Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 982

After the ALP caucus deposed Julia Gillard in June this year, her recycled replacement, Kevin Rudd, thanked them by making sure that they wouldn’t get the chance to sack him a second time.

In what many of them saw as an ambush, he proposed to a surprised caucus that, in future, Labor leaders should be elected by ballot of both the caucus and the party’s rank-and-file members. It would not be open to caucus to depose any leader again unless 75% of them decided that he or she had “brought the party into disrepute.”

Liberal PM Tony Abbott can't abolish the truth, but he is trying. Whether it is his new government's attempt to keep refugee boat arrivals secret or the abolition of the Climate Commission, Abbott has moved quickly to keep the public in the dark.

Former Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery warned after the commission was disbanded: "As global action on climate change deepens, propaganda aimed at misinforming the public about climate change, and so blunting any action, increases."

About 1000 people packed the Sydney Opera House on September 16 for a public forum featuring Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs, independent US journalist Alexa O’Brien and Australian academic Robert Manne.

Tony Abbott was officially sworn in as prime minister on September 18 at Government House in a ceremony that seemed to involve the ritual blood sacrifice of public servants.

Featuring the sacrificial slaughter of three top public servants that day, the ceremony appears to have enabled the new PM to commune directly with the Dark Lord Margaret Thatcher from the deep fiery pits of Hell where the baroness demon has presumably dwelt since April.

The new Prime Minister Tony Abbott is infamous for his homophobia. Only recently he dismissed the equal marriage rights campaign as the “fashion of the moment”.

The equal marriage rights campaign is about much more than marriage. It’s about a prejudice that kills people. Particularly for young people, life in the queer community keeps them constantly on their toes.

All around, queer people are self-harming, and every day young people worry that somebody they care about might commit suicide. These are the consequences of homophobia and transphobia.

One of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s first acts has been to abolish the Climate Commission. Set up under Julia Gillard in 2011 and chaired by Tim Flannery, the commission’s role was to explain climate science to the public.

It is well known Abbott will abolish the carbon price, but other climate programs in Abbott’s sights include the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

This is a clear sign the new Abbott government believes the environment can be sacrificed for profit.

A push to give a foetus “personhood” has been, until now, quietly making its way through the NSW parliament.

About 100 people packed out the NSW Parliamentary gallery on September 19 to witness a debate on a bill to amend the NSW Crimes Act to give foetuses of 20 weeks, and more than 400 grams, “personhood” or legal rights.

Sam Wainwright and Margarita Windisch stood for the Socialist Alliance in the federal election in the seat of Fremantle in Western Australia and Wills in Victoria, respectively. Green Left Weekly spoke to them about their campaigns.

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What were some of the highlights of your election campaign?

The death of a young man from a suspected drug overdose at a dance music festival in Sydney on September 14 showed not just how inadequate prohibition is at dealing with drugs, but how it also unnecessarily risks lives.

Defqon.1 is an annual music festival featuring hardstyle electronic dance music. It takes place in the Netherlands and Australia at different times each year. Each festival has its own anthem or theme song; the anthem for this year's Australian festival was “Scrap the System”.

A media campaign began this month to discredit the findings of the fifth major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released on September 27.

The Australian published a front page story on September 16 headlined: “We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC”.

Research by The Australia Institute has found Australian gas prices are set to double over the next few years — not because there is a gas crisis, but because gas companies are exporting Australian gas for much higher prices, driving up the price of domestic gas.

Mark Ogge from The Australia Institute explained this research in a speech to a meeting of Stop CSG Illawarra in Wollongong on September 15.

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GLW Issue 981

Australia’s recent federal election should be remembered as the election that forgot about climate change. Serious action to address climate change was a non-issue for the two big parties and the mainstream media, despite the country experiencing its second-warmest August, second-warmest winter and warmest 12-month period on record.

Since the election of Tony Abbott’s Coalition government, Green Left Weekly has had a rush of new subscribers and many renewals. These people recognise the critical role Green Left Weekly will play in the trying period ahead.

One regular subscriber bought a subscription for her daughter. "She needs to know what is going on under this terrible man, Tony Abbott," the subscriber said when I took her call.

Her trepidation is shared by many — with good reason.

The proposed fate of Istanbul’s Gezi Park has much in common with the current re-development plans for Barangaroo in Sydney’s East Darling Harbour. Sydneysiders concerned about the Crown/Lend Lease takeover bid can draw inspiration from the Gezi Park occupiers and send a clear message of defiance to James Packer’s fawning peons in the Barry O’Farrell government.

All over the world, the privatisation of public space is growing. As Anna Minton, leading policy analyst and author of Ground Control, has pointed out in connection with the situation in Britain.

Socialist Alliance members in Geelong have been victims of a vicious, post-election smear campaign. Federal police are investigating a Facebook page that called for the assassination of PM-elect Tony Abbott.

The creator of the page has not been identified, but they claimed an association with the Geelong branch of the Socialist Alliance and appeared to be posting from Geelong Trades Hall, where Socialist Alliance has its office.

Soft brown eyes flicked furtively towards the guard’s room, then back to the ripe luscious strawberry she had carefully placed on the table’s edge. She waited for the guard’s laconic indifference to blend into the certainty of distraction, then secreted the treasure in her loose pocket.

“For my friend,” she confided, while a hint of defiance momentarily lit up eyes that for most of our visit had spilled out a lifetime of sorrow and loss. “My pregnant friend.”

Well, turns out some bastards won the federal elections. I knew some bastards would win. I said it beforehand, I said: “Some bastards are going to win this one, you wait and see.”

I was right. I even tried to put some money on some bastards winning, but no bookies would give me odds.

Aboriginal Australians awoke on Sunday morning to find they had a new “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”, a pledge Tony Abbott delivered during the 2013 election campaign.

One problem — noone, including within the media, ever stopped to ask Aboriginal people if they actually wanted a “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”, and in particular whether they wanted Abbott.

As it turns out, they apparently don’t.

Just before the federal election that put Tony Abbott in power, his soon-to-be immigration minister Scott Morrison said the government may stop telling the public when asylum boats arrive in Australia.

Instead, reporting details about boat arrivals — including numbers on board, their nationalities and whether any are children — would be an “operational decision” of the defence officers in charge of the Coalition's “Operation Sovereign Borders”.

“The worst genocide of this century” was how Paul Newman, professor of human rights at the University of Bangalore, described what has happened to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Newman was delivering the Eliezer memorial lecture, in memory of Professor CJ Eliezer, the founder of the Eelam Tamil Association of Victoria, at Monash University on August 25.

Newman was speaking on democracy in south Asia. He began by outlining some common features of the south Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, before discussing Sri Lanka in more detail.

The first marriage equality rally in Nowra, south of Wollongong, was held on September 6. About 100 people attended the rally and chalk rainbows were drawn on the footpath.

Rally organiser Tobi Harris told the Illawarra Mercury: “The seat of Gilmore has been held by the Liberals for 17 years, and we want to remind them to stand up for the gay community.”

Long-time queer rights activist Paola Harvey addressed the crowd. Her speech is reprinted below.

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So Tony Abbott is the new prime minister. The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor governments delivered this outcome with the narrow self-interest of its MPs and mafia-like faction heads and its desperation to prove itself as the best managers of the system for the billionaire class.

GLW Issue 980

The land around Gwabegar, in north-western NSW, is not known for its fertile soil. Locals call it “mongrel” or “heartbreak” country.

Fairfax Media quoted a farmer from nearby saying: “This is scalded country. It could not support the number of animals that would be needed to make a return on investment.”

If the Pilliga scrub is not much good for farming, why did Barnaby Joyce, the National Party Senator now standing for the seat of New England, and his wife Natalie pay $572,000 for two blocks of land there in the space of 18 months between 2006 and 2008?

Western Australian Liberal Premier Colin Barnett admitted on August 21 that his government faced a tough start to its second term. This followed fee rises and controversial attacks on the public sector in the August 8 state budget, which provoked a backlash including an August 30 decision by school teachers to plan an industrial campaign.

Green Left Weekly is a paper that proudly campaigns for left-wing issues in Australia and around the world, and aims to be a forum for news and debate to support these struggles. It supports the Socialist Alliance as a political party that brings together these issues.

In the federal election, we’re calling for a vote for the Socialist Alliance and the Greens.

Fremantle City Councillor Sam Wainwright, who is standing in the seat of Fremantle for the Socialist Alliance, said at a meet-the-candidates meeting that after the election on September 7, Australia will have a government that is "either bad or worse".

The two big parties have long considered refugees’ rights forfeit. This election year has been a time of unprecedented sacrifice of refugees, as each “policy” idea from Labor and the Liberals becomes more extreme than the last.

After signing up Papua New Guinea and Nauru to bogus resettlement deals, PM Kevin Rudd has most recently sent families to Nauru and continues to oversee legally dubious deportations.

While much of the focus this election has been on the battle for western Sydney, noticeably absent from media reporting has been the campaign waged by Greens candidates in the area.

Yet the Greens are not only fielding candidates in every western Sydney electorate, “We are taking active roles in our local communities across western Sydney”, explained David Lenton, the Greens candidate for the seat of Lindsay.

More than that, they have the old mainstream parties running scared.

Peter Boyle is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Sydney. He gave this speech to a rally for single parents rights in Redfern on August 24.

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Together with Dianne Hiles, the Greens candidate in the same electorate who just spoke, I am campaigning against the cruel cuts to single parent entitlements by the former Julia Gillard Labor government and campaigning for a break from major party rule, from conservative major party policies and from the corrupted, old politics those parties stand for.

Amber Maxwell was a great activist. She was one of the most dedicated young cadres of the Socialist Alternative Perth branch, and a co-convener of Equal Love WA. She committed suicide on August 24. She was 20 years old.

I consider myself lucky that for a year and a half I worked with her in the queer struggle. I considered her a comrade and I cared about her.