Monday, January 31, 2011

Perth solidarity with protest movement in Egypt

The Egyptian community in Perth is organising a protest for this coming Saturday 5 February. All supporters of democracy and justice are encouraged to attend and support this event.

11am, Sat 5 February
Wesley Church Corner (cnr William & Hay Sts, Perth)

Attend on Facebook:

Meanwhile, check out this report (including photos and video) of a similar protest in Sydney last Sunday and this listing of similar events planned around the country.

And for amusement and edification, check out this YouTube video translation of a US State Department presentation on recent developments:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Video report from WikiLeaks rally

This video report from the DHKchannel is from the WikiLeaks rally on Sat 29 January. It can be viewed on YouTube here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world

Statement by the Socialist Alliance January 29, 2011

The Socialist Alliance applauds the courage and tenacity of the Tunisian people, whose protests for democracy and economic and social justice, now in their second month, have ended the 23-year rule of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The Tunisian revolution has inspired ordinary people across the Arab world and protests have broken out in Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and, most dramatically, against the United States-backed dictatorship in Egypt.

The overthrow of Ben Ali was achieved by the Tunisian people without any outside help. The regime, on the other side, was supported by the Western powers, in particular France and the United States, right until the moment Ben Ali fled to refuge with the West’s closest ally in the Arab world, the Saudi monarchy.

In Egypt, hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets standing up to the violence of the security forces of Hosni Mubarak, dictator since 1981. While more than 40 million Egyptians live on less than $2 per day and more than 1 million children live on the street, the people are denied free elections and a legal parliament, and suffer severe repression for any expression of dissent.

The tragedy of Iraq has demonstrated the falsehood of Western claims that its interference in the region is to bring about democratic regime change. The people of Tunisia and Egypt are showing where genuinely democratic regime change will come from — the people themselves.

The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are not just against a Western-backed dictator. They are against an unjust global economic system based on the plunder of the human and natural resources of poor countries by Western corporations. The policies of multinational institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, faithfully implemented by Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, create poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity for ordinary people.

On December 17, the twin evils of poverty and dictatorship in Tunisia became too much for Mohammed Bouazizi when he suffered police brutality and the confiscation of the fruit cart from which he eked out a living — a marginal living typical of the young, rural people who are the majority of Tunisians. His desperate response, burning himself to death in front of local government offices, catalysed a revolution.

After Ben Ali fled, Tunisians took out their anger on the mansions of his corrupt cronies and relatives. Tunisian workers, in enterprises from banks and insurance companies to airlines and the media, have literally thrown out managers who were close to the regime and taken over the enterprises themselves.

While the dictator has gone, the interim government is largely comprised of ministers who served under Ben Ali. The Tunisian people are now calling for the resignation of all ministers associated with the previous regime. In provincial towns, the regime has been challenged by the establishment of democratic councils based on participatory mass meetings.

Western leaders, while pretending since their dictator fled to be in favour of democracy in Tunisia, have demanded that the current interim government remain to oversee the transition to democracy. The Socialist Alliance expresses its full solidarity with the Tunisian people’s demands for a new, representative government.

The Socialist Alliance calls for:
• No Western interference in Tunisia. The Tunisian people have shown that it is they, and not the Western empires, who know what democracy means.

• The West to stop propping up the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, the second largest recipient of US military aid in world (after Israel).

• An end to the ongoing Western military occupation of Iraq, and other Western military interference in the Arab world and the neighbouring region, including the occupation of Afghanistan and covert operations in Yemen and Somalia.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The dynamics of social transformation in Bolivia

Public forum with Fred Fuentes

Bolivia is the site of the first indigenous revolution of the 21st century. It was also the only country to reject the dodgy climate deal at Cancun. This forum will discuss hte latest developments.

6:30pm Monday 31 January
Perth Activist Centre
15/5 Aberdeen St, East Perth (next to McIver station)

Ph 9218 9608, 0413 976 638

About the guest speaker:
Fred Fuentes was a long time Caracas-based Green Left Weekly correspondent covering the progressive developments in Latin America. He has paid special attention to the unfolding developments in Bolivia and is editor of His articles on the revolutionary movements in Latin America are widely respected throughout the world.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No excuse for 'Stop and Search' laws during CHOGM

Alex Bainbridge at Stop Bush
protest Sydney 2007
Reports that the state government is planning to bring in "Stop and Search" laws for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this year should be of concern to all Western Australians.

Even more worrying (albeit unsurprising) is that the ALP has dropped its lukewarm opposition to the laws, at least for the duration of the summit. (I say that the ALP's opposition to the laws was lukewarm because they typically spoke out against the "scope" and the "untargetted" nature of the laws rather than the fundamental attack on civil liberties that they represented.)

These laws have already been rejected by the state upper house and the CHOGM summit is no excuse to bring them in by the back door.

The Law Society's Hylton Quail is correct to point out that police already have extensive powers to stop and search and that CHOGM is no justification for removing the requirement for reasonable suspicion before police make a search.

Labor frontbencher Margaret Quirk's explanation that the opposition will support Stop and Search laws as a one-off as long as they are similar to NSW Labor's police powers laws for the APEC summit in 2007 ignores two important points about the NSW laws:

Firstly, those laws were extremely draconian and unnecessary. They led to a number of abuses of police powers around the time of the APEC summit. Those laws were one part of an intimidation campaign specifically designed to deter people from exercising their legitimate right to protest.

Secondly, the supposedly 'one-off' APEC laws were resurrected and repackaged for the Pope's visit to Sydney in 2008 proving that there is no such thing as a 'one-off' suspension of civil rights. These latter laws were challenged in the federal court and overturned in part. This demonstrated that the state government crafted the laws without regard for civil liberties and democratic rights.

It is for both of these reasons that we should oppose police minister Rob Johnson's latest move: both because they are likely to intimidate people from exercising their right to protest at CHOGM and also because if the government gets away with using them this time, they'll try to bring them back in other circumstances as well.

By Alex Bainbridge
Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor

EPA decision delayed on Margaret River coal mine

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has delayed its decision on the controversial new coalmine proposed for Margaret River in Western Australia.

The EPA decision was expected early January. Yet it has chosen to give the mining company LD Operations more time to provide more information. The EPA chairperson is now expected to make a decision at the end of February.

This has angered Margaret River residents campaigning against the mine. Many residents feel that the proposal to mine for coal 15 kilometres from Margaret River is so destructive that this alone is enough to declare the proposal unacceptable.

Some locals are also angry the mining company has been given more time, when residents were allowed only one week to send in their submissions. In that week, more than 750 submissions were made.

The EPA’s system was unable to cope with this unexpected number of submissions, and so the submissions period was extended an extra week.
Many of the submissions detail farmers’ concerns with the coalmine’s effect on the water supply. One submission said:

“We are also aware that by its nature coal mining in particular, even underground, is a dirty, effluent producing, toxic enterprise that uses an enormous amount of water during extraction and cleaning. Once established, such projects seem to morph into the only business in town.

“Such a business is not compatible with the existing local businesses of agriculture, viticulture and tourism, and where it co-exists in other parts of this country it does not do so happily.”

The campaign against the coalmine is still going strong. Margaret River artists and school children recently painted a long mural along the main street of the town, emblazoned with the slogan “Margaret River: Too Beautiful to Undermine”.
The mural is made up of 29 panels and features images of the natural beauty of Margaret River, valued by residents and tourists. It also has information about the proposed coalmine.

The campaign group NO COAL!tion is planning a fundraiser for March 5 at the Xanadu Winery. For details email

[By Farida Iqbal, 23 January 2011. First published in Green Left Weekly.]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Charges laid over death of Mr Ward

Three years after Aboriginal elder Mr Ward was cooked to death in the back of a prison van, charges have finally been laid against the four parties found responsible by coroner Alistair Hope.

The charges have been laid by government workplace safety agency WorkSafe under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

A January 19 WorkSafe media statement explains that the agency had ``considered that a police investigation was more appropriate than a WorkSafe investigation because the charges and penalties available under their legislation were stronger and more appropriate’’.

However, when in June 2010 the Director of Public Prosecutions made the controversial announcement that criminal charges would not be laid, WorkSafe began an investigation.

The result is the decision to prosecute the WA Department of Corrective Services, the government contractor G4S (formerly GSL) and the two drivers of the prison van.

The decision to lay charges has been welcomed by the family of Mr Ward and by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee. Watch Committee chairperson Marianne Mackay told Green Left Weekly that WorkSafe should be congratulated ``for actually doing something to achieve justice’’.

She also called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to release the evidence ``which led to his decision in not laying charges’’.

``We as the public deserve to know why he made the decision not to lay charges.’’

The WorkSafe prosecutions were also welcomed by the Aboriginal Legal Service, the WA Greens, Socialist Alliance and the Labor Party (which was in government at the time of Mr Ward’s death).

Denis Eggington from the Aboriginal Legal Service also criticised the Department of Public Prosecutions for not laying charges itself.

``It was our advice - and I know from others - that we thought that there was enough evidence for criminal negligence [charges] and it should have been the DPP and the police prosecuting.’’

Nevertheless, he said ``it's taken three years but we do welcome the end result’’.

In welcoming the charges, Socialist Alliance spokesperson Sanna Andrew told Green Left that ``heartfelt congratulations should be extended to the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee for tirelessly campaigning for justice on this issue – we may never have gotten to this point had it not been for the ongoing efforts by Watch Committee activists’’.

The Corrective Services Commissioner Ian Johnson responded to the laying charges by saying that there had been a ``complete overhaul of the transportation of prisoners’’ since Mr Ward’s death.

In response, Deputy Chair of the DICWC Marc Newhouse told Green Left Weekly that it is impossible to verify Johnson’s claims because they refuse to release details of their compliance with the coroner’s recommendations.

Newhouse pointed out that there were two investigations into prisoner transportation in the ten years before Mr Ward’s death and that if the department had implemented the changes recommended in those investigations, Mr Ward’s death would not have happened.

He also criticised the ongoing reliance on privatised prisoner transport services by the WA government which he said had a worse safety record than publicly run services.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge was submitted to Green Left Weekly.]

Socialists critise 'barring orders'

State government changes to the Liquor Control Act which came into effect this month have been criticised by the Socialist Alliance as an infringement of civil liberties.

In particular, the Alliance has spoken out against the decision to allow police the power to issue `barring orders’ which ban an individual from licensed premises without a criminal conviction.

``Giving police the power to issue barring orders to patrons of licensed premises is tantamount to dishing out punishment before a person has been found guilty,’’ said Alliance spokesperson Alex Bainbridge.

The changes have been justified with the argument that they will be targeted at people who are violent or disorderly on licensed premises and that existing prohibition orders can be too difficult to secure.

However, according to Bainbridge, ``violence and offensive behaviour is already illegal and publicans and police already have significant powers at their disposal to deal with these problems’’.

``As we've seen in other instances, there are dangers that Aboriginal people, young people and poor people could be unfairly and disproportionately targeted by police with these powers.’’

``Further, there is the danger that these police powers in licensed premises could become the 'thin edge of the wedge' if the state government decided to extend these powers to other situations.’’

[Written by Kamala Emanuel for Green Left Weekly.]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Global Financial Crisis: Presentation by Barry Healy

Socialist Alliance member Barry Healy presenting on the topic of the Global Financial Crisis in October 2010.