Issue 991

News

Lock the Gate released this statement on November 26. *** The first Santos rig drilling for coal seam gas in the Pilliga is today the site of direct action protest, as grandmother and author Sharyn Munro joins 20 locals in halting Santos’ drilling operations in the area, calling for the Sydney catchment coal seam gas moratorium to be extended to protect Pilliga groundwater.
A Queensland Civil Liberties Network was formed on November 27 at a packed meeting at the Electrical Trades Union office in Brisbane. More than 60 people, including officials and activists from a number of trade unions, environmental activists, people involved in organising protests at the G20 meeting next year, members of the Greens, Pirate Party, and the Socialist Alliance, as well as individuals new and experienced in campaigning for civil liberties attended.
Forty people gathered on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House on November 27 to protest against a new law that would make it an offence to cause serious harm to a pregnant woman. It was defeated by a single vote.   Introduced by Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire, the bill seeks to introduce "foetal personhood”, with penalties as severe as life in prison for causing what is termed in the bill “the death of the unborn child”.
The Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) released this open letter on November 22   *** Next year, on February 14, will be the 10th anniversary of the killing of the young Aboriginal man, TJ Hickey, as a consequence of the pursuit by the then Redfern police. For nine long years, the Hickey family has been campaigning for justice and for the proper legal punishment of those directly responsible for TJ’s death.
An important new work of labour history was launched on November 23 at the Melbourne Trades Hall. About 70 people heard author Douglas Jordan and Victoria University historian Phillip Deery mark the publication of Conflict in the Unions: The Communist Party of Australia, Politics and the Trade Union Movement, 1945-60.
Equal marriage rallies were held on November 23 in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.   About 500 people braved wet weather to march for  marriage equality in Melbourne. Speakers included  United Firefighters national secretary Peter Marshall. He said:  "How does a government have the right to say that your love is  not equal? This leads to less workplace rights than heterosexuals.  Unions do not like discrimination. You are supported, you will win this."

Analysis

When Japanese forces occupied French Indochina in 1941, it was not entirely without French opposition. But for the most part it was close to business-as-usual for the French in Vietnam. Japan left the French colonial administration intact, beholden now to Tokyo rather than Paris. It was oppression-as-usual for the Vietnamese, 2 million of whom Japanese forces starved to death in 1944.
Where has the year gone? It feels like 2013 has rushed past like the high-speed train we still don't have in wealthy 21st century Australia. And now, with just a month to go, we have the urgent task of catching up with the Green Left Fighting Fund. Our target for the year is $250,000, but so far only $160,338 has been raised. We will need some generous donations from our supporters to help us get there over the next four weeks.
Finally, Aussie pride is back after a dominant display in a crucial international contest. Sure, our side came in for criticism for aggressive bullying and disrespectful behaviour towards the opposition, but you can't argue with results. True, this was nothing so crucial to the fate of humanity as an Ashes Test. It was merely the United Nations Warsaw climate talks that ended on November 23 with no agreement for rich nations to severely cut the greenhouse emissions fuelling climate change or offer compensation to poor nations bearing the brunt of its increasingly devastating effects.

As a mother and her baby fight to avoid the “rat-infested” Nauru refugee camp, a Fairfax-Nielsen poll showed half of Australian voters disapprove of the Coalition government's refugee policy. The poll also showed Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come to the end of what has been described as the shortest “honeymoon period” of a PM in history. Abbott's popularity took an unprecedented dive — with a personal approval rating of 1%, believed to be fuelled by his attitude to the “diplomatic stand-off” with Indonesia over substantial spying allegations.

Peter Boyle interviewed Florencia Melgar, a former SBS journalist about her research into Australia's involvement in the 1973 military coup against the progressive government of Salvador Allende in Chile. Watch the full interview here. ***

A new battleground has opened over the introduction of “foetal personhood” laws as the anti-choice lobby tries to use these laws to roll back women’s reproductive rights. A private member’s bill giving legal rights to foetuses older than 20 weeks or weighing more than 400 grams passed the New South Wales lower house on November 21 by a large margin. A similar bill was introduced in the South Australian Legislative Council on November 27 by right-wing Christian party Family First. It lost by one vote. The Western Australian parliament considered a “foetal homicide” law last year.

Twenty-two people from Bourke and Enngonia are about to graduate from the first intake of the Yes I Can adult literacy campaign classes. This new way of learning literacy for adults originated in Cuba and now operates in 28 countries round the world. It came to Bourke and Enngonia after a successful trial last year in Wilcannia. Now it is set to spread further across the region. Jack Beetson, the national campaign coordinator, is overjoyed at the success in Bourke and Enngonia.
The Grattan Institute and the Productivity Commission both released reports on November 22 into the affect an ageing population will have on Australia’s economy. The Grattan Institute proposed that the pension age should be raised to 70, owner-occupiers should not be exempted from the Age Pension asset tests — meaning people could be forced to sell their home when they retire — and GST should be applied to fresh food. The Productivity Commission suggests access to the Age Pension and retirement should be linked to life expectancy — to continue rising as people live longer.
Australian oil and gas company AWE has signalled its intention to mine for unconventional gas on farmland bordering Western Australia’s Lesueur National Park. The proposal, released in October, includes plans to use the damaging process known as “fracking” to extract gas, starting in March next year. The national park is a environmentally significant area. It holds more than 900 different plant species and more than 10% of the total known flora of WA. It also holds seven species of declared rare fauna, and nine taxa found nowhere else in the world.

World

A special meeting of Toronto City Council was convened on November 18 to deal with the city’s “Ford problem”. It was the most bizarre chapter yet in the scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford. The meeting was convened by city councillors to adopt measures to reduce the power and financing of the mayor’s office. The council majority had supported Ford in office, but the politically well-connected conservative mayor had become a liability for business interests in the city.
Local citizens voted to create 169 new communes on November 24, deepening efforts to create forms of communal organisation in the South American country. A recent national census found there are more that 40,000 active communal councils in Venezuela. These are local participatory bodies that develop their communities and can receive public funding. Communes are based on groups of communal councils, and can take on larger -scale projects and economic activities.
Of the six nations that reached a preliminary deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program, five ― the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China ― have nuclear arsenals. Atomic weapons were first developed by the US, the only country to have used them against large urban populations twice, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two war crimes killed hundreds of thousands of people. The hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that the strongest opponent of Iran in the Middle East is Israel, which has hundreds of fission and hydrogen bombs.
Tony Abbott used one of the “surprise visits” to Australian occupation forces in Afghanistan, popular with Australian prime ministers, to announce on October 29 that Australia was withdrawing from the conflict. Aside from offering the standard praise of the Australian soldiers’ prowess and virtue, Abbott made very little attempt to justify the 12-year long war and occupation. “Australia’s longest war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that’s better for our presence here,” he said. 'War on Terrorism'
Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, a long time left-wing union and democracy activist in  Thailand, has been in jail since April 30, 2011. He faces a further 10 years jail under the repressive lese majeste (insulting the monarch) law. Somyot became active in the democracy movement as a high school student in the 1970s. In the '80s, he became a key figure in building genuine, democratic unionism.
Filep Karma is a 54-year-old West Papuan independence activist and long-term political prisoner. He is in jail for his non-violent political activities in the struggle for West Papuan self-determination. In 2004, Karma organised a Morning Star flag-raising ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of the Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule in 1961.
Nearly 1000 workers at the Ansell Lanka factory in Sri Lanka’s Biyagama Export Processing Zone have been on strike since October 11 in protest against the sacking of their union branch president. Later, 10 other union members were also sacked. The striking workers set up a camp at the bus stop outside the factory. The company obtained a court injunction banning the camp.
Undesirable: Captain Zuzenko & the Workers of Australia & the World By Kevin Windle Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013 274 pages, $39.95 (pb) On November 7, 1917, when the Winter Palace was stormed in Petrograd, sealing the victory of the Russian Revolution, Alexander Mikhailovich Zuzenko, one of the revolution’s most loyal servants, faced a local court in Ingham in northern Queensland. He was working on the canefields and was fined 10 shillings for losing his “aliens registration certificate”.
Australian-New Zealand mining company Oceana Gold has destroyed the isolated rural village of Didipio in the mountains of Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya, a province of the Philippines. Oceana Gold has operated one of six mining projects in the Philippines covered by the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) since 1994. Fierce resistance from villagers, legal struggles and the financial problems of the company meant it was only this year that Oceana Gold was able to ship out its first 5000 tons of copper-gold concentrate.
Over the past few months, plazas, airports and roads in Mexico City and several other cities across the country have been paralysed by teachers and their supporters. They have been protesting against neoliberal reforms to the public education system proposed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and recently approved by Congress. These so-called structural reforms to education coincide with other neoliberal attacks pushing the privatisation of education, oil and electricity industries.
Large-scale electoral fraud affected every aspect of the November 24 general elections in the Central American country of Honduras. This has sparked a huge political crisis, which matches and possibly surpasses the crisis produced by the coup d’etat that overthrew president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. The fraud has denied victory to Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro, the wife of Zelaya. LIBRE was formed by the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), which united many sectors that took part in the resistance to the coup.

Culture

There are times when the line between shock, rage and sadness become so blurred it is impossible to know when the flow of emotion ends or begins. The shock and rage come from hearing about an African-American student violently tormented by his three white housemates at San Jose State University in California. Thrown together randomly as first-year students tend to be, Logan Beaschler, 18, Joseph Bomgardner, 19, and Colin Warren, 18 found common cause in acts of racist sadism against their fourth housemate.
Tap Tap New Dub City Raspect Records November 18, 2013 www.newdubcity.com Melbourne dub-rap-reggae collective New Dub City have just released their politically punchy and sonically spotless second album, Tap Tap. Frontman, producer and author Ali MC spoke to Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward. ***