Comment and Analysis

I had the privilege of spending five days with more than 100 activists from around the country taking front-line action to stop Adani’s Carmichael coalmine in the Galilee Basin from being built. 

We camped just outside Bowen, about 1000 kilometres north of Brisbane, on the Whitsunday coast. A large proportion of the activists were women. There were also babies, kids, campus activists, experienced veterans of campaigns against coal and unconventional gas mining, forest blockaders and Knitting Nannas. 

As if it were wrapped in flammable polyethelene (PE) cladding, Uber’s seemingly unstoppable plan for world domination caught fire in London last month; and the blaze might be as hard to extinguish as the inferno that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in the same city in June.

The deadly fire at Grenfell, and Uber’s repeated failings — in terms of vehicle safety, sexual assault, regulatory avoidance and driver exploitation — are both the direct result of under-regulation and multi-layered regulatory and policy failure.

The decision by the City of Fremantle to drop its annual Australia Day fireworks has inevitably shaped the contours of the looming council elections, even though no candidate has made it the centrepiece of their campaign.

The election is largely pitting a generally socially progressive group of incumbents of different political stripes (Labor, Greens, socialist and independents) against an alliance of conservative challengers headed by mayoral candidate Caroline “Ra” Stewart.

Geelong Council was sacked in April last year by the Victorian state government. It was accused of being dysfunctional, having no long-term strategic plan and failing to respond to a highly-publicised report on bullying in the council.

As serious as some of these allegations were – particularly those regarding bullying – neither of us as Geelong residents felt they warranted the undemocratic sacking of a duly-elected council. Surely the people of Geelong should be the ones that make any such decision?

The time has come to scrap the misnamed Fair Work Act (FWA) and introduce genuine pro-worker and pro-union industrial relations legislation in this country.

Rising pressure on federal employment minister Michaelia Cash to resign over her cover-up of the illegal actions by former Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) head Nigel Hadgkiss merely underlines the fact that Australia’s industrial relations system is badly broken.

The nationwide debate over equal marriage rights has brought a lot more people into contact with Green Left Weekly.

Circulation of this “little paper with a big heart”, as a supporter once described us, is growing as more people look to alternative media sources for their information.

GLW is now in its 26th year of production — no mean feat for a not-for-profit newspaper in the most media monopolised country in the world.

In the lead up to and following the announcement of the plebiscite, now survey, on changing the Marriage Act, unions have played a prominent role in promoting and resourcing the Yes campaign.

Senior union officials have been speakers at rallies, there have been large union contingents at protest marches and unions — especially peak bodies such as Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Australian Council of Trade Unions — have been providing infrastructure to help build the capacity for the campaign to ensure maximum participation and support for the Yes side.

Andrew Bolt takes me to task for being “irresponsible” for “propagandising” about the colonial invasion and subsequent massacres of First Nations people.

He also takes issue with my support for the growing number of councils across Australia that are leading the debate on the so-called history wars and deciding against celebrating on January 26 in favour of something more inclusive.

The following statement from the Australia Burma Rohingya Organisation was read by Habib to a solidarity protest in Melbourne on September 7.

* * *

Today we raise our voices on behalf of the oppressed Rohingya and Kaman people, who are facing ongoing genocide in the Rakhine [Arakan] state of western Myanmar [Burma].

We are also protesting the continuous wars being waged against minorities in the Shan and Kachin states.

An increasing number of employers are asking themselves why they should have to abide by the terms of an Enterprise Agreement with their workers and unions, when it would cost less money if they didn't. Many have come to the conclusion that they should simply escape the obligations of their agreements.

Indigenous feminist and trade unionist Celeste Liddle addressed the topic of “Women fight back against misogyny & rape culture” at the Radical Ideas conference hosted by Resistance: Socialist Youth Alliance in August.

The following text is based on an abridged version of her talk.

***

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating loved this quote of his long-time mentor former NSW Premier Jack Lang. I was reminded of its currency and utility recently, when I read that the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) had made an (overdue) entrance to the public debate about the costs and benefits of the emerging “gig” economy — let’s be honest, it’s mainly costs.

Steve Bannon, the editor of the far-right Breitbart and Donald Trump’s ex-chief strategist, recently compared China to Germany in the 1930s, telling the New York Times: “China right now is Germany in 1930. It’s on the cusp ... The younger generation is so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic.”

1. Legislating marriage equality will impact on rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to practice or implement one’s personal values.

FALSE: Marriage equality and freedom of religion/speech/values are governed by two distinct pieces of legislation. The equality campaign only wants a change in the definition of marriage as determined by the Marriage Act 1961. Religious exemptions are already contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Changing the definition of marriage in one act does not remove religious exemptions in different act.

Since the High Court challenge to the federal government’s marriage equality survey was dismissed and the survey received the green light, streets have been painted all the colours of the rainbow as historically large protests and displays of solidarity sweep the country.

The campaign for marriage equality has been fighting the delaying tactics and homophobic policies of Labor and Liberal governments for the past 13 years.

The former NSW roads minister Duncan Gay has joined the list of recently resigned NSW MPs who have taken lucrative jobs with corporations associated with their former portfolio.

Gay, a former National Party leader, left parliament at the end of July. A parliamentary ethics committee has only just become aware that he is working as an advisor with MU Group — a company bidding for, and winning, NSW government transport contracts.

The electricity industry crisis has reached new heights, with the federal government pressuring giant energy company AGL to keep the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station open for a further five years after 2022, its due date for closure.

Liddell, in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, is a coal-burning dinosaur. The reality is neither the government’s policy of defending Big Coal, nor its reliance on the so-called “energy market”, will solve the problem of skyrocketing electricity prices for consumers or the looming environmental crisis.

For a long time, Australian governments have believed that the private sector should run the electricity sector. Successive governments have used market instruments to incentivise reducing emissions, by supporting renewables, discouraging coal use, or both.

The threat of nuclear annihilation is closer than at any time since the end of the Cold War as two heads of state use nuclear weapons as props in what looks like a fight between two adolescent boys.

On one side is a narcissistic bully, born to inherit great power and with credible reports that his personal life includes indulging in acts of sadism, whose policies in government are driven by a combination of xenophobia, ego and whim and who is threatening nuclear Armageddon if he doesn't get his way.

On the other side is North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

A coordinated, virulent and sustained campaign for "regime change" against the government and people of Venezuela is occurring around the world right now.

Led by the US, the campaign involves a systematic stream of "fake news" in the international media, backed by an unholy alliance of right-wing and "liberal" politicians and commentators, all singing from the same song sheet — that Venezuela is a "socialist dictatorship" with a collapsing economy and the unfortunate people of that country are yearning to be free of that regime.

There is a climate emergency. The massive forest fires in Canada, the Lucifer heatwave engulfing southern Europe and Australia experiencing its warmest July on record have all happened within the past fortnight. Yet, Australia’s carbon emissions continue to rise.

The growing movement to prevent the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as well as fossil fuel divestment campaigns, show we are making headway. But activism is not enough.

I think it was anthropologist Ghassan Hage who once said that Australians are in constant fear of their country being stolen — again. Australia has a history of policy-making based on the fear of the outsider. But of all the acts of government based on that fear the new Home Affairs portfolio of Peter Dutton will rank as one of the most dangerous.

With the High Court ruling that the government’s postal survey on marriage equality is legal, it’s full steam ahead with the much-vaunted respectful debate.

We can expect more No campaign ads like the one where a mother pretends the principal at her son’s school told him he could wear a dress to school if he chose.

New South Wales’ world-class public TAFE system is on its knees. The state government’s savage funding cuts and ongoing neglect has seen enrolments plummet and TAFE campuses, particularly in regional areas, fall into disrepair.

But the Coalition government’s “solution” is to further cut funding and replace practical learning with glorified internet cafes in already isolated regional areas.

The federal government has proposed a drug testing trial for new welfare recipients.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the proposed policy as being “all about love”, saying: “If you’ve got a friend who is on drugs, what do you want to do? You desperately want to get them off it.”

This needs to be examined.

The NSW Coalition government has sold off more than $9 billion in publicly-owned property since it took power six years ago, a state parliamentary inquiry was told on September 4.

"Over the last six years ... approximately $9.14 billion of real property assets have been recycled [sold or leased] by government agencies," the CEO of Property NSW Brett Newman told a Budget Estimates hearing.

Thanks to a passing reference in this column only a week ago about statues and other monuments featuring colonial "founding fathers" that participated in massacres of Aboriginal people and other wrongs, I got lumped into Andrew Bolt's collection of "statue haters".

Others in the corporate media suggested that even having the discussion was like Nazi book burning. Right. And we're the ones disrespecting history!

1. Get onto the streets

The most important thing you can do for marriage equality right now is hit the streets. Add your voice to the thousands of others across the country by marching in one of the upcoming marriage equality rallies. Get a group of your friends together and make homemade signs to bring along.

A diverse and inspiring grassroots movement has completely shifted public opinion on this question, so let's push on to win this vote and more

Sam Wainwright, Councillor at the City of Fremantle, a local government that supports marriage equality

Equality is a very simple and important right. That's why a majority of people support equal marriage rights. The equal marriage campaign has opened the door to many more people supporting the LGBTIQ community on other issues as well

Sue Bolton, Councillor at Moreland City Council

1. We are community activists

We won’t just represent, we will help empower communities by working alongside others against WestConnex, for marriage equality, for sustainability and public housing and by fighting for a local council that is more democratic, transparent and accountable to the community. Socialist councillors in Victoria and West Australia were critical to defeating the East-West Link and Roe 8 motorway projects.

2. Organise to take on corporate greed

It is important to put socialists on council because we have a very different perspective from other political parties. Our “people and planet before profit” philosophy guides our approach and, increasingly, councils are being relied on to lead key political debates — such as recognising Australia’s colonial past.

The August 14 publication of a NSW local court ruling earlier in the year has again shone light on the state’s anti-abortion laws.

A 30-year-old woman was found guilty of attempting abortion and sentenced to a 3-year good behaviour bond. The court record describes the circumstances, but leaves important questions unanswered.

Can you imagine being a bank CEO today? Wouldn’t you be wishing you were leading the bank 10 years ago before the global financial crisis when you could do whatever you wanted without too much fuss?

Fast forward to 2017. Bank CEOs are under intense scrutiny, but still pushing the banks’ profit-driven agenda in the face of scandal after scandal and community anger.

Ever since it was announced, the federal government’s postal survey on marriage equality has been met with responses questioning both the legitimacy of the survey and demonstrating support for marriage equality — responses that have been vital for the confidence and morale of members of the LGBTIQ community.

Despite this, the right, particularly the Christian right, has demonstrated its determination to defeat the push for marriage equality through the mobilisation of homophobic and transphobic hatred and disinformation.

According to an Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) tweet, between August 8 and 22 the electoral roll increased by 54,545.

There were 577,879 total enrolment transactions processed in that time, including checking and updating enrolment details. This data does not include the last two days of the enrolment period, which closed at midnight on August 24, so these numbers are likely to increase.

In an August 9 speech to parliament, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson once again backed the right-wing campaign against Venezuela’s democracy and national sovereignty.

His statements follow a June 21 speech to the Senate, where he spoke out against what he claimed was an “increasingly anti-democratic and corrupted government under President Nicolas Maduro”, while praising the “democratic and peaceful” protests led by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition.

Sentient lobsters boil at 200°C, screaming in pain, just so billionaires can slurp them up. Consider this the lobsters’ revenge on the Victorian Opposition Leader. Matthew "tough on crime” Guy was boiled and cooked red after having a sit-down lobster and donations dinner with mobsters.

Coalition finance minister Mathias Cormann told an admiring audience at the conservative Sydney Institute on August 23 that Labor leader Bill Shorten was “channelling” Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

If only...

What local councils do or don’t do on January 26 has burst into the national political debate, and what a good thing that is. No matter the frantic condemnation from the corporate media or the pompous and arse-about assertion by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that councils were “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”.

These opponents of an honest examination of Australia’s history may want to shut down the conversation but the opposite has happened.

Amir Taghinia is the founder of Manus Alert, an online news agency coming directly from within Australia's immigration prison camp.

Taghinia is fluent in many languages and often finds himself as a negotiator between people who have been incarcerated in the Manus Island camp, local authorities and communities.

He holds a passion for the beautiful lands we live on and in and has read widely on environmental issues.

He acknowledges some editorial assistance from Melody Kemp and Janet Galbraith.

* * *

Pages