The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of September 19, 2012. Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
Editorial, 74 Buckingham Street,
Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
Communist Party of Australia,
74 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills,
Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
General Secretary: Dr Hannah Middleton
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- Unions fight austerity measures
- EDITORIAL – Asylum seekers pay for political cynicism
- NOTE FROM EDITOR – Explanation of OECD education figures
- UN expert told of mining impacts
- West Papua outrage and the Australian connection
- Perth rally for Cuban Five
- All of NSW up for grabs under new CSG rules
- Vic TAFE staff
- People power wins! Super trawler banned – Greenpeace statement
- A decent home is a human right
- Julian Assange presented with Aboriginal Nations Passport
- The failed nuclear industry
- CULTURE & LIFE – The failure of prohibition
01. Unions fight austerity measures
Over the past few weeks, thousands of public sector workers have joined protests in defence of public sector jobs and services including health, education and emergency services. They have received considerable support from other trade unions and members of the community in their struggle against the neo-liberal austerity measures of Liberal-led state governments. The savage cuts, mass sackings and attacks on wages and conditions are a warning of what lies ahead if a Coalition government is elected in the next federal elections.
The cuts taking place will do untold damage to public health, education, community and other services, result in real reductions in the incomes of public sector workers and swell the ranks of the unemployed. They will also have a contractionary impact on an economy that is already on the brink.
Forget all the election promises of Liberal premiers Ted Baillieu in Victoria and Barry O’Farrell in NSW and Queensland Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman. It is a full-on attack on the public sector dressed up as saving their states from unsustainable fiscal crises. The big end of town stands to benefit from deregulation, privatisation and ongoing subsidies from the public purse.
The Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) is holding an emergency rally on Thursday September 20 (midday) in Treasury Gardens, following the leakage of a “cabinet-in-confidence” report to make even larger cuts to TAFE than previously announced (see page 4). The AEU warned, the TAFE system is now in a fight for survival.*
“The 86-page report (PDF) outlines proposals to sell off campuses, close courses, increase student fees dramatically, cut jobs and [make] tens of millions of dollars of asset sales,” the AEU said.
“The message to the Baillieu government is clear – the Victorian public will not take these cuts lying down,” AEU Victorian branch president Mary Bluett said.
This week’s rally follows the AEU’s biggest ever action on September 5 when around 40,000 teachers, support staff and principals went on strike and 400 schools were closed in support of the union’s pay dispute with the Baillieu government. (See Guardian, 12-09-2012, No 1564)
On September 7, staff, students, community members and supporters from other unions took part in local protests when the Legislative Assembly sat in Ballarat and the Legislative Council in Bendigo. They were organised by the National Tertiary Education Union, the AEU and Save Ballarat TAFE.
These protests were against budget cuts of $20 billion, 100 full-time jobs and 43 courses from University of Ballarat TAFE and $9 million, 100 full-time jobs and 39 courses from Bendigo TAFE.
More than 15,000 signatures were collected from staff, students, local traders and concerned community members in and around the Melbourne suburb of Prahran and in Lilydale as part of the community campaign against campus closures and $35 million in cuts to Swinburne University’s TAFE operations.
On September 13, Victorian firefighters and supporters marched on Parliament, protesting against $66 million in cuts to firefighting services. The cuts are nothing short of criminal; they fly in the face of the Black Saturday Royal Commission’s recommendations and will put more lives and property at risk.
The $7.8 billion in spending cuts in the Queensland budget on September 10 are primarily targeted at health, education and the public service.
Treasurer Tim Nicholls announced the axing of 14,000 full-time equivalent public sector jobs, with 10,600 permanent employees declared redundant. The other 3,400 are temporary employees or on contracts which will not be renewed.
More than 10,000 marched on Parliament House to hear public sector employees and representatives of the community sector outline the impact of the sackings and slashing of services. Rural and regional economies will be hit hard, unemployment will rise and services decline or be completely withdrawn.
Queensland Health will lose up to 4,100 jobs, including in nursing and midwifery, despite firm job security commitments given shortly after the March elections in an enterprise agreement negotiated with the incoming Newman government. The LNP did an about turn and passed legislation to nullify those provisions in the agreement!
Education is set to lose around 1,140 full-time equivalent positions with the cutting of programs despite rising student numbers and the need for more teachers.
While there are a few dollars for school maintenance, outpatient services, tourism, capital spending on hospitals and more police, the main thrust of the budget is more money for roads and the cuts. Apart from a small increase in royalty payments when the price of coal rises above a certain level, big business is laughing with the promise (which will be kept) of a new round of privatisations and deregulation.
The government will sell its remaining 34 percent share of QR National. QR National is one of the largest and most profitable freight operators in Australia, moving coal, iron ore, other minerals, agricultural and general freight around Australia. It made a net profit of more than half a billion dollars last year and paid dividends of $180 million. Like other privatisations, the sale makes no sense economically. It denies the government millions of dollars in future income.
TAFE is also under attack in NSW. The O’Farrell government has announced the slashing of 800 TAFE jobs over the next four years, including many front-line teaching staff. Students face an increase in fees of 9.5 percent and the student concession fee will nearly double.
In all the government has announced $1.7 billion in budget cuts (over four years) to public education and the loss of at least 1,800 jobs.
NSW Teachers’ Federation (NSWTF) deputy president, Gary Zadkovich said, “After years of state and federal government cutbacks in funding, after years of casualisation of the TAFE teacher workforce, after years of privatising TAFE course delivery through the policies of competitive tendering and introducing TAFE course fees, we now see another wave of cuts to TAFE.”
Previous cuts and lack of income support have already seen a drop in student numbers in some areas. It is clear that both federal and state governments are not serious about addressing skills shortages, not while there is the employer-preferred option of low paid imported labour.
“Federation will be working with other unions, public education groups and local communities across NSW to defeat this attack on our students’ right to a quality public education,” NSWTF president Maurie Mulheron said.
The TAFE cuts were part of a horror budget delivered last June with the cutting of 10,000 public sector jobs on top of the 5,000 previously announced. (See Guardian 20-06-2012, No 1552)
The O’Farrell government has embarked on a massive privatisation program. Ferries have been privatised, buses look set to be next followed by trains. While public transport faces cuts, there is no shortage of money for roads. The way has been opened for the mining of 30 percent of the state, which will see key agricultural land destroyed and contaminate clean water supplies, including Sydney’s.
The austerity measures not only hurt the workers and their families directly affected but the whole of society. They create hardship and turn basic rights such as education, training, health, aged care into privileges for those who can afford them.
The Barnett government in Western Australia has been implementing a similar agenda since its election in 2008 albeit at a more gradual pace compared with its counterparts in the eastern states.
The onslaught on public services is accompanied by an attack on wages (reduced, capped or frozen meaning reductions in real terms), job security and working conditions. The cuts to jobs and incomes reduce workers’ purchasing power which in turn reduces the demand for goods and services. This has a contractionary effect on the economy at a time when stimulus and job creation are required.
Governments constantly refer to their austerity measures as “tough decisions”, as though that makes them okay, or even a sign of strength and responsible management. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the centre of the attack is the neo-liberal, big business agenda of destroying the welfare state and privatising services and the government sector.
The reason given for the cuts and sackings is to bring in a budget surplus and to win approval from the private ratings agencies. Is a smokescreen. If that were the case they could cut corporate welfare and raise taxes on the rich and corporate sector.
One of the reasons for the ferocity of the attacks in the eastern states, apart from political expediency, may well be to push for an increase in the GST. As previously reported in The Guardian in the article, “Watch out for Abbott on the GST” (27-06-2012, No 1553), demands for an increase in the GST or its extension to areas presently exempt, are on the rise. The states with their “big bang” austerity measures are creating just the climate to argue for an increase. And now O’Farrell has raised it.
The aim of increasing the GST is to fund the loss of revenue from removing state taxes on the rich and businesses and to enable the federal government to reduce its contribution to health and education and so slash corporate taxes. It will not be used to improve public services, nor to retain public service jobs.
It is not surprising Coalition leader Tony Abbott refuses to outline what a Coalition has planned for the federal public service or remaining public services. The essence of the austerity measures and their aims are the same as those being imposed in Greece, Spain and elsewhere.
There is little time left before the next federal elections to build a political alternative that will fight for and build the public sector and restore public services. The involvement of the community in the campaigns being waged by public sector unions is an important start.
* Readers are urged to join the campaign to save TAFE at www.tafe4all.org.au
02. EDITORIAL – Asylum seekers
pay for political cynicism
Last week was Suicide Prevention Week. Also last week, the Coalition joined Labor to restore the major plank of Howard’s “Pacific Solution” with legislation to “delegate” the Pacific island nation of Nauru to hold asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat. Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island will be next. The policies of those shameful years, with their toll of isolation, despair, self-harm and suicide, are back. The first batch of detainees has already been flown to Nauru under heavy guard from private contractor Serco.
“Deterrence” is the word being bandied about on both sides of Parliament. This means that the reception for asylum seekers has to be so harsh that it will prevent people in dangerous camps in Pakistan and Indonesia from considering the journey to Australia. Backers of the policy are too genteel to say it in public but the intention is to punish some to deter the many.
The shift in government policy from the commitments of the early days of the Rudd government – to abolish offshore processing and to end forever the horrific practice of detaining women and children behind razor wire – is almost total. The federal government’s back-flip has been spectacular. It begs the question – how has this been achieved? How has the political climate for such reactionary legislation been created?
In the early days of mandatory detention, the excuse given for the inhumane measures was to sift out terrorists who might slip into the country as “sleepers”. The ridiculousness of this piece of disinformation was plain when more and more people came into contact with refugees fleeing danger and persecution in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. To nobody’s surprise they found the new arrivals to be normal, hard-working folk who simply want to live in a peaceful and secure environment.
The asylum seekers arriving by boat were portrayed as “queue jumpers”, as if an orderly, well-administered process for these desperate people exists amid the hellish circumstances they are fleeing. Asylum seekers, we were told, were taking us for mugs by disposing of their papers, throwing their children overboard, and so on and so forth.
A master stroke in the “stop the boats” campaign was the recent manufacture of “concern” on the part of conservative forces for the asylum seekers themselves. Their main motivation was how to discourage the asylum seekers from risking their lives on leaky boats travelling from Indonesia and to destroy the people smugglers’ “business model”. Opponents of the restored “Pacific Solution” suddenly became the heartless, reckless ones willing to put innocent lives at risk out of some sort of ideological extremism.
The hypocrisy of this latest tactic is no surprise. Consider how Abbott & Co blasted the Gillard government for seeking an arrangement with Malaysia for the processing of asylum seekers. The conservatives said they couldn’t possibly agree to that because Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, after all! At the same time, they would be delighted for the Navy to tow boats containing asylum seekers back to Indonesia. Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN Convention, either.
Deliberately lost in all of this are the “push factors” influencing boat arrivals. Everybody knows the war in Afghanistan is not going well for the US – if the gauge of success was meant to be the establishment of a stable, pro-US administration in the country. Australians never wanted the country’s troops sent to Iraq or Afghanistan and, despite the massive campaign to blame the victims of these conflicts, the sentiment is growing. Something had to be done.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published a CIA report on how support for the Afghanistan war could be shored up in France and Germany. In France it was judged that sympathy for women, should the Taliban get back into power, was the pressure point. In Germany it was fear that there would be a flood of drugs, terrorism and refugees. Documentaries and press reports to support these propositions popped up like mushrooms.
While Australia is not immune, its people have shown strong resistance to this type of manipulation. Ultimately, they will stand up again as they did in the later Howard years to stop the scapegoating of refugees.
03. NOTE FROM EDITOR – Explanation of OECD education figures
In last week’s Guardian, the front page article “Privatisation of education – the Gillard-Gonski model” illustrated how teachers were relatively better paid in several of the top performing nations in education. It stated: “Drawing on OECD statistics, Rachel Browne in The Sydney Morning Herald (05-09-2012) notes that an experienced teacher in Australia is paid $47,000, which is 30 percent less than the average salary…” The OECD does not give raw figures. The figure is adjusted to take into consideration such factors as the impact of overall tax rates on individuals’ net income, the overall cost structure of different countries and the purchasing power of net earnings (PPPs).
The pay of an experienced teacher in Australia varies from state to state but is around $80,000 in the public education system. For a beginning fully qualified teacher it is well under $60,000.
The OECD’s report Education at a Glance, which was released last week, makes interesting reading. The relative proportion of public to private expenditure on non-tertiary education institutions is the fifth lowest in the OECD. (The US, the UK, the Pinochet model in Chile and Korea are lower.) Australia has one of the most privatised education systems, and the government wonders why our standards have slipped relative to other major nations and why the gap has widened between top and bottom students.
04. UN expert told of
From a board room in the big smoke of Melbourne to rugged bush in the north of Western Australia, United Nations human rights expert James Anaya has heard from Aboriginal people about the impact of mining and related activities on their land.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a high-level attendee at a two-day “extractive industries” roundtable hosted by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in Melbourne on August 20-21.
Professor Anaya largely kept his views on the Australian experience close to his chest, preferring instead to use his trip to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, mining companies and government agencies to see what he might incorporate into international “best practice” guidelines on the subject to ensure respect for Indigenous human rights.
In the past, however, he has identified the impacts of extractive industries as a major source of abuse of Indigenous peoples’ rights globally.
At a press conference during the Melbourne forum, he said the experiences of Indigenous people around the world invariably involved “power imbalances, the difficult choices that Indigenous people face, and concern about governments not being somehow exonerated from their responsibilities to provide for citizens and provide services because industry is willing to step in or pressuring to step in”.
“What I’ve been hearing here in Australia is very much in line with what I am hearing on a global level and that’s why I’m doing this study, because we have these common patterns of problems and conditions that Indigenous peoples face,” he said.
“You can imagine that in many places, the problems are of the same nature but are all the deeper and more grave, the power imbalances are much more serious, the conditions of Indigenous people in certain places are much more desperate and companies are often working within much, much weaker regulatory frameworks so that we find, for example, environmental damage that’s been quite severe, at least until recently.
“That’s what strikes me, to sit here and hear many of the same kinds of issues being raised as I am hearing across the globe.”
Professor Anaya said that “for better or worse”, Indigenous peoples generally sat on vast resources.
“Many of the world’s remaining mineral and hydro-carbon resources are within Indigenous territories and I think it’s accurate to say that Indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by the progress – what might be characterised as progress – or the march of industrial activity to harvest those remaining resources in the world,” he said. “And so, the problem has some urgency about it.”
Congress co-chair Les Malezer said the mining boom in Australia had heightened tensions in relationships between Indigenous communities and industry.
“With the discussions, when we tried to talk about development and how people wanted to develop economically, socially and so on, it was quiet because people are really operating under the pressures of day-to-day,” he said.
“They’re not really able to look and plan and to arrange themselves, to take control of what developments do come into their territories and what developments don’t... Of course the mining boom is a good thing for Australia, but it does create these pressure cooker situations,” said Mr Malezer.
In the days following the Melbourne forum, Professor Anaya was a guest of the Njamal people in the Pilbara, hearing about an agreement they’d struck with Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) in December 2011 to protect significant cultural sites and create a joint venture to run a mining operation on an ore body adjacent to FMG’s proposed North Star mine.
He also visited significant Njamal heritage sites, including rock art complexes, and spoke with the Njamal people about the effect that mining has had on their community.
Afterwards, the National Congress said the visit showed there were still deep concerns about maintaining culture and protecting significant sites while negotiating fair deals from mining companies that deliver opportunities.
“The Njamal people were up front about the long process to get where they have with FMG, and we support and respect them in their fight to get what they felt was necessary,” said Congress co-chair Jody Broun.
“... If anything, these visits showed us why it’s vital that our peoples are supported in their self-determination with standards based on a rights framework and that state and federal legislation must be consistent with that framework.”
Njamal Elder Doris Eaton said Professor Anaya’s trip had been a good opportunity to show him and the wider community “what the Njamal people have achieved through our agreement with FMG”.
“It is important that people see the beauty of our country first hand so that we can all work together to protect our culture, heritage and stories,” she said.
Extractive industries will also be discussed at the National Congress annual gathering to be held in Alice Springs later this month.
05. West Papua outrage and
the Australian connection
There was a grim reminder recently of Australia’s very negative role in the region with news of the actions of Indonesia’s Detachment 88. The “counter-terrorism” unit has been involved in a string of human rights abuses in West Papua and is suspected of the killing of separatist leader Mako Tabuni. Detachment 88 receives support from Australian forces including the Australian Federal Police. It also receives assistance from the US military.
The reports are a reminder of the aid given to Indonesia’s special Kopassus forces that had an appalling record of rape, torture and “disappearances” during East Timor’s long struggle for independence. Kopassus was given assistance from the Australian military and conducted annual, joint “counter-terrorism” exercises with the Special Air Services Regiment. The then Howard government reluctantly and belatedly withdrew its support for Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
The killing of Mr Tabuni has sparked widespread criticism of Indonesia’s heavy handed role in West Papua and the support its military receives from Australia. Tabuni headed the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) which engages in non-violent campaigning for independence and a political solution to the conflict in the province. Detachment 88 is also deployed in the battle against the Free Papua Movement (OPM) which is conducting a militant struggle for independence. In December 2010 it killed OPM leader Kelly Kwalik.
But it is mounting evidence of brutality against peaceful protest and organisation that is reviving concerns about what is taking place in West Papua. Greens Senator Richard Di Natale is among those speaking out. “The fact that Australian dollars are training Indonesian military, particularly counter-terrorism operations that are contributing to human rights abuses in West Papua is a real concern to me,” he told ABC TV recently.
“There’s a very strong argument that we should be withdrawing our support of those operations immediately,” the Senator added. “If we’re in fact fuelling that conflict, the onus is on us to ensure that we stop doing that and we get much better accountability in terms of our relationship with the Indonesians.”
Senator Di Natale asked Foreign Minister Bob Carr to raise these issues with Indonesia’s foreign minister and to “make it very clear to his counterpart in Indonesia that what’s going on in the region is unacceptable.” Senator Carr has replied that he will seek a full airing of the issues but added that it was in Australia’s interests for Indonesia to have a formidable “anti-terrorism” capacity.
06. Perth rally for Cuban Five
Australia Cuban Friendship Society (ACFS) members in Perth picketed the US consulate on September 13. They demanded the freedom of the Cuban Five, with indignation but a strengthening resolve to continue the struggle for the freedom of the Five Cuban men held unjustly for 14 years in US prisons since September 12, 1998.
The Cuban Five are political prisoners held in US prisons for protecting their homeland Cuba from terrorist actions organised by right-wing Cuban-Americans based in Miami. They are not the spies the US government and media portray them to be; the information they gathered wasn’t a threat to national security, it was public information freely available.
The Cuban Five were keeping surveillance on criminals in anti-Cuban terrorist circles and informing Havana of planned attacks. Since 1998 Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez and René Gonzalez have been subjected to torture, both physical and psychological. They have been denied visitation rights, placed in solitary confinement and been mistreated by prison officials.
During the 1990s when Cuba was facing serious hardship brought about by a loss of access to oil, the US government chose that time to tighten the blockade on Cuba, threatening the lives of all Cubans. Fighting to keep the Cuban population alive and to continue to deliver free access to medical care, education and more, Cuba opened up a tourist industry. It was during this time the terrorist attacks from US soil increased targeting tourism with bombs being set off in hotels – one killing an Italian tourist Fabio De Celmo and injuring many more.
Three thousand five hundred Cuban lives have been lost to attacks from right-wing Cuban exiles operating with impunity in the United States. When the Cuban government alerted the US of the planned attacks the Five had uncovered, the US arrested the Cuban Five.
After their arrest, an unjust politically motivated trial was held leading to a total of four life sentences plus 75 years in prison. The Five were separated and detained in high-security prisons and since then Olga Villanueva and Adriana Perez; the wives of Gerardo and Rene have consistently been denied visas to visit their husbands.
Speakers who addressed the rally told of the conspiracy by the US government to use the US media to unleash a propaganda campaign of unprecedented hatred and hostility by employing “journalists” to publish articles and commentaries that were repeated day and night to produce a storm of misinformation. The interference, however, went way beyond propaganda, with the media producing material to influence the members of the jury that the judge had ruled inadmissible. These materials could only have been provided by the US Attorney’s office.
It was a systematic effort throughout the period of the Five’s prosecution, in which many millions of dollars were invested to guarantee the unjust convictions of the five Cuban patriots who have now served 14 years of arbitrary and illegal punishment.
Rene Gonzalez has completed his sentence but remains in the US because Judge Joan Lenard has ordered he serve a three-year probation in Miami. The ACFS in WA believes this is an extension of his imprisonment and continues to call on President Obama for his freedom along with the other four heroes.
07. All of NSW up for grabs
under new CSG rules
The NSW government has released its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy; plans the public was told would protect land and water. But it is a policy to develop coal seam gas mining in NSW; and one that breaks a slew of promises made to the people of NSW.
Barry O’Farrell promised to ban exploration and mining in the drinking water catchment. The Coalition promised to rule out sensitive areas, assess cumulative impacts, weigh environmental, social and economic impacts of development, and require aquifer interference approval. The new rules and announcements show that these promises – quite clearly – were lies.
Under the policy, no part of NSW – not the land where food is grown, not our water catchments – is off limits to CSG mining and exploration. The test for aquifer interference has been downgraded to have no legal teeth. Mapping of high conservation value areas, the cost-benefit analysis and the public interest test have all been taken out of the policy.
And it gets worse! On the same day, the government lifted the freeze on fracking and offered to renew 22 CSG exploration licences in NSW across five million hectares. Four of these are in the Illawarra (PELs 2, 444 and 463 in the north and PEL 469 in the south), and include the drinking water catchment. A new CSG production licence was also granted in Casino.
Dressed up in words like “protection” these changes are nothing short of betrayal. Communities have made it clear that science must come before development, and that land and water must be protected. Instead, fracking is back, catchments are up for grabs and exploration across five million hectares in NSW has been renewed.
What can you do? Come to the October 21 “Human Sign: protect H2O, stop CSG” at Bulli Showground! – please register (stop-csg-illawarra.org). Visit the Lock the Gate Alliance website to see how you can get involved in the campaign or simply contact us anytime. (lockthegate.org.au)
We can put a stop to these plans if we act together now. Most importantly get to the action on October 21 and help the campaign to protect land and water WIN!
08. Vic TAFE staff
The Australian Education Union (AEU) has called an emergency rally on premier Ted Baillieu’s Treasury Place doorstep on September 20 after leaked documents revealed the devastating impact of his $300 million TAFE cuts.
The cabinet-in-confidence paper shows that the state government’s cuts have left some of Victoria’s TAFE institutes on the brink of collapse. The AEU said it was clear the TAFE system was now in a fight for survival.
TAFE teachers, support staff, students and supporters will rally at midday in Treasury Gardens on September 20 to voice their support for the public TAFE system and demand reinstatement of the $300 million slashed from institute funding in the May budget.
The 86-page report outlines proposals to sell off campuses, close courses, increase student fees dramatically, cut jobs and tens of millions of dollars of asset sales.
“The state government must be held accountable for the devastation it has caused at TAFE institutes across Victoria,” AEU Victorian branch president Mary Bluett said.
“The Victorian public understands that the Baillieu government’s budget cuts are not in the interests of young people, the community, TAFE institutes or the Victorian economy.
“The Baillieu government must be accountable to the Victorian public TAFE’s 365,000 students who as a result of their decisions, will now have limited educational opportunities, with many expected to drop out altogether as a result of significant fee increases.
“Regional and rural Victoria have been especially hurt by these cuts. Local MPs, regardless of party allegiances, have a responsibility to do what is right for their community and support their local TAFE institutions.”
Ms Bluett said that the strength of the Victorian economy is based on the skills of its workers and that TAFE provides skills and training to hundreds of thousands of Victorians each year. As a result of these cuts, these numbers will fall and the Victorian economy will suffer.
“We have witnessed an outpouring of support for Victoria’s TAFE institutes from community members, local councils, business, unions, the federal government and many more.
“The message to the Baillieu government is clear – the Victorian public will not take these cuts lying down. The government should be committing to a well-resourced, high quality TAFE sector and encouraging learning, not making it harder for students,” Ms Bluett said.
According to the AEU’s 2012 State of our TAFEs survey:
Over 90% of Victorian TAFE teachers believe reforms to Victoria’s VET system have had a negative effect on the quality of teaching and learning at their TAFE.
86% of teachers said they didn’t believe they had the time to support students to the level they require.
63% of teachers said they had noticed a drop in enrolments from their Institute this year.
Those teachers who had noticed a drop in enrolments believed higher fees (29%) and ineligibility for government support (26%) were the two main causes.
66% of teachers said they were aware of questionable practices in attracting students to courses at private Registered Training Organisations.
09. People power wins! Super trawler banned
The Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced new laws that will ban the Margiris super trawler for up to two years. Burke acknowledged overwhelming public concern in reaching this significant decision. Congratulations to the thousands of passionate Australians, community and environmental groups and fishing groups who stopped the Margiris from destroying Australia‘s oceans
Today is a huge day for people power. The federal environment minister has announced a ban on the super trawler for up to two years and further scientific investigations before boats like this are approved.
“There has been no doubt there has been a massive public focus on this,” said environment minister Burke.
It was the united action of community members, environmentalists and fishing groups that convinced the government to protect Australia’s fish stocks, marine wildlife and fishing communities.
This victory is testimony to the power of collective will and the importance of standing up for what’s right. Because of the donations received by Greenpeace supporters, we were able to:
Highlight the dangerous flaws in the approval process and the threat to Australia’s fishing communities, fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
Track the Margiris’ route, raise awareness of its pending arrival and take direct action as it hit Australian waters.
Publicise the super trawler’s destructive history and present the investigative research Greenpeace had conducted across the globe over many years.
Reveal the European Union subsidies that keep these over-sized vessels in operation.
Heighten awareness in threatened regional coastal towns with media advertisements.
Unite with a unique coalition of groups to mobilise diverse communities, hold rallies and pressure the government.
This is a significant setback for the European super trawler fleet – however, the campaign against destructive fishing needs to continue.
The Margiris is just one fishing vessel that is impacting marine ecosystems globally. The global fishing fleet is catching more fish than nature can sustain. In our region, the Pacific faces the threat of over-sized foreign vessels every day.
Greenpeace will continue its global campaign against overfishing and destructive fishing practices.
Today we can celebrate this wonderful victory.
10. A decent home is
a human right
“The availability of affordable public housing is far more important than profits for developers. A decent home is a human and a democratic right. The Sydney Council needs to be more active in providing public housing to help relieve the current housing crisis and to make sure that people can live in Sydney regardless of their income level. I believe that Denis Doherty and the Housing Action team have excellent policies.” Jack Mundey
More than 20 percent of people in private housing in Sydney are under housing stress, spending 30 percent or more of their weekly income on housing. Tenants face increasing insecurity as the Liberals, ALP and Clover Moore drive them out of Sydney to make way for private developments.
Responding to this situation, the CPA’s Port Jackson Branch decided to build on its local campaign for public housing and against the privatisation of public land by standing Denis Doherty as a candidate in the September 8 local government elections.
The Branch work was being done with Hands off Glebe, a community group formed out of contacts made at the 2010 Federal election.
Joan, a public housing tenant who was forced to leave her home in Glebe after 43 years to make way for the bulldozers, said: “When they came to bulldoze our homes and they destroyed our community, only Denis Doherty and the Hands off Glebe group tried to help us. We know they will stand by you.”
An approach from the Socialist Alliance led to the formation of a broad ticket with CPA, SA and independent members.
With Sydney District Committee endorsement of the broad ticket, Housing Action was formed and the campaign got underway.
Housing Action’s primary aim was to run an effective political campaign to raise the issues of the destruction of public housing and the privatisation of public lands in Sydney in the interests of corporate developers.
“We achieved this aim,” Denis Doherty told The Guardian.
“At the start of the campaign, staffers from the other parties told us there were no votes in housing.
“But by the time of a forum on August 21 the only candidate to express unqualified support for the Cowper Street project was outgoing Mayor Clover Moore. Every other candidate was critical of the proposed development.
“This was a major shift for Labor and Liberal who voted in favour of the project in the past,” Comrade Denis said.
In June 2011 demolishers tore down 134 flats and ripped out 170 trees in a quiet cul de sac in Glebe. The plan is to rebuild some public housing on a portion of the site and to sell off the rest to a private developer.
Twenty three thousand leaflets were distributed by comrades from both parties and a larger number of supporters. They were letterboxed with thousands of smaller inserts, dealing with specific local issues, in appropriate areas of the electorate.
The City of Sydney is a huge electorate and Housing Action also campaigned for the re-introduction of wards to help make councillors more accessible and responsive.
“In our leaflets we argued that council is an extension of the community,” Denis explained.
“We called for regular ward meetings for transparent, participatory democracy and argued that councillors should live in the ward they represent, be more action oriented and involve the community in decision-making.”
In the Erskineville and Alexandria area, Housing Action’s campaign pointed out that the diverse village character of the community is under threat from corporate overdevelopment on one hand, and under-investment in public services on the other.
“We opposed any increase on the five-storey plan at Ashmore Estate and demanded that at least ten percent of the development must be public and ten percent affordable housing,” Denis Doherty said.
“We called for open space on the Ashmore Estate’s to be doubled.
“With peak hour trains already at 180 percent of capacity, we campaigned for rail and bus services to be increased.”
In Redfern the Housing Action team was led by local indigenous activist Ray Jackson.
Our campaign stressed that Aboriginal people have an important and historical presence in all areas of the Sydney City Council and Council has a special duty of care towards the land’s traditional owners.
The Housing Action team and its campaign committee worked amicably and efficiently together.
“We believe this was a real step forward for left unity in Sydney,” Comrade Denis said.
“We are already planning to meet to discuss how we can work together again on other issues of importance for the working people of our city.”
Housing Action won 764 votes which is 1.16%.
11. Julian Assange presented with Aboriginal Nations Passport
Statement, Indigenous Social Justice Association and Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks
It is with a sense of pride and complete social justice that this Association has worked with the Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition to have the privilege of successfully arranging for Julian Assange to be able to be issued with an Aboriginal Nations Passport that his father, John Shipton, will accept on his behalf at the Welcome to Aboriginal Land Passport Ceremony to be held at The Settlement, 17 Edward Street, Darlington from 11am to 4pm on Saturday September 15, 2012.
We strongly endorse the words of Ms Linda Pearson of the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition on the total lack of support by our federal government to assist Julian against being press-ganged to America to face corrupt charges against him for informing the world’s people of the absolute lies that all governments continue to tell their people. Whilst it is true that all governments lie, it is well known that America leads the pack in their eternal quest for American hegemony of the world’s resources. It is well known that all Australian governments since the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, that was assisted and orchestrated by America’s CIA, have meekly put our country at the policies of the American foreign policy interests. Julian is but another example.
The Ceremony is being held at the behest of many migrant, refugee and non-Aboriginal Australians who wish to fully recognise the Traditional Owners of the many Aboriginal Nations of Australia that still exist to this very day. They wish to show their full respect to the true history of this land and that is that we Aborigines still have full Sovereignty over our Lands.
Always was…always will be… Aboriginal Land.
The crimes of the 1788 Invasion and the subsequent Colonisation still need to be addressed and accounted for but we believe that the Passport Ceremony is the first of many steps that are required by those who wish to participate in a multicultural and pluralistic Reconciliation. Not the assimilationist Reconciliation wanted by Australian governments and other racists but the real and honourable Reconciliation of removing the-white-blindfold of our joint history and allowing a mutual respect to be created.
By agreement we will be issuing both Julian Assange, via his father, and Mamdoub Habib, who will be present, an Aboriginal Nations Passport that will allow both to respectfully travel through the Aboriginal Nations of Australia. Mamdoub now and Julian on his return to Aboriginal Australia. Both these men were denied any assistance, firstly by the Howard government and then by the Gillard government respectively. These nefarious actions were taken by these two governments to appease their American masters. We will attempt to right that wrong.
All those who wish to be issued with a Passport may obtain one by, firstly, signing the Pledge, giving some personal details to be added to the Passport, supplying a passport sized photo and a charge of $10 to help in affraying costs. The Passports are for use by non-Aboriginal people only and can only be used to travel through the Aboriginal Nations of this country. This does not apply to Aborigines as we have our own cultural methods of travelling through Country.
The Ceremony at The Settlement will include music, dancers, food and a wonderful sense of Welcome and Solidarity to all those attending. This will be an alcohol and drug free event.
We give the final word to Linda Pearson:
“We are extremely grateful to the Indigenous Social Justice Association for highlighting the injustice faced by Julian Assange, and for this opportunity to show our solidarity with the Aboriginal owners of this land.
“Australia is built on the injustices of invasion and colonisation. We condemn racist government polices like the Northern Territory Intervention which continue to inflict untold harm on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We benefit from the occupation of stolen land, while Aboriginal people are incarcerated at five times the rate of black South Africans under apartheid.
“The ISJA’s decision to issue Julian Assange an Aboriginal Passport comes as he remains confined in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Despite international obligations to respect Assange’s status as a political refugee, the UK government has made clear its intention to arrest him if he tries to leave the Embassy.
“The Australian government should be negotiating with the UK to ensure Assange’s safe passage to Ecuador. However, our politicians have consistently put their alliance with the United States before Assange’s human rights, even when his life has been threatened.
“The issuing of an Aboriginal Passport to Julian Assange brings further shame on the Australian government. It recognises that Assange’s Australian passport has been completely worthless to him.”
12. The failed nuclear industry
On a cold wet night in Perth on September 4, 40 people attended the Uniting Church’s Queens Building to see presentations by two well known anti-nuclear activists on their visits to the vicinity of two nuclear reactor sites which had experienced reactor failure.
The first was Greens Senator Scott Ludlum who in July, at the invitation of the Japanese Greens Party, spent time meeting with officials from the Party and other anti-nuclear activist groups. Their call to Senator Ludlum was no accident in the shadow of the catastrophe at Fukushima, as the uranium ore used to power the plant came from two mines in Australia – the Ranger Mine near Kakadu National Park and the Olympic Dam mine in central South Australia.
Ludlum commenced his presentation by reminding the meeting that although the earthquake and tsunami were natural disasters, the eastern coast of Japan, in close proximity to a fault line, is a terrible place to build a nuclear reactor.
For these reasons stated Ludlum, “The National Diet of Japan Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, in its Executive Summary of a report released on July 5, 2012, acknowledged it was a profoundly man-made disaster that could have and should have been foreseen and prevented.”
This disaster led to a tsunami of 14 metres, easily overcoming the sea wall half that height and in places reaching up to 8-10 kilometres inland. While the power company TEPCO’s emergency response to the earthquake was to shutdown the reactor, it still needed a power station to supply electricity to take out 60 megawatts of heat. This power was not available and this led to a failure of the reactor. This in turn led to the fires which resulted in the release of large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere as well as possible cracks in the pipes supplying the coolant.
The initial exclusion zone was 20 kilometres, this was later reduced to 10 kilometres, although it will be contaminated for several hundred years.
As a consequence many people carry around their own personal radiation counters, there are public facilities to allow for the regular screening of the body for any tumours or illnesses which may occur, and shops carry signs for their fresh produce indicating that it has been certified as being within safe levels of radiation.
One big park has had top soil stripped from the ground and the bark of trees sandblasted so that children can once again play in it. The exposure to radiation is being weighed against the harm that would otherwise occur in children from vitamin D deficiencies, depression, obesity and lack of fresh air and exercise.
Japan’s previous unquestioning support for the need for nuclear power has also suffered a meltdown as a consequence of the conduct of the corporations which run the nuclear facilities, the bureaucracies which supposedly regulate and oversee their operation and the national government which has let down the Japanese people badly.
Senator Ludlum said that many people believe, “A nuclear mafia runs Japan energy industry and that their government has been complicit by corruptly accepting assurances that the industry can regulate itself.” As a consequence concluded Ludlum, “The people in Japan have risen above their normal acceptance of authoritarian rule and are starting to question their rulers in a big way with massive public rallies of tens of thousands and growing since the Diet report’s release in July.
“This questioning has been aided in no small way by Japan’s taste for having a complete shutdown of their nuclear industry for two months and conversion to gas to meet any shortfall in energy demand.”
Chernobyl, 26 years on
In August 2012, former Greens and Nuclear Disarmament Party Senator Jo Vallentine returned from a visit to sites in Russia and neighbouring Belarus that witnessed the horrors of the fallout from the only other Level 7 nuclear catastrophe that the world has seen – Chernobyl.
In Novozybkov, which is 175 kilometres from the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine, she met with members of a community environment group called Viola. It has established community education programs to help people in radiation affected areas live with its effects.
Like their counterparts in Fukushima, these people are taught how to use radiation counters to monitor radiation levels which can vary from day to day and week to week. They attend clinics to be tested, to monitor the health of new born babies and check the safety of their food.
In the Russian town of Bryansk to the north of Novozybkov she met with people who were buying and doing up old dachas in the countryside so that people could escape the sterility and monotony of urban life and enjoy the activity, fresh air and change of environment to be found in a rural setting.
Mia Pepper, the tireless anti-uranium mining activist from the Conservation Council of Western Australia also spoke. She brought home Australia’s role in the nuclear cycle. Australia is one of the worlds leading exporters of uranium, the raw material powering these potentially lethal forms of energy generation.
Ms Pepper spoke of the decline in the popularity of nuclear energy following the accident at Fukushima and the rising costs of nuclear power generation which were also proving a barrier in many countries with the exception of China.
This had caused the suspension of the Olympic Dam mine site in South Australia as well as the Kintyre and Yeleerie Mine sites in the north east of Western Australia. The Toro Energy mine in WA, 50 kilometres from the town of Wiluna, is the only mine that has been granted environmental approval by the WA Liberal government of Premier Colin Barnett and is awaiting federal environmental approval.
The residents of Wiluna have concerns about the dust from the radioactive tailings and leaching of radioactive material into their groundwater. Also the overuse of their aquifers for use by the mine. A recently released report suggests there is only seven years of water available for the mine which might not even meet half its expected mining life.
To conclude proceedings there was a live SKYPE hook-up to Akira Kawazaki of the Japanese anti-nuclear group, Peace Boat, who spoke about the growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan. It is pushing its government to speed up and permanently phase out the nuclear industry and to replace it with renewable energy.
He called on Australian anti-nuclear groups to unite with Japanese activist groups on issues of the mining and export of uranium and on handling the tail end of the nuclear cycle, the radioactive spent fuel. Kawazaki also emphasised the need for energy conservation as well as the long-term target of increasing the development and use of renewable energy.
13. CULTURE & LIFE – The failure of prohibition
Once again, a respected think tank has issued a report recommending the decriminalisation of cannabis and ecstasy use. And once again it has been greeted with shrill squeals of shock and horror by people who haven’t bothered to study the subject and by smug assurances that it’s “not gonna happen” from the Religious Right.
More years ago than I care to remember, when this paper was called The Socialist and the party was the SPA, I wrote a Culture & Life column advocating the decriminalising of pot (ecstasy had hardly been heard of then). It got much the same reaction as this latest proposal. Older Comrades had a knee-jerk reaction along the lines of “drugs bad, ban them, punish users, that’ll solve it”, while younger Comrades thought the idea was simply common sense but doubted (correctly, as it turned out) that the Party would have the nerve to support such a proposal.
There was one significant difference between my proposal and that now being advanced by the not-for-profit think tank Australia21: theirs is a proposal based on private enterprise, with trade in cannabis “controlled through taxation, with growers and sellers subject to ‘hard-to-get but easy-to-lose licences’ for cultivation and wholesale and retail supply”. Mine was for a nationalised industry, with all stages of operation – from cultivation to wholesaling, packaging to retailing – under the exclusive control of a government authority specifically established for that purpose. There was no private profit involved.
Both proposals recognise two very salient facts: the necessity of breaking the nexus between recreational drugs and organised crime, and the futility of prohibition as a strategy for controlling drugs. In fact, prohibition has been such an unqualified and spectacular failure over the last 100 years that it is baffling to think of reasons why people would still advocate it. The answer seems to lie in the combined power of ignorance and religion.
The Religious Right, secure in their simplistic belief that drug trafficking is the work of a mythical figure of evil called “the Devil”, find it comforting to promote the concept of a society that is constantly at war with “the forces of evil”. It obviates any need to seriously analyse why people might choose to seek solace from the vicissitudes of life in drug and alcohol abuse.
Prohibition was most famously tried in the USA in the 1920s. The laws banning alcohol were opposed by so many people that even those who supported the laws’ intentions considered them unworkable. Millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens colluded in breaking the law on possession or use of alcohol. It was seen as a “victimless” crime, and consequently harmless. But in the absence of a legal trade in alcohol, organised crime (backed by “legitimate” business interests who were loathe to forgo any opportunity for a decent profit) quickly stepped in to meet a perceived need.
Prohibition provided opportunities and a cover for organised crime to such an extent that gangsterism became entrenched in the US. The legal system, both police and judiciary, became fundamentally corrupted and it became so acceptable to use “black money” for business purposes that the practice continues today.
Prohibition ended when the American voters threw out the Republicans and elected Franklin D Roosevelt and the Democrats in 1932. Even then, several US states retained prohibition, to the joy of their local moonshiners and other criminal elements. But the US was not the only country that tried to control alcohol through prohibition. The USSR also tried it in the early 1920s. The result was not quite the same however.
With no capitalists able to make large sums of money by breaking the law, the trade in bootleg liquor in the Soviet Union was largely restricted to what the peasants could brew up in their bath-tubs, and was more of a health hazard than a threat to the economy. Nevertheless, the young Soviet State very soon turned away from prohibition and its attendant negative features and reintroduced legal alcohol – as a useful State monopoly.
Elsewhere, prohibition survives in some deeply religious but extremely corrupt countries such as India and Saudi Arabia. In India, bootlegging is popular and routine, and contributes to the corruption of police and officialdom, as well as supporting the murderous rural landlords’ gangs that are the backbone of the Congress Party. In Saudi Arabia, of course, alcohol is readily available to those with money. The prohibition laws are only there to help keep the common people in line.
Removing popular recreational drugs from this farcical system of “control”, can remove these major sources of profit from the drug kings and crime bosses. They will still have the “hard drugs”, the habit-forming heroin, cocaine, etc. But they will have been deprived of control over the lucrative trade in the popular “soft” drugs like pot and ecstasy. Most users of these drugs do not go on to use heroine or cocaine. With ecstasy and cannabis readily available (under these proposed schemes) through chemists and public hospitals, the market for smuggled consignments of these same drugs would dry up overnight.
So would the opportunities for getting police to turn a blind eye to the “victimless crime” of trading in cannabis or ecstasy. And that in turn would remove a major source of corruption.
Can we expect the think-tank’s proposal to be acted on? Not any time soon, I suspect. Being “tough on drugs” regardless of effectiveness or common sense is a trade-mark of right-wing politicians from both sides of the House. But it is time people started thinking about it and talking about it.
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