Tuesday, January 31, 2012

McGowan marks WA Labor shift to the right

Mark McGowan stepped into the leadership of the Western Australia Labor Party on January 23 promising to support uranium mining in WA and deregulation of shopping hours. Together, these decisions signal a significant shift to the right by WA Labor.

Previous leader Eric Ripper had promised that an incoming ALP government would close down any uranium mining in the state, even if the current Liberal government has granted full approvals.

That position was at odds with national Labor’s pro-uranium policy, but is popular in WA.

McGowan has promised to refuse new applications for uranium mining permits but to support existing uranium projects, including those that have final state approvals but are not yet in production.

WA Labor’s previous anti-uranium policy was discussed at its state conference in June last year and received overwhelming support from delegates.

On assuming leadership, McGowan did not even move a formal policy change motion in the Labor caucus, let alone bother to consult ALP members. Instead, he simply declared that he would accept the leadership only on the basis of changing the party’s policy on uranium and trading hours.

“There is no good reason to support uranium mining or any other part of the nuclear cycle,” Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor and Fremantle City Councillor Sam Wainwright told Green Left Weekly.

“Uranium mining represents a safety risk for mine workers and is inseparably linked to radioactive waste and nuclear weapons.

“When a transition to 100% renewable energy is possible, as it is, then the dangerous nuclear option should be shunned by all civilised people.”

The Greens criticised McGowan’s announcement, saying it was a betrayal of Labor voters and environmental principles.

“McGowan has spoken of providing certainty to the industry,” federal Greens senator Scott Ludlam said on January 23. “It is far better to let the nuclear industry know it is certain they have no future in Western Australia.”

The big retail corporations and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry have pushed strongly for the deregulation of shopping hours, the very same outfits that keep clamouring for the abolition of weekend and evening shift rates in the sector.

McGowan has made his support for deregulation contingent on retail workers having the right to refuse to work weekends. Such a condition would be very difficult to enforce. Clearly the best way to defend the rights of retail workers is through maintaining penalty rates and minimum shift durations.

In WA, a referendum to deregulate shopping hours was defeated in 2005. Unless a government can show community attitudes have changed, the previous referendum result should stand.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge was first published in Green Left Weekly #908.]

Monday, January 30, 2012

More from Leonora Refugee Rights Convergence

Day one of the Leonora Refugee Rights convergence was reported on this site and with updates at Green Left.

See below some more pictures and videos from the weekend, including the inspiring Saturday night protest when activists climbed the back fence and made direct contact with the very appreciative refugees inside.

Also shown on the left is the "not in our name" banner featuring names of supporters who were not able to make the trip out to Leonora this time.

Video from Saturday night protest by Zeb Parkes

A second video about Leonora Convergence by Zeb Parkes

Video snippet from final day

Pictures from Saturday night protest

Media release by Refugee Rights Action Network

Refugee Protesters find long-term detention kids at remote Leonora Detention Centre

Around 40 refugee supporters from the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) travelling to Leonora this weekend have been shocked to discover children who have been in detention for over a year when they visited the remote Western Australian detention centre.

Around 140 unaccompanied minors have been moved in recent weeks from Christmas Island and Darwin to the detention centre. The RRAN activists have called for the immediate release of the children from detention.

“We were told that children and families were going to be out of detention by the end of June last year, but Leonora is proof positive that even six months later, the government has not lived up to the promise of getting children out of detention. It’s a scandal”, said RRAN spokesperson Victoria Martin-Iverson.

“These kids are not recent arrivals. A majority of the 40 kids we managed to see have been in detention over a year. Yet, they are either still waiting for their second interview or have just had their appeal hearing. One seventeen year-old Hazara asylum seeker has been in detention for two years and only had his second interview this week! How is that possible?

“We were shocked to find that Serco guards referred to them by number. How dehumanising is that? One guard came is asking ‘Is 176 in here?” Another introduced a young Mohammed as, “Here is 428; he speaks good English.” Perhaps more shocking – some of these kids have signs of self harm on their bodies.

“We have serious concerns. They are not going to school; teachers are meant to be coming into the detention centre – but even that hasn’t happened yet, six weeks after they have arrived here.”

“We eat, we sleep; we eat, we sleep. We are very tired,” one Hazara told the Perth visitors.

“We were told in town that the no asylum kid has been to the library since the families were moved out of Leonora,” said Victoria.

“We are also concerned that there seems to be a large number of untrained MSS guards at Leonora, and that we saw them with direct client contact responsibilities with the children in detention. We thought that having untrained guards in such contact is in direct conflict with guidelines for children in detention. There is a serious question whether Serco or the Immigration Department is breaching its duty of care by using untrained guards.”

The RRAN cavalcade will be leaving Leonora around Sunday lunchtime (29 Jan) to make the return journey to Perth.

For more information/ interview contact Victoria Martin-Iverson 0417 904 329.

[RRAN media release republished from here.]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Serco lies again - day one at Leonora

Almost 40 refugee activists travelled the twelve hour journey from Perth to Leonora to visit refugees and protest mandatory detention at the Leonora Detention Centre on the ``Australia Day'' weekend.

Prior to departure, activists were informed that their booking at the local caravan park had been cancelled because the proprietors didn't want to lose business from their Serco and Immigration Department clients. That decision would have been in violation of the anti-discrimination act.

Instead, activists camped at a town oval with support of the local shire.

Upon arrival at the Detention Centre gates, an advance delegation was informed that the detention centre administrators had held a ``community'' meeting of the 140 unaccompanied minors in the centre. According to representatives of Serco – the private company that runs the prison – there was not one single refugee inside who was interested in meeting with the refugee activists.

This was despite activists bringing MP3 players and art supplies as gifts.

As soon as the main body of activists arrived at the gate and Serco management reiterated that no visits would be facilitated, chants of “free the refugees'' and ``Freedom, Azadi'' attracted a lot of interest from the refugees inside.

They came and waved at protesters from behind fences in the distance. They explicitly indicated that they wanted to see the visiting activists.

Serco guards tried unsuccessfully to drive the refugees back from the internal fence. When that failed, they arranged for a large bus to be driven and parked between activists and one of the groups of refugees. Other vehicles were already stationed in front of the second group of young detainees.

Protesters outside wrote a letter to the refugees explaining that they support refugees and oppose mandatory detention. Despite being explicitly told that Serco would allow a letter to be delivered, police and centre security initially refused to pass the letter on. A sympathetic staff member (who was not a security guard) helped make sure the letter was delivered.

The refugees responded by sending out a balloon with the messages ``go, go, go'' and ``happy Australia Day''.

By the end of the day, Serco management could no longer maintain the fiction that the refugees did not want to speak to the activists and agreed to facilitate visits the next day.

Organisers from the Refugee Rights Action Network have a lot of experience visiting refugees in detention and organising convergences. They regard it as routine that Serco regularly puts in place petty obstructions and outright lies to try to prevent activists from communicating with refugees unfairly held in refugee prisons.

This is all part of the policy of isolating refugees in detention from the broader community. For instance, while Serco considers clinical depression and hunger strikes of less than 24 hours to be ``minor'' incidents, unauthorised access by journalists to detention centres is considered to be a ``major'' issue.

Video snippet from day one

Photos below by Zeb Parkes

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Help launch the Fremantle Activist Centre

We're writing to invite you to come along to the opening of the new Fremantle Activist Centre.

Like the Perth Activist Centre, the new Fremantle Centre promises to be a valuable asset for both the socialist and broader progressive movements.

We'd love you to drop in for a few drinks and nibbles to help celebrate the big day:

Saturday 4 February
5-6:30pm, Fremantle Activist Centre
5 / 195 High Street Fremantle

Attend on Facebook.

Watch a video introducing the new centre here or here.

P.S. It costs money to establish a centre like this one. If you're able to contribute to the running costs we'd much appreciate it. Find out here how you can help.

Map to Fremantle Activist Centre:

View Larger Map

Friday, January 20, 2012

Perth Voice reports Free Speech fight

The Perth Voice has reported on the campaign by activist groups to defend free speech rights in the Murray St Mall and other parts of Perth City under the headline: "See you in court".

The issue involves opposition to the $625 worth of fines the Perth City Council is trying to impose over their unsuccessful attempt to close down the speak-out in support of Bradley Manning in December.

Socialist Alliance member Alex Bainbridge explained to the Voice that if the council took measures that, in practice, prevent campaign groups from setting up tables and speaking out on important social issues, then that is a violation of free speech rights.

The Council CEO, Frank Edwards, told the paper that it cost $140 per day to set up an authorised stall in the Murray Street Mall on top of a $60 application fee. Edwards confirmed that the application fee is non-refundable (that is, even if the application is denied). However said that council officers tried to give groups an idea about whether or not an application would be successful prior to the application being made.

Edwards also told the Voice that the Council is "considering its options" in view of the decision by Bainbridge not to pay the fines but to have them instead dealt with by the court.

Save the Charles Riley Reserve Trees

[Information below from Save the Trees activists.]

Public Meeting Under the Trees
(opposite the North Beach Primary School)

Next Saturday: 21 January 2012

11.30 to 12.30pm
BYO signs !!!

Did you know? The City of Stirling is planning to remove nearly all of our lovely big shade trees from the Charles Riley Reserve (47 trees), mainly opposite the North Beach Primary School. This is to enlarge the second football oval to AFL size and because the cricket club want to relocate from the southern end. All up they are spending $3 million of rate payer’s money on this project.

Scandalously, public consultation period was poorly advertise and in December while we were all distracted with preparations and events around the festive season and holidays. Plus they didn’t emphasise the trees going in their wording or diagrams adequately.

The dark green trees in the diagram to the left are the mature trees earmarked to go. The light green ones are new trees to be planted and the mid green ones will stay. This diagram is very deceptive because it shows the new trees at the size they will be in over 20 years. For many years the whole area will look more like this photo below:

What about the rest of the community?

  • Recreation users such as walkers and joggers?
  • Parents with Children visiting the park?
  • Kids Playing?
  • Other sporting club spectators?
  • What about the abundant bird life that live in these trees? These trees provide a link for wildlife, between Star Swamp and the Trigg Bushland.
  • Future subdivisions in the area will see hundreds of private trees lost, plus many local trees are dying, we need these public trees.
  • Seniors will not benefit from these saplings in 30 years time!

(see pages 221 to 240 of the Council Minutes from 22 November 2011, on the City of Stirling website for more details) or phone Leisha on 0448 534742

This isn’t just about the trees in this particular reserve, this is about supporting tree protection all over the City of Stirling and the wider Perth metropolitan area. If the City of Stirling can see we are serious about tree protection, it will help with the future tree policy development going forward.

We want the City of Stirling to:
  • Go back to the drawing board and come up with plans for this reserve that will retain the mature trees and accommodate the wishes and needs of the majority of community stakeholders, not just wishes of some members of the football club and the cricket club.
  • Amend their Public Consultation Procedures. We want proposed plans better advertised and we want them to clearly identify in the wording and in their diagrams any trees that would be removed should a project go ahead. Having public consultation periods in December and final decisions in February are not fair or acceptable, as people are distracted or away due to the festive season and holidays. These public consultation demands apply to all City of Stirling proposed plans involving the removal of public trees and significant green infrastructure going forward. We will be demanding an extra 10 days public consultation extension on these plans.
  • Acknowledge that small staked saplings cannot provide the benefits of large mature trees. A seniors who have been paying rates for years, will never see the benefits and will have their lovely shady green park area taken from them. Today’s young children who play or do sport there will not benefit from these saplings in their youth either.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

$625 fine for speaking out in Perth! WTF?

Readers are aware that on December 17, the Perth City Council and police attempted (unsuccessfully) to close down a Bradley Manning speak-out in the Murray Street Mall.

Then on January 6, one of the participants in the action - Alex Bainbridge - received $625 worth of fines levied by the Perth City Council. The fines were for: setting up a table without a permit ($400); causing an obstruction (i.e. the table again) ($125); and failing to obey the directions of an authorised person ($100).

Bainbridge immediately elected to have the matters dealt with in court instead of paying the fines.

"The issue is one of freedom of speech," Bainbridge said. "Activist groups should be able to set up campaign tables and hold speak-outs in the Perth CBD unhindered by by-laws and council rangers."

On January 9, the Perth City Council returned the materials that were seized at the December action. The video below details precisely what was seized by the council.

Activists responded by holding a free speech campaign stall on January 12. The council was notified about the stall - which was similar to the original speakout in concept, just at a smaller scale - by phone and email. One council ranger attended but took no action to close down the stall. This was considered a victory by the activists involved.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Help launch the Fremantle Activist Centre - Sat 4 Feb

We are really pleased to report that we have taken the initiative to establish a new office and organising space in Fremantle - the Fremantle Activist Centre - at 5/195 High St Fremantle.

Like the Perth Activist Centre in Aberdeen St, this will be a base for Socialist Alliance, distribution centre for Green Left Weekly and meeting place for both our own organisation and other activist groups. This is a great step forward for our movement and we'll be celebrating with a few drinks at the new centre 5:00-6:30pm on Saturday 4th February. You're all welcome to drop by, have a look and say hello.

The most important asset of our organisation is the time, effort and creativity that you contribute. But in a capitalist world we also need money, and we're not likely to get any big donations from the corporations like most political parties do. Our special appeals, raffles and events all generate important income.

But the bedrock of our finances is the regular contributions made by ordinary people like you who support what we do. If you think you can help out in this way with a regular weekly, fortnightly or monthly contribution please let us know. Payments should be made to Perth Activist Centre, BSB 066003 Account 10253459.

In solidarity,

Sam Wainwright
Co-convenor, Socialist Alliance WA

Note: Unfortunately the Fremantle Activist Centre is not wheelchair accessible. We were simply unable to find affordable ground floor office space in Fremantle. In the future we hope to get a more accessible space and of course continue to support all the campaigns to make buildings and other facilities accessible to all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Video and photos from the action in solidarity with three Australians held on board a Japanese whaling ship

On Monday 9 January 2011, people protested outside the Japanese embassy in West Perth. Three West Australian members of Forest Rescue boarded the Japanese security ship that has been tailing Sea Sheperd's Steve Irwin. Australian police enforced the embassy's desire that nobody, not even a small delegation, be allowed to approach the embassy.

Video and photos by Zeb Parkes

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Obama signs law supporting indefinite detention without trial

"President Barack Obama rang in the New Year by signing the NDAA law with its provision allowing him to indefinitely detain citizens. It was a symbolic moment to say the least. With Americans distracted with drinking and celebrating, Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of [the United States]..." - US progressive lawyer Jonathan Turley

Read more.