Issue 987

News

Controversial private member’s bill “Zoe’s law”, which aims to give legal rights to foetuses, was again set aside in the NSW Legislative Assembly on October 31. Only a few MPs turned up to the third second-reading debate; four spoke against and three spoke for it. Those against were: Andrew McDonald (ALP Macquarie Fields); Leslie Williams (Nationals Port Macquarie); Jamie Parker (Greens Balmain) and John Williams (Nationals Murray Darling).
"We are here today,” Professor Stuart Rees told a media conference at Queens Square on October 30, “to express our outrage that a so-called independent law centre from Israel could attempt to stamp out freedom of speech in Australia.” "We call on the mainstream media to take an objective stand on the issue of Palestinian human rights.” The gathering concerned the move by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli-based law centre, to file a case in the Federal Court against Professor Jake Lynch of the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
McDonald’s Australia has ceased legal action against eight community protesters — dubbed the “Tecoma 8” — who were being sued for damages over delays to construction of a McDonald’s restaurant in Tecoma, in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne.
Emergency service workers rallied on October 29 to oppose attempts by the Victorian government to introduce sweeping changes to the Transport Accident Act, which would take away emergency workers’ common law right to seek injury compensation for psychological injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Peter Marshall, Victorian Secretary of the United Firefighter Union, told the rally: “63% of firefighters have moderate post-traumatic stress levels, 17% have full blown post-traumatic stress levels, and that is on the increase.
Tasmanian Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell said he was grateful for the thoughts behind his Australia Day award nomination but that he “would be a hypocrite to accept it”. Mansell has been outspoken about the offensiveness of Australia’s national day celebrating the invasion and dispossession of Australia’s Aboriginal people. He has participated in Invasion Day rallies held by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for many years.

Analysis

The stack of new laws rushed through the Queensland parliament in recent weeks have put the Liberal National Party government on a collision course with the judiciary, the legal fraternity, trade unions and civil liberties activists not seen since the days of Joh Bjelke Petersen. These new laws — directed at bikie gangs, G20 protesters, sex offenders and workers compensation — attack basic freedoms of association, the right to protest peacefully, fair sentencing and the right of workers to sue negligent employers.
The ANZ announced a full-year cash profit of $6.5 billion on October 29. Two days later, the NAB posted a profit that was not quite so big. It had only managed $5.94 billion in the year to September. Banks make their profits in a number of ways. One is a sort of bankers’ version of two-up, betting on foreign exchange rates. This is the world’s largest market. Reserve Bank of Australia figures for April put the average Australian foreign exchange turnover at US$181.7 billion a day.
Despite a Victorian state moratorium since last year barring the use of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) to extract gas, communities across the state continue to protest against gas drilling and exploration. Sixty locals protested at a test drilling site in Yarragon in Gippsland, east of Melbourne, on October 19, where Greenpower Natural Gas holds a licence to explore for coal seam gas (CSG). The moratorium on fracking does not prevent exploration works such as drilling and flaring off.
Comedian, Hollywood star and former host of MTV and Big Brother's Big Mouth Russell Brand took on veteran BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman in a Newsnight interview subsequently viewed millions of times on YouTube. The journalist, veteran of many bruising encounters with politicians of all stripes, decisively lost.

Just what questions can you be asked when you apply for a job? According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 12, global energy company Chevron asks some intrusive reproductive health questions of women applicants in its recruitment process. Questions include whether an applicant has been sterilised, their pregnancy history, how many abortions and stillbirths they have had, the number of “normal” children they have and any birth defects their children may have.

This statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on October 28 *** The passing of the ACT assembly's bill to allow same-sex marriages on October 22 is a significant win and a step towards full, federal marriage equality. The win is a result of long, hard-fought, grassroots campaigning. The federal government's bid to quash it with a High Court challenge is testimony to its bigotry and hostility to equality. We must defend the bill against the federal government's attack.
Secondary Students for Refugee Rights (SSFRR) is a group that was founded by Caitlin Woodland and Lucy Dodd, both students at Princes Hill Secondary College, to advocate for refugees’ rights. It formed during the federal election campaign in response to refugees being demonised by politicians during the campaign.
The Country Liberal government of the Northern Territory announced on October 26 it was extending a reservation over Darwin’s rural area to “protect rural and rural-residential areas of the Greater Darwin region from oil and gas development”. “Whilst the Country Liberal government is open for business, we know it is not practical to have oil and gas development in the middle of the Greater Darwin Region”, said mines and energy minister Willem Westra van Holthe.
Police on horseback and riot officers violently broke up a student protest in Melbourne on October 30. The demonstration was held to oppose federal government threats to higher education, and was part of a national week of student action, called by the National Union of Students. Just two days before the protest, education minister Christopher Pyne told the ABC’s Q&A the government was investigating the possibility of selling off student HECS debt to private companies.
Selected people in Australia recently received the following invitation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: “Dear TPP Stakeholders, As part of the Australian Government’s ongoing public consultation process on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, the TPP negotiating team will be visiting Sydney on 30 October 2013 to meet with interested members of the public, and business and civil society stakeholders. “The meeting will provide an update on the negotiations and an opportunity for further stakeholder input.”
Many residents have been involved in the campaign to stop the East West tunnel in Melbourne, an $8-15 billion tollway project of Denis Napthine’s Coalition government. One resident, Keith Fitzgerald, has lived in Collingwood for 70 years. Fitzgerald told Green Left Weekly his grandparents had come over from Richmond in 1898 and settled in Collingwood. His father was born in Collingwood in 1900. Fitzgerald has lived in the same house for 69 years but has received a letter saying it is likely to be requisitioned,
More people die from air pollution in Australia than the road toll, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale told a public meeting in Melbourne’s inner-west municipality of Maribyrnong on October 23. Di Natale instigated the recent Senate inquiry into the effects of air pollution on human health, which concluded in August. He said there had been a “catastrophic failure in this country to monitor air quality”.

World

The UN General Assembly has voted for the 22nd consecutive year to reject the US embargo, with 188 nations opposed the embargo and three abstentions. Only the US and Israel voted in favour of the continuation of the embargo, which has been in place since 1960. The UN resolution is non-binding. On October 29, Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez described the embargo as “extraordinary” and “barbaric”.
Canada's colonial past is its present, too, however much Prime Minister Stephen Harper seeks to obfuscate the reality of the history of this land. Recent events have served as a prime example of how denial of past colonialism helps to perpetuate ongoing colonial relationships. The flash point is the small town of Rexton, New Brunswick, on Canada's east coast.
The growing resistance to fracking — the “hydraulic fracturing” of deep level shale rocks to extract natural gas — promises to reignite the climate movement after the failure of United Nations climate talks in 2009. A feature of the recent march and blockades at Cuadrilla Resources’ drilling site near Balcombe in West Sussex was the diversity of the people involved, as well as the numbers. Local residents were central to the protests, as they have been at Fylde, near Blackpool, where two Cuadrilla fracking operations led to minor earthquakes.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established to prosecute individuals alleged to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. From the ICC’s inception, the US objected to the possibility that US nationals could be subject to its jurisdiction. The administration of former US president George W Bush waged an aggressive campaign to persuade states to sign “Article 98”, or bilateral immunity agreements. Those that signed agreed not to transfer US nationals to the ICC. Between 2002 and 2009, sanctions were implemented on states that refused to sign.
Venezuela's finance minister, Nelson Merentes, presented a draft 2014 budget to the National Assembly on October 22 that devotes more revenue to social services, while predicting continued economic growth and lower inflation. About 62% of the 551 billion bolivars budget (about $92 billion) would be devoted to social services, compared with 37.7% this year.
From Richmond, California to Ecuador and Romania, communities affected by oil giant Chevron’s operations are rising up to demand justice. Chevron’s response in each case has been consistently irresponsible: Deny any wrongdoing, cover up the extent of corporate malpractice and environmental contamination, and go on the offensive against anyone demanding the company take responsibility for its messes. But lately, the company has really been on a tear, taking its anti-democratic attacks to bold new heights.
Who was that odd-looking group on bicycles, those white-legged very English-looking people pedalling through the hectic Barcelona traffic? Why were they wearing t-shirts in the colours of the second Spanish Republic (1931-1939), with the words “¡No Pasarán!” embroidered on their sleeves?
A police raid on a Roma settlement outside the rural town of Farsala in central Greece on October 16 made worldwide headlines. The raid was nothing unusual but, as Associated Press said on October 22, “one of dozens of raids they have carried out on Roma camps in the past few weeks in a crackdown on drug smuggling and burglary gangs”. For police, politicians and media in Europe, the link between Roma (or “Gypsies” to use the racist term favoured by the British press) and crime is self-evident.
Anyone in Spain with the slightest understanding of human rights’ law knew that the Grand Chamber (full bench) of the European Court of Human Rights was bound to reject the appeal of the Spanish government over the case of convicted Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA) prisoner Ines del Rio. For decades, ETA waged an armed struggle for independence for the Basque Country from the Spanish state. In 2011, it declared a “permanent ceasefire”, ending its armed campaign.
Candidates from the left-wing Freedom and Refoundation (LIBRE) party, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more killings and armed attacks since May last year than all other political parties in Honduras combined, an October 21 http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001msfnEPYmqw37P16Yj4TbQabe_lXmVQYJIjh6SqTyb...
Several thousands of people marched and rallied in the United States’ capital on October 26 in protest against the mass surveillance of almost all Americans and hundreds of millions of citizens of other countries. The huge Big Brother program, conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA), has been exposed by Edward Snowdon, considered a hero by those demonstrating. Beginning in May last, Snowden’s trove of revelations keeps coming through releases by Glenn Greenwald in the British Guardian. ’Thank you’
A recent report details genocide against the indigenous people of West Papua carried out by the Indonesian government, which has occupied the territory since the 1960s. The report, “A slow-motion genocide: Indonesian rule in West Papua”, was written by Dr Jim Elmslie and Dr Camellia Webb-Gannon, both visiting scholars at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University. It was published in the Griffith Journal of Law and Human Dignity.

Culture

Your 14-year-old daughter is dumped on your freezing front lawn in a state of chemically induced incoherence with her shoes off and frost stuck in her hair. She tells you she was raped. You hear her 13-year-old best friend was also raped that same night. Your daughter is then bullied as a tape of the incident passes around her high school. You wait for the indictments and some semblance of justice, but one of the accused is a football star from one of the area's most prominent and politically connected families.
Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield Jeremy Scahill Serpent’s Tail, 2013 642 pages With his first drone strike in Pakistan just a few days after settling into the White House in 2009, the freshly minted Democratic President, Barak Obama, not only authorised the assassination of a handful of probable terrorists but killed up to two dozen innocent civilians.
IED EP Pataphysics Out November 8 www.pataphysics.com Multi-lingual multi-instrumentalist Pat Marks fronts the multi-faceted Melbourne band Pataphysics. As the critically-acclaimed "guerilla hip-hop" outfit prepare to launch their new EP, Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward spoke to Marks about his multifarious pursuits, from refugee rights to juvenile justice. *** You've worked with refugees for a long time. Tell us a little about the work you do.
The Big Truck That Went By, How the World Came to Save Haiti and left Behind a Disaster By Jonathan M. Katz Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 282 pp., $24.95 On January 12, 2010, Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, was devastated by a huge earthquake. Death toll estimates range from between 100,000 to more than 300,000. Nobody really knows, because Haiti was poorly governed beforehand and virtually taken over by foreign governments and non-government organisations (NGOs) afterwards.
I was introduced to Gazan hip-hop act Revolution Makers when I saw them perform a rare live hip-hop performance in Gaza City during PalFest in May. Since then the duo, brothers Mohammed and Osama Elsusi, have put out a number of new songs. Their newest song, “What’s going on”, features Ayman Mghames.
Recently, Mamamia editor Mia Freedman wrote a blog post railing against Kim Kardashian. While by no means do I hold Kardashian up as a demonstration of feminism, I think that Freedman has this wrong, very wrong. From the title “Are you a mother or a porn star?”, which degrades the ability of women who work in the porn industry to be effective parents, Freedman projects some extremely backward views on motherhood, sexuality and body image.

Letters

Reclaim The Night has a proud international history as an annual protest of women and their supporters demanding an end to violence against women, and to the sexism and misogyny that underpin it. As shown by a 2012 globally focused study by US political scientists Mala Htun and S. Laurel Weldon, a key factor in reducing violence against women is strong feminist movements.