The Australian Union and Solidarity Choir (AUSC), made up of singers from across Australia, are travelling to Timor Leste (East Timor) in August and September take part in Popular Consultation Day celebrations in Dili to spread the joy and friendship of song to Timorese towns and villages.
Popular Consultation Day is marked on August 30 to commemorate that day in 1999 when Timorese people took part in a referendum on independence from Indonesia — in the shadow of worsening violence from the Indonesian military and military-backed militias. Despite a campaign of terror, Timor Leste won its freedom.
In Dili, AUSC will perform with local choirs, artists and dance troupes to forge cultural bonds and friendships. The choir will connect with Dili and Timorese choirs, learn new songs to bring back, lead workshops and intensify contacts with one of Australia’s closest neighbours.
Over the past two decades, a number of choristers in the group have combined to participate in the Festivale de Coro tour to Cuba (twice), as well as union concerts in New Zealand and Britain.
Many of the singers taking part in the tour have learnt of and joined in the struggles of Timorese in Australia through the inclusion of Timor Leste independence songs into their repertoires. Groups from all over Australia, such as the Canberra Union Voices, Illawarra Union Singers, Newcastle People's Chorus, Melbourne's Victorian Trade Union Choir, Brisbane Combined Unions Choir, Grass Roots of Tasmania and Western Australian Working Voices have all been part of active support for Timor Leste’s independence.
The Timorese community also arranged for the Sydney-based Solidarity Choir to sing at Sydney Town Hall Square for Timorese representative Jose Ramos Horta in the 1990s. The choir has supported book launches and rallies with songs during the decade leading up to the referendum. It continues to sing for aid groups today.
Solidarity members have shared the highs of singing in solidarity with the Timorese people, and the sorrow of the tragedy of violent repression faced by the Timorese.
The choir is presently making links with groups established by Australian communities to develop sister city relationships giving advantage to Timor and its people in consultation with Abel Guterres, Timor Leste’s ambassador in Australia, and his staff. These groups include Friends of Dili, Friends of Maliana, Friends of Remeixo and Friends of Hato Builico
Current projects include:
A songbook to distribute to Timorese students and friends, with lyrics from songs of social justice and reconciliation in English, Tetum, Darug and Pacific languages. Similar songbooks have previously proved a hit on choir tours to non-English speaking countries.
Engaging expert Tetum translators in Australia and Dili to ensure the poetry of the song lyrics are captured in this songbook. It is hoped that these sensitive translations will foster cross-connection and closer relations with our Timorese neighbours.
Our visit has the twin aims of boosting tourism with Timor while building bridges to Australia for Timorese culture.
We are hopeful that our friends from progressive politics and social justice advocates may consider contributing to the modest expenses of our trip. Any and all donations would be very welcome.
Below are overviews of six new books for an ecosocialist bookshelf, compiled by Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus. They look at the Science for the People movement, health care under capitalism, the criminalising of poverty, Yemen in crisis, the origins of everything, and communism and democracy.
From 1969 to 1989, Science for the People mobilised US scientists, teachers, and students to practice a socially and economically just science, rather than one that served militarism and corporate profits.
This anthology of original documents from the most important radical science movement in US history offers vital contributions to today’s debates on science, justice, democracy, sustainability and political power.
In one of the richest countries on Earth, it is a crime to be poor. Peter Edelman, who famously resigned from the Bill Clinton administration over welfare “reform”, paints a shocking picture of a mean-spirited, retributive system that seals whole communities into inescapable cycles of poverty.
Fuelled by Arab and Western intervention, the civil war in Yemen has killed thousands and left millions close to starvation. Helen Lackner uncovers the roots of the social and political conflicts that threaten the very survival of the state and its people.
She reveals the corruption of the country’s US-backed autocratic regime, as well as its failure to address national impoverishment and to plan an equitable economy.
The Origins Of Everything in 100 Pages (More or Less)
By David Bercovici
Yale University Press, 2016
A concise, wryly intelligent history of everything, from the Big Bang to the advent of human civilisation. It makes connections between the essential theories that give us our current understanding of topics as varied as particle physics, plate tectonics, and photosynthesis.
Makin-Waite argues that the democratic and liberal counter-currents that have always existed within the communist movement have much to offer the left project today. He aims to recover some of the hard-won insights of the critical communist tradition, in the belief that they can still be of service to the 21st century left.
“This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change.”
With North America and Europe experiencing bitter cold snaps and heavy snowfall over the past winter, climate scientists have recorded an exceptionally warm season in the Arctic Circle. Researchers say there is a strong link between the climate crisis marked by the Arctic temperature rises and extreme winter weather events.
“This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change,” Judah Cohen, a climate scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, told the Guardian. “In the US, we had the ‘bomb cyclone’ in January, followed by July-like warm weather in February that I’d never seen before.
“And now we’ve had a parade of powerful winter storms ... It’s mind boggling.”
Cohen’s research was published by Nature Communications on March 13 just as the US east coast was hit by its third severe snowstorm in 10 days. CNN noted the study “found that major winter storms were two to four times more likely when the Arctic is abnormally warm, compared to when it was abnormally cold”.
The latest severe weather followed some of the longest-lasting warm weather ever recorded in the Arctic Circle in the month of February, with more than 60 hours of above-freezing temperatures logged.
Common Dreams reported that scientists had previously only observed the temperature climbing above freezing twice in February, both for short periods of time.
The new research suggests that the polar vortex has been disrupted by the warming of the globe. Warming temperatures have weakened the low pressure system’s flow, climate scientists say, causing it to drift southward from the polar region — and to bring cold Arctic air along with it.
Exploited farm workers and landless people are hungry, angry and ready to take land.
The South African parliament has voted for a motion to amend the constitution that will allow the government to expropriate private land without compensation. However, a true resolution of the land question must be in accordance with the needs of those who work and live off the land.
This means the destruction of all existing tribal and feudal relations in the rural areas — and the nationalisation of the land.
There is a general assumption that the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which moved the motion, is talking about white-owned private farms. But neither the ruling African National Congress (ANC) nor the EFF have said anything to clarify exactly which (if any) lands the government will expropriate.
Debates about land reform in South Africa predate its democracy. Market-oriented land reform policies have been tried since the end of Apartheid in the 1990s. But they have failed. The “willing buyer-willing seller” mechanism failed, as it did in Zimbabwe.
More than two decades after democratisation, the white minority still controls most of the country’s productive lands.
The expropriation without compensation option was always considered in South Africa, although with little resonance and little effect. Political and public debates over this “radical” measure, however, have gained prominence relatively recently.
Its new proponents — the EFF, as well as some other “left” forces and non-governmental organisations working on land and agrarian issues (that no one took seriously, until — apparently — very recently) have argued that buying “stolen” land from white owners is unjust, and a radical economic transformation is urgent.
The truth of the matter is that “white South Africans own over 72 percent of [the] total of 37 million hectares of farm and agricultural holdings by individual land owners”, according to the Land Audit. The Alternative Information and Development Centre says, “even the 13 percent of land for black Africans in the former homelands is effectively held by the state in ‘trust’, and controlled by state-paid kings and chiefs”.
White people also control other key economic sectors in the country. To give an example, only 3% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is Black-owned and the major banks are white-dominated, heavily tied into international banks, especially European banks.
This is how unequal the situation is, if we use race as a marker of the distribution of the means of production or economic productive resources.
When the unpopularity of controversial former president Jacob Zuma urged him to consider land expropriation without compensation when his political life was already uncertain early last year, many called this proposal political opportunism.
His successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, took up the issue in his State of the Nation Address, but it was the EFF that submitted the motion that was passed in parliament by an overwhelming majority of 241 votes (against 83).
But how realistic is expropriation without compensation in this current juncture in South Africa?
Some groups, such as the Inyanda National Land Movement, have already expressed support for the policy of land expropriation without compensation. According to Inyanda, “this is a decision that was long overdue”.
I have visited rural South Africa on a regular basis since 2009, for research and field visits. I have ranged as far as the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. I have interacted with farm workers, small-scale farmers, landless peasants, poor urban communities and some (white) commercial farmers — truth be told, it is not easy to get a white commercial farmer to talk to you.
Rural South Africa is a powder keg. Exploited farm workers and landless people are hungry, angry and ready to take land. The conditions for a “Zimbabwe-style” land reform have been created.
If amended, the constitution would just “constitutionalise” what would happen sooner or later. Land occupations and rural uprisings have happened on a small scale, right across the country, as well as in urban settings. They have focused on housing, livestock and farming.
Occupied land not only concerns the white farms: it includes municipally owned and common lands. Most of these occupations are repressed and the people evicted, but some have resisted and settled.
The mainstream media and academic scholarship have attached little relevance to this, but rural struggles for land and dignity are mushrooming everywhere in South Africa.
Rural grievances, land and agrarian questions in South Africa are indeed complex. The assumption that “all Blacks want (farm) land” and “all whites own — or are benefitting from — land” is very simplistic. It highlights “race” over “class” in this complexity.
The agrarian structure and rural conflicts are not solely between white (commercial) farmers and black (landless) peasants and farm workers. It is between commercial farmers themselves, between Black indigenous people themselves and with their traditional chiefs, and between all of the above with the state (municipalities and central government).
Simplifying the land and agrarian conflicts to Blacks and whites (colonialists and colonisers) is a misleading approach. Customary lands are as contentious as private farmlands. Municipalities governed by the ANC are as problematic in the way they have managed and addressed land reform as those governed by the Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties.
Based on my discussions with different people, there is no homogenous voice about how people see the vote among either the landless (Blacks) or the landed (white) elite.
I have heard Black small-scale famers saying that if not followed up, “this move will be troubling”. I have seen white landowners laughing at me when I asked about land expropriation — not taking it seriously — as well as commercial farmers saying “let them try and come to my land. I will shoot them to death.”
But I have also heard both Black and white people opining that land redistribution is the needed measure to solve historical injustice and inequality.
Urgently needed debate
South Africans urgently need a national land debate that is extended to all segments of society to continue the process of rural and agrarian democratisation.
Such a debate must capture as many voices as possible to build a popular national land reform program. This needs to go beyond replacing white capitalist land owners with black capitalist land owners, while also addressing racial discrepancies.
A resolution of the land question must, however, be in accordance with the needs of those who work and live off the land. This means the destruction of all existing tribal and feudal relations in the rural areas and the nationalisation of the land.
A new division of the land and its management must be undertaken by committees that are democratically elected and answerable to the people.
[Slightly abridged from Pambazuka. Boaventura Monjane is a Mozambican social activist and researcher, whose work focuses on land and agrarian questions, looking at peasant and rural agency in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.]
A refugee rally in Sydney in 2017. Photo Zebedee Parkes
There is a global refugee crisis. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported last year that there are at least 22.5 million people seeking asylum across state borders and tens of millions more have been internally displaced.
The numbers are growing as more people become displaced due to conflict and environmental disasters.
In response, from New York to Berlin to Sydney, leading political parties are building walls, figuratively and literally, instead of coming up with humane solutions.
In the United States, President Donald Trump is pressing ahead with his wall; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is gaining more power as it ramps up deportations; and the UNHCR resettlement quota has been significantly slashed.
In Europe there are mass deportations of people from Greece to Turkey’s border; volunteers have been charged with people smuggling for rescuing drowning refugees; and there has been huge investment in barbed wire fences, border security personnel and armadas in the Mediterranean Sea.
In Australia the well documented cruelty on Manus Island and Nauru worsens as the government continues to enforce its boat turnback policy.
Worldwide, we need to change the dialogue away from the militaristic rhetoric of border protection towards a humane dialogue that looks for solutions to the refugee crisis.
Bring Them Here
In Australia this starts with Bring Them Here.
Many of the men on Manus Island are saying they no longer want to come to Australia — they just want Australia to let them go. In practice this could mean New Zealand could give safety to some of the men, as has been offered.
The refugee movement needs to listen to the voices of those on Manus Island. However, to win their demand to be let go, we still need to advocate for Bring Them Here, as that goes to the heart of Australia’s refugee policy.
As long as there is a political advantage to be gained by holding people hostage on Manus Island and Nauru, the government will do it. The government was happy to reject New Zealand’s offer and only let a slow trickle of people gain asylum in the US.
Detaining asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru has never been about stopping boats. Boats continued to arrive after Kevin Rudd’s 2013 policy of no resettlement in Australia. It was boat turnbacks that “stopped” the boats. If the government had wanted to save lives at sea, it would have provided safe pathways for people to seek asylum.
To Bring Them Here would be a first step in changing Australia’s refugee policy from the rhetoric and fear about people seeking asylum on boats, to one of welcoming refugees. This needs to be swiftly followed by abolishing the policy of mandatory detention that was legislated in 1992 under the Paul Keating Labor government.
Repeal the laws
The next step is for Australia to repeal the law that prevents asylum seekers who apply for refugee status in Indonesia from seeking asylum in Australia.
Many refugees living in Indonesia struggle to survive. Many live in detention centres or sleep on the streets with only the rights of second-class citizens. The UNHCR has told them they have a less than 1% chance of ever being given asylum. Many feel they are the “forgotten refugees”. They need support and solidarity from the refugee movement in Australia.
Practical measures Australia can implement include safe pathways, fast processing of claims and migrant hostels with medical support for people to stay in when they first arrive. Australia, as one of the richest countries in the region, needs to help Indonesia fund this, instead of funding detention centres there, as it is currently doing.
If people can reach Australia safely, they will not embark on dangerous boat voyages. Contrary to the view spouted by politicians and tabloid media, this will not lead to Australia being flooded with people seeking safety. In the past few decades, the highest number of people seeking asylum in Australia by boat was 25–30,000 in one year.
The majority of people seeking asylum come to Australia as a last resort when all other options have failed. Most people do not want to leave their home country and families for a life of uncertainty, and many will stay in neighbouring countries hoping they can return.
End the conflicts
The third step is to stop the wars and conflicts that make people flee their homes and seek asylum. Australia, the US and European countries that lock out refugees are often behind the conflicts people are fleeing — from conducting drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to supporting the multi-billion-dollar arms trade and backing repressive regimes in countries that are rich with resources such as oil and rare metals.
Helping countries adapt to environmental disasters and deal with extreme poverty will go a long way toward dealing with the global refugee crisis. Offering aid, not bombs, would be more beneficial than providing these countries with the means to stop refugees leaving, as Australia has by giving Sri Lanka armed patrol boats.
Another step is to support the rights of migrant and Third World workers. In the US the threat of deportation is used to force undocumented Latino workers to work with fewer rights and less capacity to organise. Similar attacks on workers’ rights exist in Australia, where migrants are given work visas with specific requirements and restrictions — often leading to people working unpaid overtime in unsafe conditions.
Governments and corporations use walls to divide workers to force working conditions down. Supporting migrant and Third World workers is a key step in smashing these walls.
There are many other solutions put forward by the UN, NGOs and academics that deal with the complexities of a future where tens of millions of people will be forced to seek asylum.
We can draw inspiration from the fact that in Afrin, currently under attack by Turkey, refugees have been welcomed and given equal rights and access to vital services in the harshest of conditions.
To enact an alternative is a political question — not one of resources. The billions spent each year on border security across the world could fund many of the solutions put forward. It is a question of whether you give someone seeking safety the hand of welcome or put up barbed wire fences.
The beginnings of this alternative can be found on university campuses in the US, where students are offering sanctuary to their fellow students who are at risk of deportation. It can be found in households across Europe, where people are offering food and shelter to Syrian refugees in spite of their government building walls. It can be found in Australia in the rural community of Biloela, where locals are rallying to stop the deportation of their Tamil neighbours.
It can be found in cities and countries across Australia at this year’s Palm Sunday rally. It will be built in the work we do in our communities after the rally to welcome refugees.
It is expected that 100,000 hectares of native forest will be re-zoned for clear felling.
Federal and state governments are about to renew Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) to prolong industrial logging across 2 million hectares of New South Wales native forests. It is expected that an additional 100,000 hectares of native forest will be re-zoned for clear felling.
RFA renewals and burning native forests for energy is will mean the end of native forests.
The past 20 years of industrial logging has put the Mountain Ash forests in Victoria on the brink of ecological collapse, while the South and North Coast forests of NSW have changed from biodiverse habitat to what locals call “stick forests”.
The concept of catchment protection has been violated, heavy machinery is going to within five metres of the most remote drainage lines and soil erosion is rife. There is a loss of hollows across the forests as fewer than only five habitat trees per hectare are required to be retained. The forests’ capacity to sequester and store carbon is being destroyed.
The NSW government held six small public information sessions in February, but none are planned for Sydney. If this agreement is signed, industrial logging of threatened species habitat and catchments will be entrenched for two more decades. There will be no end date due to self-renewing contracts and the clauses that remove third party rights to legally contest impact will be retained.
The final insult is allowing the burning of wood from native forests as “renewable energy” and exporting timber for the international wood biomass trade.
In 2015 the federal government declared burning biomass from native forests in power stations is “carbon neutral”. Threatened species’ forest habitat is trucked from the NSW north coast and burnt with coal at Vales Point power station. Three forest furnaces are mooted by the Department of Primary Industries for the north coast.
Whole logs are sent to Shanghai in containers as Asia gears up to join the international wood biomass burning scam that pretends burning wood instead of coal is a clean energy substitute.
If the RFAs are renewed we can say goodbye to our carbon sink, one of the best in the world. Intact south-east Australian eucalypt forests can store more carbon per hectare than equatorial rainforests.
We can only mourn our creatures, as Australia is already a world leader in mammal extinction. Our forest-dependent marsupials, owls, a plethora of reptiles, amphibians, birds and invertebrates will simply have no habitat. We will lose soil, the hydrological function of forests and a place to just “be”.
[Join the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance contingent to protest against the destruction of NSW native forests at the Time2Choose rally in Sydney on March 24. RFA renewals and burning native forests for energy is will mean the end for native forests. For details see the Facebook event.]
The tortuerer and the war-monger: Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo.
Human rights advocates expressed outrage on March 13 after US President Donald Trump nominated deputy director Gina Haspel to be the next CIA director — despite her leading role in running a CIA black site where detainees were systematically and gruesomely abused, writes Jessica Corbett for Common Dreams.
Haspel has been slated to replace current CIA director Mike Pompeo. Trump has tapped Pompeo to replace just-sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Maya Foa, director of the London-based Reprieve, said: “Haspel was one of President Bush’s torturers-in-chief and she is simply not fit to hold an office that requires, at its very heart, a commitment to uphold the values of the Constitution.
“This is another example of Donald Trump’s backward-looking reliance on people and methods that have failed.”
A profile published by the New Yorker last year, after Trump appointed her as deputy director, detailed how, in the early 2000s, “Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret CIA program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats”.
In Thailand, Haspel oversaw the “brutal interrogations” of at least two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. “Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls, and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide,” the New York Times reported.
A ProPublica investigation published last year detailed how Haspel “was more deeply involved in the torture of Abu Zubaydah than has been publicly understood, according to newly available records and accounts by participants”.
In one exchange described in a book written by an interrogator, Haspel accused Zubaydah of “faking symptoms of physical distress and psychological breakdown,” and supposedly said to him: “Good job! I like the way you’re drooling; it adds realism. I’m almost buying it. You wouldn’t think a grown man would do that.”
Haspel also played a role in the destruction of video evidence that depicted US agents torturing detainees at the CIA’s secret prisons. In 2005, the NYT notes, “Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders”.
“The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as ‘obstruction’ by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane,” Glenn Greenwald pointed out at The Intercept.
Greenwald did not express surprise at Haspel’s appointment, instead pointed out that “this isn’t a radical departure for CIA”, considering the agency’s pro-torture history.
Last year, the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a legal intervention with German authorities, hoping to obtain an arrest warrant for Haspel. This was based on her role in facilitating and trying to conceal torture at CIA black sites.
To officially take over the agency, Haspel will need to undergo a confirmation hearing with the US Senate, where she’ll likely face some tough questions.
At the same time, John Queally at Common Dreams that picking Popmeo to be the new Secretary of State was condemned by critics as a "recipe for war".
Of all the reasons to be concerned about Trump’s nomination of the outgoing CIA director, experts on March 13 warn that a higher risk of a US-initiated war with Iran should be top of the list.
In reaction to Pompeo’s nomination, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) said Trump’s nomination of Pompeo “could have profound implications for the fate of the Iran nuclear deal and the prospect of a new war in the Middle East.”
Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, also expressed grave concerns. “By tapping Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State,” said Rainwater, “Trump is handing over the reigns of US diplomacy to one of the most hawkish members of his administration.
“For all of Tillerson’s flaws, he served as a check on Trump’s more hawkish positions. With Pompeo, Trump’s worst instincts on Iran and North Korea will be reinforced.”
In November 2016, CNBC noted, Pompeo warned that the Iranian government was “intent of destroying America”, characterised the nuclear deal forged by the Obama administration as “disastrous”, and said he was looking forward to “rolling back” the agreement.
At a time when Trump has repeatedly threatened to rip up or nullify the deal, Rainater said Pompeo’s “extreme policy views threaten to gut US diplomatic capacity further by making war the go-to option rather than a last resort”.
Given that Pompeo has suggested military strikes would be more effective than diplomacy in relation to Iran, NIAC said there were “serious questions about his fitness to serve as America's top diplomat”.
NIAC president Trita Parsi said appointing Pompeo as head of the State Department was “a recipe for war”.
Trump explicitly cited Pompeo’s thinking on Iran when he was asked by reporters on March 13 about Tillerson’s ouster.
“We disagreed on things,” Trump said of the outgoing Secretary of State. Trump said he thought the Iran deal was “terrible”, but that Tillerson thought it “was okay”.
Trump added: “With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.”
For those concerned about Pompeo’s aggressive and hawkish positions, however, it’s not at all clear the results will be anywhere near very well.
“Unfortunately,” NIAC warned in its response, “the net effect of Pompeo at State may not just be the further isolation of America and ... it may result in a dramatic escalation of tensions in the Middle East and a war with Iran.”
In February, Labor and Greens voted in the Senate to block the government’s proposed changes to the Northern Basin Plan, which would have reduced the amount of water being returned to the environment in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, from 390 gigalitres to 320 gigalitres — a 70-gigalitre decrease.
"There is no way we're going to take more water off the river just to give it to those who have already been too greedy by far," she told the Senate.
Labor's Penny Wong said the party could not support the plan being "wrecked" by the Government.
"We want the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to survive. It is the plan we delivered in government," she said. "But we cannot agree to reducing the volume of water without the proper assurances that the basin will remain healthy."
The Victorian Labor government and the New South Wales Coalition government had both previously threatened to pull out of the plan altogether if the Coalition's changes were blocked.
NSW water minister Niall Blair immediately announced NSW would withdraw completely from the Basin Plan. Victorian water minister Neville slammed the Senate decision, saying it's a "slap in the face" for both irrigating communities and the environment, but she stopped short of pulling out of the plan altogether.
Neville has proposed introducing Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects that she says will use water given to the environment more efficiently, leaving more water in the system for industry and communities to use. But these projects are unproven and have been shown to be a risk to the environment.
In May, another critical disallowance motion will decide whether 605 gigalitres can be stripped from the water recovery target in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin.
Rally organiser Jacquie Kelly of Friends of Nyah Vinifera Forest said: “The Murray-Darling Basin Plan took a decade to negotiate. It must be delivered in full and on time.
“Healthy rivers and waterways are vital assets that support a booming tourism sector, recreation and community wellbeing. Cutting targets that deliver real water for our environment will hurt Basin communities in the long term.
“We are demanding the Murray-Darling rivers and wetlands are not sacrificed for the political gain of the government. We want to let the Premier know he must listen to the people.”
Woorinen stone fruit irrigator Peta Thornton said: “Not all irrigators want a watered down plan. Water from our precious rivers has been over-allocated. It’s as simple as that. Minister Neville’s disappointing and short sighted approach will rob future generations of a lovely life on the river.
“The situation with our rivers is a crisis of monumental proportions with the Darling River ceasing to flow and every day a new report of mismanagement, rorting and corruption.”
Wati Wati Traditional Owner Cain Chaplin from Swan Hill said: “The river is like the blood to veins. We are one with the land as well as the water. So without water our culture will no longer survive.”
Friends of the Earth River Country spokesperson Morgana Russell said: “Eight years ago Victorian Labor declared over 200,000ha of River Red Gum National Parks and Reserves, a magnificent legacy. Now it seems they are undermining their own achievement by denying these unique forests and wetlands the regular flooding needed for their survival.
“We are protesting in solidarity with the river community voices that are calling out for a healthy river: with farmers, Traditional Owners, towns people, conservationists and those who recreate on the river.”
Northcote rallies for refugees on March 10. Photo: Julian Andrewartha
More than 100 people marched in Northcote on March 10 in support of refugee rights. The rally was called by the Refugee Action Collective to focus attention on refugees in the context of the Batman by-election.
Aziz Muhammad, who has been imprisoned on Manus Island for 5 years, spoke to the rally via skype. He spoke of the “terrible” conditions on Manus Island. The three camps where refugees are living are overcrowded. There is no proper medical care. Mental health is deteriorating, as people see no hope. Refugees have been badly beaten by local people.
Aziz called on Labor politicians to join with the Greens to fix the “mess” that they helped to create.
Aran Mylvaganam, a Tamil refugee now working as a Finance Sector Union organiser, said the government, with Labor’s support, is sending people back to countries such as Sri Lanka where they face the likelihood of torture and death.
Santharuban, a Tamil refugee recently sent back to Sri Lanka, has been harassed by Military Intelligence. “We fear for his life”, Mylvaganam said.
He reported that about 1300 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka have had their cases rejected and face deportation. In the early morning of March 5, police raided the Queensland home of a couple with two young children and took them to the Broadmeadows detention centre in Victoria in preparation for deportation. Mylvaganam described this as “state-sponsored terror” and called on unions to take up the case.
Linda King from Grandmothers Against Detention said 150 children are detained on Nauru. There are also several pregnant women there. Nauru lacks adequate medical care.
David Johns, who worked as a teacher on Manus Island for four years, spoke of the widespread mental illness there due to lack of hope.
Shawfikul Islam, a Rohingya refugee and National Union of Workers organiser, said there are more than one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who fled genocide in Myanmar. The Australian government remains silent and maintains military ties with Myanmar. It also keeps hundreds of Rohingya in prison on Manus Island and Nauru.
Alex Bhathal, the Greens candidate for Batman, said that if elected she would vote to end mandatory detention.
Rally co-chair Liam Ward told the rally Labor candidate Ged Kearney had been invited to speak, but had not responded. He said she had a record of speaking out for refugees in the past, but has “gone quiet” since being preselected.