Archive for November, 2010

November 25, 2010

Farewell Comrade! Max Watts (1928-2010)

Max Watts on his 80th birthday. Photo by Vivienne Porzsolt.

Max Watts, who became a well-known personality on the left in Australia, particularly in Sydney, died on November 23.

Max was a left-wing freelance journalist, an occasional contributor to Green Left Weekly and its discussion list , and a solidarity activist with many national liberation struggles including those of Palestine, Kanaky, West Papua and Bougainville.

In the 1960s, he was a central activist in Europe working with soldier resistance to the Vietnam War within the US armed forces. Resistance inside the army (RITA) was one of his great political passions.

Max was an extravagant personality, and some people may have found him difficult at times, but he was someone always firmly on the left and on the side of all struggles against oppression and exploitation. You could count on that and he will be remembered by many comrades in the broad left movement.

Max shook his head at the persistent tendency of the left to be over-factionalised and divisive but he was quick to work alongside those who took up serious struggle. An eagerness to understand and show solidarity with new forces in motion in any country was one of his characteristics.

Max passed away in Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital from kidney and heart failure. He was with close friends Rosie, Lydia, Vivienne and Barbara at the time and passed peacefully.

I managed to say goodbye to him in hospital a few days before he died. He was quite feisty then — though somewhat confused and disoriented, probably due to medication. After about an hour, my attempts to get him to stay in his bed earned me the following last words: “Boyle, your visiting time is up!” It was classic Max!

Max will be formally farewelled in Sydney on December 1 at 11.30am at Camellia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium, Plassey Road, North Ryde.

Phone 0411 366 295 for more details.

It requested that flowers not be sent to the funeral. Instead, if you would like to do something to commemorate Max Watts, it is suggested that you could contribute to the management of the archive which has been established in Amsterdam at the International Institute for Social History. This comprises Max’s enormous store of papers in relation to his RITA.


Foundation International Institute for Social History
Amsterdam, Netherlands

IBAN NL58ABNA0548517347

IMPORTANT! It is essential to reference to ‘Max Watts Archives’

Friends of Max have set up a Facebook group. If you would like to leave messages or photos or other material, go to and search for “Remembering Max Watts”.

November 19, 2010

Australia’s best political cartoonist wins Cartoonist of The Year Award

Canberra-based political cartoonist David Pope (AKA Heinrich Hinze) has won one of Australia’s top cartooning honours, taking out the 2010 Cartoonist of the Year Award in Melbourne on Nov 6. Here is his perfect comment on the big four banks that dominate Australian financial sector (and much of the rest of the economy too!).

His cartoons — which are incisive in their relentless exposure of the rich and powerful, and their minions — are now regularly published in the Canberra Times . An archive of David’s work is available here. Enjoy and be empowered!

When the world is the obscenely ridiculous, unsustainable and cruel path that it is today, we need one, two, three… many David Popes!

November 18, 2010

Put politicians on a nurses wage!

Rachel Evans at nurses rally at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Photo by Darrien Perry.

If federal Labor Special Minister of State* Gary Gray thinks we should feel sorry for him because he took a pay cut from $675,000 a year to $130,000 when he left his senior executive position at Woodside Petroleum to become a politician, he must be stupid.

Most of us can see that corporate CEOs are grossly overpaid and, worse, they get paid more if they are better at hurting and ripping off millions of people.

Gray wants to close the gap between corporate CEO and politicians pay (already much higher than that of the great majority of workers) — and not by cutting obscene CEO pay! This would widen the gap between politicians and the people they are supposed to represent.

How about capping politicians pay at the lel of that of a skilled worker, such as a nurse? That way the pollies would have a better idea what life is like for most people and this might have a positive impact on the decisions made by governments.

Wasting public money to make the well-off even more well off has become the norm, whether we have a Labor or a Liberal-National Coalition government. Last week it was revealed that the NSW Labor government was prepared to secretly subsidise the price of coal power by $1-2 billion in order to sweeten the deal for the companies bidding for the NSW electricity privatisation. That’s on top of at least another billion in subsidies to the coal industry which Green peace had unearthed.

We’ve also found out that NSW would have been at least $4.6 billion better off if it had publicly borrowed to build and operate the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, the M4, the M5, the M2, the Eastern Distributor, the Cross City Tunnel, the M7 and Lane Cove Tunnel, instead of handing it over to the private sector.

That’s just a small part of the corporate profit subsidies from the public purse. Billions more go to fattening the profits of private schools, private health insurance companies, big car companies and even the profit-gouging big four banks.

The big companies get away with lower and lowers taxes while poor are slugged ever more as governments rely more on direct taxes. According to a November 15 Sydney Morning Herald report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that the Gillard government’s compromise minerals resource rent tax was so weak that ”taxation of profits of mining companies is likely to remain much lower than before the mining boom”.

Most of us would rather see public money spent on public services. On health, education, public transport and on seriously making a transition to renewable energy. But while our politicians-who-would-like -to-be-paid-like-corporate-CEOs don’t think twice of tossing a few billion the way of the same corporate rich, you have to fight them tooth and nail to get them to spend a cent on our common good.

On November 24, NSW nurses will be going on strike to get the government to agree to a mandated minimum staffing ratio of one nurse to four patients in hospitals. Victorian nurses won this minimum standard 10 years ago (after a fight) but in NSW the Keneally Labor government is refusing to budge.

I joined nurses last week at their rally outside the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and spoke out as an appreciative patient.  My appreciation for the public hospitals and their dedicated (but overworked) staff increased since I was rushed in with a heart attack in 2007. Most people only get to appreciate the public health system after such an emergency.

In my moral universe, one nurse is worth way more than boardrooms of overpaid corporate CEOs. But this a society being run on upside-down values.

Many people agree with this but don’t think we can change the system. But everytime someone steps up to take some action to fight for change – no matter how modest – our collective confidence in the possibility of bigger change grows. This is why Green Left Weekly offers a voices for all those fighting for change — whether it is a nurse seeking better staffing ratios in the interest of patient and staff safety or a community activists standing up to mining companies determined to extract coal seam gas from under our water catchment areas, farms or even our cities.

As the year draws to an end, we appeal to all our readers to make a generous donation towards the Green Left Weekly $300,000 annual fighting fund.

If you can help us get there please donate online today at , or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, account no. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation on the toll-free line on 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

* What does a SMOS (special minister of state) do apart from talking up pollies pay and collecting a minister’s salary in the process? See:

November 16, 2010

Halt in the name of the law, drop those shoes!

Shoes were thrown at George W. Bush and Hilary Clinton. Photo by Peter Boyle.


(Published in the Sydney Hub.)

This is a cosmopolitan 21st-century city in a liberal democracy, isn’t it? Folks are allowed to express themselves freely, dissent and protest against the powers that be, right?

Not if we don’t insist on it, it seems.

The Sydney Stop The War Coalition planned a symbolic “Shoe away the war criminals” action outside the US Consulate to coincide the AUSMIN war talks between the Australian Government and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Melbourne on November 8.

The plan was for protesters to throw shoes at cardboard cut-outs of Gates, Clinton, PM Julia Gillard and foreign minister Kevin Rudd. Totally coincidently, this plan was decided on the same night that Hunter Valley activist Pete Gray threw his shoes at former PM John Howard on the ABC TV Q and A program.


Photo by John Immig.

Both actions were inspired by the example of the Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at former US President George W. Bush in 2008.

The AUSMIN talks discussed Australia hosting more US military bases, more stockpiles of US military supplies in Australia, more joint training exercises on Australian soil, greater access to Australian ports for US ships and planes, and more joint military patrols throughout the Asia-Pacific region. So the anti-war activists had something serious to protest about.

The shoe-throwing action was to be a peaceful, fun protest, but it alarmed the NSW police.

Photo by Peter Boyle.

The police tried to impose bizarre conditions.

“Under no circumstances are participants to throw any object towards any person, building, structure or thing”, the organisers were told, in writing. “Under no circumstances are participants to throw any object into the air.”

According to police, any such acts would be an “arrestable offence”. On the face of it, this would have made juggling an arrestable offence!

On advice from civil liberties lawyers, the anti-war activists refused to agree and went ahead with their action. They were prepared to be arrested, but on the day the police backed off and the peaceful protest passed without incident.

There is an important lesson to this story. If we don’t speak out against injustice, and insist on our right to protest, it will get harder and harder to do so.

We can’t take for granted the freedom to protest. In many parts of the world, if you protest against the ruling establishment you risk getting beaten, arrested or killed.

Nearly four decades ago, when I first became a political activist, the police in Australia did not respect people’s right to have a peaceful street march. It had to be fought for and won, and many activists suffered beatings and even spells in jail to win this right. Veterans of the early marches that inspired Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney can testify to this.

I witnessed the winning of this right in Perth, WA in the early 1970s, as a young student. A large number of anti-war protesters were making their way from the (more radical) “over East” to protest US bases in the North-West coast. The WA police put the word out that anyone who marched on the streets would be arrested. But we defied them and took to the streets in thousands. The police backed off their threat and from then on the right to march in protest in the streets was won.

Roll forward a couple of decades and this and other basic rights are under threat. Post-9/11 the police have gained many new powers and are constantly seeking to narrow down the right to protest.

Recently in Sydney, the police have prevented anti-war activists, refugee rights activists and this year’s Reclaim The Night protest against violence against women, from taking to the streets. If we don’t stand up to this threat to a basic freedom, we could lose the right to protest altogether.

(Peter Boyle has been preselected by the Socialist Alliance to head up a 21-strong ticket for the Legislative Council in the March 2011 NSW elections.)

November 12, 2010

More nurses, less politicians’ spin!


Nurses rally at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

For the second week in a row, nurses held lunchtime rallies outside their hospitals in support of the NSW Nurses Association campaign for a mandated minimum nurse to patient ratio of 1:4 in public hospitals. This ratio has been mandated in Victoria for ten years but NSW lags behind.

Lower ratios in NSW have meant poorer care for patients and has also placed nurse in danger.

One young nurse explained at the rally on November 10 at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital that she had been recently assaulted while on ward duty. This would not have happened if there had been a mandated minimum nurse to patient ratio of 1:4, she said.

I was one of two grateful patients who spoke at the RPAH rally in support of the nurses campaign.

I told the rally, that I had been brought to RPAH by ambulance when I had a heart attack in 2007 and gained a strong respect for the public hospital system and its dedicated but overworked staff.

Most people don’t appreciate public hospitals until they are brought in for emergency treament, I said to the rally, but it is an important public asset that we have to fight for.

James Data, the other patient who spoke at the RPAH rally was in a wheel-chair and a current inpatient. He challenged Labor Premier Kristina Keneally to “come an work one night shift in the hospital to see how things really are”.

Readers can register their support for the campaign at


Peter Boyle addressing nurses rally at RPAH.

More pics here.

November 4, 2010

Green Left website: A valuable online archive

Green Left Weekly cover from 2001

The Green Left website had a 13.3% rise in readership in October compared to the previous month, perhaps reflecting the developments in Australian politics since the failure of the traditional parties of government to win a parliamentary majority in the August 21 federal election.

The site had 104,719 unique visitors over the month.

The most-read article on the web, published last month, was Kiraz Janicke’s “The burqa: reject the fake ‘feminism’ of the right” which has had more than 3000 readers over the month. Articles about Greens MP Adam Bandt, Senator Bob Brown and independent MP Andrew Wilkie were also very popular.

On the first day of November there was a sharp spike in Green Left’s web readership. The source of this spike was some 3000 visitors who read an article we published way back in 1999, entitled “Why is hemp illegal” . These readers were directed to the Green Left site from the US-based referring website

A steady stream of people interested in this article about the famous weed has continued to flow since then.

However this is only one of several articles published online by Green Left many years ago that continues to get a steady stream of readers.

Another favourite from the Green Left web archive is “How the CIA created Osama bin Laden” (published in 2001).

“The Aboriginal struggle for justice and land rights” (2001) is also regularly read as is “Vietnam: war and the environment” from 1991, the first year Green Left was published.

There are many articles from long past issues that continue to draw online readers, proving that Green Left is a valuable and free online archive.

Over the last month we began placing advertisements for Green Left subscriptions and donations in the body of all longer Green Left articles on the web but it is too early to see if this has had a positive impact on subscriptions and donations. We have also begun to include links to selected related articles in some articles.

If you read Green Left on the web, please remember that while reading Green Left on the web is free, producing it isn’t. As the year draws to an end, we appeal to the thousands who read Green Left on the web to make a generous donation towards our $300,00 annual fighting fund.

If you can help us get there please donate online today at , or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, account no. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation on the toll-free line on 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

Web readers can also buy an e-subscription to help keep this project afloat. You can also help increase our web readership by sending links to articles that your friends, relatives or workmates may be interested in.