Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 944

Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bolton was elected to Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in the October 27 elections.

The election provided a shake-up with the ALP losing three councillors and its outright majority on council. The Greens retained two councillors although their vote dropped in all three wards.

The Socialist Alliance gained its first councillor position in Victoria and a Liberal Party member was elected to Moreland Council for the first time. The Democratic Labor Party retained its councillor.

So if the government's bill excising the entire Australian mainland from the migration zone is passed in parliament, I guess we will all be unAustralian.

That is one insult used by politicians to describe anything they don't like will now lose its force. Forget Aboriginal people protesting on Australia Day, logically there can surely be no more unAustralian act than legally declaring Australia unAustralia.

Feminists from various organisations and groups gathered outside NSW Parliament House on October 23 to protest the severe cuts the Barry O’Farrell government has proposed for several community organisations.

Some of the centres and services that face an uncertain future include the Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre, which provides information and support to disadvantaged and abused women, and the Margaret Jurd Learning Centre, a non-government school that caters for children with disabilities.

“Now there’s two of us,” declared Alex Greenwich, after he won the NSW seat of Sydney in the October 27 by-election. Greenwich received just under 65% of the two-party preferred vote: a 12% swing to Clover Moore's independents.

The by-election was held because of the NSW government’s “Get Clover Bill,” which banned MPs from sitting on local council. Sydney mayor Clover Moore then had to resign from her seat in state parliament.

In his victory speech, Greenwich stood with Moore and spoke of how the attempt to rob Sydney of its independent voice had backfired on the government.

The two-year negotiations between loggers and environmentalists, which many hoped would end the conflict over Tasmania’s forests, collapsed on October 27.

The Wilderness Society, a key negotiator in the talks, blamed the collapse on the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), which represents logging companies such as Malaysian logging firm Ta Ann and, previously, Gunns Ltd.

The Sydney Stop the War Coalition released the statement below on November 2.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard made her annual report on the war in Afghanistan to an almost empty Parliament House on October 31.

After 11 years, she insists that the International Security Assistance Force counter-insurgency strategy against the Taliban is “working” and the Afghan National Army is on track to take over security in 2014 — when the Western forces “leave”.

Since being elected to the Moreland council in Melbourne, I have been asked by several people whether I can make a difference since I will have only one vote on council.

My reply is that socialists on local council or in federal or state parliaments can achieve change only if they use the position to build and support local community and broader campaigns for people’s rights.

At the end of the day, an elected socialist won’t achieve much if they just rely on negotiations with other councillors or politicians.

Refugees on Nauru have staged several peaceful but desperate protests in recent weeks to call attention to their worsening conditions. Several refugees have attempted suicide.

But allegations have surfaced that staff inside the centre have made attempts to obstruct and interrupt their bid to be heard by the Australian public. One asylum seeker held on Nauru told Green Left Weekly that Salvation Army staff stationed in the centre had torn down protest signs assembled by the detainees.

Sue Bolton, the newly elected socialist councillor in Moreland, is a feminist and socialist fighter.

She's been a tireless campaigner for working people’s rights since the late 1970s, when she first joined the anti-uranium campaign in Toowoomba, Queensland.

GLW Issue 945

The Progressive PSA (PPSA) team has won important victories in elections for the 43,000-member NSW Public Service Association (PSA). PPSA member Anne Gardiner won the top position of General Secretary, and PPSA candidates took all positions on the 45-member Central Council. A recount will be held for other executive positions following an extremely close vote.

GLW Issue 943

Socialist Alliance activist and feminist Liah Lazarou gave the speech below to Adelaide’s Reclaim the Night rally on October 26.

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Globally, millions of women experience violence — whether in the form of intimate partner violence, rape and sexual coercion, stalking, trafficking, forced prostitution, exploitation of labour, or other violations of women's bodies and psyches.

The high prevalence of violence against women both reflects and reinforces women's lower status in society.

To end the violence against women, we need to confront both the violence directly and the structural causes of women's lower standing that makes women vulnerable to the violence.

We've been told opportunity, prosperity and more freedoms came to Australia under the banner of capitalism and the “free-market” in the 1980s and 90s after the economic slump of two recessions.

But when neoliberal ideals and rhetoric are set aside, a grim picture of the great, and ever growing, divide between the rich and poor in Australia emerges yet again.

Between 1920 and 1980, inequality in Australia was shrinking, until a perceived sense of national stagnation took hold and the Hawke-Keating Labor government made the leap into the global free market.

The billionaires and their corporate courtiers had a sneer and snigger fest when BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto informed the Tax Office they would pay zero mining tax for the first quarter of this financial year.

The federal Labor government's mid-year budget update downgraded the tax's forecast revenue from $13.4 billion over four years to $9.1 billion. But these mining giants told the media it was not clear how much, if anything, they would pay over the rest of the financial year.

What a sorry end to the mining super-tax profits saga.

The Australian parliament building reeks of floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon-like portraits of prime ministers, bewigged judges and viceroys. Along the gleaming white, hushed corridors, the walls are hung with Aboriginal art: one painting after another as in a monolithic gallery, divorced from their origins, the irony brutal. The poorest, sickest, most incarcerated people on earth provide a facade for those who oversee the theft of their land and its plunder.

In a startling but not unexpected backflip, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman gave the green light to uranium mining on October 22, lifting a decades-long ban on the destructive industry.

Feminist and Socialist Alliance activist Margarita Windisch gave the speech below at Melbourne’s Reclaim the Night rally on October 20.

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A big thank you to the Reclaim the Night 2012 collective for organising today and giving us the opportunity to get our voices heard in public

Tonight is our night — we are here to reclaim the night and our right as women to fully participate in this society of ours without the fear of sexual violence — here on Sydney Rd, all over Australia and across the world.

GLW Issue 942

Former Israeli paratrooper Avner Gvaryahu, now an activist with Breaking The Silence explains to Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle how 850 former Israeli soldiers have given testimony about the gross injustices against the Palestinian people they have witnessed and made to participate in as part of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He was visiting Australia to promote the book "Our Harsh Logic" (Scribe Publications).

PM Julia Gillard's sharp serve against opposition leader Tony Abbott’s sexism gave many, especially women, long overdue cause to fist-pump the air and think, “Finally, a point for us.”

She threw a verbal hand grenade on top of the simmering indignation that had pent up due to radio broadcaster Alan Jones’ relentless misogyny and the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of ABC journalist Jill Meagher. The speech rapidly went viral, hit global news and connected with thousands of women fed up with being told to shut up and accept the double standards.

It is that time of year again, when a bunch of Norwegian politicians decide who deserves a Nobel Peace Prize with an apparent disregard for any involvement in actual wars.

This year, the European Union was declared the winner. Coming just three years after the Norwegians gave the gong to US President Barack Obama, the decision is actually beginning to make me wonder if they have ever even heard of a place called Afghanistan. Perhaps we should all chip in for an atlas.

In 1988, then Labor Prime Minster Bob Hawke famously promised: “By the year 1990, there will be no Australian child living in poverty.”

Yet the recently released 2012 Poverty In Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reveals that 2,265,000 people, including 575,000 children, are still living below the poverty line in Australia.

The Guardian’s description of Australia’s opposition leader Tony Abbott as “neanderthal” is not unreasonable. Misogyny is an Australian blight and a craven reality in political life. But for so many commentators around the world to describe Julia Gillard’s attack on Abbott as a “turning point for Australian women” is absurd.

It’s just before the turn of the 20th century, and colonial Australia is desperate to forge a “nation” and pull away from self-governing British colonies.

So-called native-born Australians are swept up in a wave of nationalism, keen to cut the apron strings of mother England. At the same time, on the southern edge of the Kimberley, another battle for independence is underway.

But this one won’t result in a constitution or the formation of a Commonwealth; it will end in rivers of black blood and the deaths of many.

Unionist Bob Carnegie was charged with 54 counts of contempt of court on October 17 for taking part in a community protest during a dispute between builders' unions and building firm Abigroup at the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) construction site.

It is a sign of things to come for community activists. About 650 workers took strike actions against Abigroup for refusing to meet demands over working conditions, subcontractor terms and an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

A debate about sexism erupted when female prime minister Julia Gillard attacked the opposition leader in Australian parliament for his misogynist attitudes.

It was a reminder that even after all the advances in the past 40 years, many women still face high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault, they shoulder the burden of child care and housework, in the workforce they make up most casual and underpaid jobs while earning 70% of what men earn, and battle daily with sexism in culture and relationships.

Channel 9's morning news program showed footage of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stumbling and falling during her official visit to India over and over again — at least 10 times in succession.

Then for “balance” it showed footage of a similar stumble by former PM John Howard (who, unlike Gillard, wasn't wearing high-heeled shoes on grass at the time) — replayed just three times.

GLW Issue 941

Independent journalist, political activist and author Antony Loewenstein discusses his new book After Zionism, at Sydney's Gleebooks on October 2. In discussion with Peter Manning and the audience, Loewenstein covers questions of zionism, one or two state solutions, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, Israel as an apartheid state, debates in Palestine, Israel and beyond, the Gaza flotillas, and much more.

NSW Coalition Premier Barry O’Farrell has been accused of lying about his pre-election promise to protect farmland and drinking water catchments from the burgeoning coal seam gas (CSG) industry.

The government finally released its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy on September 11. It outlines how the government will manage the CSG industry. After 18 months of promising to protect sensitive areas such as farms and bushland from the new industry, the policy revealed that no part of NSW has been ruled out for CSG mining and exploration.

Tasmania's upper house voted against equal marriage on September 26. The bill, co-sponsored by Labor Premier Lara Giddings and Greens deputy Nick McKim, passed the lower house on August 30.

But after a two-day debate, eight of the upper house's 15 MLCs voted against the bill, mostly fearing a High Court challenge and claiming that it was a federal and not a state issue.

Serious homophobia was also in play. Former Supreme Court chief justice William Cox said allowing same-sex couples to marry could also lead to same-sex surrogacy and adoption.

Elections are coming up for local councils across Victoria. Many candidates are reflecting community campaigns, but others are reflecting the interests of developers and other business interests.

Because council ballot papers don’t identify candidates’ party affiliation, the Liberal and Labor parties often don’t endorse candidates. Instead, members of the Liberal and Labor parties run as “independents”.