Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1052

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett government is slowly backing away from his controversial announcement that up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities are facing closure. In what he described as “a more nuanced approach”, Barnett is now proposing a “hub and orbit” strategy that will leave some communities bigger and better resourced, others reduced in services and the smallest ones abandoned.
Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. * * * You were elected to the Moreland City Council for Socialist Alliance in October 2012. Many of the themes and issues raised in your campaign struck a chord with a wide range of people. There was also a fair bit of accident and luck: you headed up a ballot with 24 names on it and the ALP ticket was split.

GLW Issue 1051

For most teenagers, starting high school triggers mixed emotions — nervousness, excitement, a sense of adventure. Adolescence is a critical period in everyone’s life. This is especially true for LGBTI youth. In the process of coming to terms with our sexuality and gender identity, we must also navigate the hardships that come with existing in a society that overwhelmingly neither accepts nor accommodates us.
An irony of the sacking of SBS sports journalist Scott McIntyre for a series of tweets he made on Anzac Day is that the hysterical reaction from politicians and the media, and the consequences he has faced, has only served to prove his initial point. Anzac Day is not about remembering history. To remember what actually happened at Gallipoli 100 years ago, and in Australia’s involvement in wars more generally, is not permissible. Whatever the Anzacs fought and died for, it was not free speech.
Stop the Intervention Collective (STICS) held a forum last month to update participants on the NT Intervention. Dr Shelley Bielefeld, lecturer in law at UWS, visiting scholar at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU, spoke at the forum. Afterwards she spoke to Green Left Weekly. * * * How does the government justify the Intervention?
We have been assaulted by a massive celebration of 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli on April 25. This is partly due to the success of the protests at the 200th anniversary celebration of the January 26, 1788 First Fleet landing at Sydney Cove. There have been many protests on January 26 since then, undercutting and besmirching Australian nationalism.
Historically, the strength of unionism in Australia rested on the three tenets of what came to be called “labourism” — white Australia, tariff protection and compulsory arbitration. As these policy settings were wound back, union membership fell into gradual and then steep decline. From the late-1980s, the union movement's chief response was to reduce the number of unions. This was advanced on the logic that a small number of large unions would have access to greater resources to direct towards retention and recruitment of members.
In a period of so-called “budget emergency” when deep funding cuts are being imposed on universities and scientific research, the federal government has managed to find $4 million for a “consensus centre” headed by advocate for climate inaction Bjørn Lomborg. The $13 million centre will form part of the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) business school, with the Commonwealth contributing $4 million over four years.
In the AFL’s nationalistic carnival, the Anzac Round, the Melbourne Demons and Richmond Tigers were lining up for their game on April 24. One of the Tigers players Bachar Houli, is one of the AFL’s “multicultural ambassadors”. He is also the first practicing Muslim to play in the AFL. Elsewhere, Houli was being described quite differently. John Burns, radio broadcaster for Melbourne’s 3AW was reported to have labelled him a “terrorist”. The comment was overheard at a Richmond Football Club function by a senior club staffer and subsequently reported.
Australia's age pension system is under attack from the federal government and right-wing, neoliberal forces. The whole community, current and future retirees, needs to mobilise to defend and extend the age pension system and change the superannuation system to more adequately meet the needs of working people. The age pension in Australia dates back to 1909. It was established as a non-contributory scheme, largely as a result of the demands of unions and community pressure.
A Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance last week revealed that BHP Billiton was funnelling profits from Australian minerals through a marketing arm based in Singapore as a way of dodging tax in Australia. From 2006 to 2014, BHP was “selling” minerals mined in Australia to its Singaporean arm at well below market rates. The prices were then marked-up and sold on to third-party companies in Singapore, thereby attracting the infinitesimal Singaporean tax rate.
Hone Harawira, leader of the MANA Movement of Aotearoa (New Zealand), has called on all those who support justice to join in the Day of Action to Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities on May 1, both in Australia and in New Zealand. He has released this statement. * * *

GLW Issue 1050

Sometimes Australians feel like we're not always taken that seriously on the world stage, viewed only as producers of crocodile hunters, B-grade soaps and prime ministers with a bizarre taste in raw onions. So it's good to know we are finally being presented as a model for other nations to follow.
The fight against the WA government’s widely unpopular decision to close a number of remote Aboriginal communities and force Aboriginal people off their land received a further boost this week with news that activists are set to converge on the state. The Grandmothers Against Removals, a group established to respond to the continued Stolen Generation enforced by the current and previous federal governments, will converge on Perth on May 26 to lend a hand in the fight against the closures.
The Socialist Alliance stands in full solidarity with the burgeoning movement against the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities in WA. This movement can win and if it does it will be a victory for all working people in Australia. Without any consultation, the federal government announced in September that they would cut funding that, for more than 40 years, had been provided to support these communities. The state government, equally contemptuous in their lack of consultation, then announced that up to 150 communities would have to close.
More than 200 heavily armed police raided five homes in south-east Melbourne on April 18 to arrest five teenagers for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack on Anzac Day. Two were held in custody and charged under “anti-terror” laws, one was charged on summons for weapons offences and two were released without charge. Family and neighbours of those arrested said that the raids were carried out with unnecessary violence.
We live in a time of growing inequality between the rich and poor, when the environment is being destroyed to the point of threatening our very existence, because of a system that prioritises profit. Here are 10 reasons why socialism is the way forward to solve society’s problems. 1. THE DESTRUCTION OF CLASS DIVISION Under capitalism, people are divided on the basis of class. There are the 1%, who own the wealth and the means to produce wealth, and the rest of us, the 99%, who sell their labour to produce profit for the 1%.
A new report on unconventional gas development from the federal Department of Industry and Science has been released. Its stated aim is “to ensure the responsible development of coal seam, shale and tight gas resources for the benefit of Australians and position Australia to remain an energy superpower”. In order to achieve this, the report notes at the outset that state governments, and Indigenous landowners will need to be dealt with – though the report uses prettier words.
In 2013 the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (OCAE) was commissioned by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and Cruelty Free International to produce an independent review of the ethics of using animals in research. The BUAV is not a neutral bystander in the debate about animal testing, but it was prepared to commission independent academic research on this topic. OCAE was founded in 2006 to pioneer ethical perspectives on animals. The centre is independent, and is not under the aegis, control or sanction of the University of Oxford.
Australia has again declared war on its Indigenous people, reminiscent of the brutality that brought universal condemnation on apartheid South Africa. Aboriginal people are to be driven from homelands where their communities have lived for thousands of years. In Western Australia, where mining companies make billion dollar profits exploiting Aboriginal land, the state government says it can no longer afford to "support" the homelands.
Maria Voukelatos, a passionate socialist and animal liberation activist, died suddenly and unexpectedly on March 26. Nothing suggests she took her own life. While the cause is still unknown, her death at home in Sydney was likely quick and painless. She was 37.
The second national day of action against the WA government’s policy of closing remote Aboriginal communities will take place on May 1. Protest actions have been planned in about 60 places around the country: from remote communities in WA to all capital cities, and in a number of cities overseas. (See here for a list of these actions.)
Politicians, both Labor and Liberal, have spent years defending this county’s pitiful efforts on tackling climate change with the excuse that Australia “can’t go it alone” — it has to wait for other countries to commit to action on climate change. The same excuse was often echoed in the media. In particular, the lack of action by the US and China were cited as the reasons why Australia should commit to doing little or nothing.

GLW Issue 1049

Tony Abbott’s government is gearing up for another budget, and much has been made about how to raise revenue and what to cut. The government has toned down its previous rhetoric about a budget emergency, which appears to have disappeared despite the government failing to pass most of last year’s budget measures, but it still looks as if they will make the most disadvantaged pay while keeping things sweet for their mates in the big end of town.
Recently I went to an asylum seeker forum at Gosford Anglican Parish. Hosted by the awesome Father Rod Bower and chaired by Labor’s Senator Deborah O’Neill, it featured special guest speaker, Labor’s Shadow immigration minister Richard Marles. I was nervous when I arrived. When I left, I was furious! Here’s why… Despite talking a lot, and very well, Marles made just seven points. Let’s take a look at each of these points individually. 1. Liberal is worse than Labor
The 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing is nearly upon us and the government decided to kick off commemorating the sacrifice of nearly 9000 Australian soldiers in the failed invasion of Turkey by sending 300 more soldiers to take part in the seemingly endless failed war on Iraq. This government is sometimes accused of insensitivity, but who could disagree that the best way to remember a disastrous invasion of a country half-way around the world that poses no threat to Australia on behalf of an incompetent foreign power is to repeat the exercise.
The head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), Catherine Livingstone, has called for a national “conversation” about what the federal government and the business community euphemistically call “economic reform”. Ever in thrall to trickle-down economics, they manage to talk in “doublespeak”, a close relative of the doublethink that George Orwell wrote about in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Last week the Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison announced that from January 1 next year parents who do not vaccinate their children for reasons of “conscientious objection” will be denied access to child care payments (Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate) and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement. These payments are worth up to $15,000 a year.
Danny Nahlliah, Australia First Candidate, Pastor for Catch the Fire Ministries and keynote speaker at the Melbourne Reclaim Australia rally on April 4, rang Tom Elliott on 3AW on April 7 and accused Socialist Alliance of planting neo-Nazis in the Reclaim Australia crowd to make the rallies and participants look bad. This is an accusation that is even more ridiculous than their other claim that Halal certification funds terrorism.
Lines of grey muttering faces, masked with fear, They leave their trenches, going over the top, While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, And hope, with furtive eyes and grasping fists, Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop! — Siegfried Sassoon. Implausible as it might seem, it was the violent protest of a group of Bosnian high school students that sparked World War I.