Anna Rose, a young climate change activist, was warned by her many colleagues in the environment movement of the risks of agreeing to do a television documentary, screened earlier this year by the ABC, pitting her against the former Liberal Party senator, science minister and climate change denialist Nick Minchin.
Left Hand Drive Craig McGregor Affirm Press, 2013 334 pages $24.95 (pb) Two experiences of institutional conformity — as a boarder at an elite private school and as an Australian army conscript — bequeathed a lifelong “fear and hatred of authoritarian systems” to Craig “Rob-Roy” McGregor, a blues-playing guitarist, would-be rebel, fringe Bohemian, journalist, novelist, cultural studies professor and fierce believer in equality.
Murder in Mississippi John Safran Penguin, 2013 368 pages. There probably has never been a true-crime book quite like Murder in Mississippi. Melbourne-based “documentary filmmaker of sorts” John Safran filmed a segment for his most recent TV show Race Relations that featured Mississippian white supremacist Richard Barrett. Barrett took legal action, however, preventing any footage of him being used.