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If the last federal election promised the beginnings of a break from the two-parties-for-capitalism electoral system that has plagued Australian politics for the past century, the March 29, 2011 NSW election seems to be a lurch in the other direction. The Liberal-National Coalition won dominance of the Legislative Assembly and (with small right-wing parties) control of the Legislative Council because a large number of working class voters punished the Labor party with a -13.5% swing.
The courageous participants in the June 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla turned the world's attention to the plight of the Palestinian people. Yet Israel continues to defy international law, and thus the campaign to end the blockade of Gaza continues. Responding to widespread international outrage at the attack on the freedom Flotilla, Israel announced an easing of its illegal blockade, intending to deflect criticism from its inhumane and illegal policies.
Despite their talk about democracy, the governments of the US and other Western nations are very interested in stopping the wave of democratic uprisings across the Arab world. The threat of real democracy is not compatible with the system of economic dominance and political control that the US enforces across the world. The US will do everything it can to stop the resource-rich Arab countries from escaping its clutches, especially when it has already spent so much effort on propping up tyrannical governments across the region.
Julian Burnside.

The public forum “Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom” took place on March 16 at the Sydney Town Hall. More than 2000 people attended. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney.

It can sometimes feel like we’re losing a race against time to avoid environmental catastrophe and social collapse. Climate change is already extinguishing species, destroying essential food production and forcing thousands of people to flee their island homes. People are directly affected by more wars than ever before in history. While the underlying causes of the recent global financial crisis remain, governments are imposing vicious austerity policies on the majority of people in the Global North and South to pay for the capitalists’ greed.
The statement below was published by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Working Group (South Africa) on March 23. It’s abridged from www.pacbi.org . * * * Today, setting a worldwide precedent in the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has effectively severed ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU). This was after UJ’s Senate rejected a last ditch motion by pro-Israeli lobbyists to have two separate bilateral agreements — one with a Palestinian University and another with an Israeli University.
Israeli settlers observed their own “Day of Rage” on March 17, launching reprisal attacks on Palestinians for the recent murder of a settler family in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. It was also in response to Israeli authorities’ demolition of a settlement structure. Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank have long carried out the much-publicised “price tag” policy of intimidation and violence against Palestinians and their property every time Israeli officials have demolished a settler outpost.
The Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh is under increased pressure to step down after the defection in recent days of key tribal leaders, government ministers, diplomats and army units. The defectors have pledged support for anti-government protesters. Tens of thousands of people marched in the capital, Sana’a, on March 25 to demand Saleh step down, AlJazeera.net said that day. However, the article said Saleh gave a defiant speech to supporters, insisting he would only hand over power “to capable, responsible hands”.
Andrew Wilkie addresses the March 16 Sydnet Town Hall meeting

The public forum “Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom” took place on March 16 at Sydney Town Hall. More than 2000 people attended. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney It featured speeches by John Pilger, Andrew Wilkie MP (the only serving Western intelligence officer to expose the truth about the Iraq invasion) and human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC. Wilkie’s address to the forum is below. The video recording of the event also appears below.

Award-winning novelist and environmentalist Richard Flanagan gave the speech below at a March 19 rally north of Launceston against the forest giant Gunns’ proposal to build a pulp mill in the nearby Tamar valley. * * * Seven long years ago [then Tasmanian Premier] Paul Lennon and [former Gunns chairperson] John Gay decided they would build their pulp mill. The people did not agree. They tried to silence us, to intimidate us, to threaten us, to break us and destroy us. Lately they’ve even tried to flatter us and to divide us.
Israeli warplanes launched four simultaneous attacks in the Gaza Strip on March 24, Xinhuanet.com said the next day. Since the flare-up of violence that began on March 19, Israel has killed 10 Palestinians, six of them civilians, in different airstrikes and shootings, the article said. “The targets included an abandoned building which used to be the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority’s intelligence department, a nearby sports hall and a neighboring training camp for the military wing of Islamic Hamas movement in northwest Gaza City," it said.
Union supporters have taken their message of worker solidarity and resistance from Wisconsin, all the way to the White House. Socialistworker.org said more than 1000 trade union activists and students gathered in Washington D.C. on March 23. The protests targeted a Republican Party fundraising event organised by several of Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers. The fundraiser was held at the offices of major lobbying firm BGR Group. Mississippi’s Republican governor Haley Barbour founded BGR Group, whose clients include energy, pharmaceutical and defence companies.