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This month marks two years since the start of the Saudi-led, US-supported war on Yemen. Involving a blockade of Yemen and the consequent collapse of the nation’s economy, the war has made the prospect of famine very real.
The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that Yemen is currently only a few months away from a famine. Food, medical supplies, electricity — the Yemeni population is facing critical shortages of basic necessities.
Earlier in March, the United Nations warned that Yemen, along with Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and the Horn of Africa, faces famine-conditions that affect the lives of 20 million people.
Without a collective and coordinated effort, millions face the likelihood of starvation and malnutrition, with all the consequent humanitarian problems that those conditions produce.US-backed war
Let us be clear: this tragic situation is a direct consequence of the Saudi offensive against the country of Yemen, and this military campaign is fully supported by the United States and Britain.
In an article for Dissident Voice elaborating on the human-made famine in Yemen, Kathy Kelly writes that: “After years of U.S. support for dictator Ali Adullah Saleh, civil war has wracked Yemen since 2014.
“Its neighbour Saudi Arabia, itself among the region’s cruellest dictatorships and a staunch US ally, became nervous in 2015 about the outcome and, with support from nine regional allies, began subjecting the country to a punishing barrage of airstrikes, and also imposed a blockade that ended the inflow of food and supplies to Yemen through a major port.
“This was accomplished with massive, ongoing weapons shipments from the US, which has also waged independent airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, including women and children.”
Kelly writes that Unicef estimates 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen. Pregnant and lactating women, themselves bearing the consequences of malnutrition, cannot adequately provide the necessary nutrition for their children, thus increasing the likelihood of malnutrition-induced diseases and conditions in the succeeding generation.
It is relevant to remember that the Saudi offensive, which involves the heavy aerial bombardment of Yemen, has escalated in recent months.
Saudi Arabia and the associated Gulf petro-monarchies, have been waging a military campaign in Yemen to support their preferred politician, Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The Saudi-led coalition, with the full backing of Washington and London, has been carrying out this war to suppress the rebel Houthi movement, a militarised Shia politico-military force that has seized much of the country.
The US has assisted this war, since former US President Barack Obama threw in his lot with the Saudi kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has received a constant supply of weapons and munitions from the US.
In fact, Obama has the dubious distinction of actually increasing weapons sales to the monarchist dictatorship in Riyadh, thus ensuring that the Wahhabist kingdom could launch and continue its offensive in Yemen.
The naval blockade of Yemen, enforced with the assistance of the US Navy, has contributed to bringing that nation to the brink of famine.
The support for Saudi Arabia from the United States, in the form of logistics, intelligence-gathering, aerial refuelling and military resupply, exposes the predatory aims and ambitions of US finance capital and undermines its claims to be a force for peace in the world.Drone strikes
The US began its own war on Yemen in 2009, when Obama authorised the use of aerial drone strikes in the country.
This drone warfare was notionally launched to combat the presence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); however, the main targets have been Yemeni civilians.
Obama escalated and perfected the tactic of drone strikes during his administration, and he gave himself the right to order the assassination of anyone he deemed to be a member of, or associated with, AQAP.
In 2011, Obama ordered the killing of US citizen and Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, on the basis of Awlaki’s alleged affiliation with al Qaeda.
The US, when attacking targets in Yemen, routinely dismiss civilian casualties and victims of US drone attacks as “al Qaeda militants”. This drone program is now in the hands of current US President Donald Trump.
Patrick Cockburn, veteran foreign correspondent for The Independent, writes that Trump has escalated America’s involvement in the Yemen war, carrying out multiple air strikes across the country over the past month.
Increasing its military support for Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration is continuing where Obama left off.Trump
While the United Nations has been warning that Yemen, along with countries in the Horn of Africa, constitute the gravest humanitarian crisis faced by the world since 1945, Trump has increased US support for the Saudi war.
Cockburn writes: “At the very moment that the UN is warning about the calamity facing Yemen, the US State Department has given permission for a resumption of the supply of precision guided weapons to Saudi Arabia.
“These sales were suspended last October by President Obama after Saudi aircraft bombed a funeral in the capital Sana’a, killing more than 100 mourners.
“Ever since Saudi Arabia started its bombing campaign in March 2015, the US has been refuelling its aircraft and has advisors in the Saudi operational headquarters.
“For the weapons sales to go ahead all that is needed is White House permission.”
This bombardment is part of the as-yet undeclared US war on Yemen, in addition to the January Navy SEAL attack that killed the eight-year old daughter of the late Anwar al Awlaki.
The January raid, ostensibly undertaken to attack an AQAP training camp, resulted in a fire fight, the deaths of at least 25 Yemeni civilians, the destruction of an American aircraft, and the death of a US Navy SEAL.
During his address to Congress, Trump cynically exploited the death of Owens, using the grief of Owen’s widow to drum up support for this illegal and criminal Yemen war. The cameras focused on Carryn Owens, and media commentators gushed with feigned sympathy for her grief.
No mention was made of the tears of the Yemeni civilians, who have to endure this war in their daily lives.
As Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Intercept: “This is standard fare in US war propaganda: We fixate on the Americans killed, learning their names and life stories and the plight of their spouses and parents, but steadfastly ignore the innocent people the US government kills, whose numbers are always far greater.
“There is thus a sprawling, moving monument in the centre of Washington, DC, commemorating the 58,000 US soldiers who died in Vietnam, but not the (at least) 2 million Vietnamese civilians killed by that war.”Australia’s role
Australia’s studious silence about the US-supported destruction of Yemen has to be broken — the Malcolm Turnbull government, through the person of foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, has been a cheerleader for Saudi Arabia for far too long.
The false equivalence of condemning both the Saudi regime and the Houthi rebel opponents must also be abandoned.
The Shia Houthi movement — the Ansar Allah — have been dishonestly stigmatised as proxies of Iran. The Houthi rebels have received support from Tehran, but it has been largely rhetorical.
The culpability of Riyadh, Washington and London for bringing Yemen to the brink of famine cannot be disguised by allegations of Iranian perfidy.
The role of Australian mercenaries fighting in support of the Saudi military cannot be ignored. Sent by the United Arab Emirates to Yemen, Australian mercenaries have actively assisted the Saudi-American offensive.
While the activities of Australians fighting in Syria in support of Jabhat Al-Nusra or ISIS have received extensive media scrutiny, the role of Australians in Yemen has barely been mentioned.
Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIS are terrorist groups. But do the military actions of the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen amount to an act of collective terrorism?
[Rupen Savoulian runs the Antipodean Atheist blog.]1131International News
Foreign Correspondent’s “Venezuela: A nation on the brink”, screened on the ABC on March 21 was a straight out piece of US State Department propaganda.
It was also more evidence of the ABC’s rightward trajectory under ex-Murdoch executive and CEO Michelle Guthrie.
“Venezuela is a disaster,” reporter Eric Campbell and producer Matt Davis begin. “It has the biggest oil reserves on the planet. But instead of living like Middle Eastern sheiks, many Venezuelans are on the brink of famine.
“The economy is in ruins, the currency is all but worthless, shops are empty and people queue for subsidised food rations to survive.
“A charismatic former army colonel named Hugo Chavez launched a socialist revolution after he was elected in 1998. But, under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, the oil-rich country has become a failing state.”
The Foreign Correspondent team allege they had to go “undercover” as tourists “to evade the government’s restrictions on foreign journalists”. They claim “a week in the capital Caracas revealed a city on the edge of destruction”.
They observed food queues, visited a barrio, consorted with a drug gang and talked to a couple of anti-government figures. That was it. There was no attempt to balance the ledger in any way, although, when pressed, one interviewee said Venezuela had progressed under Chavez.
Foreign Correspondent constructed its argument around interviews with two anti-government figures: sociologist Margarita Lopez Maya, who supported Chavez up to 2009 but has since turned against the Bolivarian Revolution; and Maria Corina Machado, who regularly meets with US government agents and right-wing leaders. Machado was involved in the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez and has been linked to recent coup plots against Maduro.
No attempt was made to investigate the underlying causes of the serious problems Venezuela faces as a result of the oil crash and capital hoarding. There was no attempt to note the Bolivarian Revolution’s social gains over the past decade and a half.
These include the construction of 1.5 million homes for the poor over the past several years, the continued growth of the social “missions” which provide free health care and education up to tertiary level as well as subsidised food. The creation of communal councils and communes, run by the Venezuelans, also continues.
Ordinary Venezuelans are facing dire economic problems, but the ABC “journalists” fail to attempt to analyse where they have come from, preferring instead to blame the socialist government of Chavez and Maduro.
The catastrophic fall in the world price of oil has undermined state revenues that the Venezuelan government has relied on to support its social programs, including free health care, education for all and free housing for the poor. The economic hoarding and boycotts, imposed by private businesses in Venezuela, has made life very difficult for many.
The government has made serious errors in its economic policy, but there is a class war going on, waged by a small, but still strong, reactionary oligarchy that is backed by the US. They want a return to the “good old days” of rule by the super-rich, which the Foreign Correspondent team seem to also condone.
Maduro may be unpopular at present, but the right-wing opposition who control the National Assembly are even more unpopular, recent polls conclude. The opposition is widely seen as having no viable alternative program except to return to rule by the oligarchs. Revealing, was the tiny opposition rally, although Campbell and Davis had no real explanation beyond government threats.
Balanced investigative journalists would have sought answers to the real problems facing Venezuelans.
Campbell has form. He visited Venezuela in 2009, producing a Foreign Correspondent piece titled, “Venezuela: total control”, in which he claimed that Chavez was becoming increasingly dictatorial — against any skerrick of evidence.
Campbell’s feint to “balance” was to leave in some comments from his interviewees about the reforms made under Chavez. You can imagine there were a lot more for these couple of lines to remain in the final program.
Contrary to Campbell’s assertion that the Venezuelan media is primarily state-owned and controlled, the private media corporations are still strong and they run a permanent anti-government campaign.
But the Venezuelan people are heroic and resilient. They have withstood the capitalist media and other attacks on their Bolivarian Revolution since 1999.
Campbell’s piece, which revolves around his subjectivity, is an example of the new genre of documentary called “alternative facts”.1131Comment and Analysis
You know how it is when you go to the movies. Sometimes the sequel has a bigger impact than the original.
The announcement by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that she would bring forward proposals for a second referendum on Scottish independence may prove another example of this phenomenon.
There is a real feeling across Scotland, in Westminster and the media, that this time the Yes side could win and Scotland could break from the “United Kingdom”.
Nicola Sturgeon leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), which heads the devolved Scottish government with the support of the Scottish Greens. She replaced former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who resigned after the Yes side list the first referendum, and remains a popular figure.
In the first Scottish referendum, the independence campaign was defeated after winning a strong, but insufficient, 45% of the vote. But the referendum threw up a mass social movement that moved beyond the limited goals of the official Yes campaign.
The official campaign, under SNP leadership, backed retaining the pound as Scotland’s currency and the Queen as its head of state — along with NATO membership and an entirely uncritical view of the European Union.
But the referendum also sparked grassroots campaigns, which sprung up in every community in Scotland. Campaigners brought their own vision forward of the type of society they wanted to build.
This inspiring movement did not vanish after the failure of the referendum. Tens of thousands signed up for political parties. The SNP were the main beneficiaries, developing into a mass party with 120,000 members. This made it possibly the biggest party per head of population in Europe.
Other pro-independence parties such as the Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) also benefited. Campaigning groups such as the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) and Women for Independence also stayed together, building networks and campaigning.
New media such as CommonSpace and Bella Caledonia thrived on the left of the campaign, while more traditional nationalist media outlets, such as the new daily National paper and online Wings over Scotland also grew.Brexit
It is impossible to understand the new developments in the national question in Scotland without understanding Brexit and the rise of English nationalism.
Britain voted to leave the European Union in June last year. The vote followed a referendum campaign overwhelmingly dominated by the xenophobic and “British” nationalist agenda of the Conservatives and far right UK Independence Party (UKIP). The constant theme from both the “official” Leave campaign headed by Tory politicians Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, and the unofficial campaign led by UKIP’s Nigel Farage, was to blame immigrants and refugees for all of Britain’s problems.
This narrative conveniently ignored the financial crisis caused by the criminal behaviour of the big banks, and the governments who let them get away with it.
A heady mix of Empire nostalgia and xenophobia was tapped to secure the vote and the result was a carnival of reaction. In the midst of the campaign, anti-Brexit Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi. Racist attacks on Polish and other immigrant workers spiked dramatically after the vote.
Several groups on the left also argued for Brexit — not without reason, given the EU’s neoliberal nature and its persecution of Greece. But these arguments barely surfaced during the campaign. The Brexit vote had a major anti-establishment element, but it was channelled into the swamp of racism and xenophobia.
The vote also exposed the divisions within Britain. The “United Kingdom” was shown to be not so united. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to Remain. In Scotland, the vote was 67.2% to Remain.
The SNP-led Scottish government had pledged in its manifesto to call a second independence referendum in the event of a “material change of circumstances”, such as a vote to leave the EU. After the referendum’s results were announced, Sturgeon immediately called a televised press conference where she promised solidarity with migrant workers and pledged to “defend Scotland’s vital interests”.Scotland
Why did Scotland diverge so much from the rest of Britain? Scotland certainly faced economic problems as bad as anything faced by its neighbours. Tory austerity had bitten hard and poverty-related health problems were among the worst in the country.
Scots are not any more inherently progressive than the English. Indeed, Scottish and English workers have stood shoulder to shoulder in many key battles over the years, whether against the rise of fascism or during the miners’ strike in the 1980s.
But Scottish national consciousness had been forged in opposition to Tory rule. Scots overwhelmingly voted Labour, yet suffered years of Tory governments that devastated their industry and used them for anti-poor experiments like the hated poll tax in the late ’80s.
In Scotland, the democratic national question was also a class question.
The SNP was never in the vanguard of campaigns such as the anti-Poll Tax campaign. That honour goes to socialist groups like Scottish Militant Labour, which went on to form the SSP. But it did oppose the tax and also opposed imperialist wars in the Balkans and the Gulf.The next referendum
Westminster is trying to block the referendum until well after the conclusion of Brexit. It hopes the SNP government might face an election and lose its majority, that the steam will run out of its campaign, or that Brexit will prove a success.
As things stand, it is likely to be wrong on all counts. It also hopes to use Brexit to remove the votes of thousands of EU citizens, who were able to vote in the last independence referendum.
But the focus on Brexit is a weakness of the proposed independence referendum. Membership of the EU cannot be the only basis for creating a new state. While the issue motivates many, it will leave others, often the most oppressed, cold. The EU has not delivered for them anymore than Westminster.
The left needs to fight tooth and nail for Scotland’s democratic right to vote on independence. It also needs to fight to bring forward the interests of working people, immigrants and the poorest in Scottish society.RIC’s role
Groups such as RIC tried to create a vision of an alternative society during the first referendum. It hopes to do so again with an internationalist, democratic and egalitarian program for a Scottish republic.
RIC will argue for a People’s Independence. The 99% have the most to lose from ongoing Tory rule from Westminster. Their votes will decide the referendum and RIC aims to provide a platform to amplify this voice.
RIC will be discussing new ideas for the coming campaign, rather than simply repeating its work from the last referendum. The situation has changed dramatically since 2014 - that means our tactics and approach must also change.
By trying to block the referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Tories have again affronted democracy. May’s actions have highlighted the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the British state — contrasting with RIC’s vision of a democratic republic.
The result will be a further constitutional crisis. This comes on top of the social crisis created by Tory policies such as the public sector pay freeze, welfare reform and the bedrooms tax.
For anyone outside the millionaire class, Britain is heading in a dystopian direction. People across Britain are suffering from what will be decades of wage stagnation combined with rising housing, energy and food bills.
RIC will make sure this referendum offers a positive alternative where Scotland democratically decides how to share its resources and wealth. This, not the EU, will be at the heart of the radical Yes message.
The British state is now under the control of UKIP-style bigots and fantasists who dream of returning to the days of the British Empire. Britain now stands clearly on the wrong side of history. May left us in no uncertain terms in this regard when she joined hands in solidarity with US President Donald Trump.
RIC decisively rejects the racist and bigoted direction of the new national populist and far-right politics in the US, Britain and Europe, and will be part of an international movement of opposition.
An independent Scotland can defend migrant rights and confront the real social issues of inadequate housing, unemployment and low wages that drive people into the hands of the authoritarian right. But that means arguing for this in the here and now — not waiting until after independence.
RIC aims to show that such injustices have nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with a failing system that puts the profits of the richest 1% above the needs of everybody else.
RIC will meet on April 1 to discuss its strategy for a second referendum.
As an immediate priority, it opposes the Tory government attempts to block the referendum. This will not be a battle of the elites — it needs a people's movement on the streets, in communities and in workplaces.
RIC intends to work with radical movements and organisations from across Europe — believing that only internationalism from below can confront the failures of globalisation from above.
It will hold local events, national conferences and forums to ensure that independence will genuinely empower people to think about and challenge a failing neoliberal order.
[Alister Black is a SSP member active in the Radical Independence Campaign.]1131International News
A public forum on March 17 discussed the implications of Melbourne City Council's proposed amendments to Activities Local Law 2009.
The changes would broaden the definition of “camping” to mean people currently sleeping rough could be forcibly moved on by police and face fines for possessing a piece of cardboard or bedding. The city of Melbourne would be effectively criminalising homelessness.
The event was co-sponsored by 3CR Community Radio and the Development, Inequality and Well-being Research Stream at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation. The forum attracted more than 120 people, filling the room to capacity.
It was held on the last day of the community consultation period for the proposed changes, giving members of the audience the opportunity to make formal submissions before the deadline.
The forum heard from a range of speakers, drawing from academic research, policy, government, homeless advocacy and those with personal connections to homelessness and housing insecurity.
David Giles, an anthropologist based at Deakin University, spoke about the broad global context of these laws, arguing that laws criminalising homelessness are not just being implemented in Melbourne, but are part of a much wider global trend. Contrary to the fact that lacking shelter itself is not against the law, everything necessary to survive without it becomes illegal.
He also linked trends of increasing homelessness and lack of housing to the global dominance of neoliberal economic policies, which prioritise the interests of the rich at the expense of the majority.
Spike, from the Homeless Person’s Union of Victoria, argued that the housing crisis is the direct result of governments not investing in public housing.
A discussion was also raised about the devastating impact of the dehumanisation that homeless people face from the establishment and its media. The problem of homelessness has become so individualised that it undermines solidarity. Spike also spoke about the inadequacy of “boarding” houses — they are unsafe, expensive and provide poor living conditions, despite some saying they offer a safe pathway out of homelessness.
Melanie Raymond, from Youth Projects and the Homeless Advisory Committee in Melbourne, condemned the proposed changes as being unnecessarily cruel to homeless people and ineffective in addressing the complex issue of homelessness. She spoke about the difficulties and discrimination that homeless people will face when seeking healthcare and other services under these new laws.
Meaghan Fitzgerald, a community lawyer from Fitzroy Legal Service, made the point that there are already many laws in place that heavily regulate the use of public space. The proposed changes are by far the most offensive, because they clearly make the point that homelessness as such is not the issue of concern, but their visibility on the streets.
Former Melbourne City councillor Richard Foster criticised the response of Lord Mayor Robert Doyle in seeking to have the police enforce a law and order approach to homelessness, as opposed to other resources, such as the community sector. He said: “If the police and the courts were really any good at solving social problems, our jails would be empty now.”
He argued that we need to wage a war on poverty, not a war on the poor. He said his proposal for a solution to homelessness at the last election — a huge increase in crisis accommodation and social services and 24-hour safe zones for homeless people — would have been more effective than the proposed changes put forward by Doyle.
At the end of the panel, discussion focused on what needs to be done to oppose the ban on homelessness.
Javed, an activist involved in the campaign, said the Melbourne City Council is being deliberately obscure about which meeting will deal with the #NoHomelessBan and that it will be important for people to mobilise on the night to apply pressure. Others argued that even if the laws pass it will be important to continue the campaign and even participate in civil disobedience if necessary to defeat them.
See campaign updates and upcoming actions on Facebook.1131Australian News
Students and academics at the University of New South Wales have mounted a major exhibition outlining a proposal for a radical redirection of the WestConnex tollway project from road to rail.
The exhibition, Civilise WestConnex, imagines what could be done if Stage 3 of WestConnex was cancelled and the other tunnels already under construction were converted from roads to train lines.
The $16.8 billion WestConnex motorway system, the largest infrastructure project underway in Australia, has already torn communities apart through property resumptions, demolitions, destruction of heritage homes, carving up of urban conservation areas, alienation of public parkland and destruction of trees.
Assessments by the Australian National Audit Office and other independent economists have found WestConnex’s funding process, its business case and the comparative advantage of rail over road projects in terms of congestion and green-house gas emissions all call the fundamental basis of the project into question.
Significant elements of the WestConnex project have been in construction since last year, with land clearing and tunnel boring along the M4 motorway from Haberfield to Silverwater and around St Peters in preparation for a new M5 tunnel.
Given the reality of work having already begun, the students and academics of the MUDD22 Sydney studio, investigated replacing cars and trucks in the WestConnex tunnels with high-capacity Metro rail and transforming sites slated for spaghetti road junctions with new neighbourhoods centred on transit stations.
The exhibition said: “Metro WestConnex is presented as a 21st century remaking of a failed 20th century paradigm — converging inner-city motorways. The MUDD22 Sydney studios propose instead, rapid rail transit and walkable urban precincts.”
The Civilise WestConnex plan may offer a solution to the argument often presented to anti-WestConnex campaigners, that “WestConnex is already a done deal. It’s too late to stop it.”
This argument is not correct, as significant sections of the WestConnex project have not yet commenced. The Stop WestConnex community campaign can still succeed in preventing much of the proposed road tollway plan being implemented.
Nevertheless, a major expansion of underground rail needs to be a significant part of any alternative plan to solve Sydney’s increasing transport crisis. It should be stressed, however, that any expanded underground rail network must be kept in public hands, and not privatised as the NSW Coalition government plans for new Metro lines under construction.
Meanwhile, Premier Gladys Berejiklian hinted at a major announcement about accelerating plans for an extension of WestConnex to the north shore of Sydney Harbour, via a “Western Harbour Tunnel” connecting Rozelle to the Warringah Freeway. Coincidently, the premier's announcement comes in the lead-up to the April 8 byelections in North Shore and Manly.
Labor opposition infrastructure spokesperson Michael Daley labelled the premier's comments “a byelection, pork-barrelling con-job”.
Labor has also launched a campaign against the imposition of tolls on current freeways. Tolls are due to be reintroduced on a widened section of the M4 — part of the first stage of WestConnex — in June.
The government is opposed to limiting increases in tolls on Sydney’s tollways to the rate of inflation. The annual “escalation rate” for WestConnex is proposed to be 4% or Consumer Price Index, whichever is greater.
Opposition to WestConnex among western Sydney commuters is likely to increase rapidly as people realise that they may be paying up to $200 a week to use the tollway to travel to work. Dissension at the toll rip-off is already mounting in the city's western suburbs.
In a further development, home-owners close to WestConnex sites are blaming noise and vibrations caused by the motorway's construction for cracks appearing in their houses.
One householder near the new M5 is facing a repair bill of $50,000 to damage she believes resulted from work on WestConnex just 30 metres from her front door. A property owner in Haberfield believes cracks along inner and outer walls were caused by construction of the M4 East.
Both homeowners are considering claiming compensation from WestConnex, as insurance policies do not cover damage caused by nearby construction work.
[A Grand Theft WestConnex rally, endorsed by a large number of anti-WestConnex resident groups, is set for March 30, at 4.30pm outside State Parliament. A Stop WestConnex gig to raise funds to cover the legal expenses of people arrested opposing WestConnex, is planned for April 11, at 6pm, at the New Theatre, King Street, Newtown.]1131Australian News
Hundreds of trade unionists braved the rain at Solidarity Park, outside the WA State Parliament, on March 21 to protest against what the organisers describe as a “war on workers”.
The rally was hosted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and heard from various unions and members of parliament.
WA state secretary of the CFMEU Mick Buckan stressed the importance of a national campaign against the Australia Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), saying: “The ABCC encourages casualisation in the work place, no limits [on working hours], no permanency and no job security.
“Dodgy labour hire companies are running riot across this state. We’re seeing fatality after fatality in the construction industry, and the main reason workers are dying is because the company involved refuses to ensure that known hazards are dealt with.
“These same companies have the full backing of the federal government and working people are dying as a result.”
In WA, a worker is killed at work every 10 weeks. Two young construction workers have died in WA on different sites in the recent months.
Greens spokesperson Alison Xamon said the Greens intend to reintroduce a bill for industrial manslaughter in which a boss faces up to 20 year’s jail if they are convicted of negligence which contributes to serious injury or death.
Xamon congratulated Sally McManus, the newly elected Australian Congress of Trades Union secretary who, in her first national interview, stated that bad laws need to be broken.
Xamon said: “What we have by way of workers’ rights and social gains have largely come about via mass civil disobedience of unjust laws. We must be open to non-violent disobedience now as ever before.”
Garry Wood, from the CFMEU mining division, told the protest how Collie mine maintenance workers are fighting a $40,000 pay cut as part of a new enterprise agreement being pushed by the bosses.
Since their enterprise bargaining agreement ended, their wages have been cut to the award rate of $24 an hour. For decades, their hourly rate was $64. Their accrued entitlement pay over 30 years is now being paid out at the much lower hourly rate, meaning working people’s income is becoming savings for the company.
This is not an isolated attack: workers at Griffin Coal in the state’s south-west have had their redundancy pay cut from $280,000 to $81,000.
Before marching to the offices of federal minister Michaelia Cash, ETU state secretary Les McLaughlan concluded the rally by reminding us that work conditions and benefits have only come about from the actions of strong unions.
“The union movement is under major attack. The battles aren’t just a thing of the past. We are in the middle of one now and working people need to … get active in standing up for their rights.”1131Australian News
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should hang her head in shame. She has proven once again that the word “Labor” in “Australian Labor Party” has no connection with the interests of working people in Australia — or anywhere else.
Palaszczuk headed a delegation to India on March 17 to underscore her government’s support for the Adani company’s proposed Carmichael thermal coalmine. If it is given the go ahead, it will be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It would be the first for the Galilee Basin, and it would open the door to more.
Palaszczuk and the billionaire owner of the company are claiming the project is all about jobs.
“There are regional Queenslanders fighting for jobs,” she said. “That’s what we’re for.”
She repeated the lie that the Carmichael mine is expected to provide 10,000 jobs. However, an expert witness for the Adani company admitted in a 2015 court hearing that the project would provide an average of 1464 full-time jobs in any one year.
Even allowing for extra jobs associated with the rail line and port, the 10,000 jobs figure is bogus.
Palaszczuk’s India stunt took place a day after businessperson Geoffrey Cousins presented a letter signed by 90 prominent Australians to the Adani company calling on the company to abandon the project.
The letter highlighted concerns about climate change, air pollution and public health, lack of public support in Australia, and opposition from Aboriginal people.
Cousins and tourism operator Lindsay Simpson confronted Palaszczuk the next day, pointing out that the Adani mine threatens 70,000 tourism jobs in Queensland.
This is because the mine massively increases the risk to the Great Barrier Reef — both directly through environmental damage from the associated port and because burning the coal would add to global warming.
Palaszczuk’s jobs lie also ignores the fact that many more jobs, and sustainable ones, could be created with renewable energy.
Adding further insult to working people — and undercutting the jobs’ lie — is the fact that the company structure is designed to shift billions of dollars to a Cayman Islands entity owned by the Adani family.
This is daylight robbery and should be a crime.
Yet, at every step along the way, the Queensland and federal governments have bent over backwards to smooth the way for this reckless development, including with legal, environmental and other approvals. The federal government is actively considering a loan of $1 billion to Adani from an infrastructure fund of public monies.
The Queensland government even appointed an Adani company director to the body overseeing the Port operations despite being warned of conflicts of interest!
If Labor had any real concern for working people, it would reject the notion that we should choose between jobs and the environment. Anything else is blackmail and should be rejected.
Workers have no interest in cooking the planet by burning coal when renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs more reliably and, now, more cheaply.
But what about jobs?
Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett claimed he had local support for joining Palaszczuk on her Indian trip because of the prospect of local jobs.
It is true, workers need a livelihood. A government that had the interests of working people front and centre would ensure that socially useful jobs with decent wages would be available to everyone who wanted to work.
Private corporations can not make such a guarantee, so job security implies a significant growth in the public sector. The privatisation of Telstra, Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank have all led to job cuts, a reduction in service quality and lower returns to the public purse — a triple loss to working people.
It stands to reason that an expansion of the public sector will create jobs, a genuine realisation of social need and a reduction in corporate tax evasion.
Bringing the entire energy sector into public ownership and mandating a rapid phase-out of dangerous fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy would be a good place to start.1131Comment and Analysis
"Grief turned to pride for Sinn Fein this week as tens of thousands paid their respects to a leader who came to symbolise peace in Ireland and the process through which the Provisional IRA gave birth to a political powerhouse," Irish Republican News said of the March 23 funeral of Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness, who died on March 20 aged 66, in his beloved Bigside neighbourhood in Derry in the six counties of Northern Ireland still claimed by Britain.
McGuinness was a former member of the Irish Republican Army who helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as part of the peace process that ended the armed conflict in Northern Ireland, serving as deputy first minister
Speaking at the funeral, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, a close comrade of McGuinness's who helped negotiate the GFA, answered Mcguinness's critics in the media int he days after his death, delcaring to huge applause: "Martin McGuinness was not a terrorist! Martin McGuinness was a freedmon fighter."
Adams noted: "Martin believed in freedom and equality. He resisted by armed actions those who withheld these rights, and then he helped shape conditions in which it was possible to advocate for these entitlements by unarmed strategies."
The Sinn Fein president concluded: "Don't mourn! Celebrate and organise. That's what Martin would want."
The full speech is below.Gerry Adams oration at the grave of Martin McGuinness
Tá Sinn Féin an-bhródúil as Martin McGuinness.
Cúis mhór bróin againn uilig gur chaill muid ár gcara agus ár gcomrádaí Martin cúpla lá ó shin.
Bhí Martin ina phoblachtóir paiseanta a d’oibrigh gan sos ar son na síochána, agus ar son athmhuintearais agus ar son athaontú na tíre.
Ach thar rud ar bith eile, bhí grá agus bród mór aige ar a chlann agus ar mhuintir Dhoire agus muintir na hÉireann.
This week, Ireland lost a hero.
Derry lost a son.
Sinn Féin lost a leader and I lost a dear friend and a comrade.
But Martin’s family has suffered the biggest loss of all.
They have lost a loving, caring, dedicated husband, father and grandfather. A brother and an uncle.
On behalf of Sinn Féin, on my own behalf and Colette and our family, and for you all, I extend our solidarity to all the McGuinness family.
All of us thank the doctors and nurses who looked after Martin so well during his illness.
We think and pray also for the family of Ryan McBride.
We send our sympathy to them and to all in the world of Irish soccer.
One of the very best things Martin ever did was to marry Bernie Canning.
One of his very best achievements was the family, which he and Bernie reared in the Bogside in Derry.
Above all else, Martin loved his family.
Our heart goes out to his wife Bernie, their sons Fiachra and Emmett, their daughters Fionnuala and Gráinne, Bernie and Martin’s grandchildren, Tiarnan, Oisin, Rossa, Ciana, Cara, Dualta and Sadhbh; his sister Geraldine, brothers Paul, William, Declan, Tom and John and the extended McGuinness family.
Those of us who knew Martin are proud of his achievements. Of his humanity and compassion.
Martin was a formidable person of the rarest kind - one who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times.
He would not be surprised at the commentary from some quarters about him and his life.
He would be the first to say that these people are entitled to their opinions.
In particular, those who suffered at the hands of the IRA.
But let me take issue with those in the editorial rooms or in their political ivory towers who denounce Martin McGuinness as a terrorist.
Mar a dúirt An Piarsach at the grave of another Fenian – the fools, the fools, the fools.
Martin cannot answer them back.
So let me answer for him.
Martin McGuinness was not a terrorist.
Martin McGuinness was a Freedom Fighter.
He was also a political prisoner, a negotiator, a peacemaker, a healer.
But while he had a passion for politics Martin was not one dimensional.
He had many interests. Especially in nature. In spirituality. And he was famously and hugely interested in people.
He also enjoyed story telling.
And he could tell a yarn better than most, including me.
In the early weeks of his illness after Christmas I tried to encourage him to write a book and he was up for that.
A book about childhood summers in Donegal, in the Illies, outside Buncrana.
About his mother. His memories of his father. His brothers and sister.
Schools days and much more.
Meeting Bernie. Their courtship. The births of their children. Their grandchildren.
Unfortunately, he will never write that book.
He was a good writer, decent poet with a special place in his heart for Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh.
He loved growing herbs. He thought he was the world’s best chess player.
He loved cooking. Fly fishing. Walking, especially around Grianan Fort - Grianán Ailigh.
Bhain sé sult ag gach sórt spóirt, ach an raibh peileadóir ní na mheasa ná é riamh?
He enjoyed watching sports of all kinds.
Football, hurling, cricket, golf, rugby.
Soccer – he was the world’s worst player.
He once broke his leg playing soccer. He had a plaster from his ankle to his hip.
He had to go up and down the stairs on his backside.
His mother Peggy – God rest her – told me that he tripped over the ball.
He was great at telling jokes.
He liked all of these past times.
But he especially loved having the space to have time with Bernie and their clann.
That’s what grounded Martin McGuinness.
Bhí Martin ina chara mór acu siúd uilig a bhí ag troid ar son na saoirse ar fud an domhain.
He was a friend to those engaged in the struggles for justice across the globe.
And he travelled widely promoting the imperative of peace making, in the Basque country and Colombia, the Middle East and Iraq.
He travelled to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela and others in the ANC leadership, as well as in the National Party, to learn from their experience.
Martin was also a man who was, in many ways very ordinary.
Particularly in his habits and personal lifestyle.
Like many other Derry ‘wans’, Martin grew up in a city in which Catholics were victim of widespread political and economic discrimination.
He was born into an Orange State which did not want him or his kind.
Poverty was endemic.
I remember him telling me that he was surprised when his father, a quiet modest church going man, marched in the civil rights campaign here in Derry.
The Orange State’s violent suppression of that civil rights campaign; the Battle of the Bogside, and the emerging conflict propelled Martin into a life less ordinary.
Bhuail muid don chéaduair blianta fada ó shin i nDoire Saor. Is cairde agus comrádaithe sinn ó shin.
We first met, 45 years ago, behind the barricades of Free Derry.
We have been friends and comrades ever since.
From time spent on the run, to imprisonment in the Curragh and Portlaoise and Belfast Prison, through his time as Northern Education Minister and later deputy First Minister, along with Ian Paisley, then Peter Robinson and then Arlene Foster, Martin made an unparalleled astonishing journey.
Reading and watching some of the media reports of his life and death in recent days one could be forgiven for believing that Martin, at some undefined point in his life, had a road to Damascus conversion; abandoned his republican principles, his former comrades in the IRA, and joined the political establishment.
To suggest this is to miss the truth of his leadership and the essence of his humanity.
There was not a bad Martin McGuinness or a good Martin McGuinness.
There was simply a man, like every other decent man or woman, doing his best.
Martin believed in freedom and equality.
He resisted by armed actions those who withheld these rights, and then he helped shape conditions in which it was possible to advocate for these entitlements by unarmed strategies.
Throughout it all Martin remained committed to the same ideals that led to his becoming a republican activist in the first instance - the pursuit of Irish unification, freedom, equality and respect for all.
Martin believed that the British government’s involvement in Ireland, and the partition of our island, are at the root of our divisions.
He was absolutely one hundred per cent right about that.
The British government has no right whatsoever to have any involvement in Ireland.
Along with others of like mind he understood the importance of building a popular democratic radical republican party across this island.
He especially realised that negotiations and politics were another arena of struggle.
In this way he helped chart a new course, a different strategy.
This involved taking difficult initiatives to make political advances.
Our political objectives, and our republican principles and ideals did not change.
On the contrary these guided us through every twist and turn of the peace process.
Thanks to Martin we now live in a very different Ireland, which has been changed utterly.
We live in a society in transition.
The future now can be decided by us.
It should never be decided for us.
Without Martin there could not have been the type of peace process we’ve had.
Much of the change we now take for granted, could not have been achieved.
In my view the key is in never giving up.
That was Martin’s mantra also.
He was also tough, assertive and unmovable when that was needed.
Dogmatic at times.
Wimps don’t make good negotiators - neither do so-called hard men.
Martin learned the need for flexibility.
His contribution to the evolution of republican thinking was enormous, as was his popularising of republican ideals.
Over many years of working together, Martin and I both realised that advances in struggle require creativity and imagination and a willingness to take initiatives.
Martin embraced that challenge and he didn’t just talk about change, he delivered it.
He once said: “When change begins, and we have the confidence to embrace it as an opportunity and a friend, and show honest and positive leadership, then so much is possible.”
Bhí sé ina ábhar mór bróid agam chun Martin a ainmniú mar an chéad Aire Oideachais i ndiaidh Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta.
It was a source of great pride for me following the Good Friday Agreement to nominate Martin as the north’s Minister for Education.
It was a position he embraced; putting equality and fairness into practice in the Department of Education, seeking to end the Eleven Plus and improve outcomes for children.
In 2007, he became deputy First Minister and an equal partner to Ian Paisley in government.
They forged a friendship that illustrated to all the progress we have made on the island of Ireland.
His reconciliation and outreach work, and his work on behalf of victims and for peace, in Ireland and internationally, have been justifiably widely applauded.
As part of that work, Martin met Queen Elizabeth of England several times.
He did so while very conscious of the criticism this might provoke. He would be the first to acknowledge that some republicans and nationalists were discommoded at times by his efforts to reach out the hand of friendship.
That is the real test of leadership - to reach out beyond your own base.
It is a test that Martin passed every time.
Some unionist leaders were discommoded also at the sight of their Queen greeting Martin or on another occasion using a cúpla focal or bowing in salute to the men and women of 1916.
These are symbolic gestures but they are important nonetheless.
As Martin pointed out in his letter of resignation on January 9th; “The equality, mutual respect and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement have never been fully embraced by the DUP. Apart from the negative attitude to nationalism and to the Irish identity and culture, there has been a shameful disrespect towards many other sections of our community.”
I quote this more in sadness than anger.
And I try to understand why this is so.
That’s what Martin did.
So, here at the graveside of this good man let me appeal to our unionist neighbours.
Let us learn to like each other, to be friends, to celebrate and enjoy our differences and to do so on the basis of common sense, respect and tolerance for each other and everyone else – as equals.
Let me appeal also to nationalists and republicans – do nothing to disrespect our unionist neighbours or anyone else.
Stand against bigotry. Against sectarianism,
But respect our unionist neighbours.
Reach out to them.
Lead, as Martin led, by example.
By little acts of kindness and generosity.
Is féidir linne bheith iontach bródúil as Martin.
Is duine é de na fir agus de na mná iontacha sin a sheas an fód ar son saoirse na hÉireann.
We can be very proud of Martin.
He is another of those great and remarkable men and women who have stood up for Irish freedom and for what they believed to be right.
Martin believed that a better Ireland, a genuinely new Ireland is possible.
He rejected any suggestion that gender or race or class or skin colour or disability or sexual orientation or religion should exclude citizens from their full rights and entitlements.
That is a legacy we must build upon.
Of course, while much progress has been made – not least in the numerous lives saved in the last 20 years - nevertheless Irish republicans know that a long, long road, with many twists and turns, still lies ahead.
It’s all about rights.
Social and economic rights.
Rights for women.
The right to freedom.
These rights can’t be left to any political party.
If you want an Acht na Gaeilge campaign for it.
Ná habair é. Dean é.
If you want a Bill of Rights campaign for that.
If you want marriage equality – mobilise for that.
If you want freedom, go out and take it.
Organise. Mobilise. Unite for your rights.
That is the challenge facing us.
To build a mass movement for positive change across all 32 counties of our island.
And for all our people.
Facing that challenge we are the stronger because of Martin.
So, don’t mourn. Celebrate and organise. That’s what Martin would want.
He exemplified all that is decent and fair about our republican ideology and our core values of freedom, equality and solidarity.
It is now over to us to take the struggle from where he has left it.
Like Bobby Sands he believed that our revenge should be the laughter of our children.
By his example he showed us that it is possible to build peace out of conflict; to build a better and more equal future based on fairness, and to build unity out of division.
Martin will continue to inspire and encourage us in the time ahead.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.
I never thought I would be giving this oration today.
Martin was looking forward so much to stepping back in May from public office.
This wasn’t to be but his was a life well lived.
That is little consolation to Bernie and her clann today but we pray that she and they in the time ahead will take comfort from the happy times they enjoyed with Martin.
He said Bernie was his rock many times during his illness, “My Rock of Cashel”, he told me.
“I am lucky to have her.”
Bernie was also lucky to have him.
So were the rest of us.
We also loved him.
Thank you Bernie for sharing Martin with us.
He will be missed by many. But you will miss him more than anyone else.
Slán a chara, slán go deo.
We thank Martin McGuinness.
We salute Martin McGuinness.
We applaud Martin McGuinness.
Up the Republic.1131International News
A bill to remove the controversial "gay panic" defence from Queensland law was passed on March 21. It had been used by people accused of murder to claim they were provoked due to an unwanted homosexual advance.
Those who pleaded under section 304 of the Criminal Code (killing on provocation) reduced their criminal responsibility to manslaughter and avoided life in jail.
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the bill delivered on an important promise to the LGBTI community of Queensland.
D'Ath said using unwanted homosexual advances as a defence “is unacceptable and does not reflect modern societal views about criminal responsibility and about the expectation to exercise self-control".
"An unwanted sexual advance, even one that involves minor touching, cannot be enough, other than in circumstances of an exceptional character, to reduce criminal responsibility for killing a person with murderous intent," she said.
A petition calling for the reform, created by Catholic priest Father Paul Kelly, gained more than 290,000 signatures. Kelly created the online petition after Wayne Ruks was bashed and killed in his church grounds at Maryborough in 2008.
Ruks' mother Joyce Kujala said she had waited eight years for this day. “It can't bring Wayne back but it's some small justice and it could save a lot of lives in future," she said.
Queensland and South Australia were the only jurisdictions in Australia not to have repealed the gay panic defence. The changes will still allow a partial defence to be used in "exceptional circumstances", which would be up to a judge to assess on a case-by-case basis.
The LNP moved amendments that would explain what constituted circumstances of exceptional character and provide examples of unwanted sexual advances. But they were narrowly defeated, with member for Cook Billy Gordon and member for Cairns Rob Pyne siding with the government.
The bill also includes increased penalties for misconduct with a corpse and exclude the public from a court room while pre-recorded evidence from a child witness or special witness is played.1131Australian News
New laws to legalise abortions were passed by the Northern Territory parliament on March 21. The bill passed by 20 votes to four after a lengthy and emotional debate.
The new laws mean the NT joins the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania in decriminalising abortion and stands in stark contrast to NSW and Queensland, which have Australia’s most restrictive abortion legislation.
Prior to the new act, abortion remained in the NT Criminal Code, but it was modified by the Medical Services Act, which made abortion lawful up to 14 weeks. The act was passed in 1974 and had not been reviewed or updated since.
Its requirement that abortions must be performed in hospitals and not clinics limited availability, as there are so few hospitals in the NT. Women in remote areas had to travel hundreds of kilometres to Darwin or Alice Springs to access an abortion. They also had to be examined by two doctors, including a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist.
The NT was also the only Australian jurisdiction where using the RU486 pregnancy termination pill was still a crime.
But with the passing of the Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Act, a woman less than 14 weeks’ pregnant now only needs to be assessed by one doctor before she can access an abortion. Between 14 and 23 weeks, she must be assessed by two doctors. Abortions will only be performed after 23 weeks if it is necessary to save the woman’s life.
The legislation also decriminalises abortion, by replacing the section of the Criminal Code making it an offence to provide an abortion or supply a woman with abortion drugs, with a clause prohibiting an “unqualified person” from inducing an abortion.
“Safe zones” of 150 metres around clinics will be established, allowing women access to services without fear of harassment. Women up to nine weeks pregnant will be able to chemically trigger a miscarriage at home using RU486 after consulting a doctor.
Medical terminations will also be able to be performed in day surgeries and specialist clinics and qualified doctors other than specialists will be able to provide the service. Doctors who conscientiously object to performing terminations will be compelled to refer women to another doctor.
The Health Minister Natasha Fyles said in passing the bill the government had delivered on an election commitment to Territory women.
Labor members were allowed a conscience vote on the issue and the opposition Country Liberals supported the changes. Labor's Gerry McCarthy and independents Terry Mills, Mark Guyula and Gerry Wood opposed the bill.
The bill prompted an emotional debate, with many MPs arguing the morality of abortion, rather than the legislation. Wood, a staunch Catholic, equated abortion to domestic violence and said the reforms will take the NT back to "the Dark Ages".
"We talk about stolen generations,” he said. “But if the Territory is losing 600 to 1000 unborn Territorians each year, isn't that a stolen generation lost each year? Why don't we make a fuss about that?"
Abortion reform advocate and Darwin GP Jacqueline Murdoch said “There will always be people who want to discuss abortion in general. That’s unfortunate, because abortion has been legal in the NT since 1974. This bill is about improving access, not the morality of abortion.”
Much of this debate and when a similar bill was debated but not voted on last year, focused on its impact on Indigenous women, particularly those living in remote communities.
Labor member for Arnhem Selena Uibo told parliament she stood “as a young Aboriginal woman who wants the same rights as my fellow female Australians in every other state and territory”.
Uibo said she was appalled that the bill was being diverted from an issue about gender equality into one about race.
Namatjira MLA Chansey Paech tabled a media release by Margaret Tighe of the Melbourne-based Right to Life, which he described as “offensive and racist”. The release said “widespread provision” of terminations would “be seized upon by those who wish to control the Aboriginal population because of the rising cost of Aboriginal welfare”.
“Her ignorance of this bill and of the reality of access to safe reproductive health services by Aboriginal women living in remote communities is apparent,” Paech said.
The new laws are expected to be in place by mid-year, coinciding with the release of clinical guidelines, which were not available for public consultation before the debate.1131Australian News
The Victorian government announced on March 14 a $20 million tender, to install up to 80MW of grid-scale energy storage by 2018.
It invited proposals from batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheel, and solar thermal technologies.
But its deadlines, of 30MW expected to be installed by next summer and 50MW by the following summer, are impossible for two of those technologies to meet.
Pumped hydro facilities take several years to build, because dams, tunnels and pipelines would need to be built.
Solar thermal technologies, such as solar towers, would also take at least two years to build.
This second round of energy tenders follows the closure of the La Trobe Valley’s Hazelwood coal-fired power plant.1131Australian News
Conan Zamolo, a former youth justice officer at Don Dale youth detention centre, has admitted he filmed himself bursting into a cell and repeatedly asking the boys in their beds to give him oral sex.
He was giving evidence to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
Zomolo said he was "goofing around" in the videos and had a "good relationship with the kids".
Zamolo also admitted to the hearing he had filmed children being forced to eat bird faeces and posted the footage on social media site Snapchat.
He also disclosed he had filmed a detainee urinating, but denied he had used his phone to film another inmate masturbating in the shower.1131Australian News
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was dealt another embarrassing blow on March 21.
The Federal Court dismissed all claims against the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) after finding prosecutors had made a deal with a confessed blackmailer to give evidence for the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in return for staying out of jail.
Dismissing the action against seven senior CFMEU officials in the ACT, Justice Geoffrey Flick said prosecutors struck a deal with former CFMEU organiser Halafihi Kivalu to give evidence against the CFMEU. At the time, Kivalu was facing criminal charges for blackmail after pleading guilty to extorting $70,000 from a Canberra building contractor.
The ABCC’s case against seven members of the CFMEU’s ACT branch relied heavily on Kivalu to prove their allegations that the union’s ACT branch secretary Dean Hall and his colleagues organised a blockade of a building site in the city’s inner-north in June 2014 because building company Built had refused to sign a union-endorsed enterprise agreement.
The union denied the claims and said the blockade was because it had concerns for the safety of the construction workers at the building site.
Justice Flick found: “The concern of the CFMEU was not unfounded and provides a further reason for concluding that the Director has not discharged the onus of proof … It is further separately concluded that the purpose sought to be achieved by the closure of the Rosevear Place Gate was founded upon concerns as to safety”.
Evidence given by the Master Builder’s Association’s former Director, John Nikolic, who also gave evidence in the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, was rejected by the judge, because Nikolic was “not an independent witness”. He also found: “The evidence of Mr Kivalu is subject to such serious reservation that no reliance can be placed upon it.”
National secretary of the CFMEU’s construction division Dave Noonan said the failed court action showed the ABCC put ideology ahead of the interests of workers and the community. He called on ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss to release details of the “secret deal” struck between prosecutors and Kivalu.
Hall said the case was purely political. “Nigel Hadgkiss has always been a Liberal Party apparatchik,” he said, “but, even for him, this was overreach. The ABCC have made their political motivations evident in this case.”
He said the dispute at Dickson had always been about safety. “There was construction work going on, next to two childcare centres no less, and we had a genuine concern that there was asbestos present,” he said.
“We will never stop standing up for safety and the community, no matter how hard the government want to send their secret police after us.”1131Australian News
Residents, unionists and supporters marched and rallied on March 19 in Millers Point, to protest the continuing eviction of remaining public housing tenants of the Point, Dawes Point and the iconic Sirius Building. The event, which attracted about 200 people, was sponsored by the Millers Point Community Working Party and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
“The fight to remain in our community goes on. The fighting spirit of the elderly, the frail and the vulnerable continues the struggle,” publicity for the action stated.
Recognition of country was presented by local resident and Aboriginal elder Patricia Corowa. “Of the 463 of us [Millers Point residents] who were originally handed eviction letters on March 19, 2014, there are now only about 20 left,” she said.
“I’m proud to say I’m one of them. We will not be moved! I will not be moved!”
Greens MP David Shoebridge said: “After decades of lack of investment in public housing, this is the result ... Millers Point has always been a mixed and varied community; let's not allow the government to make it into a showcase for the wealthy upper class."
Paul McAleer, MUA Sydney branch secretary, said: “This is the third anniversary of the announcement that this rotten, corrupt Liberal government had decided to throw these people out of their homes. The MUA has supported these residents from the start.
“Millers Point and this area has always been a maritime, working-class community. We pledge to stand by these residents, and defend all those who are determined to stay from any forces of the state.”
Other speakers at the rally included representatives of the ALP, CFMEU, Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, and the Christian Democratic Party.
Tao Gofers, architect of the Sirius building, which was constructed for public housing tenants after the Builders Labourers Federation’s campaigns of the 1970s, told Green Left Weekly: “Sirius is a symbol of the successful Green Bans and community actions of 40 years ago. It is also a symbol of social and affordable housing in the city.
“The threat by the state government to tear it down demonstrates that the Liberal Party does not value heritage and the environment. We must campaign to prevent this vandalism.
“Only 4% of Australian homes are public housing. In Holland the figure is 40% and Denmark it is 17%. We're missing the point. We're a community, not just a market.
“Australia's housing crisis is endemic. It involves a range of issues, underlying the tie between the major parties and big money.
“Solving the housing crisis will involve significant social change.”1131Australian News
Reflecting on recent experiences of dealing with the right’s return to power in their own countries, close to 100 social movements and activists from Brazil and Argentina have signed a statement calling on the people of Ecuador to vote against right-wing neoliberal banker Gulliermo Lasso in the second round presidential run-off scheduled for April 2.
Among them are activists from Via Campesina, the Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST), the Popular Brazil Front (FBP) the United Workers Central (CUT), the Argentine Workers Central union confederation (CTA) and the Association of State Employees (ATE Capital).
It was originally posted on movimientos.org on March 20 and has been translated by Federico Fuentes.
* * *
April 2 will be a transcendental moment for the people of Ecuador and all of Latin America. The second round of Ecuador’s presidential elections will be held that day, pitting the candidate of PAIS Alliance (AP), Lenin Moreno, against Guillermo Lasso, a representative of national and international finance capital.
Lasso leads his own movement and, despite his fanciful discourse, is very similar to the other right-wingers in the continent, which is why they strongly support him.
Conscious of the differences that exist between our countries, we want to talk about what is happening in South America’s two biggest nations.
A little more than a year ago, Argentina experienced a similar moment. In a second round run-off for the presidency last November 22, Mauricio Macri – who is also a rich business owner that was involved in acts of corruption and illicit enrichment during the neoliberal period – won by a very small margin (2.7%).
Since assuming power, his government’s policies have left no room for doubt: he governs solely for the rich. Water, electricity and gas rates rose immediately: in the first months of 2016, the rates hike was between 100% and 400%. They rose again at the start of 2017. The cost of public transport doubled a year ago and now they plan to raise it by another 60%.
The justification for these cuts that have hit the people is that public spending must be lower, yet at the same time they are exonerating the rich from paying taxes and the president himself has pardoned debts and done deals with companies owned by family members and friends.
This is all you can expect from a business owner-turned-politician who had been involved in acts of corruption involving public funds and who hides his capital in “offshore” tax havens.
The same has essentially occurred in Brazil. The right wing toppled a legitimate president via an institutional coup under the pretext of combating corruption.
They assumed government and nine months later, the economic crisis continues: unemployment has reached a historic level of 15%; all social spending has been frozen for 20 years; the Ministry of Agrarian Development has been shut down and the land reform program terminated; agriculture and natural resources are being handed over to transnational companies who, it should be said, finance them and are their real bosses.
Corruption continues, but now with great force: nine ministers have been denounced for corruption and another 250 right-wing politicians are facing accusations from these same companies.
The capitalist class, the rich, are always carrying out electoral manoeuvres, shifting discourses, because they want to return to power by any means to continue accumulating wealth.
Elections in Ecuador
Dear people of Ecuador, do not fall into the trap of electing a hard right that has already announced that it will unite with other right-wing governments in the region, such as Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, to rebuild the hegemony of the capitalist order and its neoliberal policies against the peoples.
If a political defeat occurs, there will be no time to repent: you will pay for the political error with your labour and greater exploitation.
We must always be critical of governments, as a way of maintaining democracy and seeking to improve people’s lives. But we cannot allow ourselves to be fooled into putting the fox in charge of the chicken coup!
The people of Ecuador still have time to defeat the candidate of the rich, who stands for the most radical form of neoliberalism.
This April 2, for Ecuador and Our Americas, we think it is best to use all forms of voting that can impede finance capital’s return to power.
From Argentina and Brazil, we are with you.1131International News
National sovereignty is an undervalued asset in today’s world, especially in the international media, where the views of Washington and its allies largely prevail. This is true with regard to economic as well as political issues, and its consequences can be quite heavy in a region like Latin America, long regarded by US officials as their “back yard.”
The election in Ecuador is being watched as well as contested by forces that have opposing views on this question.
On the left, there is the presidential bid of former vice president Lenin Moreno, and his party PAIS Alliance (AP). — which has already won a majority of the Congress. Like all of the left parties and governments that came to power in the “Pink Tide” that swept the region in the 21st century, the AP values national sovereignty and self-determination.
Its leaders, as well as its activist and much of its electoral base, understand that the progress that has been made over the past decade would not have been possible if the government of President Rafael Correa had followed the economic prescriptions of Washington.
This progress included reducing poverty by 38% and extreme poverty by 47%. Inequality was also substantially reduced: the ratio of the income of the richest 10% to the bottom 10% was reduced from 36 in 2006 to 25 by 2012.
Access to health care and education was substantially increased, with spending for higher education rising from 0.7% to 2.1% of GDP — more than is spent by even many high-income countries. Social spending overall doubled, and public investment more than doubled, as a percentage of GDP.
To accomplish these goals the government had to re-regulate the financial sector, tax capital flight, require banks to repatriate most of their liquid assets held overseas, and make the central bank part of the executive’s economic team, among other economic reforms.
Without this new role of the state — crucially, acting in the public interest instead of on behalf Ecuador’s bankers and richest citizens — Ecuador could not have made most of the gains over the past decade.
The challenger, former banker Guillermo Lasso, proposes a traditional right-wing program of tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts that will have to more than match these, so as to bring down the national budget deficit.
He pledges to reduce the government’s role in the economy, which was actually quite important to the progress of the past decade, arguing that “free markets” are the key to unleashing the country’s economic potential.
And he has pledged to restore the “independence” of the central bank, which would make it more an instrument of the big bankers, like it was when Lasso himself was in his prime in the late 1990s (when the economy was wrecked by a banking collapse).
Lasso has also admitted to owning a bank in Panama whose main line of business is to facilitate capital flight from Ecuador. This is also a big issue of national sovereignty in Ecuador, as the majority of people just voted (in the February 19 election) to approve a ballot initiative saying that people who are holding money in offshore tax havens should not be able to hold public office.
All this would bode ill under any circumstances, but the lack of respect for national sovereignty means that as the economy runs into trouble — which is likely, given the proposed budget cuts — Lasso would probably go to the International Monetary Fund for a loan.
This would mean the end of Ecuador’s hard-won sovereignty over economic policy, and a host of “structural reforms” made in the USA, which Lasso and his allies would be all too eager to implement.
We know what the decades of Washington-sponsored structural reforms looked like in the past: almost zero growth in income per person in Ecuador over 20 years (1980–2000).
We can also look at how the new, Washington-supported right-wing governments of Brazil and Argentina are doing.
Like Lasso, Brazil’s Michel Temer and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri are proteges of Washington. These people have US President Donald Trump and Republican extremists in the US Congress as their closest allies.
Not a great time for Ecuador to give its hard-won national sovereignty back to Washington.1131International News
A strike and massive street protest on March 22 by Argentine school teachers defended public schools while calling for higher wages.
The protest came a day after President Mauricio Macri made disparaging comment about the country's public education system.
The teachers’ union campaign for a pay rise began on March 6 with a 48-hour strike.
The unions are demanding a 35% pay rise to help keep up with inflation, which was 40% last year and is expected to be about 20% in 2017, and a guarantee that no education worker will make less than the poverty line.
The demand comes after the Macri government legislated a ceiling of 20% salary rises, despite an inflation rate of 40%, which has pushed 1.4 million people, including many education workers, into poverty.
A poll released on March 19 showed that for the first time since he took office in December 2015, more Argentines disapprove of Macri's performance than approve, while the country's largest labour union has called a general strike for April 6.
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]1131International News
The University of Melbourne has renamed the prominent Richard Berry building for maths and statistics after a long anti-racism campaign by a group of staff and students.
Until his retirement in the 1940s, Berry was Australia’s leading voice in the pseudoscience of eugenics, which aimed to produce a superior human race by having suitable people breed, while at the same time sterilising those with “rotten heredity”.
Berry lobbied for “sterilisation, segregation and the lethal chamber” for Aboriginal people, homosexuals, poor people and prostitutes.
Early this year, the building was renamed the Peter Hall building, in honour of world-renowned mathematician and statistician who worked there before his death last year.1131Australian News
Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Carmen Velazquez, interrupted a media conference held by Secretary General Luis Almagro with Venezuelan opposition leaders on March 20, which she slammed as a violation of the organisation’s internal norms.
“The Venezuelan Mission to the OAS once again deplores the actions of Mr Luis Almagro who in his outrageous and provocative political media campaign against the legitimate and constitutional government of Venezuela has called for March 20, 2017 a press conference with members of the Venezuelan ‘Popular Will’ political party, utilising once more the spaces of the OAS for proselytising purposes,” the statement reads.
Velasquez asserted that the move by Almagro not only constitutes a violation of the OAS’s principle of non-intervention in member-states’ internal affairs, but also directly clashes with the body’s Administrative Memo No. 66, which states that, “the programs or functions of the facilities of the OAS, or any installation of the organisation, will not be political, nor will they have an analogous character or purpose”.
The protest by the Venezuelan delegation adds to a growing chorus within the OAS calling for Almagro’s resignation.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]1131International News