Archive for October, 2011

October 29, 2011

Politicians for the 1% have about as much credibility

Occupy Sydney at Martin Place, October 15, 2011. Photo by Peter Boyle.

The first Q & A program to discuss the “Occupy” movement sweeping the world (reportedly there are now occupations in 2220 cities) revealed why the politicians that represent the richest 1% have no credibility any more.

The Liberal Party’s (permanently sneering) number two attack dog, Christopher Pyne, predictably went for the Occupy protesters and their supporters for “dissing the capitalist system, which has given us the extraordinary standard of living we have in Australia” and justified the violent police dispersal of the Melbourne occupation.

But it was the cynical answers from the Labor Party’s former numbers man Graham Richardson and the Labor MP for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, that revealed why Labor and Liberal-National politicians and governments alike have lost their credibility.

“Look, you know, we‘ve got democracy but like any system, it’s going to have faults and, yes, there are excesses. People are entitled to complain about excesses,” said Richardson with his branded I’ve-seen-it-all look.

“I think the money that some of them earn is just obscene. If I was earning it I’d feel a lot better about it but I am not, I’m not going to and I understand why they’d want to whinge. By the same token, you don’t start whacking policemen either.”

Protestors whacking policemen?

Plibersek that this was really about a problem in the United States.

“I think that the Occupy Wall Street protesters probably have a greater case because the economy is so much more chaotic there at the moment, so many people have lost their homes, so many people have lost their jobs. There are, you know, camping grounds of homeless people, just outside New York city and of course we have homeless people in Australia. I’m not pretending we don’t but the scale that we’re seeing in the United States is like The Grapes of Wrath. It’s shocking, the impact that the global financial crisis has had on one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world. So I’m not surprised that there is a very strong and large public reaction.

“We’ve been very fortunate in Australia. We’ve got low unemployment, by world standards, low debt, low deficit and I’m not saying that that gives people no reason to, you know, make their views about executive salaries and other issues known. I just think that the Wall Street protest, as a social movement, is – you know it’s really rooted in something very bad in the American economy at the moment.”

Funny isn’t it how these politicians seemed to have changed their tune about globalisation. For years they have been telling us that we must make more sacrifices, work harder, give up our job security and accept the cuts to social services because we live in a globalised world and we have to compete with workers with lower wages and poorer conditions overseas. It has been like a mantra. But now this global capitalist system has got itself into an almighty global crisis, we are expected to believe that it is just a problemin other countries.

Credibility score: ZERO!

The contrasting reponse on the Q & A program came from the young singer songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke:

“It’s just obscene the amount of money some people make, ” she said, welcoming the occupations as a new cultural break from the “slumber of apathy”.

“People talk about the economy like it’s this beast, like it exists separate from humanity and it has its own desires and its own needs and we have to feed it otherwise it might, you know, like a God incur its wrath upon us or something and I think it’s – what something like this brings home to me is that the economy is a human construct and wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all get together and change it for the better.”

Green Left Weekly shares this spirit. Our activist journalists have gone into overdrive to cover and build the new movement. But we urgently need your genenous donations to help get the message out. Donate online today to the Green Left fighting fund. 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).

October 22, 2011

900 issues of Green Left Weekly

This is the 900th issue of Green Left Weekly. We are very confident that we will get to the 1000th – and beyond – as the best-read green and left campaigning newspaper in Australia.

The fact that we reach this milestone amidst a (still-growing) global movement of occupations against the tyranny of the world’s richest 1% goes some way to explaining this confidence.

This movement began with the occupation of Wall Street, which was in turn inspired by the mass tent city occupations in Spain and the democratic revolt that has been sweeping through the Arab world. Now there are more than a thousand occupations going on around the world. And more are planned.

These movements have a profound and powerful message: The world’s 99% need to assert democratic control of society and refashion it so the fruits of our common labour and our planets resources are shared fairly and managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

The occupy movement has only succeeded because this message reasonates strongly with billions of people. Five centuries of capitalism has concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a tiny minority – on a scale never seen before in all history. Now most people know this is not sustainable.

Will this broad sentiment translate into the broad-scale action that will be needed to turn our common aspirations for change into real change? Will the broad sympathy for the occupy movement remain mostly passive or will it become active? We will find out over the next weeks.

But Green Left won’t be simply waiting to find out. We will be campaigning in the streets, in the communities, campuses, schools and workplaces for people to join the occupy movement, to participate in what ever way possible.

At critical political moments like these, a people-powered media project like Green Left really comes into its own. Green Left’s website is already one of the most-read political websites in Australia. But when the occupy movement came to Australia on October 15, our web readership more than doubled!

On October 21, when the police violently attacked the Occupy Melbourne, Green Left established a special Live Blog to report on the unfolding events and thousands turned to this blog for the latest news.

A people-powered project like Green Left totally depends on ordinary people’s support to keep going. We need your help to survive. Donate online today to the Green Left fighting fund. 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).

October 21, 2011

War criminal Rajapakse to visit Perth

Several prominent Australian human rights advocates have called for protests when Sri Lanka’s “war criminal” president, Mahinda Rajapakse comes to Perth in late October to attend the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The Rajapaksa government is guilty of committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, Professor Damien Kingsbury, the director of the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights at Deakin University, told an international conference on “Accountability In Sri Lanka: Common Justice In The Commonwealth” in Sydney on October 20.

There is “widely accepted evidence” that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed largely through “systematic shelling of populated areas” in the closing weeks of the Sri Lankan governments war against the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Elam (LTTE) which had previously ocupied and run parts of the north and east of the country.

There is also credible evidence of thousands of killings and disappearances, he added, and this was enough evidence for a case to be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by signatory state of the ICC convention.

Kingsbury added that there was also a precedent for CHOGM to suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth until it was brought to account for these crimes.

He joined several other speakers at the conference, including Bruce Haigh (former Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka), Pat Power (Catholic Bishop of Canberra), Reverend John Barr (Uniting Church), Associate Professor Jake Lynch (director of the Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney) and John Dowd (Australian president of the International Commission of Jurists, and a former Supreme Court judge and NSW Attorney-General)  in calling for protests to be held against Rajapakse when he comes to CHOGM.

A number of overseas guest speakers added their voice to this call for protests, among them two Malaysian opposition MPs, Dato Johari Abdul and M. Manogaram.

Haigh and Dowd also called for the current Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, former admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, to be sent back because there was enough evidence of his responsibility for war crimes. The ICJ had sent the evidence to the Australian Federal Police.

Sam Pari, a spokesperson for the conference (which was organised by the Australian Tamil Congress and the Global Tamil Forum), said:

“Despite mounting evidence of war crimes in Sri Lanka and increasing calls for an international independent investigation into such crimes, Sri Lanka continues to be defiant.

“Sri Lankan leaders are due to attend CHOGM to campaign for CHOGM 2013 to be held in their country. However, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already stated that he is likely to boycott CHOGM 2013 if Sri Lanka was to host the event, given the country’s appalling human rights record.

“Sri Lanka is also competing with Australia to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”

October 8, 2011

We are the 99%

As the world watched the Egyptian people overthrow the hated dictator Hosni Murbarak earlier this year, there would have been many who asked themselves this question: Could it happen in my country too?

Some did more than wonder if it was possible, they took to the streets and tried to “walk like an Egyptian” and a wave of people’s power began to sweep the Middle East. But this wave of revolt didn’t stop there. There were powerful reverberations in Spain, Israel, Malaysia and even in the United States of America, the world’s richest country.

The popular movement against cuts to social services in Wisconsin in February was only the first spark in the US. Now people are occupying public spaces all around the country, taking the cue from the Occupy Wall Street initiative.

Now that movement has come to Australia. On October 15, similar occupations will be attempted in cities all around Australia. Thousands of people are getting organised, using the social networking internet websites like FaceBook and Twitter and numerous blogsites.

At the heart of this exciting development is a broad realisation that the world is being unbearably distorted, and risks being destroyed, because our societies are being twisted to make the world’s richest 1% even richer. This 1% already owns 43% of the world’s wealth but effectively control almost all the wealth and with this wealth they have bought and corrupted governments and enslaved billions of people. Permanent war has been inflicted on numerous nations and economic misery on many more.

No moral or environmental boundaries* are respected by this 1%.  Half of the world’s population is forced to try and survive by sharing 1% of the world’s wealth!

So what are we, the 99%, doing about it? Are we just going to sit back and let the our common future be ruined? The people who will attempt to set up these occupations around Australia on October 5 will need your support and solidarity. Get down there yourself and enlist the support of your community, your trade union, your church or your workplace.

As this cover of this issue signals, Green Left Weekly will be throwing all its energy into reporting on and supporting the new global movement to liberate the 99% from the tyranny of the 1%.

But we ask for your urgent help, practical and financial, to help make our people-powered media rise to the challenge. Donate online today to the Green Left fighting fund. 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).

* This is footnote is borrowed from a Chapter 31 of Karl Marx’s Capital Volume I. No old footnote remained so pertinent!  “Capital eschews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10% will ensure its employment anywhere; 20% certain will produce eagerness; 50%, positive audacity; 100% will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300%, and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave-trade have amply proved all that is here stated.”