Australia

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Meet ‘Lock the Gate’ Alliance: Australia's grassroots environmental campaigners

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 4:43pm in

No campaign is too small or adversary too powerful

Originally published on Global Voices

Lock the Gate - New South Wales 2020

New South Wales 2020 – Photo courtesy Lock the Gate Flickr account (CC BY 2.0)

It is rare to encounter a nationwide environmental group as active and successful as Australia’s Lock the Gate Alliance (LTG).  The grassroots organisation brings together “farmers, traditional custodians, conservationists and urban residents”, working to defend the environment.

The movement campaigns against “risky coal mining and coal seam gas and fracking” and has taken on some of Australia's biggest polluters and environmental aggressors.

The name, “Lock the Gate”, comes from its launch in 2010:

…when farmers from south-east Queensland gathered in Brisbane around a farm gate, vowing to take a stand to protect their farms and communities from inappropriate mining.

LTG is one of the largest grassroots groups in Australia, with over 120,000 supporters and 450 local branches. Its annual budget is AUD 2 million (USD 1.4 million) and it has approximately 20 staff and contractors.

No campaign seems too small, or adversary too large and powerful. The group has tackled issues of global significance such as a campaign to stop Adani’s huge coal mine in central Queensland and one to prevent fracking in Australia's Northern Territories.

At the same time LTG energetically supports local efforts to stop mining such as the Baralaba South coal project:

Their allies include the Knitting Nannas Against Gas who use their own unique tactics:

we get together at politicians’ offices, work sites, rallys and anywhere else we please to show a mild mannered yet stubborn front, where we get out our camp chairs, table (with lace tablecloth if possible), our knitting (of course!) and have a little tea party.

This was a recent example:

Global Voices interviewed LTG spokesperson Georgina Woods about their work and learned about one of Australia's most successful local environmental efforts.

Global Voices: Lock the Gate has been campaigning since 2010. What was the initial catalyst for its formation?

Georgina Woods: Lock the Gate was formed in two places at once, southern Queensland to tackle coal seam gas, and the Hunter Valley to tackle coal mining. In both places, these resources industries were undergoing significant expansion and putting agricultural livelihoods and communities at risk. Farmers, landholders, and environmentalists teamed up to make common cause to protect land and water from degradation by those industries.

GV: What factors have contributed to the spread of the organisation?

GW: Lock the Gate is unique because it draws people together from very different walks of life, united by their common love of the land and the bush, their reliance on water and their commitment to community. As a grassroots network, Lock the Gate remains committed to supporting local communities and undertakes its work with creativity and heart.

GV: What are the main priorities for action? 

GW: The gas industry is looming as a huge threat over three large, beautiful and remote parts of the country — the Channel Country in Queensland's Lake Eyre Basin, the Beetaloo Basin and Roper Gulf in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley in the far north of Western Australia. Opening these basins to sprawling industrial gasfields would severely deplete and compromise water resources, harm local communities and unleash huge volumes of greenhouse gas emissions. In New South Wales, the north west of the state still faces the threat of coal seam gas and large and expanding coal mining, as does central and southern Queensland.

GV: What are some of your proudest moments and successful campaigns, and your most frustrating setbacks?

GW: Lock the Gate's successes really belong to the local communities that we support. Rural communities across large swathes of New South Wales saw off the threat of unconventional gas from the Northern Rivers, Illawarra, Hunter Valley and Gloucester and the area available for coal seam gas in the north west of the state has been severely restricted. Together we have stopped several damaging coal mining developments from going ahead in Queensland and New South Wales and achieved significant new laws dealing with the social impacts of mining and mine rehabilitation.

Our most frustrating setbacks follow a pattern around the country: politicians prioritising the interests of big mining companies over the needs and desires of local communities. This has led to terrible harm being done to local communities, bushland and waterways in places like Maules Creek, Wollar and Bulga.

GV: What criteria do you use in deciding if LTG will support a particular issue or campaign?

GW: Lock the Gate works with local communities, fighting for the things that matter to them, so our work is always guided by the people that have the most to lose from mining developments.

GV: What tactics do you employ given your peaceful principles?

GW: We support local and regional communities to form groups and alliances to front up to the power and vested interests of the mining industry. We also use research, regulatory processes, films and photography, music and other creative avenues to amplify these local campaigns. We support local groups to survey their own community, road by road and block by block, to give the community a direct voice, to record every view and then to make a formal declaration about their stance on projects threatening their region.

GV: A final message of your readers?

GW: It's always worth fighting for what you love.

A couple of current campaigns highlight LTG’s approach. As mentioned in the interview, they are involved nationally in the fight to protect the Channel Country, Northern Territory and the Kimberley from gas development.

At a more local level, they are supporting the Hunter Jobs Alliance, which is bringing environmentalists and unions together to advocate for a positive future for the country's largest thermal coal-producing region.

The Hunter Valley of New South Wales is one of Australia’s major coal exporting regions, employing 14,000 people. It is the centre of intense political debate about the future of the industry.

No doubt Lock the Gate will continue to be at the centre of such debates.

Australia’s Weird Summer.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/02/2022 - 3:55am in

[A]

Australia is a big, big place. A plane flying from coast to coast in a straight line (Perth to Sydney, say) covers a distance of some 3,288 km (2,043 miles). By comparison, the distance between London and Moscow is about 2,499 km (1,553 miles).

So far, Summer 2021-22 over this vast land has been varied: mild and rainy in the east – Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and eastern Tasmania; hot and fiery in south-west Western Australia; decidedly humid from the Northern Territory down to northern South Australia, by a combination of a unusually strong monsoon and La Niña.


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Earlier last year western Sydney suburbs were affected by floods. So, the NSW State Government wants to the increase the capacity of the Warragamba Dam, thereby drowning the heritage area surrounding the lake that damn dam created. You know, to prevent future floods caused by anthropogenic extreme weather events.  The best solution to the problems environmental vandalism creates is … further environmental vandalism.

What’s that witticism attributed to Einstein? Ah,yes, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

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The new year in WA began hot:

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The thing is that even along the coast temperature soared above 50ºC:

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(source)And the heat moved south:

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The all-too-predictable consequence of that: bushfires around the south-western, more populated region of WA. Quite likely, the scale of the fires is smaller than what we saw in the Black Summer of 2019-20, but the images themselves seem quite similar:

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The similarity seems to extend to the behaviour of the fires and their assessment by experienced firefighters. Prompted by a journalist during a presser today (“Are we seeing early extreme weather? Is that weather’s duration a result of climate change and is that your assessment and the experts' assessment?”), Darren Klemm (20 years experience), WA Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner answered (edited for comprehension):

“I refer to it as a changing climate, that’s the way I feel as a service practitioner. I feel the challenges we are having with these fires and floods, for example, what’s been experienced up north over the last week, they tend to become more intense and an example of that is that on Friday night the fire at Denmark doubled in size overnight; so for one of the most southern parts of our state, to have a fire double in size overnight is not something we have seen before”.

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I’ve always thought them West Aussies’ secession ideas kind of crazy. But I have to admit, it sort of makes more sense now. Similarities aside, currently things over there are different.

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Meanwhile, around the Red Centre of the continent:

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Rising waters made both the Stuart Highway (not shown) and the Adelaide-Darwin Rail Corridor (running roughly in parallel to the famous The Ghan passenger railway) impassable. 

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Therefore the freight transport from the south of SA to the towns further north was cut.

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Image Credits:

[A] Author: SCHolar44. Source: WikiMedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. My usage of the file does not suggest any kind of author's endorsement.

[B] Author: NordNordWest. Source: WikiMedia. File available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication].

Covid Sightings: Omicron Reinfections, Brain Effects, Shabby US Performance, Western Australia Border Controls

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/02/2022 - 10:00pm in

There's enough new Covid news as to merit some focus on the bigger developments...so have at it!

COVID Australia sharply divided by class

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/02/2022 - 10:46am in

COVID has hit lower-paid workers hardest, according to new research. Solidarity spoke to lead researcher Dr Tom Barnes from the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Australian Catholic University.

I think what the research found really confirms a lot of personal experiences from the pandemic that the pandemic had a greater impact on people’s lives in certain areas more so than others.

We looked at data from state health authorities and also data from agencies like the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

What we found is that the experiences of the pandemic were highly unequal. And in particular, we found that what underpins the experience of the pandemic has been high levels and widening levels of class inequality.

There are other kinds of inequality like gender inequality, which the report also talks about, but class inequality lay at the core of it.

What our model demonstrates is a direct cause and effect between the proportion of workers in blue-collar occupations in a local government area and case numbers.

So, for example, in Sydney during the Delta wave last year and the three to four-month lockdown, a 1 per cent increase in the proportion of blue-collar workers in a local government area (LGA) led to an additional 848 cases.

In Melbourne in the same period, an additional 1 per cent of blue-collar workers in an LGA led to an increase of 895 coronavirus case numbers.

And if you look at that spatially across each city, that impact was clearly felt in less advantaged areas more than others. So, in Sydney, there were 12 so-called LGAs of concern where the restrictions are much more severe, with 11 of those in the western suburbs.

Physical presence

One of those, Fairfield, has seven times more blue-collar workers than in a relatively affluent LGA like Woollahra in the eastern suburbs.

In Melbourne, Brimbank in the western suburbs has four times as many blue-collar workers as a relatively affluent LGA like Stonnington in the inner south-eastern suburbs.

So it’s in those areas, the western suburbs of Sydney, and the outer suburban, working-class suburbs of Melbourne, where case numbers were high.

The experience of the pandemic has been much worse, depending on where you live, what you do for work and this model demonstrates that formally.

Blue-collar workers are much more exposed to the coronavirus because of the nature of their work. They cannot work from home. They cannot work remotely. They have to maintain a physical presence to keep their jobs.

I’ve been interviewing a lot of workers about their experiences during the Delta wave in western Sydney, including women working in health care, child care and aged care. And again, the exposure to the coronavirus, plus the social and economic impacts of lockdowns, are much more severe for these types of workers.

Born overseas

Our report also looked at the situation for people born overseas, who primarily speak a language other than English in the in their households. That’s a very large proportion of the labour force. In Victoria, we’d be talking about probably a third of the workforce.

Again, we found a relationship between LGAs with a high proportion of non-English speaking migrants and coronavirus case numbers, as well as relatively low vaccination rates.

In Sydney, every 1 per cent increase in non-English speaking migrants in an LGA led to an increase of 609 coronavirus case numbers during the Delta wave. The increase in Melbourne was 642.

If you look at LGAs like Canterbury-Bankstown or Fairfield in Sydney, or Hume, Brimbank or Whittlesea in Melbourne, these areas tend to be dominated in terms of population by working class people who are either first or second-generation migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds. So there’s an overlap, a very strong overlap, between ethnicity and class.

Impact on women

In all this, the impact on women has been much sharper. So, if you look at some of the economic data, there has been a lot of talk in the media for quite a while about miraculously low levels of unemployment.

But what that masks is a dramatic decline in total employment and in the size of the labour force. So, in Sydney, during the Delta wave the total labour force declined by 8 per cent, similar to the fall experienced after the first wave in March 2020. For women, the decline in the labour force was 9 per cent.

That’s before we mention the unequal impacts of lockdowns in terms of school closures and the pressures of home schooling.

So the experience for many women during the pandemic was worse—but it was far worse for those women working in highly exposed sectors such as home care, aged care, and early childhood education and care. And worse for those women working in LGAs of concern where the restrictions were much more severe.

Domestic violence

It’s not part of this report but I’ve spoken to a few organisations involved in directly assisting women and kids who are victims of domestic violence.

It appears that the pandemic has had a significant impact on both the rates of domestic violence and the experience of domestic violence. A new report suggests that one in 12 women who have a live-in partner experience some form of physical violence. That’s an extraordinary statistic. And that was reported during the beginning of the pandemic.

There is a lot of qualitative evidence that suggests domestic violence has become worse as a consequence of the social and economic pressures of the pandemic and lockdowns.

So, for example, women who live in a domestic situation in which they previously experienced psychological or emotional abuse were reporting that the perpetrator would be more likely to have shifted into more overtly physical forms of violence.

In some cases, perpetrators of domestic violence would use lockdown rules as an added way to control their partner physically or emotionally by saying: “You’re not allowed to leave the house. You can’t escape.”

In the coming period, unions and other social movements will have a strong focus on getting rid of the Liberal government, and that’s right.

But I also think there are a range of more immediate issues that we need to fight around. We need free RATs. There are important demands around fixing up the vaccination stuff-up.

And we need to demand that JobSeeker is a liveable income. We know the choice to keep JobSeeker low is a political and deliberate one.

So I think demands around increasing the JobSeeker rate will also continue to be important alongside demands around vaccines, RATs as well as the overarching question of a change of government.

Listen to the interview in full, below.

The post COVID Australia sharply divided by class appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Scott Morrison as Manager of the Economy.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/02/2022 - 4:24pm in

(source)

The election campaign is on. Scotty from Marketing went to the National Press Club to spruik his credentials as economic manager.

In a long, long speech – so long, in fact, that Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce seemed to struggle to stay awake – Scotty uttered more than 5 thousand words, not counting his answers to the journos present for the Q&A session following the speech.

In well over the half an hour allocated to the speech, he spoke about a lot of things, among them “jobs, jobs, and more jobs”.


Amidst that logorrhea (not to confuse with diarrhea), the word “wage” – the main, if not the only, reason why people take on jobs – was used a grand total of … drum rolls please … 8 times. Do you think our wages are an afterthought for Scotty? What makes you think of that?

(Incidentally, seven out of those 8 times, the word “wage” preceded “subsidy”, so he wasn’t really interested in the money workers get, but in the money he saved employers from paying.)

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Now, God knows I don’t think much of Scotty’s cognitive abilities. But I believe his disinterest in wages, manifest in that speech, is not a product of negligence; I think it’s deliberate.

Look at the chart opening. Note that since 2013, when the COALition took power, wages have grown below the already miserly 3% mark. During the recent COVID recession it even dipped below 2% and only now, with the “recovery” it again surfaced above 2%.

No wonder he is not keen on saying the W word.

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Wage stagnation isn’t accidental either. Neither casual jobs, wage theft,or JobKeeper rorts are accidents. All that is the result of deliberate policy choices: “It’s a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture.”

 

And the thing is, those wages the chart above considers are nominal (that is, before inflation). Now, this is what inflation looks like:

 

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You may not like that. I know I hate it. But we have to give Scotty and his gang this: they achieve their real, if seldom openly acknowledged, goals. Scotty from Marketing may not have known it, but he undersold himself: he does achieve perfection. It’s only that his perfection is not what we want.

As your paycheck fails to keep pace with inflation, you will need “jobs, jobs, and more jobs” just to remain where you are.

Join your union.

Morrison’s failures bring COVID chaos—kick him out

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/01/2022 - 9:40am in

Tags 

Australia

Yet again, Scott Morrison’s failure to prepare the health system has created a complete disaster over Omicron.

Morrison’s failures have seen hospitals and the testing system completely overwhelmed and unable to cope in the face of the surge in cases. His move to kick Novak Djokovic out of the country was a desperate attempt to play to the politics of “strong borders” and distract attention from the growing discontent with the Liberals.

He has tried to duck responsibility by claiming “Omicron changed everything”. But an increase in COVID cases was always predicted as lockdowns and other restrictions were lifted once we reached high rates of vaccination.

Morrison did nothing to prepare for any rise in cases—no funding for nurses and public hospitals, no free RAT tests, no speed up to booster shots for aged care.

The failure in aged care is particularly criminal when 80 per cent of those dying in this wave are over 70. The aged care booster rollout slowed in December as the cases rose.

Health crisis

Testing has all but collapsed, and people queue for hours for PCR tests. Some have waited almost a week for results. Others never received them, with one pathology company in Melbourne messaging people after seven days, saying their samples had become too old to process.

Morrison was warned months ago by the peak doctors’ body, the AMA, and others that a spike in cases could see PCR testing overwhelmed. Yet nothing was done to place bulk orders for rapid tests until the system was on the verge of collapse.

Instead Morrison was more concerned with chemist and supermarket profits, dismissing calls for free rapid tests, saying, “We can’t just go round and make everything free.”

Yet Britain alone has already provided hundreds of millions of free test kits, as have Singapore, Portugal, Germany and some states in Canada and the US. Rapid tests have been widely used overseas for months.

Unions have been calling for wider use of them here since last July.

Hospital staff in NSW and Victoria are fatigued and overwhelmed after repeated COVID surges over the past two years. They were understaffed even before Omicron hit. Figures presented to National Cabinet in October showed there were actually 200 less ICU beds across the country than at before the pandemic. Now, with thousands of health workers isolating, hospitals face crippling staff shortages.

Fifty intensive care nurses at Sydney’s Westmead hospital staged a protest with placards saying “stop playing with people’s lives” calling for governments to act urgently to increase staffing levels.

In Queensland in early December, while the state still had zero COVID cases, the AMA’s Kim Hansen said that hospitals were already “stretched to breaking point”, with “not enough beds and not enough staff”.

Nurses’ unions in every state should call stopwork protests for the extra staff and funding needed—to deal with this crisis and future COVID waves. Other unions should join them.

Abandoned

When the pandemic began, the government introduced JobKeeper for those affected by workplace closures, funded free PCR testing and praised “essential workers”, saying we were “all in it together”. That was always a lie—businesses rorted JobKeeper to boost profits, while casual and migrant workers were not even included in the scheme.

But now, instead of fixing the health system, Morrison is throwing the vast majority of the population to the wolves, saying it’s a “personal responsibility” to avoid infection and manage if we get sick.

Morrison’s changed definitions mean that close contacts are now being forced to work in many industries.

In mid-January the ACTU finally called a meeting of unions to respond to Morrison and the COVID crisis, calling for free RAT tests and measures to allow workers to safely isolate. But it backed away from its initial promising calls for stopwork action to demand safe workplaces.

McManus was reported saying, “the vast majority of business were doing the right thing”, and “We’re not wanting strikes.” But we can’t afford “business as usual”.

Our union leaders need to start a campaign for guaranteed testing and sick pay, free rapid tests and improved ventilation in workplaces, including schools.

Such a fight would be enormously popular. Strike action could force Morrison to fund the hospitals and provide RAT tests, and give workers the confidence to fight on the job for the safety measures they need.

Nurses, teachers, warehouse workers, truck drivers—the front line workers who were hailed as the heroes of the pandemic—are now paying for the COVID crisis with their wages, jobs and safety at work.

NSW nurses have made a start. Teachers in NSW are planning more strikes for the start of the year in their fight to break the wage cap.

Morrison is on the slide. We need to fan the flames of resistance and escalate the struggle to fight to end the Morrison government and the sick capitalist system.

Health funding key, not focus on more restrictions

Many have blamed the easing of restrictions in mid-December, especially in NSW, for the surge in Omicron cases. This likely did speed up transmission.

After a week, Perrottet was forced to reverse his scrapping of the requirements to wear masks indoors, impose density limits in hospitality and QR check-in codes at low risk venues. Singing and dancing at nightclubs and other venues is now also banned.

But the spread of the new variant at breathtaking speed worldwide and in every state shows that, short of a severe lockdown, further restrictions will not dramatically slow cases.

Lockdowns and border restrictions could not keep the virus out forever. Australia’s rate of vaccination now means the risk of serious illness is far less, and a well funded health system could have managed the surge.

But Perrottet, Morrison and the other state premiers have steadfastly refused to increase resources in the hospitals or the testing system where it could make a serious difference.

Calls for a return to more severe restrictions and border rules aimed at keeping unvaccinated people out are distractions from the fight to win more funding for the public health system.

The post Morrison’s failures bring COVID chaos—kick him out appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Australia’s ‘grotesque’ arms exports fuel barbarity and bloodshed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/01/2022 - 9:16am in

Tags 

Australia

Australian manufacturers are profiting from selling military technology and deadly weapons to brutal regimes around the world, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and up to 18 African countries.

Buyers include Sudan, where the military has been using its firepower to try to quell a revolutionary upheaval; Burkina Faso, where the military is accused of executing hundreds of prisoners; Zimbabwe, where the government is suspected of abducting and torturing political opponents; and Eritrea, a country run for decades by a dictatorship. It also includes countries accused of using child soldiers.

SBS Dateline used a Freedom of Information request covering 2015-2020 to reveal the scale of the trade, reporting that: “Worldwide, defence officials approved the sale of an estimated $5 billion worth of military equipment in 2019-20—more than the typical yearly export value of Australian wine, wool or wheat.”

Melissa Parke, a former lawyer for the United Nations and ex-Labor MP, told Dateline: “Australia has increased arms exports, including to countries accused of war crimes, while decreasing transparency about those exports.”

Dateline reports that Australia markets itself to international customers using the Australian Defence Sales Catalogue, “which reads like a giant K-Mart pamphlet of military capability”.

Featured in the 2021 catalogue are armoured vehicles, mortar systems, automatic assault rifles and drones equipped to carry “lethal” payloads.

The Australian government’s Defence Export Strategy outlines how military sales will be scaled up. It lists the Middle East as a “priority market”, Dateline reports.

The weapons sales are part of Australia’s push to become a major weapons exporter. In January 2018, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australia was gearing up to become one of the world’s largest arms dealers, with plans to expand defence industry exports from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion a year over the following decade, a target that’s already been exceeded.

Defence Minister at the time Christopher Pyne proclaimed that Australia aspired to be among the top-ten weapons exporters, a vision which Parke called “grotesque”.

Most Australian military exports consist, according to the government’s own definition, of “Category 1” equipment designed specifically for military use or equipment that is “inherently lethal”. That includes ammunition, missiles, guns and tanks.

Australia is also one of a group of countries that’s home to overseas weapon companies.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that: “The United Kingdom, Australia, the USA, Canada and Germany host the largest numbers of these foreign entities. Outside the arms industry hubs of North America and Western Europe, the largest numbers of entities of foreign companies are hosted by Australia (38), Saudi Arabia (24), India (13), Singapore (11), the UAE (11) and Brazil (10).”

Arming Australia

Australia is also among the top ten arms importers worldwide. In recent weeks the government announced it would spend a further $3.5 billion on tanks, on top of the $100 billion or more to be spent on nuclear-powered submarines.

All of this is meant to bolster Australia’s arsenal in the context of rising imperialist tensions with China.

Australia’s wealth and geo-political power depends on maintaining its place within the world system of imperialism. While Morrison talks about “values”, economic and geopolitical imperatives shape Australia’s foreign policy and the arms trade plays a role in this.

Australia has had a history of making money from supporting despotic regimes.

For example, Australia provided military training and hardware to Indonesia between 1975 and 1999 when the country was engaged in a brutal occupation of Timor Leste which killed hundreds of thousands.

When in 2017 Defence Minister Pyne was accused of being an arms dealer for selling military technology to well-known human rights abuser Saudi Arabia, his office insisted (without providing evidence) that the exported equipment was not being used in the Yemen conflict.

But SBS Dateline reports that the Australian government has since 2015 approved 31 Category 1 permits to sell weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and 92 Category 2 permits (technology that meets civilian needs but can be adapted for military uses) to the UAE.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition of Gulf States have engaged in a brutal war on Yemen resulting in what the UN has called the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. There is little doubt that Australian weapons have fuelled the gross murder and starvation in Yemen. Arms-dealing inevitably trades in blood and death.

While Australian bosses profit from the death and misery, socialists stand in solidarity with working class and liberation movements in such countries. The best way to do that is by opposing our own country’s imperialist and economic interests.

This means opposing its arms imports and growing arms exports and building a working class internationalist movement that challenges the war-torn system.

By Tom Fiebig

The post Australia’s ‘grotesque’ arms exports fuel barbarity and bloodshed appeared first on Solidarity Online.

‘This is the biggest BDS action held in this country’: Sydney festival boycott organiser

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/01/2022 - 12:34pm in

More than 40 per cent of performances at this year Sydney Festival have now been disrupted with more than 100 artists and companies withdrawing in opposition to the festival’s “artwashing” of Israeli war crimes and apartheid. Solidarity spoke to Fahad Ali, one of the organisers of the boycott campaign and a member of the Palestine Justice Movement Sydney, about how the boycott developed.

In November, the Sydney Festival program launched publicly. A number of Arab artists who were taking part noticed a logo for the state of Israel on the program.

That was brought to the attention of Arab Theatre Studio, a Western Sydney-based collective, and Michael Mohammed Ahmed, director of Sweatshop, a literacy movement in Western Sydney for people of colour. 

The sponsorship was ostensibly being used to support a production choreographed by an Israeli dance company. The Israeli Embassy was hosting a reception at the Sydney Opera house.

Mohammed was in the process of being appointed to the Sydney Festival board. He brought this back to a group of community based artists and activists. We put together an open letter and met with the board to ask them to cancel this partnership.

What they were doing is allowing the festival to be used to give respectability and a positive image to the Israeli regime, an apartheid state.

It actually emerged that the Sydney Festival had approached the Israeli Embassy for support in May 2021, when the evictions of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in occupied Jerusalem, and Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip including hospitals, schools, even a tower [housing] the international press [were happening].

They said that Sydney Festival is a non-political organisation and could not divest from the sponsorship. But accepting money from one of the most politically contentious states on the planet is necessarily political.

Mike Mohammed Ahmed immediately ended his appointment to the Board.

Arab Theatre Studio as well as Bankstown Poetry Slam withdraw from the festival.

We told them we would call on other artists to boycott.

They probably didn’t think that the withdrawal of two groups was going to have a big impact but now they’ve seen about a quarter of their original program pull out.

Apartheid

We were clear from the beginning that this was not about a particular dance event or an Israeli choreographer. This was about the Israeli state sponsorship.

There are many artists for whom this is not a hard question. They refused to be complicit with apartheid and an organisation that takes blood money. Given COVID and the position that artists have been in over the past two years this is not an easy ask.

The first artists to pull out were all Indigenous, people who are directly affected by settler colonialism and understand this call.

This is the biggest BDS action that’s ever occurred on this continent. I’m blown away by the reaction that we’ve received from artists.

The BDS movement is a response from Palestinian civil society modelled on the boycott movement targeted towards apartheid-era South Africa.

It aims to bring pressure to bear on Israel from every angle—economic, social, political, academic, cultural.

What BDS does most effectively I think is open space to get people thinking about Israeli apartheid, how people in Gaza live under a continual state of siege, and the West Bank is under military occupation and has been for 70 years. We’re gaining attention on this in a way that we haven’t before.

In the last year Human Rights Watch and Israeli NGO B’Tselem have declared that Israel is an apartheid state. As the BDS movement grows, you’re now seeing people in the press saying it. It normalises discussion about Palestine.

A lot of people have told me that they didn’t really think about Palestine seriously until the events of May 2021.

We need a continual campaign of grassroots activism to draw focus to these questions. And that’s what the BDS campaign here has done really well.

You can find the campaign on Twitter.

Protests and theatre staff back boycott

Over 50 people joined a protest on the opening night of Sydney Festival at the Opera House in early January, including a street theatre performance condemning “Artwashing for apartheid”.

Union members who work at Carriageworks, one of the festival venues, have been protesting by wearing “Free Palestine” badges during their shifts. Six staff have also given up shifts and turned down work for the duration of the festival in support of the boycott.

Most of these workers are employed as casuals and rely on their jobs for income.

Carriageworks management told workers they were welcome to turn down shifts. But workers wearing badges have faced intimidation and were told not to share their “personal” beliefs at work as it went against the code of conduct. This is incredibly hypocritical given the anti-colonial image arts venues such as Carriageworks like to pride themselves on.

In response, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) released a statement supporting “the right of our members to express their personal views in this way in the course of their employment”, saying this was “part of the rich mix of expression and exchange in a vibrant creative community”.

The Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia has since released a statement backing the festival boycott.

Protest report by Tooba Anwar

The post ‘This is the biggest BDS action held in this country’: Sydney festival boycott organiser appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Has Scott Morrison Lost his Mind?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/01/2022 - 9:24pm in

(source)
Truly, I am at a loss for words. Have a good look at the composite above. You see the little boy playing with a toy forklift? Charming, isn’t it?

Would you believe me if I told you that that’s how Scotty from Marketing thought he could solve the supply chain problems crippling the Australian economy?

Nah, you say. I’m exaggerating. I’m going bananas, right?


Not quite. The idea that genius put forward today was to lower the age to drive forklifts. That’s how he initially announced it. Full stop, period, end of the story.

It was only after state premiers and territory chief ministers – apparently unanimously – rejected his brain dead idea, that he, at the end of the National Cabinet meeting, dejectedly added: he thought to lower the age required to drive a forklift to 16, as if that made the whole thing sound less unhinged.

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Let me tell you something. In Australia, 16-year-old kids can get a learner driver’s licence and drive a normal passenger car, but nowhere can they drive by themselves unsupervised by a fully, unrestricted licenced driver (normally, mum, or dad or an older sibling).

Unless Scotty wants his teen forklift drivers to work next to a fully licenced forklift driver, he is asking for a lower threshold for forklift licences.

There is a huge variety of forklifts, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He didn’t specify, but let’s suppose he isn’t thinking about those really big, expensive, heavy ones able to handle fully loaded shipping containers weighing 50 tonnes (49 tons) and more (or the equivalent of more than the gross vehicle mass of a fully loaded 6 axle semi-trailer truck).

No. Let’s imagine he is thinking of the smallest motorised forklifts, capable of handling between 400 and 500 kg (880 to 1,100 lb), equivalent to the combined average weight of 6 or 8 persons. His idea is to take a teen learning to drive the family car with mum or dad sitting next, give him/her a couple of hours training and sent him/her alone to drive that forklift inside a warehouse. What could possibly go wrong?

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I can remember only one precedent to this cinematographic demonstration of unmitigated imbecility: Donald Trump’s suggestion of using bleach to treat COVID.

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(source)

That man is running this country during a pandemic, people. It’s him who decides the policies shaping Australia and even the world: from climate change response to the economy to China. Our lives and the lives of our children are literally in his hands.

That’s not funny.

Will I ever see a journo ask him the questions hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of Australians are asking themselves: is he out of his mind? If you are a journo reading, you can ask him something like this: "Are you drunk or on drugs, Prime Minister?” Or “are you really that stupid, sir?”

Police violently break up Afghan refugee protest in Indonesia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/01/2022 - 7:45pm in

The refugees would like either citizenship or resettlement

Originally published on Global Voices


Afgan refugees in Indoneisa have been meeting to protest perceived inaction from the UNHCR. Refugees are calling for either Indonesian citizenship, or resettlement elsewhere. Image via YouTube.

Content notice: This article contains mention of depression, suicide, and police violence.

A peaceful protest of Afghan refugees was violently broken up by police on January 17 in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, a city on the island of Sumatra. The refugees were attempting to draw international attention to their years of displacement, mistreatment, and neglect by the Indonesian government and the international community. Police dispersed the protest by beating attendees and striking them with batons. Several attendees were reportedly injured. 

The protest emerged outside of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office because an Afghan refugee community member committed suicide on January 16. They were the 15th person to die from suicide in the community. Veronica Koman, an Amnesty International representative tweeted a video of the clash [content notice: some viewers may find the following video disturbing]: 

Some Afghan refugees have been living in limbo in Indonesia for over a decade, waiting to either receive citizenship from the Indonesian government or get approval and documents to move to another country. 

Mohammad Juma Mohseni was forced to leave Afghanistan in 2011 and has been living in Indonesia for nearly a decade. He told Gandhara news, a branch of Radio Free Europe, “[Fifteen] people have committed suicide and 10 have been prevented from committing suicide.” He added, “neither Indonesia nor the UNHCR has had a positive message for us.”

The Indonesian government is not party to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 protocol intended to eliminate restrictions on who can be considered a refugee. It does not have any official asylum laws and delegates all oversight to the UNHCR office and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). There are over 13,700 Afghani refugees in Indonesia who have been there for over 10 years. 

According to the SUAKA, an Indonesian civil society organization for refugee rights, asylum seekers in Indonesia are not permitted to work, receive social benefits from the Government of Indonesia, ​​own a car or motorbike, travel outside city limits, or go to university.

The IOM covers basic living costs while they await repatriation or resettlement. 

International inattention and tragedy


Some Afghan refugees in Indonesia have been camping outside of the UNHCR building for months. Screenshot courtesy of YouTube.

Monday’s incident is the latest in a number of heartbreaking incidents in recent months as Afghan refugees desperately try to call attention to their plight in Indonesia. Some refugees have been continuously camping out outside UNHCR offices waiting for news about their resettlement and attempting to raise awareness about their situations.

A group of Afghan refugees staged a 24-hour protest outside the IOM office in Medanon on November 30, 2021. One attendee, Ahmad Shah, 22, set himself on fire in front of the building. He had been in Indonesia awaiting permanent resettlement, separated from his family and loved ones, and unable to leave the country since 2016. 

He suffered third-degree burns and was reportedly taken to a nearby private hospital until he was moved to a public one on the same day. 

UNHCR Indonesia spokesperson Dwi Prafitria Juma told The Jakarta Post the agency was “deeply concerned about” and investigating the incident.

At least two dozen Afghan refugees had previously set themselves on fire. Six survived. 

“This is the seventh person we saved who was experiencing undue stress and fighting depression from living in limbo for around seven years,” said Juma in a press conference in front of the UNHCR office.

In recent months numerous refugees in Indonesia have sewn their mouths shut as a form of civil disobedience and protest.

In an interview with the Voice of America news agency the founder of Solidarity Indoenisa for Refugees (SIR), Ali Yusef, explained that Indonesia's refugees feel forced to take such extreme measures because they feel silenced and unheard. He worries for their mental health and urged UNHCR representatives to take immediate action.

The facts on the ground are that the UNHCR is less responsive to the fate of refugees in Indonesia. The proof is that they are not able to communicate with UNHCR when they want. … Don't let their delay mean the refugees who are sewing their mouths can injure themselves or even take their own lives. In the name of humanity UNHCR, please meet them. Explain that UNHCR is looking for a solution for them.

He added, “The world will judge Indonesia to be indifferent to international citizens.”

Both the UNHCR and IOM are responsible for managing refugees in Indonesia until they can be moved to another more permanent location. Both have been accused of neglecting and mishandling refugee affairs in the past. 

Before the Taliban came to power in August 2021, Indonesia housed the fourth-largest number of Afghan refugees in the world — behind Iran, Pakistan, and India. Most of these refugees intended to stop in Indonesia only temporarily until they could reach Australia. However, in 2013, Australia closed its borders to refugees and asylum seekers. Many were left stateless and stranded in Indonesia without recourse.

The situation has worsened since Kabul fell in August 2021. Experts say the situation in Afghanistan is likely exasperating feelings of helplessness that many Afghan refugees already deal with. It has also crushed their slim hopes of potentially returning to their home country and made it even more unlikely they will get rehoused, due to added influx of new refugees who have fled the Taliban.

Additionally, many countries have lowered the number of refugees they accept in recent years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of resettled refugees has reached a 20-year low, according to the UNHCR. The organization found that 160 countries had closed their borders at some point during the pandemic in 2020, with 99 states making no exceptions for people seeking protection.

As a result, many refugees are finding it impossible to relocate to a third country or attain stability.

For years, refugee advocacy organizations have been calling for improved conditions in Indonesia, though those calls have not received much traction. In the meantime, citizens are doing what they can and using the hashtag #HelpRefugees_Indonesia on Twitter and social media, as a rallying call to support refugees. 

In a change.org petition, discussing the situation Afghan refugees face in Indonesia, Musa Zafar wrote:

Their most basic fundamental rights, which are emphasized in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are systematically infringed on a daily basis. Their freedom of movement, education, employment, and political and social rights have been ignored. These people have been forgotten and the world has turned a blind eye to their crisis.

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