Archive for August, 2011

August 27, 2011

Disturbance in the city of the Victorious Prince

The PM's palace in the spookily empty Putrajaya. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Putrajaya (meaning “Prince’s Victory”), the seat of Malaysia’s federal government, was  built as a US$8 billion plus fantasy project of the country’s former PM and strongman Mohamed Mahathir. It was carved out of rubber plantation-covered hills in the 1990s and turned into a grandly planned city for public servants. Many buildings were designed to look like palaces – with an eclectic mix of styles from around the world giving the city the look of a sprawling, but spookily empty, theme park.

However, this emptiness was shattered for a while on August 23 when some 10,000 desperate refugees, who had fled  the brutal military dictatorship in Burma, converged on the immigration department offices because they feared imminent mass deportation.

Distressed refugees in Putrajaya on August 23. Photo by Tenaganita.

According to a media statement by Tenaganita, a Malaysian NGO that protects and promotes the rights of women, migrants and refugees, the refugees who had UNHCR cards were informed that they needed to get registered in the biometric system  at the Putrajaya immigration office.  Thousands of people – elderly, ill, young children, mothers with babies stood for hours in a cramped place, waited only to be told that they had to come the next day as the Immigration department could only register up to 2500 persons a day.

Those who managed to get registered under the biometric system became even more alarmed when they were then issued with a slip which said: “Purpose: Return to Home Country”.

The government responded by mobilising a notorious volunteer militia that has been used to control refugees and migrant workers.  Eyewitnesses  said that the militia turned up armed with sticks and abused and threatened the terrified refugees.

It was just another day in the nightmare that is life for the nearly 100,000 refugees stuck in Malaysia, a country that has not signed UN conventions on refugee rights and a country to which the Australian government is trying to deport 800 asylum seekers to. It was just a tiny bit of the misery that is the life of the 43.7 million people estimated by the UNHCR to displaced worldwide.

Green Left Weekly gives voice to refugees and their supporters who are campaigning against the immoral and illegal treatment of asylum and seekers and refugees especially by wealthy countries like Australia. Please make a contribution this week to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Donate online today. 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

Putrajaya: Neat, grand but lifeless. Photo by Peter Boyle.

August 19, 2011

Malaysian refugee rights advocate to attend Climate Change Social Change conference

Malaysian refugee rights campaigner Angeline Loh. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Angeline Loh/Shannan, who works with the Malaysian human rights groups ALIRAN, will been one of nearly a dozen international guest speakers at the  World At A Crossroads, the Climate Change Social Change Conference to be held at Melbourne University September 30-October 3.

Loh’s writings played a critical role in exposing the horrible plight of the nearly 100,000 refugees trapped in Malaysia – the country Australia is trying to deport 800 desperate asylum seekers to under the Gillard governments so-called “Malaysia solution”.

Some of her articles published since 2005 include: “Dailies peddling misleading half truths”; “Earth – The final frontier for human rights”; “Domestic workers – humans not commodities”; “Australia-Malaysia deal endangers asylum seekers”; “Taking cheap shots at defenceless refugees”; “Malaysia’s invisible blockade”; “War on undocumented migrants not the answer”; “Asylum seekers still face deportation threat”; “Malaysia’s migrant hell-holes”; “Abuse of Sri Lankan asylum seekers and refugees” ; and “Rela and Malaysia’s invisible war”.

The global refugee crisis — currently involving 43.7 million displaced people according to the latest UNHCR count — is expected to multiply as the climate change crisis deepens.

World At A Crossroads, the 2nd Climate Change Social Change conference, is organised by Green Left Weekly, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance and sponsored by the Office of Environmental Programs, Melbourne University. It is also co-sponsored by: Friends of the Earth (Melbourne), climateandcapitalism.com, Links International Journal for Socialist Renewal, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Sydney University Political Economy Society, Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM – Philippines), Australia-Asia Worker Links, Left Unity Adelaide, Adelaide Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN), Community Radio 3CR and Action Aid International.

Registrations are now open at TryBooking.

August 19, 2011

David and Goliath?

Click on image to see video of the unfurling of this giant banner.

Most of us protesters were across the road from the Sofitel Wentworth luxury hotel in the heart of Sydney’s business district where the $900/head NSW Mineral Exploration & Investment Conference. But a handful of protesters got into the conference hall and were able to hold up signs protesting coal seam gas mining and two plucky young people abseiled down the front of the hotel and, to a roaring cheer from the demonstrators, unfurled a giant banner which read “Enough Is Enough/Stop Coal & Gas Expansion”.

This small but spectacular protest was just one expression of a powerful people’s movement that is uniting rural and urban communities around Australia against the mining companies determined to make as much profit for as long as possible from coal, gas and other fossil fuels regardless of the cost to our communities and the environment.

Earlier this year, the Illawarra community mobilised to create a 3,000-strong “Stop Coal Seam Gas!” human sign on a local beach. There have also been blockades in rural communities in Queensland and NSW and angry town hall meetings in Sydney suburbs, where governments have given out licenses to explore for coal seam gas deposits.

This gathering movement has got mining companies and corporate-profits-first  politicians worried. This was evident from two speeches at the NSW Mineral Exploration & Investment Conference.

NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Christopher Hartcher told the protest-shaken delegates:

“I acknowledge – and the O’Farrell Government acknowledges – that there are many legitimate concerns held in the community, by responsible sections of the community, about the future of mineral exploration and development in NSW. Those concerns are about our water, those concerns are about our environment and those concerns are about our farmland. But we need to address them and we need to work them through. We need to work them through accepting a fundamental premise that mining is at the very heart of the economy of this State…”

The same defensiveness was evident in the speech of the Deputy CEO of the NSW Mining Council Sue-Ern Tan who complained that the mining industry “has never before faced such a barrage of opposition”.

“Across NSW, community groups are criticising our environmental impacts, farmers are calling for moratoriums and mining exclusion zones, other industries are worried about the high dollar and the loss of their workers to the mines.

“These concerns are fodder for the political activists and anti-mining campaigners, who have a track record of playing on these fears, with little regard for the facts, demanding an even tougher response from the Government in a perceived ‘David and Goliath’ battle which has become the stuff of legend.”

But then Tan went on to prove just why this is widely “perceived” as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle by boasting about the billlons of dollars that could be invested in mining in the state, if only the government ignored the pesky protesting communities!

The mining industry in NSW was worth $17 billion in 2009-10, she said, and there was another $14 billion in future investment if the mining companies plans were given the go ahead. This, she added, could give the state government $6.8 billion in royalties over the next few years, oblivious to how much she sounded like another bible story: that of the devil tempting Jesus!

The mining companies made a whopping $255 billion in pre-tax profits made by the mining companies in Australia since 2004-5. They threaten, and arguably have destroyed elected governments and have massive resources to throw against the communities that are organising to defend their livelihoods, health and environment against the coal seam gas.

The NSW Mining Council deputy CEO spoke of mining companies “earning a social licence” but blithely betrayed that she had absolutely no idea about how to do this by boasting that 80% of the state’s mining depended on coal, a fossil fuel that under any rational and responsible perspective needs to be completely phased out as fast as possible because of the climate change emergency.

To fight the billionaire corporate Goliaths we need to build the institutions that fight uncompromisingly for a people and environment-first future. Green Left Weekly is one of those precious institutions. So far ths year we have raised only 47% of our $250,000 Fighting Fund and we urgently need your help to raise the rest.

Please make a contribution this week to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Donate online today. 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

August 16, 2011

With the world at a crossroads, this is a conference you should not miss

Friday, September 30 – Monday, October 3, 2011
Sidney Myer Asia Centre, Melbourne University

Featuring:

JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER, renowned US economist and ecologist, Monthly Review editor and author of What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know About Capitalism, The Ecological Rift, The Ecological Revolution, The Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff); Marx’s Ecology; Ecology Against Capitalism; and The Vulnerable Planet.

IAN ANGUS, a founder of the Ecosocialist International Network and editor of climateandcapitalism.com. Author of Confronting the Climate Change Crisis: An Eco-socialist Perspective; Food Crisis: World Hunger, Agribusiness and the Food Sovereignty Alternative; and The Global Fight for Climate Justice.

Three days of feature talks, panel discussions and more than 20 workshops to discuss solutions for a world in crisis.

Click here for list of other international guest speakers.

Including:

  • Capitalism, socialism and ecology
  • People’s power and democracy
  • The climate debt and the Global South
  • Refugees, racism and internationalism
  • Food security and survival
  • Building movements that can stop climate change
  • The global nuclear threat
  • Indigenous resistance, land and sovereignty
  • Feminism and climate change
  • Imperialism, war and oil
  • The market vs social ownership
  • The dirty record of carbon trading
  • Population and the planet
  • Agri-business and sustainable alternatives
  • The movement against coal seam gas mining

…and much more

Right click here to download the preliminary agenda in PDF format

Organised by Green Left Weekly, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance

Sponsored by the Office of Environmental Programs, Melbourne University

Co-sponsors: Friends of the Earth (Melbourne), climateandcapitalism.com, Links International Journal for Socialist Renewal, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Sydney University Political Economy Society, Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM – Philippines), Australia-Asia Worker Links, Left Unity Adelaide and the Adelaide Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN).

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW

Whole conference (including Friday public meeting):
solidarity $100 / waged $60 / concession $20

Public meeting “Capitalist crisis, ecology and socialism” with John Bellamy Foster 7pm, Friday September 30: solidarity $15 / waged $10 / concession $5

Per day (Sat, Sun, Mon):
solidarity $55 / waged $35 / concession $15

To register, offer a presentation or display, or for more information:
CLICK HERE TO BOOK/REGISTER ONLINE
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE FACEBOOK PAGE
CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US VIA EMAIL
PHONE: Viv Miley +61 408 398 724 or Peter Boyle +61 401 760 577
FAX: +61 2 9281 7184
POST: PO Box A2323, Sydney South, NSW 1230, Australia

August 13, 2011

Productivity Commission releases “Throw The Oldies To The Wolves” report

The Productivity Report says the aged will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for care... just take out loans. Who are they fooling?

As the cost of aged care in Australia rises $11 billion a year to $69.4 billion in 2050, the report says there is no option but to make aged care more “user pays”, privatised and deregulated.  It calculates on us being terrified by the big numbers. But think about a few other big numbers: the Commonwealth Bank’s recently announced 12% rise in cash profit to $6.84 billion, the $255 billion in pre-tax profits made by the mining companies in Australia since 2004-5, the $2.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) that has been shifted from wages to profits across Australia since 1974-75. The report says the aged will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for care… just take out loans.  But who are they fooling?

The “free market” fanatics at the Productivity Commission have done their dirty job once again in their newly released Caring For Older Australian report. It would be more honestly titled Throw The Oldies To The Wolves report and it follows vicious cuts to disabilities pensions.

The outraged response of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association summed up the report’s main agenda:

“This report abandons aged care as a community service and replaces it with a user pays system funded by flogging the family home.

“Whether, as an older Australian, you will need aged care and how much comes down to luck of the draw and it should not cost the family home to pay for it.”

Given the corporate profits first politics of the Labor federal government and the Liberal-National opposition, barring the strongest community opposition, aged care will soon cease to be a community service. It will die the death of a thousand cuts just like public education, public health, public transport and other critical public services that underpin a good society.

But what else can we expect from the “Productivity Commission”? It is a government-funded neoliberal institution dedicated to depriving the majority from enjoying the tremendous social gains that should flow from the many advances in science and technology – just as as the “Ministry for Truth” in George Orwell’s 1984 was dedicated to lying to the public.

They have seasoned con artists at the Productivity Commission. Their job is to set the corporate profits first agenda of governments, Labor or Liberal-National, and sell it with loads of lies. Basically, in every report they produce they argue that the introduction of more “user pays”, deregulation and privatisation is the only option. They pretend that their arguments are not political or ideological but they are.

The Productivity Commission report argues that over one million older Australians receive aged care services today but by 2050, this number is expected to rise to 3.5 million. The cost of this care to the government, it says, will rise from $11 billion a year to $69.4 billion. They argue that there is no option but to make aged care more “user pays”, privatised and deregulated. The report says the aged will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for care… just take out loans. Who are they fooling?

The report calculates on us being terrified by the big numbers. But think about a few other big numbers. Think about the Commonwealth Bank’s recently announced 12% rise in cash profit to $6.84 billion. And this is just the first of the four big banks that dominate Australia to announce their whole year profit figures. Think about the $255 billion in pre-tax profits made by the mining companies in Australia since 2004-5. Think about the $2.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) that, we can calculate from Australian Bureau of Statistics data, has been shifted from wages to profits across Australia since 1974-75.

The money is there but the Productivity Commission is out to make sure that more of it it goes to making the filthy richer even richer – whatever the human cost.

The Productivity Commission core ethos is the idea at the heart of former British PM Margaret Thatcher’s infamous 1987 statement in an interview with Woman’s Own magazine that “no such thing as society”.

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’… and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women…”

The images of London burning that have flooded the news are a stark reminder of the impact of this “no such thing as society” mentality.

Out there in the so-called “mainstream media” this rampant this corporate profit-first ideology is identified for what it really is. A generation of shackled or brainwashed journalists are naively helping spread the destruction of society and environment. But not here in Green Left Weekly.

However we can only keep telling the truth with your help.

Please make a contribution this week to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Donate online today. 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

August 12, 2011

Ngemba elder protests billions of Aboriginal affairs funding mispent by government


Sydney, August 12, 2011 – For the last five days, Feli McHughes, Joel McHughes and Gregory Coffey from the Ngemba Billabong Restoration Project in Brewarrina, NSW, have been trying to hand over a $260,000 cheque to the head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. “We are not going to play this silly game any more: where they pretend to give us money and we end up giving it back to them to mispend”, Feli said, referring to the recently unearthed secret federal government’s Johnson report which found that $25 billion of government spending on Aboriginal affairs over the last 40 years had failed to narrow the huge social and economic gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

August 5, 2011

White Australia has a black history

T-Shirt with a colour screen print of the Australian Aboriginal flagproduced for the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. Image from Museum of Victoria

The double meaning in the popular slogan “White Australia has a black history”, sadly, continues to apply to current federal, state and territory government policies. Governments may have apologised for past mistreatment but they are still destroying Aboriginal communities, stealing Aboriginal land and racism is alive as ever.

The Gillard Labor government’s Ministry of Truth must be working overtime to churn out titles for programs that say the opposite of what they actually deliver. One of their more recent products is “Stronger Futures”, the name of the fake community consultations being carried out to justify the continuation of the racist Northern Territory intervention into Aboriginal communities. (See Peter Robson’s excellent article in the previous issue of Green Left Weekly for an exposure of this latest insult to Aboriginal people.)

It is like “Closing the Gap”. They are not!

As Rebuilding From The Ground Up, a Aboriginal community call for an alternative to the NT intervention explained:

“The NT Intervention has been a disaster for Aboriginal communities.

“Rather than ‘closing the gap’, government statistics show Indigenous incarceration rates have risen by almost 30 per cent, school attendance is down in many places,ii suicide and self harm have increased and thousands of workers are being put onto Centrelink as CDEP closes down. There are growing crises in urban centres such as Alice Springs as large numbers of people move in from the bush.”

Perversely, the very destructiveness of previous racist government policies is being used to justify the introduction of more racist and destructive policies. Things are so bad, goes the argument, anything must be better.

It is a ridiculous argument but one that feeds on despair and lowered expectations. It’s part of a systematic brainwashing that is part and parcel of the corporate profits-first ideological offensive we have all been subjected to for the last three and a half decades. To further enrich and empower the already incredibly rich and powerful, the expectations of the majority of people have been systematically lowered. Expect less, don’t organise and don’t resist. That’s what they are trying to brainwash us into thinking.

In the process the rich have got richer – destroying entire communities and wrecking the environment in the process – and then sent the world into an economic mess through the biggest orgy of speculation in history.

Green Left Weekly proudly resists this retreative mindset by giving a voice to all the oppress who are fighting back against today’s Ministry of Truth in all its forms. This is a fight that can be won with your help.

Please make a contribution this week to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Donate online today. 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

August 3, 2011

The truth about Guantanamo must not be silenced

August 3 protest organised by Sydney Stop The War Coalition and The Justice Campaign outside NSW Supreme Court hearing for federal "proceeds of crime" action against former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks. Photo by Peter Boyle and more here.

War criminal and former British PM Tony Blair had only just completed a lucrative commercial speaking tour of Australia when Australia’s federal Director of Public Prosecutions began court proceeding to prosecute former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks under “proceeds of crime” laws.

The DPP wants to seize the profits from his book Guantanamo: My Journey, of which about 30,000 copies have been sold. However, thousands more have mysteriously disappeared off the shelves of major stores. The publisher, Random House, has not been able to find out where they’ve gone.

Hicks has committed no crime recognised under Australian law as even former conservative Australian PM John Howard has admitted.

The chief US  prosecutor of military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Colonel Morris Davis, recently told Jason Leopold of Tuthout.org that he thought Hicks was prosecuted as a “favour” to Australian government through dubious legal devices and procedures.

Leopold explained the deal (signed in utter desperation) that got Hicks out of Guantanamo:

“The deal, referred to as Alford plea, called for Hicks to sign an agreement accepting the single charge of providing material support, which was not deemed a war crime prior to the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. In an Alford plea, the accused does not admit to the act for which he is charged, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove it. The government dropped the attempted murder charge against Hicks. Under the terms of the deal, Hicks would serve nine months in prison in Australia and would be prohibited from speaking to the media for a year.”

In other words, Hicks has not been found guilty nor even admitted he was guilty of these dubious charges.

The likes of George W Bush,  Blair and Howard have not yet been convicted of war crimes but there is overwhelming evidence that they are responsible for killing hundreds of thousand of innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians. The victims of their war crimes continue to mount with their retirement from office and they freely swan around the world making hundreds of thousand if not more from book sales and high-paying lecture circuits. They are the ones profiting from crimes, without the slightest hindrance. But David Hicks, traumatised from five and a half years in the hell that is the infamous US concentration camp in Guantanamo (on US-occupied Cuban territory), and his family are being denied their right to live their modest lives in peace.

A gross moral double standard is at work here. Anyone with a conscience should rise to defend David Hicks again and make sure the truth about the Guantanamo hellhole – which still operates despite US President Barak Obama’s promise to close it if he was elected President – is not silenced.

The other side of the placard. Photo and sign by Peter Boyle.

Colin Ryan and his hand-drawn sign. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Click here to see more of my photos of the rally outside the NSW Supreme Court on August 3.