Issue 994

News

Email your message of support to: 1000thissue@greenleft.org.au * * * Jock Palfreeman, Justice for Jock Our relationship started out in 2002 when I was only 15. In Parramatta we met for the first time and I didn’t know what to make of you at first. I was shy but our relationship flourished and you became more than just a newspaper to me. You taught me more than just the weekly news.
January 26 is officially celebrated as Australia Day, but for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (and anyone who values the truth) it is known as Invasion Day or Survival Day. This is the day when British colonial authorities arrogantly laid claim to this continent, opening an era of brutal dispossession, genocide and racism.
The Socialist Alliance is running two candidates in the Tasmanian state election on March 15. Whether Labor or the Liberals form government after March 15, Tasmanians can expect to see “prioritising of big business over the interests of the general public and the continuing privatising of essential public services,” Jenny Forward, the Socialist Alliance's candidate for the electorate of Franklin, told Green Left Weekly.
Five hundred ambulance workers rallied outside the Doncaster Ambulance Station in Victoria on January 22. Led by Ambulance Employees Australia (AEA), workers have been fighting for pay equity with ambulance workers in other Australian states and to protect their conditions for 18 months. The rally began with spirited chants, such as “won’t surrender, won’t back down, paramedics stand their ground.” Many car drivers passing the rally blew their horns in support.
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings sacked Greens ministers Nick McKim and Cassie O’Connor from cabinet on January 15 — the same day that she announced a state election would be held in March. The Greens have shared power with Labor since a minority government was elected in 2010. But the deal has proven unpopular with Labor voters and Giddings has ruled out a power-sharing deal with the Greens in future.
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett's unpopular shark cull policy is facing legal and political hurdles as activists plan protest actions for February 1. On January 22, the media reported that an unidentified fisher had been contracted to administer the baitlines along the south-west coast of WA, even though he admitted to have “practically no experience as a shark fisher”. He had a “direct line” to police should his activities be interfered with, he said.
Tamil people and their supporters rallied on January 20 against the detention of 46 refugees who have been held for years even though they have been recognised by the Australian government as genuine refugees. Most of these refugees are Tamils from Sri Lanka. They are being held because they have negative security assessments by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Negative ASIO decisions have, in effect, condemned these refugees to a life sentence.
Wong Tack, the chairperson of the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly) environmental group which has been campaigning against the Australian company Lynas' toxic rare earth refinery in Malaysia, was manhandled and pushed up against a wall by security personnel when his group peacefully protested at the "Australia Day" celebration held in Kuala Lumpur on January 22. READ MORE: 'A million Malaysians say shut polluter Lynas' The invitation-only event was hosted by the Australian High Commission and was attended by Lynas executives.
More than 200 people attended a rally on January 18 in Goddard Park, Concord, in Sydney's inner west, to protest against the WestConnex motorway project. The rally was organised by the WestCon Action Group, which is campaigning against the NSW and federal governments' $11.5 billion tollway-tunnel plan — Australia's single most expensive road project.
On February 14, 2004, as a consequence of a police pursuit, a Redfern police car driven by Constable Michael Hollingsworth rammed TJ Hickey’s bicycle. As a result, he was impaled on a spiked metal fence. The police did not follow proper medical practice and he died in hospital the next day. This year will be the 10-year anniversary of his death. The Hickey family, with the support of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, will be rallying at the fence line on the corner of George and Phillip streets in Waterloo to mark the occasion.

Analysis

Many people gasped when they read that an Oxfam study found that the richest 85 people in the world own the same wealth as the poorest half of the global population. It is shocking and unconscionable. It is grossly unfair and unjust. But it is much more than this. This unimaginable concentration of wealth condemns the liveability of the planet and makes permanent war inescapable – for how else but through ruthless violence can this wealth and power of the privileged few be maintained?
It has been a long and horrifying two months for refugees and asylum seekers seeking protection in Australia. Many new directives, plans and an increasingly brutal border control regime have led to a mounting crisis that legal experts are increasingly referring to as criminal. Here are five ways the government have made the treatment of asylum seekers worse. CLOSING DETENTION CENTRES IN AUSTRALIA TO EXPAND OFFSHORE
When the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found that former union official, John Maitland, and former NSW ALP minister for primary industries, Ian Macdonald, had engaged in corrupt conduct over the granting of a coal exploration licence at Doyles Creek, they said the licence was tainted by corruption and should be declared void.
The one thing that we can expect with some confidence this year is an increase in unemployment. An analysis of Australian employment statistics for 2013 shows that jobs growth was at its lowest level for more than 20 years. Last year, unemployment increased by more than 5000 people a month. In the month of December, the economy lost 23,000 jobs, making last year the weakest calendar year of jobs growth since 1992. The number of officially unemployed increased by more than 9% to 722,000.
Australian Services Union leader Sally McManus has compiled a list of 85 broken promises or other attacks on Australians by the Abbott government since the federal election. Prominent on the list are attacks on refugee rights, workers' rights, public services and the environment. They include: abolition of the Climate Commission, abolition of the High Speed Rail Advisory Group and formal attempts to wind back the world heritage listing of Tasmania's forests.
A private member’s bill was successfully passed on November 21 last year to remove abortion from Tasmania’s criminal code. Tasmania has joined the ACT and Victoria in decriminalising abortion. Until then, the criminal code set out the limitations of when an abortion is not lawful and when and how it can be lawfully obtained. Mandatory counselling was also imposed on women. These limitations were so restrictive that abortion access was minimal and women and doctors faced the real or perceived threat of criminal charges being laid against them.
If one country plays host to the armed forces of another, it has either been invaded or invited the second country in. If the latter, this is indicative of some level of inadequacy on the part of the first country; an inability to fully take care of itself — the classical colonial situation, in which the superior country offers an inferior one “protection” from some third power presenting a threat. Does Australia need protection? The northern coast of Australia was attacked during World War II, so the nation is clearly vulnerable to a military offensive.
As Green Left Weekly approaches its 1000th issue, more than 20 years after it first hit the streets, we will be looking back at some of the campaigns it has covered and its role as an alternative source of news. *** When Green Left Weekly was launched in 1991, it was conceived as a way to bridge the gap between ecological and socialist politics. At the time, environmental politics had emerged as an important new force, which was not always taken seriously by the existing left.
I am clearly a pretty tough guy. I mean I must be, seeing as I've been going out and getting drunk quite frequently in Sydney for years now and have never once been assaulted. True, I don't exactly “work out”, and I look more like a deflated beanbag than a Mr Universe contender, but as anyone who reads the Daily Telegraph will tell you, the city is in the grip of an out-of-control tidal wave of drunken violence.
In recent weeks, federal education minister Christopher Pyne announced a review of the national curriculum. The key purpose of Pyne’s review is to divert attention from the much-needed Gonski funding. Pyne believes that the widening gap in the educational performance of students from low socio-economic backgrounds is due to a low-grade politically correct national curriculum foisted upon them by the “cultural left”.
SOMETIMES in life, you can feel pretty helpless. That said, I’m a privileged white guy in a privileged white society. So for me at least, it doesn’t happen very often. It happened last year. John Pilger is a journalist I grew up reading, and a large part of the reason why I entered journalism. Pilger was back in Australia making Utopia, his fourth film about the plight of Aboriginal Australians. He asked me to work on it with him.

World

About 300 West African refugees reached the German city of Hamburg early last year after a long and perilous journey from Libya. They had, like countless other refugees travelling from north Africa, crossed the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa the name that the group of 300 later adopted for themselves. The refugees had hoped to receive refugee status from the German state. However, authorities, deferring to European Union guidelines, refused to provide them with any sort of accommodation and tried to expel them from Hamburg.
A wave of protests has broken out in recent months against militias in Libya’s cities. The militias are armed groups originally formed during the 2011 civil war. Most are based in a particular town or region, but they sometimes try to exercise power over a wider area. There is widespread resentment at their arbitrary exercise of power. One protester told the Libya Herald that the militias “terrorise, steal and kidnap people”.
The Venezuelan government plans to continue its land expropriations this year in its push to move towards what it terms “agrarian socialism”. In the 2014 national budget, the government’s National Land Institute (INTI) sets its aim to expropriate 350,000 hectares of land this year. This compares with the goals of 350,000 and 397,000 hectares of land the government sought to expropriate in 2012 and last year respectively. The government began to increase the pace of land expropriations in 2011.
Communes and social movements have demanded the Venezuelan government combat the assassination of rural activists in the mountains of western Venezuela, which they say is undermining communal organising in the region. The assassinations are taking place in the mountains of the western state of Lara. In response to the latest murder of an activist in the region, a group of 21 communes and more than 20 social movements, human rights groups and community media outlets released a statement on January 18 denouncing the situation of growing insecurity in the area.
Having leaked the disturbing details in the chapter on intelectual property rights in the secret proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) last year, WikiLeaks released the TPP's environment chapter on January 15.
The Manila Seedling Bank, a seven hectare area of small market gardens and big and small shops selling plants, was a rare green space among the traffic jams, shopping malls and slums on the intersection of Quezon and Edsa Avenues in Quezon City, Metro Manila. It was also home to a community of hundreds of smallholding horticulturalists and their families. That was until January 20.
After almost four years in jail without charge, Irish prisoner of conscience Martin Corey was released from custody on January 15. But he was only freed on condition he stay away from the media and his home town or face a return to jail. Corey was hidden from members of the press who had gathered outside the Maghaberry jail, in the six counties in Ireland's north still claimed by Britain, on the night of January 15. The 63-year-old was taken out in a blacked-out prison van directly to a train station, where he was released to his lawyer.
To an almost audible sigh of relief from its tens of thousands of activists, the two main forces in France’s nine-party Left Front ― the French Communist Party and the Left Party of Jean-Luc Melenchon ― have called a halt to hostilities. The infighting was undermining the front's chances in France’s March municipal elections and those of the aligned Party of the European Left in the May 25 European poll.
Cheang Thida (pictured below) is a young woman local union leader of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) at Kin Tai Factory in Phnom Penh. Last December she led 10,000 workers on a legal and peaceful strike demanding a minimum wage that satisfies the workers' basic needs. As a consequence, she was sacked from her job making Armani Jeans.
“The richest 85 people in the world, who could fit onto a single double-decker bus, have just as much wealth as the poorest half of world,” Huffington Post said on January 20. The statistic was revealed by non-government organisation Oxfam in a new report, Working for the Few.
In five-star hotels on Mumbai's seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India's Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.
I was deeply saddened to read the article by Anne Elizabeth Moore titled “What’s the Price of Workers’ Lives in Cambodia?” published on January 17 in the US-based Truth-out.org website. This story contained an outrageous attack on the Cambodian garment workers demonstration over the minimum wage by a well-known Cambodian blogger, academic and human rights activist Sopheap Chak.

Culture

When Nadine Angerer, German goalkeeper for the Brisbane Roar W-League football (soccer) team, won the 2013 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, it highlighted the quality of women's football in Australia. However, as Aron Micallef highlights in the article below, it remains severely underdeveloped in contrast to its male equivalent. The article first appeared on Micallef's Attacking From the Left sports blog. * * *
If I Had a Hammer David Rovics Liberation Records, 2013 Fans of radical US singer-songwriter David Rovics will welcome his latest CD, If I had a Hammer, a compilation of three albums recorded last year and released in December. And those not familiar with his mix of angry, satirical, pensive and informative folk punk songs of struggle should check out this 23-track marathon introduction to some of the recent offerings of this prolific artist.
Alienation: An Introduction to Marx’s Theory By Dan Swain Bookmarks, 2012 The human race lives in a terrible contradiction. Quite obviously, there is enough wealth to create a decent life for every person on the planet. Yet, billions suffer deprivation and are denied basic human rights so that the capitalist profit-making system can maintain itself.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Inequality the issue for 2014 With everyone from Pope Francis to US President Barack Obama bemoaning the effect that inequality is having on the world today, the national director of New Zealand's Unite union Mike Treen says it has become a decisive issue across the world. But, to tackle inequality, Treen says we must go to its source -- capitalism. Protests as military drags Egypt back to dictatorship