Issue 995

Australia

Unions and community groups have strongly criticised a bill that aims to give Victorian police unprecedented power to disband protests and ban individuals from taking part in protest activity.

The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 will increase powers available to police under “move on” laws.

Friends of the Earth released this statement on January 30.

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A research report by environment group Friends of the Earth shows the financial cost to governments and the community in Victoria from natural disasters was $19.9 billion over a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013.

About 7000 people rallied at Cottesloe Beach in Perth on February 1 to protest against the shark cull being carried out under the orders of the Western Australian Liberal government. This follows large protests in January when the plan was first proposed.

Similar actions took place in cities around Australia and New Zealand. About 1500 people gathered at Manly Beach in Sydney, and 500 people rallied at the Melbourne State Library and then marched to Flinders Street station.

See 'Thousands protest shark cull'.

“Steve's case is really a case about all of us,” renowned Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva said in support of organic farmer Steve Marsh.

It is about the right to “have the freedom to eat healthy, safe organic food”.

Marsh lives in Kojanup in Western Australia, and is embroiled in a landmark “David v Goliath” legal case about the effects of genetically modified (GM) crops on his farm.

Hundreds of residents rallied on January 26 in response to a proposal to build a large residential island between 200 metres and one kilometre off Nightcliff Beach.

The proposal, dubbed “Nightcliff Island”, was revealed in Northern Territory parliament in June last year. Approval has only been given for exploration at this point but environmentalists are concerned about the impact on fauna-rich mangroves in the area.

Unions NSW has endorsed a “Stop Abbott: Save Medicare” rally planned for February 15, 1pm, at Town Hall Square.

Mark Lennon, secretary of Unions NSW, will speak at the action with representatives of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and the Health Services Union.

Other speakers will include members of the Doctors Reform Society, Aboriginal and pensioner organisations, and political parties. The main rally demands are: no fees for GPs, free and fully funded health care, and no privatisation or cuts.

Australian activists have written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling on him to recognise East Timor's rights under international law to oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

The Melbourne-based Timor Sea Justice Campaign is calling on Australia to “enter discussions about the establishment of permanent maritime boundaries in accordance with current international law. In situations such as this, current international law overwhelmingly favors a ‘median line’ solution – a line halfway between the two coastlines.”

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released this statement on January 30.

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Mothers in Darwin detention centres are growing increasingly despondent as immigration minister Scott Morrison’s cruel suite of policies takes effect.

Darwin detention centres are increasingly being used as holding centres for pregnant women who, six weeks after they give birth in Royal Darwin Hospital, are removed back to Christmas Island and the threat of deportation.

On January 28, the NSW government announced coal seam gas (CSG) reforms, including exclusion zones and a gateway process for some of the state's farmland. Under these “finalised” reforms, 96.6% of NSW can still be developed for CSG mining, including drinking water catchments.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore stated: "These exclusion zones are a win for the campaign and for the people of NSW, but they are not enough to protect land and water.

"The gateway process cannot block CSG proposals. Under these reforms 96.6% of the state can still be developed for CSG mining.

World

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for an “eradication” of “colonialism” in Latin America at the annual summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

During the summit held in Cuba’s capital, Havana, over January 28 and 29, Maduro called for Puerto Rican independence and an end to British administration of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, to which Argentina claims sovereignty.

Puerto Rico was offered full membership of CELAC under a proposal made to the summit by Venezuela.

Workers across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico united in an Inter-Continental Day of Action on January 31 to stop a massive new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — commonly referred to as “NAFTA on steroids.”

In the U.S., the immediate fight is to block a bill that would grant the president “fast track” authority to sign off on the TPP. Defeating fast track would likely stop the TPP.

Fast track is designed to swiftly pass trade deals, circumventing the standard Congressional procedures of hearings, debates, and resolutions.

If a socialist can win an election in Seattle, why not Chicago? That was the spirit at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull House Museum on January 22, where close to 100 Chicagoans gathered for the founding meeting of the Chicago Socialist Campaign.

Victories are rare in the ongoing struggle against the sell-off of public services in southern Europe. So when one occurs as big as the recent defeat of the Madrid regional government’s plans to privatise hospital and community health centre management, it should be enjoyed to the full.

The crowning moment in the 15-month-long battle to keep administration of six hospitals, four specialist centres and 27 community health centres in Madrid in public hands came on January 27. That afternoon, a gloomy regional premier, Ignacio Gonzalez, announced the suspension of the privatisation.

Salih Muslim is co-president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syria-based Kurdish party fighting for self-determination. The PYD is a sister party of the left-wing Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The party is the ruling force in the Kurdish areas of Syria and took over three enclaves with Kurdish majorities in 2012.

Thousands of railway workers returned to work on December 31 after a three-week strike. The workers were striking against government plans to set up a subsidiary company to operate a KTX bullet train service in competition with the state-run carrier Korail.

The 22-day strike was the longest railway strike in South Korean history. Workers across the world held solidarity actions in support of the workers.

East Timor has taken Australia to an international court in an effort to take control over large oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

But this isn't the only time the Timorese have come up against Australia ― which has sought to impose its interests on the former Portuguese colony in recent decades.

The Portuguese had a presence in Timor from 1509, trading sandalwood, converting Timorese to Catholicism and fighting against the Dutch for control. In 1859, the Treaty of Lisbon finally stopped the colonial conflict, dividing the island into the Dutch western half and Portuguese east.

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like your kids mixing with problem families, the type who are always getting arrested, you wouldn’t want them going near Tony Blair, would you?

Five times now he’s been the subject of a citizen’s arrest. This fits with what the police often say, that the vast majority of crimes are committed by a handful of repeat-offending troublemakers.

Whenever he’s asked in interviews about the war that caused his problems, he gives an exasperated sigh and says: “Oh look, I mean, huh, we’ve been through this many times before.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on the people of Falluja to rise up on January 6 and drive out armed groups affiliated to al-Qaeda.

News accounts reported that Falluja had “completely fallen” to the Islamist fighters. The Iraqi army was poised to retake the city, said Maliki. He asked Sunni tribes to help.

Sunni fighters had already taken to the streets, the BBC said, not to help expel the Islamists, but to resist any assault by Maliki's forces.

Once a year, the world's political and business leaders flock to a small town in the Alps to drink champagne, chow down on fondue and chocolate-covered strawberries, hit the ski slopes, bathe in hot tubs and exchange business cards as they congratulate themselves on the fine job they're doing running things.

Oh, and while in Davos, Switzerland, they also take part in the World Economic Forum (WEF), which took place from January 22-25.

Division among ruling circles in the United States and internationally about what to do about the revelations of wholesale NSA spying continues to deepen.

A January 17 speech by US President Barack Obama, which was supposed to move the discussion forward, was a flop. Polls indicate it failed to change people’s minds.

He gave his usual “on the one hand, and on the other” type speech trying to appease both sides, but came down in defence of the NSA program.

“Seattle’s only Socialist City Council member announced Monday that she will make good on a campaign pledge and accept only [US]$40,000 a year in salary — bringing her down to the average wage of a worker in the city,” NBCNews.com said on January 27.

Many people may wonder why Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party’s government, which came to power supported by the poor-based Red Shirt mass movement, seems to be paralysed in the face of violent and criminal actions by Sutep Tuaksuban's Democrat Party mob.

It is not due to “invisible hands” from the throne or covert military support for Sutep. In fact, the top elites regard Sutep and his acolytes as lowly street gangsters.

The Democrat Party’s mad dogs unleashed violence around Bangkok’s voting stations on January 26.

Voting stations throughout the country were supposed to be open for people to cast their votes before the February 2 general election. Advanced voting is a required service since it is compulsory for people to cast their ballot.

In many areas of Bangkok, angry residents argued with the anti-democratic protesters. They also protested against local election commissioners who closed voting stations whether or not they were surrounded by Sutep Tuaksuban’s Democrat Party thugs.

Bill Gates is worried -- too many people are talking about raising the minimum wage. Appropriately, the world’s richest man spoke on the eve of the World Economic Summit in Davos.

Gates is a great symbol of the Davos summit, an annual away day for global capitalism.There, the world’s 1% mouth concerns about poverty and climate change while working on policies that fuel inequality.

Analysis

In the first issue of Green Left Weekly for this year, we announced the campaign to raise $100,000 in pledges for GLW by its 1000th issue, due March 12.


 Congratulation messages for Green Left Weekly, 1000th issue celebration details, and more here.


People-powered media since 1991

On March 12 this year the 1000th issue of Green Left Weekly will be published. We are marking this significant milestone by launching a special fund appeal. The aim is to raise $100,000 in pledges and donations by March 12. These funds will ensure that Green Left Weekly continues as an independent source of news and analysis.

AMAZINGLY our readers and supporters took us over the target three weeks before our 1000th issue!

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.

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The first editorial of Green Left Weekly, urging the Bob Hawke government to not lift sanctions against South Africa until apartheid was completely dismantled, set the anti-racist tone of the paper.

Gunns Limited, the Launceston-based company that made a fortune turning Tasmanian forests into woodchips for Japanese papermakers, has had a long relationship with Tasmanian premiers and government ministers.

In 1989, the chairman of Gunns, Edmund Ruse, was convicted by a Royal Commission of trying to bribe Labor MP Jim Cox into crossing the floor to allow the pro-logging Liberal Party headed by Robin Gray to assume power.

The Abbott government has sunk to a new diplomatic low, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop suggesting Israeli settlements should not be considered illegal.

Bishop made the comments during a visit to Israel. In a January 15 interview with the Times of Israel, she argued “the issue of settlements is absolutely and utterly fundamental to the negotiations that are under way and I think it’s appropriate that we give those negotiations every chance of succeeding”.

NSW Mining has sponsored a radio competition on one of Sydney’s top-rated breakfast shows, in which a listener has the chance to win $1 million if they register to be a “miner”.

The promotional poster for the competition, which features hosts Amanda Keller and Brendan Jones wearing miners’ hard hats, carries the slogan: “NSW Mining. Good for jobs. Good for Sydney’s economy.”

When registering, participants have the option to receive more information from NSW Mining.

Sydney’s Botany Bay was named by Captain James Cook while he was investigating this “great Southern continent” for the British empire in 1770. His exploration led to the First Fleet’s settlement in the area on January 26, 1788, and the beginning of 226 years of massacres, dispossession and abuse of the land’s first people.

So the graffiti discovered along the western shoreline of the bay reading “Fuck Australia Day, no pride in genocide” and on the front of Captain Cook’s heritage cottage in Melbourne labelling January 26 “Australia’s shame” had a symbolic point to their messages.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on January 31.

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The Socialist Alliance condemns the federal government's attempts to use allegations of criminality in the building and construction industry to launch a full-scale attack on the union movement.

Fairfax media and the ABC’s 7.30 raised the serious allegations of corruption, which relied on statements from a few individuals in the building industry, including a builder and a former employee of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU).

A 40-year-old library assistant, Sally Kuether, was arrested and charged on January 24 under Queensland’s controversial anti-bikie laws.

She has been charged under new laws that prohibit more than two alleged bikies from meeting in public.

The mother-of-three met her partner Phillip Palmer and friend Ronald Germain at the Dayboro Hotel, north-west of Brisbane, on December 19. The ABC said they were supposedly “wearing club colours” and were “alleged associates of the Life And Death motorcycle club”.

The right-wing war on renewables is heating up as the Tony Abbott government announces yet another investigation into wind energy and health, and a review of the Renewable Energy Target.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has called for Australia Post to expand its services to include banking and insurance. The postal workers' union said this would help strengthen Australia Post as a public enterprise, while challenging the power of the big four banks and improving services in regional and rural areas.

So now reporting the news is Un-Australian.

This is the line from prime minister and proud Australian Tony Abbott, strongly backed by media owned by proud Australian and American-citizen-for-tax-purposes Rupert Murdoch, whose Daily Telegraph screamed on its January 30 front page, “PM brands ABC un-Australian: THE ABC OF TREACHERY.”

The day before, Abbott told Sydney shock jock Ray Hadley: “A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone's side but Australia's.”

Culture

Invasion Day 2014 Mixtape
Brisbane Blacks
Released January 26, 2014
www.1stnationsmobb.bandcamp.com

As countless Australians donned their Cronulla capes and sank slabs of piss this Australia Day, non-profit publication Brisbane Blacks marked the occasion by releasing a free album full of protest songs.

Banjo-picking American troubadour Pete Seeger died on January 27 at the age of 94. In a career that spanned eight decades, he sang for migrant workers, peace activists and anti-capitalists.

Seeger died peacefully in his sleep around 9.30pm in New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been for six days. Family members were with him.

Seeger was an iconic figure in protest music. In his younger days he performed with Woody Guthrie and in his nineties, leaning on two canes, he marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters.

For a second, just imagine that one of the highest ranked male tennis players in the world is taking part in the obligatory post-game interview having just won a marathon five setter.

Now imagine the interviewer is themselves a veteran of the sport for decades, one who undoubtedly knows the game inside and out. Now imagine the first question they ask the winner is: “So who would you most like to date?”

Spartacus (Revealing Antiquity)
By Aldo Schiavone (translation by Jeremy Carden)
Harvard University Press, 2013
208 pp., $29.95

Karl Marx was a great admirer of ancient Roman and Greek philosophers and leaders. However, there was one he singled out as the “finest fellow antiquity had to offer”: Spartacus, the Thracian who led the most significant slave revolt against the Roman empire.

Marx was not the only member of the Spartacus fan club. German Communists led by Rosa Luxemburg named their party after him.

High Hopes
Bruce Springsteen
Columbia
Released January 17, 2014
www.brucespringsteen.net

A recent documentary on veteran US rocker Bruce Springsteen asked fans to describe their hero in three words.

The responses, compiled in the film Springsteen & I, were fairly predictable: "Badass, sensitive, perfect"; "Hope, energy, power”; “Earnest, inspiring, intense” and so on.

The non-Springsteen fans reading this could probably think of a few far less kind words. But if I were to choose three, they would be: "Open to interpretation."

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Philippines: Popularising socialism with a local flavour

A document on bayanihan socialism was presented at the convention of the Philippines socialist Party of the Labouring Masses in December. It was an attempt to help popularise the ideas of socialism to a mass audience in the Philippines. Read more.

South Africa: Forging a new movement