Detention, Australian style – Written by JULIAN BURNSIDE


Here is an eye-witness account of what we are doing to refugees in Australia, leave aside what we are doing to them in Nauru and Manus.

The person who wrote this recently visited Christmas Island (which is part of Australia).  It is almmost beyond belief that Australians can behave like this, but the facts are undeniable.  If you are offended by this evidence, tell your Federal MP.  It is Federal Parliamentarians, of both major parties, who are to blame for this: it’s happening on their watch, under their legislation and their policy settings.

Christmas Island September, 2015

I arrived on Christmas Island [in mid September 2015].

There is identifiable and dysfunctional tension between Border Force who manage the centre, Serco who run the centre and Immigration who make all the decisions. This enormous discord and resentment and creates enormous incompetency and faulty service delivery as a result. I arrived at the centre after lengthy correspondence with Immigration to be told Serco were not aware of my application to visit. I was then questioned by a Border Force Superintendent who questioned what political or advocacy group I was a part of?

I visited the centre on three days [and spoke to a number of detainees]The detainees told me they were woken in the middle of the night in their previous I DC (immigration detention centre) by a group of men, Border Force officers, who are geared up for violence. They are taken from their beds in underpants, pyjamas – one man said he made the entire trip in one shoe. They are handled with extreme force and any resistance is met with violence and verbal abuse.  One very small and young detainee was shoved to the floor and his head was hit. He still had the scar on the side of his face.

Removal From Mainland To Christmas Island

They are put on a plane and arrive at various airports where they are held until transported to Christmas. One detainee was handcuffed for 12 hours straight and still has problems with his wrist as a consequence. When they arrive on Christmas they find many of their belongings missing: personal photos and mementoes, watches, rings, clothes and shoes.

Detainees Are Abused By Guards

I was told by the detainees of ongoing physical and psychological abuse. Detainees spoke of the kindness of some Serco staff members, but said these ones are in the minority. They are regularly called cunts, arseholes,- they are told “Get the fuck out of here” “Shut the fuck up”
Consistently they are told “Its your fucking fault you’re here”. One notorious staff member they all spoke about – stands in people’s faces and says “Fucking hit me ….. I dare you”. One detainee asked me with complete genuineness “Why do they need to speak to us like this ….. we always do what they ask”.  Another staff member was · consistently named  as being particularly racist and sadistic.

The Emergency Response Team, whom I personally saw on their way to trouble look like a football team. Muscled up and tattooed …. with skulls and overtly negative messages in some of their tattooing. All the detainees spoke about the extreme violence they experience at the hands of these people. Detainees have had their teeth broken, bruises, split lips, and cuts while being managed by these people. This crew also use abusive and threatening language and I found them extremely menacing in my brief interaction with them. I wouldn’t want to be in their hands for anything.
lf you speak out, or defend a friend – you are threatened with consequences. These start at the most extreme Red Section where detainees spend up to a week (one detainee spent 4 days here during which time he started to cut him and tear at himself). This space has a metal door with a cement bed, a toilet, a camera and a light that stays on 24 hours. Food is passed through a grate.

After a period of time you are let into White 1. This is a basic camp bed, camera and lights – but you are allowed out for 30 minutes into a caged yard every day. If you question or argue with staff in this section you are returned to the Red section.  One detainee told me the only way to survive this is to disappear into yourself. I ask him what this meant and he said “I just leave myself and stop talking because this is what they want” This man spent 2 months in White section and he also self-harmed extensively during this time.

If you continue to comply you are then moved in White 2. All the detainees spoke about a woman [name suppressed] who decides your punishment. They all said she is sadistic and often looks in on them and laughs. I personally witnessed her become enraged when she was locked out of her office – and her response was frightening. She was unaware I was sitting in the visitors’ room with the door open, and she screamed and kicked and pulled at the door. I was so uncomfortable with her behaviour, I coughed to let her know I was there.


There is no fruit and vegetables in the men’s diet (one detainees spoke of his dreams about lettuce) and many detainees have stomach, and gum issues. The food is often stale and very poor quality. I was aware that this a general issue on Christmas but in conjunction with poor health and medical assessment and response to these issues, this poses life-long issues for many of these young men.

I noticed every single man I saw shook excessively. Only one of the men I saw was not on medication. They are not diagnosed by a psychiatrist – yet a majority of them are on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. I would find in the morning they were groggy and slow and their cognition improved as the day proceeded.


The detainees talk of the apathy and negligence of their case managers. One man who has been waiting to return home – having signed 3 months ago, told how his case manager forgot to notify Immigration of his desire to return … for a month. Case managers regularly tell detainees the best option is to return home – even those who been found processed and found to be refugees.

There was a very slack and slapdash approach to every aspect of dealing with myself and my friend, who accompanied me from Sydney. The rules changed every day. We never saw our friends on time. … one day waiting forty minutes. I took a cool bag through the metal detector after having purchased over $100 worth of special foods to take in for the guys. We were refused because we were told we were only allowed to bring in food purchased from the vending machine outside (chocolates and lollies).

Asylum seekers are given a 45 page TPV application and given no help or assistance with answering this – it’s all in English.

Effects of mistratment

Every detainee I saw is profoundly depressed and suicidal. Of the 7 men I saw, 5 are self-harming on a regular basis. They said the place is awash in blood – from bashing and constant self-harming.

A man with obvious mental health issues, from Iraq, who arrived .on Christmas Island on a boat 2 ½ years ago and has never left – explained to me in great detail his plans to slit his own throat and would kill himself any way he could find. He said repeated requests to be transferred anywhere …. even Nauru or Manus are ignored and not even responded to. I begged him to give me some time, to see what I could do to help him- I even told him I am suffering from cancer and don’t have the choice he does. I told him his life was valuable and please not to kill himself. He was incredibly gracious and took my hand and said how incredibly sorry he was I had cancer. He said you deserve life, but I am sorry I can’t live mine like this anymore”

0n the above visit, which was my last, I was escorted out by the Director of Operations. He questioned me about what this man had said, specifically his threat to cut his own throat. I told him that yes he had said this and I am very concerned for his well-being. He raised his eyes and told me “It’s very unfortunate he did this as he was doing so well” I said that the man is mentally unwell and in need of help and he proceeded to tell me he was attention seeking and would be reprimanded for this behaviour. I was incredulous and asked if he was serious. He said “Absolutely ….. he will be reprimanded”


A man sat outside the room and took notes of everything I and the detainees said. Each visit a Serco officer sat outside in the doorway listening to our conversations.
The staff are jaded and institutionalised – and in the isolation that is Christmas Island have transcended the normal behaviours one would expect of people working in custodial care. There were numerous staff members on our plane and it is very evident there is a big drinking culture and many of the people working at Christmas are poorly educated and ill-equipped to deal with the social nuances of the population of Christmas. Many of them see all the residents at the centre as criminals and one staff member told me the asylum seekers broke our laws by coming there on a boat in the first place.

A frightening culture of cruelty, punitive responses, physical and verbal violence has been allowed to flourish and individuals are being damaged in ways they will spend the rest of their lives living with. I have no hesitation in stating the isolation and lack of community visitors has created a palpable redneck lawlessness that derives its validation from poorly conceived concepts of nationalism and truly … a base and ugly form of jingoism.

Every detainee I saw was broken … cried … and beyond despair. They just looked to be completely deadened. One said to me “It doesn’t matter what happens ….. I’m already dead”


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Purchasing Freedom Dearly: Ethel Rosenberg Gets Her Day of Justice – Written by ABBY ZIMET, STAFF WRITER


Talk about your long arc: Over 60 years late, New York City officials, supporters and her surviving family gathered this week to “begin to right the wrong of what happened to Ethel Rosenberg,” declaring her “an innocent woman (who) was unjustly executed” after a flawed trial that became the most shameful symbol of political repression in the cold war era. Marking what would have been Ethel’s 100th birthday, her children, grandchildren and a great-granddaughter joined New York City Council members to “honor (her) life and memory” and proclaim the “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan.” Said Borough President Gale Brewer, “Ethel Rosenberg’s life was tragically stolen from her by the US government at an early age….during a shameful period of anti-communism hysteria in our country.” She called Ethel’s trial, conviction and 1953 execution for espionage – after gross legal misconduct and what decades later turned out to be false testimony by her brother – “a stain on our country.”

The Rosenbergs’ two sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol – they were adopted by teacher and Strange Fruit author Abel Meeropol and his wife – have fought for decades for their parents’ exoneration. Robert founded the Rosenberg Fund for Children,  which supports children of targeted activists in the U.S.; one of his daughters now runs the Fund, and another is a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. At this week’s ceremony, both brothers praised the city’s “important steps towards acknowledging a terrible injustice” committed against their mother as “a dream come true,” stressing that her unjust prosecution and execution “damaged our country as well.” In a New York Times op-ed piece last month, they wrote, “It is never too late to correct an egregious injustice. We call on the government to formally exonerate Ethel Rosenberg.” Ethel herself, who always maintained her innocence, seemed hauntingly prescient at her death; taking the long view in her final letter to her children, she said she was comforted “in the sure knowledge that others would carry on after us.”

“My most precious children… Your lives must teach you, too, that good cannot flourish in the midst of evil; that freedom and all the things that go to make up a truly satisfying and worthwhile life, must sometime be purchased very dearly. Be comforted then that we were serene and understood with the deepest kind of understanding that civilization had not as yet progressed to the point where life did not have to be lost for the sake of life…Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience. We press you close and kiss you with all our strength.”


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The defeat of the left, and the recomposition in Greece – Written by COLLEEN BOLGER

A woman walks past Popular Unity election posters PHOTO: Getty

The Greek ruling party, Syriza, won a convincing victory in the national election held on 20 September, winning 144 seats, down from the 149 seats won on 25 January. Prime minister Alexis Tsipras resigned last month to make way for the poll after he signed a third memorandum with the country’s creditors. That agreement will deliver the harshest austerity yet experienced.

The calling of the election precipitated a significant split in Syriza, with more than two dozen rebel MPs forming Popular Unity (LAE by its Greek acronym). The new organisation also drew in 11 other organisations of the far left beyond Syriza’s membership as well as two significant factions of Antarsya, an anti-capitalist electoral front of a few thousand members. Yet it achieved a disappointing 2.9 percent of the vote – short of the 3 percent threshold required for parliamentary representation.

In contrast to the hostile reaction to Syriza’s victory in January, media commentators and establishment figures across Europe are lauding Tsipras’ victory as testimony to brilliant political acumen. They cannot believe their luck.

However, the abstention rate was a record 45 percent. Cynicism with all politicians runs high, and will tar the entire left, not just Syriza. Tsipras’ crime against the people is not only the imposition of austerity and betrayal of the party program, but destroying the optimism that was unleashed earlier this year. Hope ran high after Syriza’s election in January. There was an expectation that the new government would resist signing up to more austerity. The disappointment with its failure to deliver on that is palpable.

Many people now believe that there is no alternative to capitulation and suffering.

Unlike in January, the celebrations by what remains of Syriza’s active membership were confined to the official tent. Party members reportedly were singing “Bella Ciao”, the song of the Italian resistance. It had been sung by thousands in Syntagma Square on the night of the tremendous “Oxi” rally and victory celebrations on 5 July after the historic referendum to reject the blackmail of the troika. What’s to sing now? A lament for the pensioners, for the unemployed, for the public servants whose lives will be squashed by the new “cash for reforms” measures?

How to explain Syriza’s re-election after so bitter a betrayal?

First, Tsipras ran on the basis that he was the lesser evil to New Democracy. He had at least distinguished himself by standing up to the European establishment before the final backdown, as complete as it was. So there is a residual loyalty to Syriza.

Second, there is a deep resignation that the people’s struggle was not strong enough to stand against the terrible pressure the European ruling classes brought to bear. This could be shifted only by the power people experience during struggle. But the great mass struggles of years past have receded.

Third, the election was held before the new austerity measures bite, although pension cuts and the VAT increase were passed in July.

Fourth, the timing of the election was calculated to hamper LAE’s ability to build its forces and profile. The group took what it could out of Syriza, and there may well be more to come, but its base is still small. In this context, it was always going to be difficult.

Fifth, talks between Antarsya and LAE failed to materialise into a united front for the elections. Their combined vote would have elected anti-austerity candidates. Accounting for why this unity was not forged will be part of the broader evaluations of the left’s strategy and tactics.

Finally, the left could not escape the effect of the prevailing disillusionment with politics, which is a result of both Syriza’s capitulation and the retreat of mass struggle. LAE might have been tarnished by association with Syriza, even though its core had fought the party leadership and split on a principled basis. However, the fact that Antarsya’s vote increased by only 6,000 reflects that disillusionment is broadly based and doesn’t plague just one section of the left.

Popular Unity

Despite the election setback, LAE represents a significant recasting of the left and has made strides in building on the collaboration between different forces in recent struggles, most notably during the referendum campaign.

However, there were problems within LAE arising from its hasty formation as an electoral coalition without a constitution, branches or elected leadership. These were exacerbated by the actions of the dominant Stalinist faction, the Left Current. Decisions were often taken unilaterally by a small group around Panagiotis Lafazanis. This repelled activists who were wary of replicating the culture that emerged in Syriza – where decisions are made by an inner circle around the leadership.

The political emphasis of LAE’s campaign was also problematic. The central committee of the Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA by its Greek acronym) a revolutionary group within LAE, argues:

“[F]aced with the pressure from our political opponents, who argued that obedience to the European leadership is obligatory, we overemphasised support for an exit from the euro zone. At some point, this necessary part of our overall argument was singled out and raised above a more general program of organising a united class movement against austerity and an anti-capitalist program towards socialist emancipation. That was a gift to Tsipras and the mass media, who looked for every opportunity to slander us as the ‘drachma left’.”

The Red Network, initiated by DEA as the left within Syriza’s Left Platform, has become a pole of attraction for people outside the Left Current. The network’s influence has grown because people remember the arguments its members have been making since January – arguments that were not popular but which proved prescient. Since the split with Syriza, Red Network members have been able to cohere a wider layer of activists around their arguments about LAE’s orientation. They have also been important in reaching out to layers beyond the ranks of the Left Platform. Their joint work, over many years, with social movement activists outside Syriza facilitated this.

Rebuilding resistance

The terrain of campaigning now shifts away from elections and toward resisting implementation of the agreement in workplaces and neighbourhoods. Committees of “No until the end”, established in the weeks after Tsipras signed the agreement, are important in this. However, the situation on the ground will be incredibly difficult, given the cynicism and despondency.

Lessons from experience are often bitter, but they are the ones that won’t easily be forgotten. The experience of the government of the left – its election, strategy, capitulation and the split – is yet to be fully worked through. The debates now will be had as people and organisations draw up their balance sheets. These debates will be a necessary part of creating a political front capable of rising to the challenges of the coming period.

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Lebanese restaurant owner defiant after racist attack – Written by TOM EARLS

Mohamed Zouhour at his restaurant Arabella after the vandalism attack PHOTO: Dallas Kilponen

A sickening racist attack was carried out on a Lebanese restaurant, Arabella, on King Street, Newtown, Sydney, in the early hours of 23 September.

Several glass panels at the front of the restaurant were smashed, and the words “fuck Arabs” were scrawled along the windows.

Owner and head chef Mohamad Zouhour covered some of the damage with a defiant banner reading “No racism down under: live the dream”, which was displayed for all to see on King Street, alongside the hashtag #fuckracism. During the clean-up, support from the public was impossible to miss, with every second or third person stopping to offer support.

The incident is not isolated. Vandals targeted the shop the previous night, and there had been an increasing number of racist calls over the last months.

“[We’ve had] phone calls a couple of times saying, ‘Lebanese bastards, go back to your own country’. We’ve been here 14 years, but the last six months it’s happened a lot”, Mohamad told Red Flag.

The climate of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism created by the racist policies of both the Coalition and the ALP towards refugees – as well as the slew of so-called anti-terror laws, media stories and early morning police raids on Muslim families – has opened a space for these sorts of attacks. In this context, it’s important to take a stand against racism in every form.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the public”, Mohamad said. “It’s important because we need to show these people that we [Australians] are not racist.”

Mohamad wants his story spread as far and wide as possible to combat the constant stream of racism in the media. “If any Muslim did something, this would be everywhere. But when an Australian does something? Nowhere.”

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Tanya Plibersek ‘Deeply Concerned’ By Nauru Rapes; Less Concerned About Bringing Victims To Oz – Written by MAX CHALMERS

30 Sep 2015

By Max Chalmers

Amid the growing furore over violence against women, the Shadow Foreign Minister has dodged questions about bringing women held in detention on Nauru to Australia. Max Chalmers reports.

Labor’s Shadow Foreign Minister says she is “deeply concerned” about reports of sexual violence against women sent to Nauru by Australia, but has declined to add her voice to calls for them to be moved off the island.

Speaking on Radio National this morning, Tanya Plibersek responded to questions about a recent ABC report highlighting the ongoing instances of sexual assault against refugees sent to be detained and settled on the island by Australia.

“I am deeply concerned about these most recent reports and I think the government should be held fully accountable for both the way Nauru and Manus Island are being run,” Plibersek said of the Labor policy adopted by the Coalition.

“We have heard reports not just on Nauru but also on Manus of violence against inmates that should be fully investigated and anyone accused of such a crime should be fully held to account.”

Despite those concerns, the Shadow Minister dodged a question about joining calls from the Greens for women found to be refugees to be brought to Australia.

“I think the first step is to make sure people do have full recourse to the law and Australia as the funder of these institutions – camps – should have an arrangement with the government of Nauru and of course with the authorities on Manus Island to make sure any claims like this are fully investigated and that if people are guilty they are completely fully held to account and that the victims are given proper support,” she said.

“There is no question that the way these institutions are being run is unacceptable to Australia and to the international community and I believe the government should answer for any of these allegations, no question.”

In September 2012 the Gillard government recommenced the removal of asylum seekers to Nauru, a practice abandoned by Labor when it came back to office in 2007.

The processing and resettlement of refugees on Nauru and Papua New Guinea were both subsequently reintroduced.

Refugees processed and released from the Nauru detention centre have long complained of poor medical treatment in the community and a lack of safety, with unaccompanied minors facing assaults in late 2014.

In a shocking expose aired earlier this week, the ABC’s 7:30 Report revealed video of a Somali woman on Nauruan calling police to report she had been raped.

The woman, known as Najma, said she had not had contact from police since making the report.

A federal Senate Inquiry into the Nauru detention centre was told the country had seen a breakdown in the rule of law, with New Zealand recently withdrawing aid funding in light of serious allegations of corruption against the country’s president and justice minister.

Documents lodged as part of the Senate Inquiry revealed allegations of abuse and sexual assault have continued since the Australian Department of Immigration released the Moss Review.

Greens’ Immigration Spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young this week called for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to remove children and families from Nauru.

“We cannot force these women and children to live in terror any longer. Something must be done,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a media release.

“There is a mountain of allegations forming and it’s clear that the women and children who have left the camp and are now settled on Nauru are not safe.

At its recent national conference, Labor delegates voted down a motion to force the party to reject boat turn backs, while voting to increase Australia’s refugee intake.

– See more at:

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Israel continues ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem – Written by KIM BULLIMORE


Israel launched a three-day assault on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on 13 September, causing widespread destruction and injuries.

Video footage shows Israeli occupation forces firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets inside the mosque, which is also known as Al Qibli. In the week following the attack, clashes between occupation forces and Palestinians escalated.

The international media have uncritically reported Israel’s claim that the assault was carried out in order to thwart Palestinian attacks on Jews. In reality, the storming of the compound coincided with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and was designed to facilitate access to the site by Israeli settlers and extremists, led by Israel’s agriculture minister, Uri Ariel.

A video published by the Temple Mount Institute shows Ariel standing in front of the Dome of the Rock on the first day of the assault. He is surrounded by Israeli military and police, imparting a “priestly blessing” on the people of Israel as if nothing was amiss.

A member of Naftali Bennet’s Jewish Home party, Ariel is a prominent figure in the Temple Mount movement, which calls for the destruction of the Muslim holy site and the construction of a Jewish temple in its place.

In 2013, Ariel staged a similar visit during Rosh Hashanah, stating “the Temple Mount is ours” and that his aim was to “strengthen the state of Israel’s sovereignty on the site”. In November 2014, speaking to right wing Israeli radio station Kol Berema, he again called for the building a Jewish temple in the Al Aqsa compound. In July this year, more than 150 Israeli police stormed the compound to facilitate the entry of Ariel and 70 other illegal Israeli settlers to the site.

The Al Aqsa Mosque compound, known in Arabic as Haram al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and in Hebrew as Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.

But this is not primarily a religious conflict. The violent religious zealotry espoused by Ariel and his fellow extremists is a cover for Israel’s ongoing settler colonialism and its attempts to ethnically cleanse occupied East Jerusalem.

As a briefing paper issued in February by Palestinian policy network al-Shabaka notes, the so-called “religious war” taking place is a myth, one which “ignores the reality of the power imbalance between the coloniser and the colonised” and “fails to address the history and context in which the recent events have unfolded”.

Since seizing control of East Jerusalem (along with the West Bank and Gaza) in 1967, Israel has crafted a range of laws and policies that both increase its geographic control over the territory and disenfranchise and expel Palestinian residents.

According to al-Shabaka, the aim of both the Israeli state and the Temple Mount movement is to “Judaise” occupied East Jerusalem, noting that “Judaisation has been accompanied by ‘de-Palestinianisation’ to eradicate the Palestinian identity in Jerusalem”.

This included the razing of entire Palestinian neighbourhoods in 1967, such as al-Magharabeh and Harat al Sharaf, in order to construct the Western Wall Plaza and housing for Israeli settlers.

Since 2002, with the construction of the apartheid wall, Israel has sought to change the demographic make-up of the territory by cutting East Jerusalem off from Palestinian population centres in the West Bank.

In recent days, the Jerusalem City Council renamed more than 30 streets with names based on the Torah, erasing previously existing Arab names and locations. One Palestinian resident told Israeli news service Walla!, “This is all part of one plan – first, to Judaise al-Aqsa, second, the Arab villages, third, the history and names”.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would continue to maintain the “status quo” (which allows Jews to visit the compound but not pray inside it) that has been in place since 1967. But according to a 2013 report, the Israeli state is supporting the Zionist settler and extremist groups that have declared their intention to “change the status quo”.

The report, issued by the Israeli group Ir Amim (City of Nations), noted that “the Jerusalem Municipality and other government ministries directly fund and support various activist organisations driven by the mission to rebuild the temple”.

Netanyahu has now vowed to clamp down on Palestinians who resist attempts by right wing groups to seize control of the compound, and has authorised the use of live fire against protesters.

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Is another crash on the way? – Written by JOHN PASSANT

The recent swings in world financial markets and the growing international effects of an economic slowdown in China have raised fears in the U.S. that the economic recovery could be on its last legs–even before working people felt like they had escaped the last crisis. And what will come next? In the first instalment of a three-part series, Lee Sustar in Socialist Worker US answers questions about the underlying causes of the instability in the markets–and explains how the troubles in the world economy today are tied to the same problems that led to the Great Recession of 2007-09. [Note, this was written just before the big stock market drop on Monday and Tuesday.]

Are we headed for another crash?

THE STOCK markets in China and much of the rest of the world seemed to calm down in September after the chaos of August. Does this mean the financial instability was a passing thing, and the prospects for the economy are looking up again?

NOT IF you go by the decision of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee to keep its basic interest rate at just 0.25 percent.

The Fed bowed to pressure from those who argued that a rate hike would further destabilize the world economy. According to the chief economist at the World Bank, a rise in U.S. interest rates would risk panic and turmoil.”

Nevertheless, some members of the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee argued for a rate increase, contending that the U.S. economic recovery is strong enough to trigger inflation–and that if the economy does go into slump, it will be impossible to stimulate growth without an interest rate cut.

In the end, the Fed put off an increase in interest rates for at least a few months. That means more than six years will have gone by with the lowest interests rates in history. If there’s any one indicator that something is deeply wrong with the U.S. economy, that’s it.

The economic statistics show that the U.S. economy has been doing better this year–the increase in gross domestic product is estimated at 3.9 percent for April through June. But there are all kinds of indications–the stock market chaos being one–that the recovery, weak as it has been until recently, has already reached its peak. We are now entering a new phase of this economic period, which needs to be analyzed and understood.

WHY HAVEN’T low interest rates been able to spur faster economic growth? That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

TO BETTER understand the financial instability and weaknesses of the world economy today, it’s useful to look back at the last crisis and the weak economic recovery since then.

The wild ups and downs in the markets over the last month revived memories of the crash of 2008, when the entire global financial system was on the brink of collapse. Since Wall Street and Washington have been trying to make us forget all that, it’s worth recalling just how severe that crisis got.

It started with a recession that is usually dated to December 2007, but the big downswing came months later with the stock market crash of October 2008, after the housing bubble burst and the Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers went under. As the economy contracted, wage growth fell, unemployment rose and mortgage debt went bad. As a result, the complicated financial investments tied to mortgages–such as credit default swaps, valued at $62 trillion, about five times the size of the U.S. economy–also plunged in value.

That blasted huge holes in the balance sheets of Wall Street banks and other financial institutions worldwide. The global economy as a whole contracted by 2.9 percent in 2009, with world trade shrinking by 12 percent. Nothing remotely like that had been seen since the end of the Second World War.

The U.S. economy itself was on the brink of a meltdown that could have sent unemployment far beyond the 10 percent level it would reach in the depths of the recession. Banks refused to lend to one another, and industrial production fell at an annualized rate of 18 percent in the last four months of 2008.

Remember how then-President George W. Bush elegantly put it: “[T]his sucker could go down.”

The financial free fall ended when Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and later Barack Obama’s first Treasury Secretary,successfully argued to Bush that the U.S. had to guarantee all financial transactions, following the example of Britain. The Bush administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress rushed through the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to fund the bank bailouts.

Several of biggest banks in the U.S. were effectively insolvent. They wereunofficially nationalized by the U.S. government, which forced several big banks to merge.

The U.S. also took over the insurance giant AIG with a $182 bailout, while taking direct control over the quasi-governmental Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants with another $187.5 billion “investment.” Washington also stepped in with a bailout of GM and Chrysler.

It’s worth recalling that even those uncompromising defenders of free-market capitalism, the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, had previously advocated the government takeover of Fannie Mae as an “honest form of socialism.”

But the Obama administration’s version of “socialism” was one that only a boss could love. The AIG bigwigs who had helped to create the financial catastrophe got their bonuses on the way out the door, and the banks to which AIG owed money–like Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs–got repaid in full. Meanwhile, autoworkers at all of the U.S. car companies took massive concessions as a condition of the government bailout.

The Obama administration also moved to halt the downward economic spiral with a $787 billion stimulus bill passed in the first month of Obama’s presidency.

But the really big stimulus came through the Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates to practically nothing. Since 2009, banks have been able to borrow money from the Fed at 0.25 percent interest, then turn around and loan money back to the government by purchasing Treasury bills that paid around 2.5 percent. This was a backdoor bailout that restored a restructured banking sector to profitability.

The Fed itself also bought up U.S. Treasury bonds, along with all kinds of junk mortgage-backed securities that no private investor would touch with a 10-foot pole. In the jargon of central bankers, this was known as quantitative easing, or QE. It’s the modern equivalent of simply printing money and flooding the economy with cash.

The result, as the St. Louis Fed noted, was a dizzying $3 trillion expansion in the Fed’s balance sheet. That amounts to a vast economic boost, even though it usually isn’t discussed in the mainstream media. But the movers and shakers of financial markets pay close attention.

That’s why there’s so much angst over whether or not the Fed will raise interest rates now. Inflation hawks have predicted that so much money injected into the system will inevitably lead to rising prices, and that has to be stopped. But U.S. banks are addicted to cheap money from the Fed. And beyond them, many big-money investors are worried that higher interest rates will choke off weak U.S. economic growth–at a moment when the biggest threat in the world today is deflation.

PROBABLY THE biggest factor behind the deflation threat is China, which is why bad news about the Chinese economy drove so much of the stock market panic over the past month. But why is China at the center of this new crisis? It’s been the big success story of the last few years.

THE IMMEDIATE cause is a bubble on the Chinese stock market. But even if Chinese stock markets stabilize for some time to come, the underlying problems of the Chinese economy are likely to get worse. As a recent editorial explained, the roots of the current crisis lie in the way China responded to the financial crash of 2008 and the Great Recession.

As the U.S. Fed was pumping money into the system through quantitative easing in late 2008 and early 2009, China launched a $635 billion stimulus plan of its own–bigger, proportionate to the size of the Chinese economy, than that of the U.S.

Alongside this stimulus came a vast expansion of credit. China’s total private and public debt is now 282 percent of its gross domestic product–a lower percentage than the U.S., but unprecedented for a newly industrialized country. The unregulated $2 trillion Chinese shadow banking system is bigger than the entire Russian economy. One consequence was that the money supply in China expanded faster between 2007 and 2013 than the rest of the world combined.

The new flood of money expanded China’s already fast-growing industrial base, including new steel mills, chemical plants and heavy equipment manufacturing facilities. China used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century as the country continued to go through an astonishing rate of urbanization.

The Chinese authorities recognized that this economic program of boosting basic industry would create problems of overproduction and eventually lead to lower prices for manufactured goods because of a glut on the world market–too many products and too few companies with the money to buy them.

So the government also set out to raise the consumption of the Chinese middle class and even workers, who were able to win pay increases through protests and strikes, despite the lack of independent trade unions. Meanwhile, upscale Chinese consumers among an expanding professional and managerial middle class could use their own pay increases to buy property or invest in the stock market.

This led to what an analyst at Credit Suisse bank calls a “triple bubble” centered on real estate, credit and investment.

Essentially, the Chinese economy is stuck between two economic models. There is the old strategy of constantly expanding basic industry to fuel manufacturing exports, which can’t deliver the 14 percent annual growth rates of a decade ago because there simply isn’t enough demand around the globe–and a new economic model of consumer-driven growth that is still too small to “rebalance” the economy, as economists put it.

What’s more, the Chinese economy is increasingly difficult for authorities to control. When the Stalinist state-capitalist economy opened up to the West 30 years ago, the Chinese state had direct or indirect control of most big investment, and foreign capital was a tiny proportion. Today, China is intertwined with the world economy at every level. Plus, decisions that were once made by Communist Party officials in the state bureaucracy have devolved to regional local officials who can tap into credit from a shadow banking system outside the big state banks.

In response to this, President Xi Jinping launched a reform campaign to take control of local government finances and recentralize authority in the hands of the party apparatus and big state agencies and enterprises. This has taken the form of an aggressive anti-corruption campaign that has targeted key party functionaries and government officials to send a message about who’s boss–with a bit of neo-Maoist rhetoric thrown in for populist appeal.

But none of these moves will be able to address the contradictions of the Chinese economy. China has the tremendous benefit of holding $4 trillion in foreign currency reserves–$1.25 trillion of it in dollars. That’s enough to pay for nearly two years of imports.

But even as China tried to engineer a modest devaluation of its currency–far less of a decline against the dollar than other currencies have fallen–it was forced to sell $93 billion of its holdings in August alone in order to keep the value of the yuan from crashing, which would create even bigger problems.

According to one estimate, China burned through $300 billion in three months to try and keep its currency stable. What seemed like an almost limitless reserve of cash suddenly doesn’t look so big. And no one–not even the Chinese government–really knows just how a crisis in the shadow banking system might affect China and the world financial system.

WHY HAVE China’s troubles hit the rest of the world so hard?

CHINA’S EXPANSION since the 1990s has rewired the world economy in many critical respects. Newly industrializing countries–once seen as poor Third World nations unable to develop–have emerged as new centers of capital accumulation. This development was captured with the acronym BRIC–standing for Brazil, Russia, India and China, sometimes expanded to include South Africa.

In those countries, already substantial manufacturing sectors got a boost from Chinese demand for both raw materials and finished goods. There was a renewed raw materials export boom in Latin America, Africa and Asia, withChinese companies boosting demand for commodities and making big investments in agriculture and mining.

This had far-reaching political impacts. In Latin America, the raw materials boom based on Chinese demand gave left-wing and center-left governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina the economic leverage to carry out reforms–the so-called “Pink Tide.”

Oil-producing countries, too, benefited from Chinese demand through higher prices for their exports. According to the French bank Société Générale, Chinese demand boosted world oil prices from $20 a barrel to $100 barrel over the 2000s.

By 2014, China was responsible for 12 percent of world GDP at market exchange rates, up from 2 percent in 1995. According to the International Monetary Fund, China led the way as the so-called emerging market economies accounted for three-quarters of world economic growth in 2014.

Now China’s slowdown has destabilized all this. The most spectacular collapse is in Brazil, where a combination of the Chinese slowdown, falling oil prices and a corruption scandal in the huge state-owned oil company has led to a budget deficit and a 25 percent plunge in the value of the country’s currency, the real. An economy that just a few years ago seemed set to emerge as a global powerhouse is now in its worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The drop in the value of the Brazilian real is likely to accelerate a pattern of what’s called “competitive devaluations.” That’s economist-speak for a currency war–the effort by countries to lower the value of their domestic currency in order to make exports and labor costs cheaper in comparison to rivals. It’s known as a “beggar thy neighbor” policy, and for good reason: in a slowing world economy, such measures allow the lower-cost producers to steal growth from their rivals.

That’s why China’s recent move to modestly lower the value of its currency relative to the dollar set off the stock market tumble and raised fears of a currency war. China’s devaluation effectively cuts the price of that country’s manufactured goods on the world market.

The currency war could well spur a trade war, too. The head of the American Alliance for Manufacturing recently blamed 5,000 U.S. steel industry layoffson China’s dumping of steel at below-market prices, and called for protective measures.

Chinese officials freely acknowledge the problem of overcapacity, citing problems in 18 industries. A few months ago, the government announced measures that would eliminate 80 million tons of steel production annually. But excess steel capacity in China is estimated at 300 million tons per year. By comparison, total U.S. steel output in 2014 was 80 million tons.

Bloomberg News reported earlier this year that in China, the problem of overcapacity “extends far beyond steel, afflicting aluminum, cement, coal, solar panels, and ship-building. According to a recent survey of 3,545 enterprises by the State Council’s Development Research Center, 71 percent of respondents called overcapacity ‘relatively serious’ or ‘very serious.’”

The result has been a big downturn in profits for Chinese industry this year. That will tempt Chinese businesses to cut prices on the global market to try to grab more market share and stay afloat–and add to the escalating tensions over trade.

It’s a classic crisis of overproduction–one that Karl Marx would recognize from a vantage point of a century and a half ago. What’s new is that it is taking shape after a huge shift in the world economy led by China’s rise.

Next: What’s driving the world toward a new slump?

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Protestors To Sue Soldiers After Being Stripped Naked, Assaulted, Threatened With Rape – Written by NEW MATILDA

29 Sep 2015

By New Matilda

Three men from a peace activist group in Melbourne have this morning taken the first steps in what’s likely to be a landmark legal action.

Three men who say they were stripped naked, assaulted, dragged along the ground, had bags placed over their heads and threatened with rape and drowning during an anti-war protest in Victoria have today launched legal proceedings to compel the government to release the identities of the soldiers involved.

The pro bono legal action was launched in Melbourne this morning by Maurice Blackburn lawyers, the firm active in representing asylum seekers on Nauru, and which scored a major victory for Traditional Owners last year in fending off a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory.

In October last year, Sam Quinlan, Greg Rolles and David Sprigg – part of a group of peace activists known as the Swan Island Peace Convergence – swam to the Swan Island military base from Queenscliff to stage a peaceful protest against Australia’s involvement in foreign wars.

Soon after arriving on the island, the men were confronted by a number of unidentified defence personnel.

An image from the October 2014 anti-war protest action at Swan Island.

An image from the October 2014 anti-war protest action at Swan Island.

The protestor’s lawyer, Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese said the three men clearly stated they were non-violent protestors, however they were “thrown to the ground and dragged, had bags put over their heads and were stripped naked. One was threatened with rape and another with drowning”.

The proceedings were filed in the Victorian Supreme Court to force the Australian Defence Force and the Commonwealth to provide the names of the officers involved in the incident, after the ADF refused repeated requests for access to the information.

Mr Varghese said the identity of one was provided, and when the other identities are discovered the men intend to sue for assault and battery.

“These men are peaceful protestors who were prepared to accept the lawful consequences of their actions, but they did not deserve this violent assault on their dignity,” Mr Varghese said.

“The protestors experienced brutal, degrading and humiliating treatment at the hands of Defence Force personnel. This kind of behaviour cannot go unanswered.”

Jacob Varghese, Maurice Blackburn principal (left) with Sam Quinlan and Greg Rolles.

Jacob Varghese, Maurice Blackburn principal (left) with Sam Quinlan and Greg Rolles.

In a written statement, Sam Quinlan said his group had been shocked by the actions of the military personnel.

“It was very clear that we were there as non-violent peace activists. The officers’ response to our peaceful protest was excessively violent and completely unwarranted.”

Greg Rolles said the protestors had decided to take legal action to make sure the officers involved were held to account for their behaviour.

“If this is how these officers treat Australian citizens on Australian soil, what’s happening to people in other parts of the world that we don’t know about?”

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Violence Against Women In Australia, Bad; Violence Against Women In The Care Of Australia, Acceptable – Written by KATIE ROBERTSON

29 Sep 2015

By Katie Robertson

The increasing focus on tackling violence against women in Australia is welcome, but what about women held on Nauru in Australian detention centres? Katie Robertson explains.

In his first major policy announcement last week the new Prime Minister unveiled a serious campaign to tackle domestic violence. Mr Turnbull’s leadership comes at a crucial time for women, with domestic violence an epidemic in this country.

But it is not only Australian women that our system is failing; the government is sending some of the world’s most vulnerable victims to an environment that it knows is especially dangerous for women.

If Turnbull is serious about reshaping Australian culture into one that is ‘respecting of women’ as he claims, he must also immediately close the Nauru detention centre.

Recently I have been contacted about increasingly alarming reports of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls on Nauru.

Many have nursed the abuse for months, too scared to tell anyone.

There are those who have been assaulted within the camp; alone at night in unlockable tents, or as they walk through the camp to use the bathroom or showers.

And then there are those that have been attacked in the community, such as a 24-year-old woman raped while on day release.

Violence comes in various forms; for some it is the repeated threat that once they are resettled on the island the guards will come for them. And indeed, they come.

Reports have circulated regarding packs of intoxicated men who seek out single women once they are resettled on the island. While the circumstances of each case of sexual violence I hear of differ, one thing is clear; female asylum seekers are not safe in Nauru, in or out of detention.

There is no reprieve for those fortunate enough to be returned to Australia for medical treatment. Women admitted to hospital are constantly monitored by guards (often male) who stand at their door, always watching. Victims are held in a state of constant uncertainty, afraid that they may be returned to Nauru at any time, without notice.

Far from offering them protection, we send them back to the men that they fear.

The Australian government is well aware that gender-based violence is a serious problem in Nauru. In 2014, the government jointly published a report with the United Nations and Nauruan government, which found that almost half of local women surveyed had experienced physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime.

The recent Senate Committee into Nauru heard extensive evidence concerning sexual assault occurring within the Australian-operated detention centres on the island.

Significantly, the Committee was told that the issues of violence and sexual exploitation were ‘obvious from the outset of the centre establishment in Nauru.’ It is within this context that Australia sends some of the world’s most vulnerable women for resettlement; including those fleeing situations in which they have suffered long-term abuse with inadequate or no state protection.

Despite the optimism felt by many regarding the overthrow of Mr Abbott, the early signs for a softening in our treatment of asylum seekers do not look good.

In the hype around the Cabinet reshuffle, it is telling that Peter Dutton remains Minister for Immigration. While it is indeed a step in the right direction to have a woman as the Minister for Women, Michaela Cash is unlikely to show compassion to the 198 women and children currently languishing on Nauru, having aggressively advocated for the coalition’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy as Assistant Minister under both Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton during one of our nation’s darkest chapters in immigration policy to date.

While Mr Turnbull expressed ‘concern’ regarding the situation on Nauru and Manus Island earlier last week, in the same breath he reaffirmed his commitment to regional processing.

Last week’s announcement is a welcome and long overdue acknowledgement of the seriousness of domestic violence in our country. Any campaign to tackle the epidemic in Australia cannot, however, be separated from the decision this government makes on a daily basis to outsource the suffering of women under our care to an environment in which they are subjected to a rampant culture of abuse.

If Mr Turnbull is serious when he claims that he wants Australia to be known as a country that respects women, he must immediately end their ongoing detention on Nauru.

* Katie Robertson is an Associate in the Social Justice Practice at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

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Andrew Bolt ridiculed on social media for his ‘gushing love letter’ to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott – Written by LUCY MAE BEERS FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA

  • Controversial columnist Andrew Bolt has written a gushing ‘love letter’ 
  • The article published on Monday, described Tony Abbott‘s downfall
  • Mr Bolt said the Australian public had made ‘a big mistake with this bloke’
  • The lengthy piece said voters were merely concerned with aesthetics
  • Twitter users launched into action and slammed the piece as ‘gushy lust’ 

Controversial columnist Andrew Bolt has sparked ridicule on Twitter after he wrote a ‘gushing love letter,’ to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The lengthy opinion piece, published in the Herald Sun on Monday, accused the Australian public of being more concerned with Mr Abbott’s aesthetic than his ’emblems of public service’ and ‘patriotism,’ before launching into a tirade about his ‘honour, warmth, kindness and friendship.’ 

‘How many keyboards did Andrew Bolt’s tears short circuit while he typed Elegy of Abbott (and Australia)?’, one Twitter user mocked. 

Controversial columnist Andrew Bolt has ignited a furor on Twitter after he wrote a 'gushing love letter,' to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The piece was originally published in The Herald Sun, titled 'Loss of Tony Abbott as prime minister is a time of sorrow'


Controversial columnist Andrew Bolt has ignited a furor on Twitter after he wrote a ‘gushing love letter,’ to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Social media instantly slammed the diatribe with mostly sarcastic responses about the commentator's 'lust' for Mr Abbott

Social media instantly slammed the diatribe with mostly sarcastic responses about the commentator’s ‘lust’ for Mr Abbott

Tony Abbott forced to defend Turnbull and critics from France


Social media instantly slammed the diatribe with mostly sarcastic responses about the commentator’s ‘lust’ for Mr Abbott while accusing him of being bias as the pair are known as friends.

‘What does Andrew Bolt and a Broadway Actor have in common? They are both longing for a Tony,’ one amused reader joked on Twitter.

The piece was originally published in The Herald Sun, titled ‘Loss of Tony Abbott as prime minister is a time of sorrow.’

‘Your mistake was that you couldn’t look behind the flim flam — the way Abbott looked, the way he spoke, the way he walked, the way he ate an onion — to see what he’d actually done for you and for your country,’ Mr Bolt wrote.

‘I don’t think Abbott is a great man because he’s my friend. He’s my friend because he’s a great man. Greater than the people who tore him down.’

Some on social media took a sarcastic approach to the piece, rhetorically asking the columnist whether 'he has a Tony Abbott body pillow' or a 'life-sized cutout to smooch'

Some on social media took a sarcastic approach to the piece, rhetorically asking the columnist whether ‘he has a Tony Abbott body pillow’ or a ‘life-sized cutout to smooch’

Some on social media took a sarcastic approach to the piece, rhetorically asking the columnist whether ‘he has a Tony Abbott body pillow’ or a ‘life-sized cutout to smooch.’

Some outraged readers even made mention to Mr Bolt’s history of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act in Melbourne after he printed an article about fair-skinned Aboriginal people titled, ‘It’s so hip to be black,’ in 2011. 

‘Abbott is not a thug, bully, racist, fool, liar, woman-hater, homophobe or bigot,’ wrote convicted racist Andrew Bolt,’ an angry Twitter user shared.

Others took the lighthearted approach and congratulated the commentator for ‘publicly declaring his gushy love,’ and hoping the pair can legally get married soon. 

Some outraged readers even made mention to Mr Bolt's history of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act in Melbourne

Some outraged readers even made mention to Mr Bolt’s history of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act in Melbourne

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