Issue 992

News

Hundreds of paramedics rallied on December 11 for a better deal from the Victorian government. Poor pay and long hours have adversely affected ambulance response times. Negotiations have been delayed 16 months by the Napthine government.
Three hundred firefighters gathered in Treasury Gardens on December 12 and marched to Parliament House to protest against inadequate staffing levels. United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the former ALP government had promised to employ 342 extra firefighters and had allocated money for this purpose. However, the Coalition government has failed to implement the planned increase. Marshall said that this puts community safety at risk. He said that the bushfires royal commission showed the need for more firefighters.
Refugee activists in Melbourne and Geelong rallied on December 20 to present a new "Code of Conduct" to the Immigration Department for Coalition ministers, after immigration minister Scott Morrison proposed a new "code of conduct" for asylum seekers.
Up to 500 people rallied in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy on December 15th to protest against the building of a proposed car tunnel – the so named East/West Link. The community rally was chaired by comedian Rod Quantock. Speakers included Yvonne Kirk from the Public Transport Users Association, Julianne Bell from the Protectors of Public Lands VIC, City of Yarra councillors Jackie Fristacky, Steve Jolly and Amanda Stone, and Mel Gregson from the group organising a picket to stop building.
The Environment Centre NT released this statement on December 7. *** Environment groups have called for an immediate halt to operations at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu following a major contamination leak. Around one million litres of highly acidic radioactive slurry has escaped from the mine’s containment area following the collapse of a tank in the processing area early in the morning on December 7.
Gelliondale Resources, a subsidiary of Melbourne company Ignite Energy Resources Limited, have applied for a “retention licence” for a project to mine brown coal at Gelliondale, in the South Gippsland region. The application includes a work program of “field exploration activities such as drilling, sampling, excavation of costeans or pits and surveying,” according to the company website.
After negotiating for 16 months, the Ambulance Employees Australia in Victoria say they are not much closer to securing a contract that gives them the pay levels they are seeking and protects the quality of their service to the public. On December 4, the union rejected the latest offer from the state government for a 12% pay rise over the next three years.
"The war in Colombia has been ongoing for decades, with little public discussion internationally," Oliver Villar, from the University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University, told a Sydney forum on November 30. The forum was organised by the solidarity organisation United for Colombia. "The roots of the conflict, and why peace is so difficult, lie in the country's history. It is a story of US imperialist domination, and Spanish colonialism before that, which left a semi-feudal system almost intact.
About 200 people gathered outside the Liberal Party headquarters in Melbourne on December 4 to protest against the decision to restrict abortion in Victoria. The Victorian Liberal Party state conference voted on December 1 to wind back Victoria's abortion laws, which were amended in 2008 to decriminalise the procedure and to require a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer a woman to another doctor without prejudice.
AID/WATCH, an independent monitor of Australia’s aid and trade, released the statement below on December 4, in response to allegations of AusAID involvement in spying on the East Timorese government. *** AID/WATCH has responded to the allegation that Australian government agencies, including AusAID, were involved in spying on the East Timorese cabinet room during sensitive meetings about oil and gas negotiations.
Not just the hall but the verandah of the Serbian Centre was packed when more than 300 people came to the first public meeting of Aquis Aware, a group formed in response to the proposed Aquis casino in one of the city’s beachside suburbs, Yorkeys Knob. The mega-resort would have nine hotels and big entertainment and sports venues. An environmental impact statement for the project has not been tabled, so details of the Aquis proposal are murky. But speakers were able to address many of the concerns of those present, most of who were opposed to or questioned the proposed development.
About 2000 people, including at least 1000 motorcyclists, attended a “ride and rally” in Brisbane on December 1. This was part of a series of rallies across the country held to protest against Queensland's anti-democratic laws that target bikers. Bikers from around Brisbane and nearby regional centres converged on state parliament where they were welcomed by supporters. The rally called for the new laws to be scrapped. Many recreational riders say they have been unfairly targeted and harassed by police since the laws were introduced.
This statement was released by the Queensland Civil Liberties Network on November 30. *** A packed meeting of more than 70 concerned citizens and representatives from community organisations founded a new campaigning organisation at Brisbane's Electrical Trades Union hall on November 27, responding to what organisers called "an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties in Queensland".

Analysis

The following is an edited version of a speech by Mary Merkenich at the December 15 rally against the Victorian government's proposed East-West Link tollway tunnel. Merkenich is on Manningham Council’s Residents Advocacy group for Rail to Doncaster, speaking here in personal capacity. Our residents group in Manningham is campaigning for a new rail line to Doncaster because it will reduce traffic and congestion on the Eastern Freeway.
The Rail Revival Alliance is a group formed in response to the Victorian coalition government’s Rail Revival feasibility study into returning passenger trains between Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo via Meredith and Newstead. After being let down by the previous state Labor government, the group is now determined to hold the coalition state government to their policy.
Socialist Alliance WA senate candidate Alex Bainbridge has added his voice to those rejecting a proposed $5 or $6 Medicare co-payment. "We should be moving in the direction of reducing out of pocket costs for medical care not increasing them," said Bainbridge. "The proposal to introduce a co-payment is a major attack on Medicare which has already been significantly undermined since it was first introduced," Bainbridge said.
In the late 1960s, I was given an usual assignment by the London Daily Mirror's editor-in-chief, Hugh Cudlipp. I was to return to my homeland, Australia, and "discover what lies behind the sunny face". The Mirror had been an indefatigable campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, where I had reported from behind the "sunny face". As an Australian, I had been welcomed into this bastion of white supremacy. "We admire you Aussies," people would say. "You know how to deal with your blacks."
In his opinion piece “Will Radicals Set Back the Marriage Equality Movement?”, OutInPerth editor Graeme Watson writes that Equal Love is threatened by a “socialist takeover”.
In a divestment valued at 256 million euros, the Norwegian government pension fund has blacklisted Australian company Incitec Pivot and the US/Canadian company Potash last year due to their phosphate imports from occupied Western Sahara.
In response to the announcement by General Motors from its corporate headquarters in Detroit that it will discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing and significantly reduce its engineering operations in Australia by the end of 2017, the Socialist Alliance calls for the immediate nationalisation of General Motors Holden (GMH) plants under workers' and community control.
The death of Nelson Mandela on December 5 has focused attention once more on the global struggle against South Africa's aparthied regime. The heroic struggle of the Black population inside South Afica and the solidarity shown by ordinary people around the world was essential to winning Mandela's freedom and dismantling apartheid.
In early February 1978, on the strength of a claimed turnover of $1 billion, the Australian Financial Review reported that “at this sort of growth rate Nugan Hand will soon be bigger than BHP.”
Communities in the firing line of the East-West Link road in Melbourne have been agitating not merely against the tunnel, but for a shift of transport priorities to public transport. Labor politicians, including Richard Wynn in the City of Yarra, have supported the campaign, and promised an alternative transport plan.
Samuel Johnson famously said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” and so it was that Attorney-General George Brandis insisted ASIO's raid against a former spy who exposed Australia's spying operation against East Timor in the interests of Woodside Petroleum was in “the national interest”. The raid targeted a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer who exposed the spying program Australia ran against the East Timorese government in 2004 during negotiations for the $40 billion Timor Sea oil and gas fields to which Woodside held the rights to develop.
Since launching in March 2011, the campaign to stop coal seam gas (CSG) mining has grown into one of the most powerful and broadly supported community campaigns ever seen in the Illawarra. Involving unprecedented numbers of people, the immense pressure on the government has so far put a stop to the local CSG project, which threatens the drinking water for greater Sydney.
This is the last issue of Green Left Weekly for the year. We are taking a break for a few weeks and the next issue will be out on January 22. Early next year, GLW will be celebrating its 1000th issue. This is a huge milestone for an independent newspaper that does not rely on advertising to survive. Instead, it is the support of hundreds of people who write for, distribute and donate money to the paper year after year that keeps it going.
More often than not I am not quick enough with a comeback and probably that is just as well. Just the other day, when I was out in the street distributing Green Left Weekly, a person roughly brushed past and muttered “traitor!” She walked on and from about two metres away turned around, aimed her beady eyes at a poster I had put up advertising a Christmas visit to refugees in detention and shouted: “You are traitors, that’s what you are!” “Give refugees some solidarity this Christmas,” was the headline on the poster.
At the national refugee protest in Canberra on November 18, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young concluded her speech by saying her first involvement in politics was through the refugee movement and that she used to come to rallies like this, until she realised that it was more important to change the minds of the people inside parliament, so she stood for parliament instead. I’ve heard Hanson-Young and Greens candidates make similar statements previously. I think such statements need to be challenged.
It’s wrong to think that we can campaign to stop climate change in the same way we might campaign to end a war. All the evidence says we are well past that stage now. That is, even if by some impossible, magical course of events all carbon pollution on Earth was stopped tomorrow, we’d still be in really, really deep trouble. So many greenhouse gases have been pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere that we have rushed far past the safe upper limit — the famous 350 parts per million of CO2, the number that climate action group 350.org took for its name.
Refugee rights advocates spent much of this year dreading the election of the Tony Abbott government and its predicted fallout for those seeking protection in Australia. What can they now expect in 2014?
Under the guise of “law and order” — to protect the community from “criminal bikie gangs” and “pedophiles” — Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has rushed through several new laws. These are the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act, Tattoo Parlours Act, Criminal Law Amendment Act and Dangerous Sex Offenders Act. Together with laws relating to the G20, and, amendments to industrial legislation, these laws have implications for the civil rights of the wider community.
The unity discussions between the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative have come to an end. In a November 3 letter on behalf of the Socialist Alternative National Executive, Mick Armstrong wrote: “The overall political projects of both organisations are not sufficiently similar to carry through a sustained and productive unity that could advance the cause of the revolutionary left in Australia and the broader class struggle.” The Socialist Alternative letter lists four major political differences:
"Qantas in crisis: 1000 jobs to go; Warning of $300 million loss; [federal transport minister Warren] Truss rules out aid," was the dramatic headline on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald on December 5. The deep problems ailing Australia's national airline pose a clear choice between two options: allow the airline to battle on in the chaos of the international airline wars, or re-nationalise Qantas as a key part of a socially progressive and environmentally sustainable public transport policy.
Ninety two percent of Indigenous languages are fading or extinct. Australia has suffered the largest and most rapid known loss of languages and past government policies have been largely to blame. This is clearly outlined in the Our Land: Our Languages report which was released by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs late last year.

World

At least three strikers were killed on January 3 when police in Cambodia opened fire to break up a protest by garment workers. Phnom Penh Municipal Police deputy head Chuon Narin claimed three were killed and two others wounded in a suburb of the capital. Police fired AK-47 rifles after several hundred workers blocking a road began burning tyres and throwing objects at them. Police described the protesters as "anarchists destroying public and private property".
More than 500,000 houses have been built since mid 2011 under the Venezuelan government’s mass housing building construction program. Launched by former president Hugo Chavez to tackle the South American country’s shortage of affordable housing, the program has the ambitious aim of building three million new homes by 2019.
On Christmas Eve, the Queen of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Commonwealth deigned to pardon one of the 20th century’s most important mathematicians of the crime of homosexuality. In 1952, Alan Turing was tried and convicted of engaging in sex with other men. He was presented with the choice of prison or chemical castration. He chose the latter, estrogen treatments that caused him to grow breasts, made him impotent, and drove him to depression.
Striking Cambodian shoe and clothing workers have blocked roads and scuffled with police. At least seven people were injured and seven others arrested after clashes between the workers and riot police, local rights monitors said. Community Legal Education Centre spokesman Huy Pichsovann said that police had beaten the marching workers with truncheons. After the clash thousands of workers led by two of Cambodia's biggest unions blocked roads in front of the Labour Ministry.
A group of Australian solidarity activists visited Venezuela during the December municipal elections in order to find out more about the Bolivarian revolution and strengthen solidarity between the peoples of the two countries. The visit was organised by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and was the 14th solidarity brigade the organisation has conducted to Venezuela since 2005. The brigade was also the AVSN’s first since former president Hugo Chavez passed away last March.
“The national mobilisation called for by Xiomara Castro on Friday night became a massive, angry funeral procession today in Tegucigalpa,” the Honduras Resists blog reported on November 30 on the protests against the theft of the Honduran elections six days earlier.
Supporters of the Venezuelan government celebrated their victory in the municipal elections held on December 8. Analysts have commented that results indicate President Nicolas Maduro has “reconnected” with the social base of the Chavista movement. The first results announced gave the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) victory in 58% of the country’s municipalities. The PSUV and its allies gained more than 49% of the total vote share versus 43% for the opposition.
The usual boilerplate announcements that “significant progress” was achieved in the just-concluded round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations cannot hide that public opposition is growing. The United States seems to be having difficulty bullying its negotiating partners. The TPP, being negotiated in secret between the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. These countries account for 40$ of the world economy. Japan has recently joined talks.
Venezuelan President has Nicolas Maduro announced a raft of new regulatory measures as part of his ongoing “offensive” to deal with the country’s economic problems. In a television interview on December 1, Maduro said the government’s economic policies were aimed at “stabilising” the economy in order to be able to develop a “productive” economic model. This year, Venezuela has experienced shortages in several basic food and household goods, a black market dollar worth ten times the government-set exchange rate, and annual inflation of 54%.
Election results are often contested, which is one reason why governments sometimes invite official observer missions from inter-governmental bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) or European Union (EU). But there are times and places when these outside groups do not provide much independent observation. On November 24, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about whether a free and fair election was possible in the climate of intimidation and violence that prevailed in the country.
More than 400 members of the Left Unity party project gathered in London on November 30 for the party's founding conference. The fledgling project has its origins in a call earlier in the year for a new party to the left of Labour made by veteran left film maker Ken Loach. Against the backdrop of the most brutal austerity experienced in Britain for generations and with the British left fractured, the call met with strong support.
“For millions of people, the European dream has turned into a nightmare,” Alexis Tspiras, the leader of Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), said in a November 28 opinion piece in The Guardian. Tsipras was explaining why he will campaign on behalf of the European Left party for president of the European commission in elections next May. He said he was driven by the “desire to reunite Europe and rebuild it on a democratic and progressive basis. There is an alternative to the present crisis and it is our duty and destiny to fight for it.”
More than 1000 students protested against the closure of the Jaffna University on December 2, TamilNet said. The university was reopened that day after several weeks of closure. All universities in Sri Lanka had been closed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to prevent them being used as organising centres for protests. But in the case of Jaffna University, situated in the predominantly Tamil north of the island, the closure was prolonged to prevent students from marking Heroes Day on November 27.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced the first results of the Venezuelan municipal elections held on December 8. Mayors and local councilors were elected for the country’s 335 municipalities, as well as the metropolitan mayor of Caracas. CNE president Tibisay Lucena read out the results. Turnout was 58.92%, with 97% of votes counted so far. The results for 77% of mayoralties were announced, with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its allies winning 196 so far, of the 257 mayoral position results that are so far irreversible.
Hundreds of community activists gathered in downtown Caracas on November 16 and 17 to demonstrate their steadfast support for the socialist policies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro used the occasion to repeat: “Venezuela’s communes must be consolidated if we are to truly carry out the program elaborated by our leader, Hugo Chavez.”
Is that a faint glimmer light at the end of the European economic tunnel? Or is it just a bunch of conservative politicians brandishing torches and yelling: “Look, a light at the end of the tunnel”? The “Light-At-The-End-Of-The-Tunnel” mantra is a vital part of conservative government strategy in depressed Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Spain (the European “periphery”). Every skerrick of non-disastrous economic news gets boosted as proof of a coming resurrection ― and one more reason why people should forget about revolt in the streets or ballot box.
'Mandela led fight against apartheid, but not against extreme inequality.' Patrick Bond spoke to Real News Network on December 5. Read the full transcript.
While the governments of the United States, Britain and Israel provided support to South Africa's arpatheid regime, the Cuban Revolution helped the anti-apartheid forces, sending thousands of volunteers in the 1970s and '80s to help Angolan forces defeat the apartheid regime's war on their country. On his release from prison, Cuba was one of the first places Mandela visited to thank the Cuban people for their assistence. The article below is abridged from a piece originally published in Green Left Weekly #23 in 1991. * * *
Hundreds of people have been arrested and some killed as Indonesian authorities crack down on events commemorating the declaration of West Papua's independence. On December 1, West Papuans mark the first raising of the Morning Star flag, a symbol of West Papuan independence. On that day in 1961, the flag was raised by the New Guinea Council, the parliament in the then-Dutch colony. Soon after the ceremony, Indonesia invaded West Papua, claiming it was part of its campaign to liberate the Dutch colonies of the East Indies.
“When we went out, it was like a Zombieland,” Zoreen Agustin, a student at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Tacloban campus told me on December 2. “A lot of people were walking around, some with no shoes and their clothes all torn, a lot of people were covered in cuts.” She was referring to what she saw after Tacloban, and much of the Eastern Visayas region, were demolished by Super Typhoon Yolanda (known as Typhoon Haiyan outside the Philippines) on November 8. The storm, one of the strongest on record to hit land, killed anywhere between 5000 and 10,000 people.
Nearly 50 years ago, in 1964, Nelson Mandela ― along with many other comrades in the struggle for the liberation of South Africa from racist white domination under apartheid ― was sentenced to life in prison. His statement to the court, made when he was facing the real threat of execution, remains a historic demonstration of defiance and resistance.
Violent clashes have once again erupted between local people, police and company security guards at the giant Porgera gold and silver mine in Papua New Guinea's highlands, operated and largely owned by the Canadian corporation Barrick Gold – the world's biggest gold mining company.
A semblance of calm has returned to Bangkok as the royalist anti-democratic Yellow Shirt protesters were allowed to symbolically occupy Government House. They took pictures and left. A temporary truce has occurred around the king’s birthday (December 5), since the royalists did not want to appear disrespectful to their “dear leader”.
England is two countries. One is dominated by London, the other remains in its shadow. When I first arrived from Australia, it seemed no one went north of Watford and those who had emigrated from the north worked hard to change their accents and obscure their origins, and learn the mannerisms and codes of the southern comfortable classes. Some would mock the life they had left behind. They were changing classes, or so they thought.

Culture

Over 200 people laughed until it hurt at the 'Welcome to the Abbottoir' comedy night held in Sydney on November 9. Featuring Michael Hing (as seen on SBS TV), Twiggy Palmcock (famous for crashing Tony Abbott's election night party), Hannah G (Newcastle-based comedian) and Carlo Sands (Green Left Weekly), the evening was organised by Green Left Weekly and filmed by Green Left TV. Watch all four performances below.
Phoenix Jimblah Elefant Traks 2013 www.elefanttraks.com Most people fear fire, but Jimblah embraces it. The element flares up again and again in the rapper's searingly original work - from his first album, Face The Fire, to the one that just rose from its ashes, Phoenix.
Scandal! A Radical Burlesque Performed by Lush Cabaret Produced by Zelda Da Political cabaret is alive and well in regional Queensland as audiences flocked to the latest production by Lush Cabaret ― Scandal! A Radical Burlesque ― which was performed in Cairns from November 27 to 30. The talented cast and crew presented a fantastical romp through Australia's political landscape with the thrills and spills of burlesque, along with the bite of incisive political satire.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth & Donald Sutherland Directed by Francis Lawrence In cinemas now The Hunger Games brings revolution to the big screen in an action-packed film adaption of author Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. The second film, Catching Fire, takes off nicely where the first left off. It lifts the bar in every aspect, from the intensity of the storyline, to the performances and production quality.
Conflict In The Unions: The Communist Party of Australia, Politics & the Trade Union Movement, 1945-60 By Douglas Jordan Resistance books, 2013 312 page, $30 Conflict In The Unions is an important new book examining the union activity of the Communist Party of Australia during a very turbulent time in Australian and world politics. The book looks at the period of 1945-'60, when the Cold War reached its height.
Green Left Weekly is taking a break for the summer from December 11 to January 22. To fill the void, it asked staff, contributors and others to recommend their favourite books of the year. Rachel Evans Green Left Weekly writer, activist, organiser How to Make Trouble and Influence People By Iain McIntyre http://goo.gl/l7GOfx

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Visit www.links.org.au for more. Wildcat strikes push China to write new anti-labour laws More than 30 years since China opened up to foreign investment, wildcat strikes surge month after month, says Ellen David Friedman. This raw resistance has generally gotten employers to give in to strikers’ economic demands. The struggle for ecology under socialism