Comment and Analysis

Nicole Judge worked at refugee centres on Nauru and Manus Island and despite warnings from various bodies, stood before a packed crowd at a Refugee Action Coalition forum in Sydney on November 17 to give an account of her time there.

When Judge first set foot on Manus Island she knew she was not getting what she had been promised. When she first signed up to work on Manus Island, she thought it would be a “working holiday”. She was looking for a break; what she found was despair, desperation and the deterioration of minds and bodies.

Just because we don't pay for something, it doesn't mean that it has no value. Clean air, safe food and public education are just some of the things that we expect to be provided “free” by governments. Yet ask anyone, and they will tell you how valuable these things are. We expect government to provide these services as a matter of course.

On its establishment in 1788, the colony of New South Wales was subject to English law by the application of legal reasoning that was settled in the late 18th century. It confirmed that “if an uninhabited country be discovered and planted by English subjects, all English laws then in being, which are the birthright of every subject, are immediately there in force.”

The Denis Napthine government, elected by a slim majority in 2010, has fallen in Victoria. This is the first time a Victorian government has lasted only one term since 1955, when the Cain Labor government fell in the midst of the great Labor split.

The Napthine government had lost support due to brutal public sector cuts, vindictive attacks on nurses, paramedics and teachers, the unpopular East West Link project, and corruption scandals that led to the removal of Ted Baillieu as premier last year and the sacking of several Liberal candidates before the poll.

Sixteen concerned residents of Kuantan travelled all the way from Malaysia to Sydney to protest at the November 28 shareholders' annual general meeting of an Australian rare earth mining and refining company.

Lynas Corporation's toxic refinery in the outskirts of Kuantan (population 700,000) on Malaysia's east coast is deeply unpopular with local residents and other concerned Malaysians who, together with Australian supporters, have mounted protests in Sydney at the past four AGMs.

A report conducted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has shown environmental concerns and technical lapses in coal seam gas (CSG) mining by Santos at their sites in Gunnedah and the Pilliga Forest, NSW.

The report, published in Fairfax Media, is an audit from May last year.

The Coalition government’s Direct Action policy has become law after passing the lower house on November 23.

The centrepiece of Direct Action is the Emissions Reduction Fund. Under this scheme, the government will pay for projects that will reduce CO2 emissions "at least cost".

Businesses, farmers, community organisations, local councils and individuals will be able to compete for $2.55 billion in government funding for projects to reduce their emissions.

Three species of owls are in danger of becoming extinct in Victoria, because the Victorian government has failed to protect the forest habitat where the Sooty, Masked and Powerful owls live.

The Powerful and Sooty owls are listed as vulnerable and the Masked owl is endangered, according to Victoria's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Management plans for the owls state that the Powerful and Masked owls require at least 100 areas of 500 hectares each, while the Sooty owl needs 131 areas of at least 500 hectares.

If there was one thing that seemed, finally, to unite this divided nation, it was the overwhelming sense of embarrassment at Prime Minister Tony Abbott's performance at the G20 Summit and other recent international platforms.

Hell, even the US media were talking about how cringe-worthy Abbott is, which, given the usual standard of American politicians, is a bit like having Andrew Bolt pull you up for being too racist.

A Senate committee recommended on November 24 that immigration minister Scott Morrison’s sweeping migration amendments be passed by parliament.

The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 would give Morrison unprecedented powers without the scrutiny of either parliament or the courts.

The education reforms of the 1970s occurred in a very different political climate from today's education movements, yet there are still lessons to be learnt from it.

The political agitation and mood for change of the 1960s opened the door to a number of movements, many coming from the Vietnam War. Students were not only shocked by the disturbing images of the war on the TV news during this time, but male students were also liable to be conscripted via a lottery process.

The White Ribbon is a public symbol that family violence is a problem. Women have the right to live a life free from gender-based violence. The fact that White Ribbon Day exists is a tribute to the generations of women and men who have campaigned to have family violence recognised as a crime and a serious problem in society.

The Maritime Union of Australia, with a predominantly male membership, has enthusiastically taken up White Ribbon Day.

In the Social Contract, published in 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that, “man is born free, and everywhere is in chains”. The French Revolution determined to remedy this state of affairs and its chosen instrument was a constitution setting out “natural, imprescriptible and inalienable rights”.

Australia signed a free trade agreement with China on November 17. The Coalition government and the media praise the agreement, but other groups are concerned about the implications.

More than 85% of Australian exports will be tariff free initially, rising to 93% in four years. Some of these goods are subject to tariffs of up to 40%. On full implementation of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, 95% of Australian exports to China will be tariff free.

Macquarie Group is the largest investment bank and fund manager in Australia. On November 27 it was listed in a “Hall of Shame” report on global financial institutions found to have investments in companies manufacturing cluster bombs.

If the need for an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in NSW was obvious when it was established in 1989, a report released in 2010 showed why it is absolutely indispensible.

This was an ICAC study of registered lobbyists that found there were 272 individual lobbyists listed in NSW. They included 22 former state or federal MPs and 112 staffers and advisers — about half of all lobbyists.

The following is an open letter to Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett by Aboriginal campaigner Iva Hayward-Jackson.

***

Recently the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, committed to closing down approximately 150 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

The premier has claimed that the closures would be in the best interests of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. He has followed the old uninformed line that demonises Aboriginal men by insinuating that Aboriginal women and children are under great threat by the men in the communities.

Five hundred people rallied in Melbourne on November 15 to protest against the Coalition government's proposed East West toll road. The rally had three main demands: scrap the East West Link, rip up the contracts and invest in public transport.

Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Pascoe Vale in the Victorian election, Sean Brocklehurst, gave this speech to the rally.

* * *

My name is Sean Brocklehurst. I am a candidate for the seat of Pascoe Vale. I am also an activist with Moreland Community Against the Tunnel.

We are against this tunnel.

Here are some numbers. There were 51.2 million refugees and displaced people worldwide at the end of last year. About 11,000 Australian protection visas are available, worldwide, each year, for people overseas who have applied for asylum.

Australia’s total share of the 11.7 million refugees officially registered with the UN refugee agency is 0.3%.

Sean Brocklehurst is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale and Sarah Hathway is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong in the Victorian elections on November 29. They released this statement on November 16.

***
Climate change is already killing hundreds of people in extreme heatwaves each year in Australia.

Australia’s dependence on fossil fuels and road transport are big contributors. More than 1000 Australians die each year from air pollution, mainly from fossil fuels. We need a rapid shift to renewable energy.

Victoria: Big coal state

Climate change is the biggest and most urgent threat facing humanity today.

We are seeing global temperatures rise at an unprecedented rate, with 13 of the 14 warmest years on record having occurred in the past 14 years.

In fact, if you are under 37 years of age, you have never seen a year of below average temperature.

Last year in Australia, over 150 weather records were broken, including experiencing our hottest day, week, month and year on record. It is likely that these records will not be long-standing, with all signs indicating they will be broken again this coming summer.

The word “socialist” first appeared in print in Italy in 1803. In the early 19th century there appeared to be two alternative roads to socialism: violent revolution or establishing cooperative communities separate from the state and capitalist social relations.

Towards the latter part of the century, a third possibility opened up: the working class could take control of the state through the ballot-box and reconstruct it on a socialist basis.

As the G20 wrapped up in Brisbane last week, national leaders issued a statement to announce the key issues they would focus on until the next meeting.

This included the creation of jobs through growth, with the ambitious target of growing the GDP of G20 countries by 2% over the next four years.

It was couched in language that promised a better life for everyone. “Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority,” the statement said.

Earlier this year, US and European banks — the ones that were too big to fail — settled US$18 billion worth of fines with regulators.

These fines were for money laundering activities, breaching sanctions violations, and manipulating the Libor (London interbank offered rate). The Libor is used to set interest rates on about US$800 trillion of borrowings and derivative contracts.

You know those annoying “We Agree” television ads by the fossil fuel corporate giant Chevron? The ones where an actor playing a student or a concerned member of a community “agrees” with supposedly noble objectives of this multinational?

Those ads make me feel like puking.

The objective of this campaign was to sell the idea that Chevron agrees that "Oil companies should put their profits to good use" and "It's time oil companies get behind renewable energy". As if!

The Great Artesian Basin is one of the world’s largest underground water reservoirs. It is the only source of water for towns and farms across almost a quarter of Australia, from far north Queensland to northern South Australia.

On November 7, the NSW Great Artesian Basin Advisory Group received a scientific report commissioned by the Artesian Bore Water Users Association (ABWUA). The report found that the reservoir’s recharge area is about a third as large as previously thought — covering less than 10% of the basin’s 1.7 million square kilometres.

Next year will see the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the charter of rights that the barons of old England forced King John to sign when they cornered him at Runnymede-on-Thames in 1215.

While we may doubt that the barons intended that the rights they sought should apply to ordinary folk, Magna Carta nevertheless effectively introduced the legal concept of the presumption of innocence — the principle that an accused person is innocent until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury.

The Australian public has to foot a $500 million bill for hosting the G20 summit in Brisbane last weekend. Just before that, the public funded a delegation — including our Rambo Prime Minister, Tony Abbott — to the APEC summit in Beijing. We don't know what that excursion cost the public, but you can be sure it wasn't peanuts.

So was it worth it? After all, Abbott did not even try to shirtfront Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Victorian Coalition government looks set to go down in an ignominious defeat at the November 29 state election.

Several recent polls have given Labor a healthy lead of about 56% to 44% in two-party preferred terms.

The Coalition was narrowly elected — to everyone’s surprise (including their own) — in 2010, and thus look like being the first one-term government in Victoria since 1955.

I still recall the sickening nausea I felt in the aftermath of media reports that X Factor judge and alleged musician Redfoo had been glassed in a Double Bay hotel in August. It wasn't caused by accounts of the pub violence, but washed over me when, never having heard of the guy, I foolishly decided to find out.

Fifty protesters, and a larger-than life Nemo, protested outside Westpac's Sydney office on November 9.

Organised by Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), the protesters handed more than 15,000 postcards to the bank calling on it not to fund the massive coalmining expansion at Galilee Basin, which would lead to the Great Barrier Reef being dredged to facilitate coal transport. The reef was put on the World Heritage List in 1981.

This speech was given by Tony Iltis of Socialist Alliance to a rally in Melbourne on November 8, calling on the Saudi government to free dissident Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. Al-Nimr is a popular Shia sheikh who has been critical of Saudi authorities, suggesting in a 2009 sermon that the Eastern Province would secede if its Shia population's rights were not respected.

Australians for Kurdistan began this petition on Change.org. It asks the Australian federal attorney-general to arrest Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he visits Brisbane for the G20 summit on November 15. It also asks the attorney-general to remove the Kurdistan Workers Party from the list of terrorist organisations. To sign the petition go to www.change.org.

* * *

Sarah Hathway and Sean Brocklehurst are running as Socialist Alliance candidates in the Victorian election. They released this statement on November 7.

***

The federal government's concern about “corruption” is very selective.

For many months, there have been calls for a royal commission into the Commonwealth Bank and ASIC to investigate how thousands of people were stripped of their life savings as a result of fraud by dodgy financial planners working for the bank.

Protesters successfully stopped self-described “pick up artist” Julien Blanc from giving his planned seminar on October 6 on how to manipulate and sexually assault women.

Protests followed Blanc throughout his attempted Australian tour, causing venues to dump his events in multiple cities, and he finally returned to the US on November 7.

“The Battle of Brisbane.” These were the words that greeted readers of Queensland’s Courier Mail on October 28.

The article, taking up the front cover and several subsequent pages, dealt with the alleged threat of violent protests at the G20 summit to be held in Brisbane on November 15 and 16.

The police, according to the Courier Mail, should meet the protesters with brutal suppression. The actual threat of violence was left vague.

In many ways, the phrasing of the subhead for the piece told it all: “Cops vow to crush G20 ferals”.

A campaign organised by Cambodians has led the country’s first vice-president of the National Assembly to urge Australia to back down from its bid to resettle refugees there.

Kem Sokha said in a letter to the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, Alison Burrows, that the deal to transfer up to 1000 refugees from Nauru could have “negative impacts which would possibly be caused by economic, social situations”.
Joyce Fu, who works for NGO Corner Link and was part of organising protests and petitions calling for the refugee deal to be abandoned, said Cambodia was ill-equipped for the plan.

Oxfam released a report in January that found companies have hidden between $21 trillion and $32 trillion in offshore bank accounts to escape paying tax. That amount is double US GDP or about 20 times Australian GDP.

One of the issues that will be discussed at the G20 meeting in Brisbane is how to set up an international framework to stop this tax avoidance. Unfortunately, it will not work.

This statement was released on November 6 by Sean Broklehurst, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale in the November 29 Victorian elections, and Sarah Hathway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong.

It refers to the project, set to cost at least $15 billion, to link Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway and City Link, with the major part of the project being a 4.4 kilometre tunnel.

***

Brisbane is almost in lockdown as preparations get under way for the G20 Summit over November 15 and 16.

Road closures began a week before world leaders and their media lackeys were due to arrive. Manholes and utility service grates in footpaths in the CBD and around the G20 venue in South Brisbane have been sealed as a precaution against sabotage.

Pages