Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1059

The radioactive exposure tour — the RadTour — organised by Friends of the Earth and the Anti-uranium and Clean Energy collective (ACE), was on again this year from June 27 till July 8. Twenty-five people travelled from Melbourne through south and western NSW then onto South Australia.

Green Left Weekly's Rachel Evans caught up with the RadTour at Lucas Heights and spoke to Dr Jim Green from Friends of the Earth.

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How has the campaign to make Australia nuclear free been going?

The Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney (AMSWS) is an Aboriginal community-controlled health service based in Mt Druitt. The federal government has decided to stop its $4 million annual funding from July 1 this year, effectively forcing it to close down.

AMSWS services the largest Aboriginal population in Australia. It has more than 11,000 active patients from greater Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Its closure will leave thousands of community members without access to essential services and put pressure on local hospital services and systems.

"Another bloody bogan. Shows she can't manage her money", the Coles cashier said as Sally left the store. It was Sally's first time using the Basics Card, and things were not off to a good start.

Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) has led a successful occupation of the Redfern Block for more than a year, calling for affordable Aboriginal housing to be built on the site. RATE has been fighting off attempts by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), led by Mick Mundine, to develop the site with a $70 million commercial and residential development.

In the 1960s and ’70s the Block became a focal point for the modern day urban land rights movement. Protests led to grassroots organisations such as the Aboriginal legal, medical cultural and housing services.

The Defence Department’s website says: “Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 is a biennial combined Australian and US training activity, designed to … improve the combat readiness and interoperability between our respective forces. This exercise is a major undertaking that reflects the closeness of our alliance and the strength of the ongoing military-military relationship” and is “focused on the planning and conduct of mid-intensity ‘high end’ warfighting.”

The Border Force Act came into force on July 1. Under this Act, people working in immigration detention centres risk two years’ jail for disclosing evidence of the horrendous, inhumane conditions in those places.

We are at a point in time in which we face a huge ecological threat.

A research article by six leading biological and environmental scientists published on June 19 in Science Advances estimated that vertebrate species were becoming extinct at more than 100 times the normal rate.

Institutional corruption and lack of governance are serious issues requiring forensic and transparent public examination both in Australia and throughout the rich world.

The global economy has been stagnant since 2008, thanks to unregulated financial derivative markets estimated at the time at one quadrillion (one million billion) US dollars. Betting on interest rates and foreign exchange rates accounted for more than half of this amount.

Institutional corruption and lack of governance are serious issues requiring forensic and transparent public examination both in Australia and throughout the rich world.

The global economy has been stagnant since 2008, thanks to unregulated financial derivative markets estimated at the time at one quadrillion (one million billion) US dollars. Betting on interest rates and foreign exchange rates accounted for more than half of this amount.

Things can seem overwhelmingly dark these days, but at least we get to watch conservatives losing their shit over marriage equality.

Reactionary heads exploded across the US over the June 26 US Supreme Court decision to effectively legalise same-sex marriage in all 50 US states. And in Australia, panic grows at the prospect that we may follow suit.

GLW Issue 1058

Behind the Wire is an oral history project documenting the stories of men, women and children who have experienced mandatory detention. It seeks to bring a new perspective to the public understanding of mandatory detention by sharing the reality of the people who have lived it.

Green Left Weekly photographer and Socialist Alliance member Ali Bakhtiarvandi was one of those interviewed. This is a brief excerpt of his story. You can read the full story here.

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It has become a disturbing hallmark of the current government that the degree to which Prime Minister Tony Abbott adopts the style of a Nazi leader addressing the Nuremburg Rally is a reflection of the policies being foreshadowed. At Abbott's June 23 press conference, the flag count was up to 10. The parliamentary sitting week that followed was an assault on democratic rights.

Brad Chilcott is the director of Welcome to Australia, a community organisation that, according to its Facebook page, is “dedicated to giving asylum seekers, refugees, new arrivals and long-term migrant residents of Australia a warm, dignified and positive Welcome to Australia”.

An article by Chilcott entitled Possibility before Protest has appeared on Chifley.org, a website for ALP members and supporters.

The article does not clarify Chilcott’s relationship with the ALP.

On June 23, Australia's parliament voted to reduce the Renewable Energy Target for 2020 from 41 to 33 terawatt hours of renewable electricity, following a long struggle by the government to win support from minor party Senators for the cuts.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he “would frankly have liked to reduce the number a lot more”.

The deal he cut in the Senate will see the potential for “wood waste” from logging of native forests to be burned to generate “renewable electricity” as part of the target.

The increasing lack of job opportunities and job security for those wishing to enter the workforce is a barrier for young people seeking employment.

There is an expanding list of experience required to increase employability and get the “competitive edge” that capitalists love to talk about.

Undertaking an internship or traineeship after finishing a degree is a popular method of gaining experience and increasing employability.

More than a decade ago, BHP Billiton demerged its steelmaking facilities from its then highly profitable minerals and energy division.

The two steel plants in Port Kembla and Whyalla, which were formerly part of an integrated company that produced the iron ore and the coking coal for steelmaking, became stand-alone steelmakers at a time when China became a serious competitive threat.

Its Port Kembla and Whyalla operations were also separated from each other, becoming BlueScope in Port Kembla and One Steel (now Arrium) in Whyalla.

The US has been at war for all but 17 years of the 239 the nation has been in existence.

Successive Australian governments have hastened to send troops into every war the US has provoked in the past 70 years. Many people consider Australia's strategies, priorities, and interests have been subsumed by those of the US.

If you suspect that neoliberal capitalist governments, including the Australian government, act as kleptocracies for the richest 1% and the large corporations, you have good reason to.

Whether you look at their tax system, the various privatisation or part-privatisation schemes they are forcing on the public, the “user-pays” drives or the publicly subsidised private insurance scams, you can see how the public is being forced to subsidise the profits of powerful corporations and the super-rich.

Many people are dismayed that the Greens have supported the Coalition government’s age pension cuts. Greens’ social media has been awash with commentary, with many people venting their anger at the Greens.

Some have defended the deal, trusting the Greens to do the right thing and labelling criticism as Labor propaganda. Others just want an explanation.

GLW Issue 1057

WikiLeaks released the secret draft of the healthcare annex to the transparency chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on June 10. If the TPP is adopted, the annex would adversely affect national pharmaceutical schemes, such as Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and New Zealand's Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC).

The TPP is a free trade deal being negotiated by countries on the Pacific rim: the US, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and Japan. These countries represent about 40% of global GDP.

The federal government is keen to cut the age pension. Its latest proposal to double the taper rate on the assets test has been supported by the Greens on the basis that this measure will reduce government support to those with significant wealth.

The Greens also hoped that by supporting these pension cuts, the government would rein in tax concessions on superannuation. However, the government has since publicly ruled out any superannuation changes.

In 2013 the NSW Government took an axe to the existing victims of crime compensation scheme, introducing legislation that targeted survivors of sexual and domestic abuse.

The government claimed this scheme would result in a faster and easier process for applicants, but this has not been the case, and the main changes make it more difficult, if not impossible, for many applicants.

Australia’s human rights reputation has been savaged in a new report by Amnesty International. The report is highly critical of Australia’s detention of Aboriginal children for minor offences.

The Amnesty report, A brighter tomorrow: Keeping Indigenous kids in the community and out of detention in Australia, focuses on the crisis of Aboriginal child detention. The report says rates of Aboriginal youth detention are higher now than they were 20 years ago.

The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has laid five criminal charges against multinational mining company Linc Energy for causing irreversible environmental damage around the site of its experimental underground coal gasification (UCG) plant at Chinchilla, on the western Darling Downs.

The charges allege that Linc wilfully and unlawfully caused serious contamination with carbon monoxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide, carcinogenic BTEX and other gases.

The campaign against closure of Aboriginal communities and mobilisations against unconventional gas in Eastern Australia are some examples of growing campaigns that are successfully challenging the agenda of capitalist governments in Australia, according to the eleventh national conference of Socialist Alliance.

People sometimes ask me while selling Green Left "In this day and age, why even have a newspaper?".

The nature of print media is changing and most commercial newspapers and magazines are currently suffering an existential crisis. Many advertisers that traditionally used print have made the leap to digital media. The columns of classifieds, once referred to as the rivers of gold, are now drying up and newsrooms are shrinking along with the quality of journalism.

In recent difficult economic times, with youth unemployment at record rates, there is still one major state institution which is always recruiting — the military.

As they have in the past, the armed forces are trying as hard as possible to present an attractive job prospect to the youth market. The offer of a career, job stability, qualifications and training can often seem too good to pass up.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s persistent response to media questions about allegations raised in the unions’ Royal Commission concerning his former union, the Australian Workers Union (AWU), has been to refuse to provide a “running commentary”.

After being requested by the commission to appear before it last week, he is now reported as saying: “I welcome the opportunity to talk about my 21-year record of standing up for workers”.

Northern Territory Attorney-General John Elferink was at an Amnesty International debate at Charles Darwin University on June 15, defending the position that “tough love” was necessary to reduce youth crime in the NT.

As he was speaking, a 16-year-old was successfully breaking out of the Don Dale youth detention centre.

According to an ABC News report, this was the eleventh break-out from the decrepit detention centre since August last year — showing that “tough love” is not working.

Albert Einstein said the purpose of socialism is to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development.

Today it seems the predatory phase is here to stay. The choice between socialism or barbarism is now pressing us on all sides.

Mining, for instance, pays little in taxes, but we subsidise it to $4 billion a year — and will bear its health burdens for generations to come.

As former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd found when he tried to make mining companies pay reasonable taxes, it is a rogue industry.