Issue 996

Australia

The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney hosted a talk by Basque activist Endika Zarrabeitia Salterain on February 3.

Zarrabeitia is a member of SORTU, a left Basque political party fighting for independence from Spain in a framework of moving towards socialism.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon introduced the evening, reminding the audience of the high number of Australian workers and Communist Party members, who fought on behalf of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War in 1935.

Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson’s plans to issue students with a “tertiary transport concession card” by March 3 in order to cut down on young people “rorting” on cheap fares has been met with resistance by students.

Emerson made the proposal after claiming too many young people are getting cheap tickets while not being students and are “ripping off honest users”.
 

A Marrickville councillor is fighting suspension following his exposure of a developer’s attempt to curry favour with the council on a controversial development in the inner west known as the Lewisham Towers.
 
Marrickville Greens councillor Max Phillips has lodged an appeal against the Division of Local Government’s decision to suspend him for two months from February 17.
 
The suspension request was made by a bloc of Liberal, Labor and independent councillors in April last year after Phillips refused to apologise to council and to big developer Meriton.
 

About 7000 people rallied at Cottesloe Beach in Perth on February 1 to protest against the shark culling policy of the Western Australian Liberal government.

This “catch and kill” policy requires the Western Australian Department of Fisheries to maintain baited drum lines 1.4 kilometres off the coast.  Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt granted an exemption for this under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act because it is in the “national interest” of protecting public safety and tourism.

Queensland woman Sheila Oakley has been left blind in one eye after being tasered by police outside her home on February 6.

Oakley underwent surgery after the metal barb from the Taser hit her in her left eye, the Guardian reported on February 7.

A senior constable, who is reported to be a qualified Taser instructor, fired the Taser.

Police said the woman was holding a table leg when they arrived at her home.

"One year after Hugo Chavez's death: Eyewitness reports from Venezuela," was the title of a public forum organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) at the Resistance Centre on February 4.

More than 40 people attended the forum, which heard a panel of speakers discuss issues facing the Bolivarian revolution today.

The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on February 5.

***

The daily protests by hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island that began on January 25 have now spread to all four compounds inside the detention centre.

Since January 25, up to 500 asylum seekers in the Oscar compound, the most deprived of the compounds, have been staging daily protests.

On January 30, the protests extended to Mike compound. And on January 31, hundreds more asylum seekers were in involved in protests in all four compounds.

The union representing ambulance employees in Victoria has abandoned talks with the government, saying that Ambulance Victoria and the government arrived at negotiations on February 3 with an offer of a pay rise half that of previous negotiations. 

Ambulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie told Green Left Weekly: “This offer is an insult, it's disappointing that they have moved backwards rather than moved forward.

“They reduced their wage offer by half, only offering 6%. Our members rejected a 12% pay rise offer, you can imagine what they would say to this.

On February 3, 50 communications sector workers and community members gathered outside the Geelong Mail Centre to protest the proposed privatisation and downsizing of Australia Post.

These changes would see further job losses in the already hard-hit Geelong region.
 
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia, the Community and Public Sector Union, Geelong Trades Hall, Socialist Alliance and the Australian Labor Party.
 

More than 100 people from Mackay, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney joined local activists in Maules Creek, NSW last week to bring attention to a battle that goes to the heart of Australia’s confrontation with climate change.

Maules Creek is the site of a proposed new coalmine to be operated by Whitehaven Coal. The proposal to build this mine has been the subject of dispute since its inception, but came to prominence in January last year as a result of a hoax press release.

Electrical Trades Union Victorian Secretary Troy Gray wrote this statement on the ETU Facebook page on February 6.

***

Australian Workers Union Secretary Paul Howes is slitting the throat of Australian workers for his own political ambitions.

Recent headline grabbing statements by Howes have more to do with his naked ambition to be a politician and his resolve to distance himself from the AWU skeletons, than any attempt to improve the lives of working people or his own members.

The Brisbane branch of Socialist Alliance released this statement on February 5.

**

The Griffith by-election comes after a series of statements by the federal government that demonstrate just how anti-people and anti-environment the Liberal-National Coalition government really is.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has flatly lied to the public, claiming that SPC Ardmona is suffering because of “over generous” wages and conditions for the workers. This is part of his broader attacks on workers’ rights and the unions, and the return of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

World

I wonder how useless you have to be as a banker before they don’t give you a bonus.

If you turned up for work drunk on Special Brew and Dubonnet, and wet yourself over the computers causing the FTSE to short circuit, bankrupting Brazil and forcing the defence ministry to pawn its tanks at a Cash Converters in Southend, maybe they’d say: “You get just half a million this year, until you wipe yourself down with a sponge.”

Britain: Woman in coma told to find work

“A mentally ill woman forced on to the Coalition’s Work Programme is in a coma ― but is still being sent letters by benefits assessors.

"Bipolar patient Sheila Holt, 47, was sectioned in December after being taken off Income Support. Days later she had a heart attack and fell into the coma.

“This weekend, Miss Holt, of Rochdale, Gtr Manchester, was sent a letter by Atos to ask why she was not working.”

Representatives from 225 communes met over January 31 to February 1 in Barinas in western Venezuela to discuss strengthening the communal economy.

Communes are made up of elected representatives from the communal councils, grassroots bodies that bring together local neighbourhoods.

The conference was called and organised by the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ). The CRBZ is a current in the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Venezuela’s Mission Sucre has reached 10 years of providing higher education to more 695,000 people, including 379,000 who have already graduated.

The government launched Mission Sucre in November 2003 to provide university education to those who previously didn’t have access to it. Many of its current students are people who have a low income and middle-aged mothers who weren’t able to continue their studies because they raised children.

The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has captured headlines around the world after actress Scarlett Johansson signed a promotion deal with Israeli company SodaStream.

Johansson signed the deal to become SodaStream's first “global brand ambassador” on January 1. A Super Bowl halftime commercial starring the actress airing on February 2.

However, the deal resulted in an instant furore due to the company's use of an Israeli occupied industrial settlement zone in Palestinian West Bank to make their home soda machines.

War criminal and former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11, led an infamous Israeli army terror group in the 1950s. Called Unit 101 and nicknamed the “avengers”, it operated without uniforms.

The unit countered Palestinian resistance with terror attacks. It carried out many outrages inside Israel and across its borders.

In August 1953, Unit 101 attacked the refugee camp of El-Bureig in Gaza. About 50 refugees were massacred. In October 1953, Sharon’s unit attacked the Jordanian village of Qibya.

With more than 99% of polling places reporting, the candidate for the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Salvador Sanchez Ceren, easily won the first round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on February 2.

Sanchez Ceren scored nearly 49% of the vote, more than ten-points higher than Norman Quijano of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), who placed second with 39%. Former president Tony Saca garnered just over 11% of the vote. The FMLN and ARENA will head to a run-off on March 9.

A New Zealand newspaper has sparked outrage after declaring “protest-free news” and printing a white power symbol to mark the country's official founding as a European colony.

The New Zealand Herald drew ire from readers over its outspoken refusal to cover otherwise high-profile protests by indigenous Maori on Waitangi Day. Commemorated on February 6, it is a state holiday marking the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British crown and tribal delegations.

The growing ecological crisis and impending environmental catastrophe is leading more on the left to recognise that we need both red and green in our politics ― we have to be ecosocialists. One without the other is not going to work.

That is the strong message from the French Left Party, which has called for the founding of a European network, opposing the environmental degradation caused by capitalism’s relentless drive for profit.

The irony of fracking is that it destroys the natural resource it needs most.

The tragedy for those living near fracking operations is that natural resource is the fresh ― and increasingly scarce ― water supply on which they, too, depend.

Fracking ― or hydraulic fracturing ― is the fracturing or rock by pressurised liquid. It is used to access several natural resources, such as shale gas and coal seam gas, in otherwise out-of-reach places.

“Bangladesh is a world leader in adaptation to natural disasters,” Bangladeshi community organiser Nasima Akter told a Toronto audience January 8. “But now climate change threatens to wash away all our gains.”

Akter had been invited by East End Against Line 9, a neighbourhood committee formed to protest against a proposed cross-Toronto tar-sands pipeline. The East End committee wanted to learn about the implications of Canada’s reckless tar-sands development for a poor and vulnerable nation.

Tens of thousands of people marched to Spain's parliament in Madrid on February 1 to protest against a proposed new law that would severely curb access to abortion.

Changes to the law would permit abortions to be carried out only in cases of rape or serious risk to health.

The rally was organised by dozens of women's groups fighting for reproductive rights. Participants travelled from across the Spanish state to take part, with trains full of protesters arriving in Madrid throughout the day.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he would take “the most radical measures to protect our people's economy” as a deadline for businesses to adhere to new price controls approaches.

“We will expropriate whatever needs to be expropriated,” Maduro said during a February 4 speech in Caracas amid commemorations of the 22nd anniversary of a 1992 failed military rebellion.

The coup was led by Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Although he was jailed for the insurrection, Chavez became a popular figure with the poor majority. He won the 1998 presidential elections by a landslide.

The decision of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to cut ties with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been badly analysed.

Comment has tended to focus on the possibility of a new political party in 2019, or whether suspended general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelinzima Vavi will get his job back.

But the greater significance of the biggest trade union in the country throwing in its lot with a growing movement in opposition to the neoliberal order, and thus to the left of the ANC, is being missed.

The West Papuan independence movement's hopes of of gaining a foothold in the international community were set back when foreign minsters visiting West Papua pledged non-interference with Indonesia.

Last June, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit met in Noumea, New Caledonia, and discussed a membership application from the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL). The summit postponed the decision until a ministerial delegation visited West Papua to determine the legitimacy of the group and to assess the situation in the occupied country.

The national elections held on February 2 cannot solve the Thai political crisis because those lined up against the government and democratic elections are fundamentally opposed to democracy.

The election was marred by violence from right-wing Democrat Party thugs who were determined to prevent voting from taking place. Armed thugs fired automatic weapons into crowds of people seeking to vote. These thugs have been enjoying total impunity for more than a month while intimidating voters and candidates.

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

Analysis

If you want evidence that the corporate rich are turning “sustainable” into a dirty word, then consider the recent award won by Australian bank Westpac. At last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the bank was named the most sustainable company in the world.

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.

***

Green Left Weekly began its life in a time of war in the Middle East, increasing attacks on the environment — and the Hawke government’s Prices and Incomes Accord which lasted from 1983 until 1996.

The next time you see another arrogant Liberal or National Party politician repeat Joe Hockey’s mantra “the age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun,” think of billionaire Gina Rinehart.

Rinehart, the richest person in Australia, inherited her fortune from her mining mogul father Lang Hancock, who once proposed that nuclear bombs be used get iron ore out of the ground in Western Australia.

Victoria’s scorching January heatwave has focused a lot of attention on the problem of coping with the immediate fallout from climate change.

According to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, in the period January 13 to 23 there were 139 deaths in excess of the expected average. There were reports of homeless people being forced away from airconditioned areas as they sought relief from the relentless heat.

http://m.smh.com.au/victoria/anger-over-spike-in-deaths-during-record-vi...

When the Black Power movement emerged in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in the late 60s, thousands of Aboriginal people took to the streets demanding national uniform land rights legislation and recognition of our right to self-determination.

The establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 further galvanised this groundswell of Black activism. Thousands of Aboriginal people converged on Brisbane to protest the ’82 Commonwealth Games, and then came the call for a Treaty.

Well it's my first day back at work and already the year has started with the predictable attack on workers that usually accompanies conservative governments in their first term of office.

They always claim that unions are corrupt and should have special laws to prevent them from being involved in workplaces or politics.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has approved plans to dump 3 million cubic metres of sand and mud in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
 
This waste will come from dredging the sea floor during construction of the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen and will be dumped about 25 kilometres away within the boundaries of the marine park.
 
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt initially approved the proposal, before passing it on to the GBRMPA to make the final decision.
 

In the third attack on the ABC by a government minister in the last month, Defence Minister David Johnston said on February 7 that reports that asylum seekers had their hands burned by navy personnel warrants an investigation into the national broadcaster.

"If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform, an investigation of the ABC, this event is it," he said.

This follows comments by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on January 29 when he said the ABC “appears to take everyone’s side but Australia’s and I think it is a problem”.

Food giant Coca-Cola Amatil has threatened to close the SPC Ardmona fruit canning company in Victoria, unless the federal government and Victorian government give it $25 million each in assistance.

The company wants to spend $161 million on upgrading and restructuring its manufacturing facilities in Shepparton. If the plant is closed, about 3000 jobs in the Goulburn Valley, and many small orchard farms, would be lost.

“The age of entitlement is over,” Treasurer Joe Hockey has bluntly told the Australian people. Hockey, entitled to a six-figure pension every year when he retires, suggests we must learn to get on with less.

Culture

Kill the Power
Skindred
Released January 24, 2013
Touring Australia from Feb 22 to March 3
www.skindred.net

Welsh ragga-punk-electronica festival favourites Skindred have hit back at all oppressors on their latest album, Kill The Power - and they're bringing their hard-hitting message to Australia with the touring Soundwave festival from February 22. Big-bearded guitarist Mikey Demus spoke to Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward.

***

Talking about music might sound strange for people who live in refugee camps and are deeply burdened with many other problems needing to be voiced.

But the huge role music played in the Saharawi people's struggle for independence leaves me with no choice e but to try to talk a little about the magical role revolutionary songs are playing in my people’s daily fight for self-determination.

Beloved Land: Stories, Struggles & Secrets From Timor-Leste
Gordon Peake
Scribe, 2013
250 pages, $29.95 (pb)

East Timor is a tale of two statistics, says Gordon Peake in Beloved Land, his engaging blend of history, memoir and travelogue about the former Portuguese and Indonesian colony.

One of the world's poorest nations, East Timor ranks a lowly 120th of 169 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, but scores high on corruption at 15th on the World Bank’s business transparency report.

Corrupt Fucking System
Doom
Black Cloud Records
Released December 23, 2013
www.doomcrustpunk.com

Outspoken British crust-punk pioneers Doom have a stonking new album out and are heading to Australia. Guitarist and founding member Brian Talbot, aka Bri Doom, spoke to Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward.

***

It's celebrity time again. The Golden Globes have been, and the Oscars are coming. This is a “vintage year” say Hollywood's hagiographers on cue. It isn't.

Most movies are made to a formula for the highest return, money-fuelled by marketing and something called celebrity. This is different from fame, which can come with talent. True celebrities are spared that burden.