Thursday, 18 June 2009

June 20: Aboriginal rights, the NT Intervention and DIC

This Saturday, June 20, there will be national protests to mark the second anniversary of the racist Northern Territory Intervention, introduced under the Howard government but continued under Rudd.

Coincidentally or not, a number of developments have emerged this week that heighten the political and social importance of forcing real action on Aboriginal issues. (It seems to be a repeating motif, both under Howard and Rudd, that official announcements concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters occur in clusters around days, anniversaries or events affecting the same populations. Under Howard, it could possibly be put down to a malicious attempt to counterpoint celebrations of indigenous survival with right-wing attacks against them. Under Rudd the correlations are harder to define, yet appear to exist none the less).

Marion Scrymgour - the highest ranking Aboriginal member of any government in Australia - quit the Northern Territory Labor Party over its Aboriginal policy on June 4. As an independent, she now holds the balance of power.

On Monday, the ABC's Four Corner's program carried the heart-wrenching and infuriating story of Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder in Western Australia who died in the back of a police van while being transported through the desert in extraordinary heat. Details can be found here.

Then, on Tuesday, the Queensland Court of Appeal ordered a new inquest, with a new coroner, to re-examine the death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004, with four broken ribs, a burst spleen and a liver torn in two. As the SMH article points out:

"In 2006, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was responsible for Mr Doomadgee's death in custody after he was arrested for public nuisance."

While Hurley was charged on Invasion Day (the symbolism reeking of political spin), he was acquitted of the charges of manslaughter and assault. Then:

"At the conclusion of a review of the matter in Townsville late last year District Court Judge Bob Pack overturned Ms Clement's ruling and ordered the inquest be reopened.

Last month Mr Doomadgee's family and the Palm Island Aboriginal Council fought to have Judge Pack's decision ruled invalid in the Court of Appeal."

The Court of Appeal decision found Judge Pack's reasoning to have been "flawed", but still ruled Judge Pack was still correct in ordering the inquest be reopened, essentially trying to exonerate Hurley of any responsibility.

As Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance spokesperson Sam Watson said outside the court, yet another example of "police trying to rewrite history". The struggle against systemic racism continues, and needs your help.

The details for this Saturday's rallies are:

  • Sydney: 10:30am Belmore Park, (opposite Central station). Protest, march and concert - marking two years since the announcement of the NT Intervention. March to the Block in Redfern for family and culture day concert. More information can be found here.
  • Darwin: 11 am, Raintree Park: Speakout by people from communities and Town Camps throughout the Northern Territory and short speeches from invited guests. 8 pm: Rock Against Racism, Brown's Mart. For more information or to help with transport, go here.
  • Brisbane: 11 am Queens Park, corner George and Elizabeth Streets, City. Organised by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition - Brisbane.
  • Perth: 12-2pm, Forrest Chase. Public protest rally: "Never Again! Nor More Deaths In Custody!" More information can be found here.
  • Melbourne: 12 noon: Rally against the intervention at the GPO; 3 pm: public meeting at Trades Hall with George Newhouse, lawyer for the NT group against the Intervention. Organised by Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective.

  • ...Surely That's Not Racist?

    There is a direct link between the 'harmless' little gag which we often let slide and the appalling racist violence which we quickly condemn, write Suvendrini Perera and Jon Stratton

    It was probably a year or two ago that one of us — the one who looks Indian but isn't — heard her first call-centre joke from a fellow academic. Registering that she was somewhat taken aback, the joker protested, "Oh, come on, you know that's not racist. People just get annoyed about all the jobs going to India. Nothing personal." Right. Nothing personal.

    This colleague's bad joke has come to mind as we have watched the burgeoning catalogue of acts of violence against Indian students on the news: stabbings, bashings, beatings, muggings, burnings.

    It's not racist. It's just that they work late at night. It's just that they travel by train. It's just that they have iPods. It's just that they look vulnerable. It's just that they act different — not like the good Indians who are such marvellous contributors to our multicultural society. It's just that they stand out. Right.

    The violent attacks on international students in Australia have apparently been happening for a number of years. Commonwealth and state politicians, as well as the media, have sprung to attention recently thanks to a series of increasingly public interventions by the Indian Government. Students from India, however, are by no means the sole targets of the violence nor have the attacks been limited to men. International students from China have been raped. Young Chinese women students in Sydney and Perth were murdered, including the awful case of Jiao Dan who was raped and murdered in Perth in 2007.

    A couple of years ago one of us visited the library of another university. In the men's toilet he was astounded to find a large scrawled graffito that read: "I raped an Asian and she loved it." Even more shocking, it was still there when he returned a few days later. He complained to the librarian that, while toilet walls are frequently the site for graffiti of questionable taste, this was completely beyond the bounds of acceptability. The next time he went there, the graffito had been painted over.

    How long had it been there? Why had no other man complained about it?

    Part of the answer is that racist jokes and comments have become normalised as unremarkable aspects of daily life in Australia. It's "everyday racism", the kind of unthinking racism that is so accepted that we don't consider it racism. It prevents us from seeing the racialised discriminations that happen all the time in Australia. The question is, can it inure us even to the extreme forms of violence that are enacted before our eyes?

    This outbreak of violence against international — read Asian — students needs to be placed in a wider landscape that takes in a whole raft of changes to immigration policy that have accompanied the increasing neoliberalisation of Australia. These changes have everything to do with race.

    Read the full article here.

    The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia: achievements and limitations

    The IWW's newspaper Direct Action campaigned opposed capitalist war in 1914.

    [This talk was presented at the Laborism and the radical alternative: Lessons for today conference, held in Melbourne, Australia, on May 30, 2009. It was organised by Socialist Alliance and sponsored by Green Left Weekly, Australia’s leading socialist newspaper.

    * * * * * * *

    By Verity Burgmann

    The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was established in Australia first in Sydney in October 1907, two years after the founding of the IWW in the United States in June 1905 in Chicago. Known as the ``Wobblies’’, the IWW was a revolutionary industrial unionist organisation. It preferred this terminology to ``syndicalist’’: while it acknowledged much in common with European revolutionary syndicalism, it proposed a less decentralised industrial organisation. It maintained that: workers should be organised on the basis of the industries in which they worked rather than on the basis of their particular craft or trade skills; ultimately all workers should come together in One Big Union, which would take over control of production, distribution and exchange from the employers; and this process, while revolutionary could be non-violent, because if all workers were already in One Big Union, its power would be so great that the change to a new socialist society could be achieved peaceably.

    The IWW had developed due to dissatisfaction with craft unionism, which was seen to pit workers against each other and make it easier for employers to control and exploit all workers. Its emergence was an intelligent response from within the labour movement to the increasing centralisation of capital and industry; it aspired to present a concentration of labour power to meet a concentration of ownership of capital.

    However, strictly speaking, only waged workers could join, so there was a serious limitation from the outset: it was a very ``blokey’’ organisation. Female paid workers were very welcome, but working-class homemakers could not officially join. Female industrial militants were applauded—but patronised—in the IWW song ``Rebel Girl’’. ``To the working class she’s a precious pearl. She brings courage, pride and joy, to the fighting Rebel Boy.’’ Far more impressive was the IWW’s principled hostility to racism as an ideology and practice that divided workers at the point of production that must be combated at all cost. Within a labour movement seriously implicated in endorsement of the White Australia Policy, the Australian Wobblies stood out for their persistent opposition to racism.

    In 1908 the IWW movement in the USA split: those most contemptuous of political parties packed the convention. Debate centred on the Preamble, which stated:

    The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace as long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

    Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the toilers come together on the political as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their labor through an economic organization of the working class without affiliation with any political party.

    The rapid gathering of wealth and the centering of the management of industry into fewer and fewer hands makes trades unions unable to cope with the ever-growing power of the employing class because the trades unions foster a state of things which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars. The trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

    These sad conditions can be changed and the interests of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries, if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

    The ``non-politicals’’ successfully moved a resolution that deleted from the Preamble the sentence commencing ``until all the toilers come together on the political as well as on the industrial field’’ and substituted in its place ``until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system’’. The minority group still supporting political action, associated with the Socialist Labor Party under Daniel De Leon, withdrew and established separate headquarters in Detroit. The larger ``non­-political’’ section remained based in Chicago and became the more successful movement.

    This split was replicated in Australia. In May 1911, the Chicago IWW was established, first in Adelaide, but the Sydney branch, or Local as it was called, became the largest and most significant. As in the United States, it was the Chicago non-political IWW that was the more famous in Australia. It became what is generally known as ``the IWW’’, though the political IWW minority remained organised in the IWW Clubs, closely aligned with the Socialist Labor Party of Australia.

    There were many links between the American and Australian Wobblies, helped particularly by the movements of workers between these continents, especially maritime workers. Not just seafarers, but many radicals roamed around the world quite freely at this stage. Unlike today, there were few restrictions on movement. There were no passports. It was quite common for agitators and activists to spend several years working and agitating for better pay and conditions for workers in one country then to move on to another country. Sometimes these agitators moved on because their efforts to improve conditions for workers brought them into trouble with local authorities. Often the radical labour movement in the country in which they arrived would know about them before they appeared, because of the newspapers produced by each movement, which reported on the movements in other countries.

    One example of someone who moved around the Pacific area was John Benjamin King. King, born in Canada in the 1870s, worked as a miner, a teamster, and a stoker. There were many baseless rumours about King, for example, that during his time in Chicago he had blown up a newspaper office. During1910-1911, he worked as an IWW organiser for Vancouver. After the August 1911 Vancouver strike was broken, he worked his way to New Zealand as a stoker. In Auckland, his economics class had an enrolment of 30 miners and achieved notoriety. It was rumoured they studied the techniques of industrial sabotage. ``The less you work’’, he told one meeting, ``the longer you will live’’. But no member would testify when interviewed by police. However, with questions being asked about him in parliament, King fled to Australia in 1912, where he became a leading figure in the Australian IWW. Because of this, in October 1916, he was given ten years jail for printing and distributing 25,000 pounds worth of forged five pound notes—along with my grandfather’s first cousin, the process engraver who made the plates. The idea was to debase the currency to help bring down capitalism and finance Wobbly propaganda in the meantime. King’s sentence was reduced to two years, because he was less involved than my relative.

    King was representative of the many personal links between the radical labour movements in countries on the Pacific rim, which helped the process of transplantation of the IWW from its country of origin. These transplants adapted to local circumstances. The Australian IWW was therefore different in significant ways from the American IWW. It did not slavishly follow all the American trends, debates, and schisms, as American IWW historiography has tended to assume of the IWW Locals that appeared in other countries. In fact, intriguing contrasts emerged between the IWWs on the two sides of the Pacific Ocean, which merit separate attention.

    1. Opposition to political action

    In the USA and Canada, political action was not so much a practice to be rejected as a matter of principle but an irrelevancy, because those to whom the IWW appealed were largely estranged from the electoral process. The American IWW, while rejecting control by political parties, never expressly condemned political action and many American Wobblies were active members of parties such as the Socialist Party.

    It was very different situation here, where there was universal manhood suffrage (including indigenous Australians) from 1856 and payment for politicians from 1871, and then universal adult suffrage by the end of the 1890s in most States and federally from 1902 (excluding indigenous Australians until 1962). All adults, except Aboriginal Australians, could vote in elections in every part of Australia from the beginning of the twentieth century. Australia a white democracy, with Labor parties viable because of this democratic status, many years before the USA with a significantly better-developed economy. Moreover, electoral registration was compulsory in Australia. Not only was it relatively easy for itinerant workers to secure electoral registration; they were fined if they did not.

    These democratic features caused the early existence of Labor parties in Australia, and Labor parties that were politically precocious. During the most successful years of the Australian IWW, the Labor Party was in government federally in 1908-09, 1910-1913 and 1914-1917. It was also in government for much of this period in most of the six States. In Australia, therefore, the IWW not just abstractly anti-political as in the United States and Canada but empirically so. It argued from experience that Labor parties did not help workers much.

    The behaviour of Labor governments seemed to confirm IWW warnings against political action. Direct Action, the Australian IWW newspaper, had a running commentary on the futility of political action, sell-outs and betrayals by Labor MPs, their huge salaries and perks, and so on. For example, on May 1, 1914, Direct Action announced: ``Workers of Australia, you have raised up unto yourselves gods, in the shape of Labor politicians, and behold events have proved that their feet are but of clay.’’ On June 15, 1915, Direct Action claimed that the actions of the NSW McGowen Labor government, such as strike-breaking, should ``serve as a warning to the working-class, not alone of this country but of the whole world’’.

    To read the full talk, visit LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

    A biopsy of the local climate movement

    Via Ben Courtice at [BCC: Words]
    The June 13 Climate Emergency rally in Melbourne is a good opportunity for a biopsy of the local climate movement. Almost a year after the first Climate Emergency rally we can take stock of how much real progress has been made.

    A positive protest
    The spirited rally of maybe as many as 4000 showed the Melbourne climate movement at its best. A panel of sharp and political speakers played to a receptive and militant crowd. The march down Swanston St and the sit-in outside the Town Hall increased the public impact of the rally and the news coverage of and around the rally nationally was reasonable. The diversity of active groups was highlighted in the colourful array of banners, placards, puppets and so forth that festooned the march through the city streets.

    Certainly, this rally was a positive and inspiring event for many. On the other hand, I spoke to at least two activists in the crowd who declared they were quite disappointed in the turnout. Should we be happy with 4000? Or should we be wondering what went wrong given that it was less than the May 17 climate Human Sign at St Kilda? That it was not discernibly bigger than last year’s climate emergency rally?

    Just counting the numbers could miss the point. The political message, the public reception, and the way the rally was put together all say a lot too.

    The first thing which is very positive is the active preparation for the rally by groups that brought banners, puppets and of course the bicycle band. It helped to turn a walk-down-the-street march into a veritable carnival of politics – as such demonstrations ought to be.

    Secondly, in the lead up to the rally we distributed (an estimate) about 40-50 000 leaflets (out of the 60 000 or so we had printed). These disappeared quite easily and assuming they were actually distributed by the people who took piles, this is a pretty good effort for activists on the ground.

    There were four banner drops over freeways, organised by people in Yarra Valley CAG, Moreland CAG, Families Facing Climate Change in Ashburton and WeCAN in the west. This effort may not have had a huge impact on commuters (some banners were taken down very quickly at the request of CityLink officers) but it shows a certain growth in suburban activism (relative to last year’s rally, the only real point of comparison I can think of).

    The rally was incredibly visible, occupying the main street for an hour or so. One rally participant noted on Facebook that he thought as he sat outside Town Hall, "Gee, I haven't done a sit-in for years! Well, one where I actually end up getting dragged away!" We didn’t get dragged away this time, but the response from the crowd to the prospects of organising “civil disobedience” actions was positive, boding well for mass protests at Hazelwood later this year.

    Weak points
    The negatives are mainly related to the degree of participation in organising the event.

    Firstly, the number of people at organising meetings was very small. This may make it easy to decide things bureaucratically, but that is not a strength! It was hard to make difficult decisions early on about the slogans and themes for the day because the people in the room only formally represented Friends of the Earth, Socialist Alliance and Solidarity – no-one from TWS, EV, CEN (well I sort of was from CEN); only a few local CAGs sent reps (and not all to the same meeting, necessarily!). We decided that we had to just go with what we thought the climate movement here would support, and seemed to get it right (we didn’t get complaints, anyway!), but could have easily made a wrong call that wasn’t broadly supported.

    Secondly, the amount of events on may have detracted from the rally. The simultaneous organising for the Anglesea coal campaign may have taken out a few activists who could have otherwise made a difference organising the rally. The human sign at St Kilda Beach was in and of itself a great event, but LIVE and Bayside used up all their energy in organising that so we lost two groups from the rally organising (who were both key supporters in the 2008 rally). Perhaps the human sign had a greater impact, but it was not an event the whole movement had decided to prioritise at the Climate Action Summit.

    Our ability to disseminate information was weak, apart from the apparent ease at distributing leaflets. We had 8000 posters printed (plus TWS did a print run of their own design with a live tree picture, as opposed to the drought-killed tree on the other posters). After doing a paste-up in the West with a friend, I ruefully remarked that we got too many posters printed. He corrected me: we just don’t have enough activists to put them up!

    Trying to mass distribute the last 10-20 000 leaflets hit a similar wall. A good mobilisation of 20 people in the city in the morning could have distributed a large bundle, but we could not even mobilise the whole organising committee (who were busy and overstretched, since there were so few of us) and only got three people to the morning we had set for doing it.

    Forests, desalination, bay dredging…
    It was great that The Wilderness Society came on board this rally fairly seriously. Their “niche” – the forest issue – is objectively crucial to combating climate change but more than that they represent an important group of environmental activists and supporters. (It was especially pleasing to have them on board after last year they refused to have anything to do with the Climate Emergency rally!).

    The Watershed anti-desalination campaign group were present, although since the rally had the national demands around climate policy and not a specific anti-desal demand, it was probably to be expected that they didn’t (as far as I could tell) bring the big crowd from Wonthaggi that they did for last year’s rally. Despite sponsoring the rally, Blue Wedges as a visible campaign seem to be pretty beaten down after not being able to stop the dredging going ahead, and I certainly met some activists but not on the scale of 2008.

    To make other comparisons with the 2008 Climate Emergency Rally: Having a “hardcore political” rally was more difficult then. Many climate activists, I felt, were more comfortable with the “Climate Emergency” human sign than with the political demands on the poster (and even others were still quite skeptical about using such an extreme term as “emergency”). Remember this was before the 5% CPRS bombshell was dropped, and before the Climate Summit. Rudd still had a lot of cred; it was the projects like new freeways, coal power stations and desalination plants that provided the most obvious example of the government’s anti-ecological course, hence their prominence in the 2008 rally’s demands. I think this shows clearly that the demands of the Climate Summit have caught on with the main support base of the movement.

    Now recruiting to the activist core!
    It would be good to keep drawing campaigns such as those around freeways and desalination into the climate movement, and in turn drawing the climate movement into supporting their events. While climate activists and their supporters are mostly wised up about the CPRS and the Rudd government’s agenda, the broader community remains less informed. The expansion of coal mining, freeways, and Garrett’s approval of the pulp mill and desalination plants (among others) shows easily understood examples of what the government’s agenda is.

    Our movement has set no firm plans beyond the Copenhagen conference and inevitable protests at that time. Yet it is almost unthinkable that we will be satisfied with the outcome of that conference. And 2010 is election year. Will the climate movement endorse, or run candidates? We need to consider these questions, but first we need to use the Hazelwood protests, the protests, and the Copenhagen protests to grow ourselves a bigger activist core. When we meet at the 2010 Climate Action Summit we must be bigger.

    These three big actions/convergences in the second half of 2009 need to be organised openly in a way that we can invite new people to join in. New (and new-ish) activists need to hear (and participate in) debate about how to formulate demands for the movement, how to organise the tin tacks of a demonstration or blockade, how to get posters and leaflets and media releases out there, and so on. We need more activists who are confident to take responsibility for a group or action and run with it.

    As a rule of thumb, I would say – the larger the organising meetings the better. Of course we want participants to be grounded in what is going on. A fair representation of all the existing groups is the first element to put in place. But it is entirely possible to facilitate organising meetings with large numbers of people and still get stuff done. It is possible to have new activists participate and learn.

    We don’t have an army of full-time administrators and campaigners to do all the work, so it has to be divided up between all of us. Decision making has to be not just transparent and accountable but participatory. People who feel they own decisions will feel responsibility for implementing them.

    What next?
    Let’s refocus our various campaign groups and local CAGs. Let’s support the anti-freeway campaign and the anti-desalination campaign and the forest campaigns. Let’s get out to the ordinary people on the street with leaflets, film screenings, media stunts, letters to the editor. And make sure you send a representative to the meetings to plan the Hazelwood protest.

    We have a broad concern about climate change in the community. Wong and Rudd are working to draw that concern into support for the CPRS. We have to pull every lever to shift public opinion against them.

    Video: Wollongong actions against climate change

    In Wollongong the Socialist Alliance branch is doing great work. There's a significant coming together on the left which suggest that 'left unity' is indeed a very viable project when away from those who would dismiss its promise (and actuality).

    Here are 2 reports featuring local SA members and supporters on the recent climate protests.

    Chris Williams is the local Socialist Alliance convenor and Jess Moore is national co-organiser of socialist youth organisation Resistance.

    Wednesday, 17 June 2009

    Qld campaign against privatisation takes off

    Qld ETU Press Release:
    ETU’s “Light on the Hill” campaign against privatisation of State Government assets starts this week

    Putting labour values back into Labor

    The Electrical Trades Union’s (ETU) Statewide campaign against the privatisation of State Government assets will commence this week.

    The Light on the Hill campaign will include workplace meetings, rallies, public meetings in regional cities, radio and newspaper advertising and literature drops.

    The advertising starts in north Queensland this Thursday, with the first public events being held in Cairns next Monday, 22 June. The campaign will then work its way down the coast over the next two weeks with a major rally scheduled for Brisbane on Friday July 3.

    Today’s ETU announcement coincides with the unveiling of the State Government’s 2009-10 budget, which is expected to include proceeds from the sale of a number of State Government corporations including most of Queensland Rail.

    ETU secretary, Peter Simpson, said the campaign is about stopping this fire sale of State Government assets and putting labour values back into the Labor Party.

    “ETU members strongly oppose the sale of public assets such as Queensland Rail and the port authorities. We are far from convinced that selling off important public assets is a sensible long-term response to these short-term economic difficulties.

    “We also believe that if the State Government gets away with this then things such as electricity and water will be next. That would be an even bigger disaster for the people of Queensland,” Mr Simpson said.

    Ongoing Light on the Hill campaign details will be released ahead of each event.

    Media inquiries: Peter Simpson 0419 721 041
    John Moran 07-3366 9010, 0410 603 278

    See also:
    Brisbane Socialist Alliance public meeting: Stop Bligh's Sell-off!

    For anyone angered by the Bligh government's plans to privatise Qld public assets.
    Peter Simpson --
    State Secretary Electrical Trades Union
    Paul Benedek --
    Socialist Alliance
    Worklife --
    Speaker to be confirmed.
    (plus further speakers to be confirmed)
    6.30pm Tuesday June 30 @ CEPU Hall, 541 Peel St, QCU Bldg, 16 Peel St, Sth Brisbane South Brisbane

    Ph: Paul 0410 629 088 email :

    ETU Campaign Resources

    Tuesday, 9 June 2009

    Forestry Tasmania Threatens Brown with Bankruptcy‬‪

    Senator Bob Brown
    Via the Greens' website, 09/06/2009

    Loss of Senate seat would follow‪

    To help keep Bob in the Senate, the most helpful thing you can do is to send a cheque payable to Bob Brown Forest Account to GPO Box 404, Hobart, 7001, Or donate online here

    Forestry Tasmania is threatening Australian Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown with bankruptcy if he doesn't pay $240,000 dollars by 29 June 2009.‪

    In 2006 the Federal Court found in favour of Senator Brown's claim that logging in Tasmania's Wielangta Forest threatens the endangered Wedge-tailed eagle, Swift parrot and Wielangta stag beetle. However, on a legal technicality, the Full Bench overturned Justice Marshall's order that logging should stop and ordered Senator Brown to pay costs instead.‪ In 2008, the High Court, in a 2 to 1 judgement, endorsed this ruling.

    The Clerk of the Senate has informed Senator Brown that ‘you would be disqualified from further service in the Senate' if the new threat were to proceed from an inability to pay.

    ‘I will be exploring all avenues to pay this bill on time,' Senator Brown said.


    CHEQUE made payable to: Bob Brown Forest Account GPO Box 404, Hobart, 7001.

    Please provide your contact details so that your donation can be receipted and acknowledged. Any excess funds will be used to help protect Australia’s wild and threatened forests

    Or ONLINE go to:


    Stop the SELL-OFF! - Qld Socialist Alliance

    How we can defeat Bligh´s privatisation plan
    Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s announcement that her government plans to sell off public assets including rail, ports, forests & roads is an outrage that has rightly angered workers, unions, pensioners and the Queensland public in general.

    Your browser may not support display of this image.We all know that privatisation means workers being sacked, higher prices, and worse services – all in the name of profits for a few. This is exactly our experience with Queensland energy privatisation, Telstra & the Commonwealth Bank. Far from solving ¨budget challenges¨, revenues that previously went to public uses such as hospitals and schools instead flow to corporate bottom lines. And once privatisation is used as a means of ¨balancing the budget¨, it is a slippery slope for more sell-offs in future years.

    The Economic Crisis: an argument for more public, not private, ownership

    Bligh´s argument that the global financial crisis means she has no choice but privatisation is rubbish. While stating that she´s not “a Wall Street banker” that caused the crisis, but has to deal with it, her sell-off would hand over more assets to the very ¨Wall Street banker¨ forces that have caused the crisis!

    And what is the crucial motive that justifies serious harm to workers and communities? Getting back Queensland´s ¨AAA¨ rating from Moody´s - the same Moody´s which has been complicit in the financial crisis! There is nothing sacred about ´AAA´ - even sections of NSW business criticize that State´s obsession with a AAA rating.

    Rather than sacrificing communities to privatisations, we need to fight for the expansion of the public sector, in order to create a sustainable Queensland, moving to renewable energy as quickly as possible and radically expanded public transport.

    Democracy? We never voted for privatisation!

    Queenslanders are clearly opposed to the Bligh Government plan. Even Bligh´s own ALP branch in South Brisbane has voted for her expulsion from the party! Such moves are to be congratulated and should be repeated across the state and at the ALP Conference.

    Yet it is clear that Bligh will ignore both her own party and the Queensland people - if she can get away with it.

    How can we stop the sell-off?

    Even if the ALP State Conference rejects the plan – which it should – the Government will try to ignore the conference decision. What is needed is a massive campaign that mobilizes the enormous opposition to the sell-off, and makes it impossible for the Government to implement their plan.

    Such a campaign would include public protests to demonstrate the level of opposition, plus serious industrial action against any privatisation attempts. To build such a campaign we need a union-community alliance that involves all those opposed to privatisation.

    The campaign in NSW against electricity privatisation, which brought down Premier Morris Iemma and has forced a partial backdown, shows what is possible.

    The Queensland Council of Unions rally outside the ALP conference to show our opposition is a great start - but it´s only the start. A further step would be a mass rally and industrial action on June 16, the day of the state budget. This would send a strong message to the Government of what is coming if it persists with the privatisations. If they don´t back down, Bligh should meet the same fate as Iemma.

    Our campaign must continue until the Bligh Government plan is shelved completely - we need to kill off all privatisation.

    Get involved - Join the Socialist Alliance
    ($60 high wage, $30 waged, $15 conc, $5 school student, $100 solidarity)
    Ph 07 3831 2644, 0410 629 088.

    Protest Julia Gillard speaking at Aus-Israel Chamber of Commerce, June 11

    Protest Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard
    at Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce organised luncheon

    Boycotts and sanctions, not trade and exchanges, with Israeli apartheid!
    Break ties with Israel!

    Thursday, June 11, 11.30am
    Westin Sydney, Grand Ballroom, 1 Martin Place, Sydney
    Called by Gaza Defence Committee

    The Gaza Defence Committee condemns in the strongest possible terms the planned visit of a "high level" delegation to Israel organized by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange and led by the deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as reported in the May 26 Sydney Morning Herald.

    At a time when Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people have never been more blatant, we believe that it is nothing less than grotesque for the Rudd Government to be "part of an effort to strengthen political, business and cultural ties" with Israel.

    Such a move, following Federal Parliament's celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary last year, the government's failure to condemn Israel's recent massacres in Gaza, and its decision to boycott the United Nation's World Racism Conference (Durban II), only emboldens Israel to continue its ongoing campaign of dispossessing and caging the Palestinian people.

    GDC calls on the Rudd Government to instead cut its ties with Israel in conformity to the Palestinian United Call for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions against Israel (2005).

    Join us on June 11 to send a message to Gillard: Boycotts and sanctions, not trade and cultural exchanges, with apartheid Israel

    Monday, 8 June 2009

    Uniting the Socialist Left: the Australian Experience

    An interview with Peter Boyle. Peter Boyle (pictured right) is National Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance in Australia. He was interviewed by Socialist Voice co-editor Roger Annis.

    SV: The Australian left founded a project of left unity and activism in 2001. Can you describe the early years of that project and what it achieved?

    PB: The Socialist Alliance was formed in 2001 on the back of great optimism about the prospects for left revival in the wake of the rise of a movement at that time against capitalist globalization. Some 20,000 people had participated in a three-day long blockade of a summit of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne the previous year. That was Australia’s “Seattle” [1] and it was followed up on May 1, 2001 with mass blockades of the stock exchanges in all the capital cities of the country.

    The formation of the Socialist Alliance was just one of a number of initiatives at the time to take this political momentum forward. While it has not had a smooth road since then, the Socialist Alliance is the only one of these initiatives surviving today in Australia. Regroupment projects inspired by anarchist ideology and attempts to create local social forums all proved short-lived.

    The Socialist Alliance experience has been shaped by the ebbs and flows of the social movements. It became clear after the forward momentum of the post-Seattle anti-capitalist movement was cut off - after the failure of the global mass movements to stop the 2003 invasion of Iraq - that we were overoptimistic in 2001. We have seen movement retreats since then. But there have been some advances, too.

    We should also see the connections between the global wave of anti-capitalist sentiment a decade ago and the new rise of anti-capitalist sentiment today: one builds on the other.

    SV: What political forces initiated Socialist Alliance, and what new forces have been won to it?

    Read the rest of the interview at Socialist Voice.

    BNP wins 2 seats in Europe

    Via Socialist Unity and Hope Not Hate:

    Who is Andrew Brons?

    Andrew Brons (left) in the 1970s campaigning with the National Front and BNP leader Nick GriffinYorkshire and Humber constituency will return Andrew Brons (at the left of the picture) to the European Parliament if the BNP gets 11.5% across the constituency. So far the results coming in show it to be on a knife edge.

    The BNP have 10% in Sheffield, much more in Barnsley.

    If they do win a seat there, we will have to deal with that situation as we come to it.

    But I imagine there will be some fun and games inside the BNP is Griffin fails to be elected in the North West, which would give Andrew Brons a higher profile than the leader, and his own significant budget.

    So who is Andrew Brons. Certainly if he is elected the press should give this Hitler lover some serious scrutiny.

    Brons, 61, started his nazi career in the National Socialist Movement, an organisation that was deliberately founded on Hitler’s birthday by Colin Jordan, the British nazi leader who died in April aged 85. NSM members were responsible for an arson campaign against Jewish property and synagogues in the 1960s.

    Brons appears to have approved. In a letter to Jordan’s wife, Brons reported meeting an NSM member who “mentioned such activities as bombing synagogues”. He declared: “On This subject I have a dual view, in that I realise that he is well intentioned, I feel that our public image may suffer considerable damage as a result of these activities. I am however open to correction on this point.”

    He also sent Mrs Jordan money to buy a swastika badge and other Nazi material, explaining he was about the undertake a “crash programme” of publicity for the NSM in Yorkshire by deluging areas with Nazi stickers, posters and slogans.

    Brons was a prominent member of the National Front, notorious for its extreme racism and violence, from its early days and was voted onto its national directorate in 1974. Later as the NF’s education officer he hosted seminars on racial nationalism and tried to give its racism a more “scientific” basis.

    After the departure of John Tyndall from the NF in March 1980 Brons was promoted to NF chairman. One of his allies during this period was Richard Verrall, the author of Did Six Million Really Die?, with whom he edited the NF journal New Nation. In 1982 Brons led an NF march through Northfield on which marchers chanted: “we’ve got to get rid of the blacks”.

    In June 1984 Brons was convicted of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace following his arrest in Leeds while selling papers in a shopping centre.

    He and another NF member were heard shouting slogans such as “Death to Jews”, “White Power” and “National Front”. When approached by PC John Raj, Brons stated: “inferior beings like yourself probably do not understand the principle of free speech”.

    Brons resigned as NF chairman in 1984 and later faded from public view. He has been a BNP member for around four years.

    Thursday, 4 June 2009

    Stop Bligh's sell off! -- Community Rally


    Rail - Not for sale * Ports - Not for sale * Roads - Not for sale * Forests - not for sale
    Sunday June 7, 11am
    Brisbane Convention Centre, cnr Merivale & Glenelg Sts, Sth Brisbane

    Outside the ALP State Conference where Anna Bligh will be pushing her privatisation agenda.

    The Bligh Government wants to sell off our public assets to fill in their budget black hole. Help stop this shameful fire sale of Queensland's rail, ports, roads & forests. Bligh's privatisations would mean worse conditions for Queensland workers & communities. Multi-national mining giants would gain control over entire regional economies, jobs would be axed, services cut for profits, and prices would rise. If the Bligh Government can get away with this mass privatisation.....what will be next?

    Queenslanders did NOT vote for privatisation - don't let Bligh sell Queensland

    Rally called by Queensland Council of Unions.
    To help with the community campaign contact Dom 0431 638 772 or Paul 0410 629 08

    Wednesday, 3 June 2009

    The ECONOMIC CRISIS: Why workers shouldn't pay for it

    There's bailouts for the rich and billions for the banks.Yet the environment, public health and transport systems are in crisis. Already thousands of workers have lost their jobs and thousands more are set to lose their jobs. This meeting will discuss a how we can build a serious fightback against these attacks.

    Guest Speaker Dick Nichols, SA national Co-convener

    6.30pm, Tues 16 June
    Parramatta Activist Centre Unit 7, Fl1, 29 Macquarie St, Parramatta Ph, Graham 0403802994, or Greg on 0449074173 for more info

    "The construction industry: 50,000 jobs already gone in Queensland with thousands more nationally...

    "The finance industry: 9000 workers have lost their jobs in the past six months, according to the Finance Sector Union...

    "The insurance industry: Expects employment to fall by about 1,080, or 2.6%, this financial year...

    "The manufacturing industry: 42,000 jobs had been shed in the manufacturing sector in the past six to nine months, according to the Australian Industry Group...

    "The resources industry: Mining companies have cut more than 10,000 jobs since last June, says the Minerals Council of Australia. Another 10,000 more jobs to be lost over the next 18 months, according to BIS Schrapnel...

    "The steel industry: Australian Workers Union says up to 1,000 steelworkers could go as global demand dives...

    "The tourism industry: 29,000 jobs on the chopping block if the recession deepens, according to a report with two-thirds of all tourism operators to cut their workforce as international visitors tail off, according to the Tourism & Transport Forum."

    Rights on Site - Ark Tribe Prosecuted

    From Rights On Site

    Ark Tribe is a construction worker from South Australia facing six months in jail. He has been charged with not attending an interview with the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

    Ark was working on the Flinders University site in Adelaide. Conditions were so bad that workers drew up a petition calling for safety improvements, on a handtowel.

    It took an intervention by the union and the state government safety regulator to get the most pressing problems fixed and finally, after several days, things began to get back on track.

    One by one workers from the site were called before the ABCC.

    The penalties for those who don't cooperate with ABCC investigations are frightening - fines of up to $22,000 for things like stopping work to make sure workers are safe and jail for up to 6 months if you don't answer their questions. Even the police don't have the powers the ABCC have.

    In Ark's words, "If I've done something wrong, I'm prepared to cop it, but I won't be treated unfairly."

    We need to get the Rudd Labor Government to get rid of these laws, before another construction worker faces jail.

    New Pamphlet: The Tamil Freedom Struggle in Sri Lanka

    The Tamil Freedom Struggle in Sri Lanka
    Chris Slee, Brian Senewiratne, Vickramabahu Karunarathne
    Published by Resistance Books
    2009, 40pp, ISBN 978-1-876646-65-3, Pamphlet

    Ever since Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) gained independence from Britain in 1948, the basic rights of the Tamil minority have been under attack.

    The ruling elite from the Sinhala majority have found anti-Tamil racism an extremely convenient device to secure their power and privilege and deflect discontent from below. The history of Sri Lanka is marked by a shameful and bloody series of government-instigated anti-Tamil pogroms.

    The persecuted and besieged Tamils finally turned to armed struggle to secure independence or self-government in their traditional homeland areas. With the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the death of its main leaders, this phase appears to have come to an end.

    The victory of the regime was made possible by the backing of the West and China. These governments — Australia included — all have blood on their hands.

    Is the Sri Lankan regime going to continue with its Nazi-like ‘final solution’ or will the Tamils be offered some measure of autonomy? Now more than ever, the oppressed Tamil people need the solidarity of progressive forces around the world.

    This pamphlet provides an essential background to the conflict from a socialist and Marxist viewpoint.
    • Chronology of Key Events
    • The Tamil Struggle in Sri Lanka by Chris Slee
    • Sri Lanka: Genocide of the Tamil Minority by Brian Senewiratne
    • Sri Lanka: A War on Tamils by Brian Senewiratne
    • Genocide of Tamils & Atrocities in Sri Lanka While Australia Looks On by Brian Senewiratne
    • Right of Self-determination of Ilankai Tamils by Vickramabahu Karunarathne
    Published by Resistance Books. 40pp, $5. Available from your local Activist Centre, or online at

    Tuesday, 2 June 2009

    Ten reasons why population control is not an answer to climate change

    By Simon Butler

    June 1, 2009 -- Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. The scientific evidence of the scale of the threat is overwhelming, compelling and frightening. Climate tipping points -- points which if crossed will lead to runaway global warming -- are being crossed now.

    We live in a time of consequences. So it’s crucial that the climate justice movement -- made up of those determined to take a stand now to win a safe climate future -- campaigns for the changes that can actually make a difference.

    A discussion has surfaced about whether population-control measures should be a key plank in the climate action movement’s campaign arsenal. Below are 10 reasons why such a decision would hinder, rather than help, the necessary task of building a movement that can win.

    1. Population does not cause climate change

    Advocates of population control say that one of the most effective measures we can take to combat climate change is to sharply reduce the number of humans on the planet. This wrongly focuses on treating one symptom of an irrational, polluting system rather than dealing with the root causes.

    People are not pollution. Blaming too many people for driving climate change is like blaming too many trees for causing bushfires.

    The real cause of climate change is an economy locked into burning fossil fuels for energy and unsustainable agriculture. Unless we transform the economy and our society along sustainable lines as rapidly as possible, we have no hope of securing an inhabitable planet, regardless of population levels.

    Population-based arguments fail to admit that population levels will impact on the environment in a very different way in a zero carbon emissions economy. Making the shift to renewable energy -- not reduction in human population -- is the most urgent task we face.

    2. The world is not ‘full up’

    The world is not experiencing runaway population growth. While population is growing, the rate of this growth is in fact slowing down. This is mostly due to rising urbanisation and marginal improvements in women’s access to birth control technology. The rate of population growth peaked at 2% annually in the 1960s, and has fallen consistently since then[1].

    According to the United Nations the average number of children born per woman fell from 4.9 in the late 1960s to 2.7 in 1999[2]. A December 2008 assessment from the US Census Bureau predicts a steady decline to 0.5% annual population growth by 2050[3].

    Between 1950 and 2000 world population increased by 140%. Experts predict a rise of 50% between 2000 and 2050 and just 11% in the 50 years following that.

    In contrast, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is rising out of control. Polluting technology, rampant consumerism and corporate greed are driving this increase -- not population.

    Can we feed this many people? Studies by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation insist it is possible to feed well over 10 billion people sustainably -- but only if we move to a very different food system. A diversified and organic farming system which produces a balanced mix of plant foods, along with small amounts of meat, could, according to British biologist Colin Tudge, sustain 10 billion people without farming any new areas[4].

    A shift to sustainable farming is also desperately needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    3. Social justice and women’s equality is the best contraception

    Larger population growth rates in the Third World are a consequence of dire poverty and restrictions on women’s ability to control their own fertility. The evidence for this can’t be challenged.

    The latest UN population report released on March 12, 2009, predicts population will exceed 9 billion people by mid-century. Almost all of this growth will occur in the global South.

    The 49 poorest countries in the world will have by far the biggest increases. In the richest countries, however, population will decline from 1.23 billion to 1.15 billion if projected net migration is left aside. (It will increase to only 1.28 billion including net migration.)[5]

    Raising living standards globally, eradicating hunger and poverty, improving health care, providing access to education and achieving greater equality for women are all necessary if we are to win a safe climate with global justice. They will also result in lower birth rates.

    4. The climate emergency demands immediate, transformative action now

    Even if they could work in the long term -- a dubious proposition – population-control schemes are plainly inadequate as a response to the climate emergency.

    The well-known Australian environmental writer Tim Flannery is also one of the patrons of Sustainable Population Australia -- a group that argues population reduction should be the number one priority to avert climate change.

    Yet in a recent survey of the latest climate science in Quarterly Essay even Flannery had to conclude: “The truth is that if we wish to act morally, we can influence population numbers only slowly. So, while it’s important to focus on population decrease as a long-term solution, we cannot look to it for answers to the immediate crisis.”[6]

    5. Population arguments wrongly downplay the potential to win

    Left unchecked, climate change threatens life on the planet.

    Recognition of this fact is the major impetus for the movement demanding that governments take serious action on climate change without delay.

    Populationists, however, try to turn this fact on its head. Climate change will lead to a world so harsh, uncertain and polluted, the argument goes, that it’s more “humane” to prevent future generations from being born at all[7].

    This “humane” population reduction argument is couched in terms of containing, or mitigating, the apparently inevitable effects of environmental destruction. Instead, the struggle for an alternative model of development, based on meeting the needs of people and planet, should be our main concern.

    6. Population control is an old argument tacked onto a new issue

    Climate change is just the latest in a long list of issues that has been seized on by advocates of population control.

    For centuries, simplistic population theories have been advanced to explain the existence of poverty, hunger, famine, disease, war, racism and unemployment.

    In each case, the real social and economic causes of these social ills have been glossed over. Time is running out to avert global warming -- we need to take serious action that tackles the problem at the root.

    7. Arguing for tighter migration restrictions is a dangerous policy

    Reducing immigration intake into Australia is the current policy on the anti-environmental Labor government[8]. As the climate crisis deepens, we can expect the government and the big polluters will want to divert attention from their own inaction. Migrants could be a convenient scapegoat. Migrants are already being falsely blamed for adding to unemployment. We can’t allow them to be blamed for corporate Australia’s addiction to fossil fuels.

    Supporting cuts in migration avoids the real burning issue -- Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the world. Migrants who come here should be welcomed and invited into our movement for a safe climate. They are not responsible for the policies of past governments or the greed of the big polluters.

    8. Population control has a disturbing history

    In practice, there has never been a population-control scheme that has had acceptable environmental or humanitarian outcomes. Columbia University professor Matthew Connelly has thoroughly documented this disturbing history in his 2008 book, Fatal Misconception[9].

    China’s one-child policy has been hailed as an environmental measure by prominent population theorists such as Britain’s Jonathan Poritt..[10] But he and others ignore that China’s population control has hardly solved that country’s growing environmental problems.

    The human costs of the policy, however, are shocking. Until 2002 Chinese women were denied any choice of contraceptive method -- 37% of married women have been forcibly sterilised[11]. Female infanticide has reached epidemic proportions. The global ratio for male to female births is 106:100. In China today, male “births” outnumber females by 120:100[12].

    9. People in the global South are part of the solution, not the problem

    At its worst, population-control schemes put the blame for climate change on the poorest people in the global South -- those least responsible for the problem in the first place.

    It’s a major mistake to see the masses of the global South as passive victims of climate change. In truth, they are the pivotal agent in the campaign to avert global warming.

    We need a strategy of building stronger links and collaboration with movements for climate justice in the global South -- not draw up plans to reduce their numbers.

    10. Who holds political power is the real `population’ issue

    There is one part of the world’s population that poses a genuine threat: the small group of powerful, vested interests who profit most from polluting the biosphere and are desperately resisting change.

    The real “population change” we need to focus on is not artificially reducing human numbers. Rather, it is about winning real democratic change, i.e. dramatically increasing the numbers of ordinary people who can participate in making decisions about investment in green industries, agriculture, global trade and military spending.

    Population control narrowly looks only at the quantity of human beings to find a solution to climate change. Ultimately, its narrow vision makes it a divisive policy.

    The climate action movement, however, is really concerned with improving the quality of human life.

    On that basis we can build a movement of hope and solidarity strong enough to penetrate national borders and restore a safe climate for future generations.

    [Via Links. A shorter version of this article first appeared in Green Left Weekly. Simon Butler is a climate change activist in Australia, and a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a Marxist organisation affiliated to the Socialist Alliance.]

    [1] US Census Bureau, International Data Base, December 2008,

    [2] The World at Six Billion, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division,

    [3] US Census Bureau, International Data Base, December 2008,

    [4] Tudge, Colin. ``Can organic farming feed the world?’’,

    [5] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. ‘World population to exceed 9 billion by 2050’, March 12 2009.

    [6] Flannery, Tim. ``Now or Never’’, Quarterly Essay, issue 31, p 9.

    [7] Sustainable Population Australia makes this deeply pessimistic argument explicitly. See

    [8] ``Kevin Rudd targets skilled workers to protect jobs’’,,27574,25191742-2682,00.html.

    [9] The preface of this important work is available online at

    [11] Quoted in Ward, Phil. ``Population Control and Climate Change, Part One: Too Many People’’, March 2, 2008,

    [12] Davidson, Shannon; Bunnell, Jennifer and Yan, Fei, ``Gender Imbalance in China’’, October 27, 2008,