Friday, July 31, 2009

Letter to Obama re Cuban Five

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to express the concern held in many quarters of the Australian community about the ongoing denial of justice for the prisoners known internationally as the Cuban Five who are being held in separate penitentiaries in your country.

As you would know, they have been imprisoned since 1998 for convictions arising from their infiltration of Cuban terror groups based in Miami. The Australian people have shown great sympathy over the years for the Five and understand perfectly the need the Cubans had to defend themselves by being forewarned about impending attack.
We were disappointed that your Administration intervened in the recent Supreme Court proceedings to recommend that a review of their convictions be rejected. We saw the large number of amicus curiae statements from world renowned figures and the powerful arguments advanced for these anti-terrorists to be set free.

It is perplexing that known terrorists such as Posada Cariles continue to walk free in the United States while plainly decent and patriotic Cubans like the Five remain incarcerated.We are concerned that there appears to be an attempt to split the cases of the Five by re-sentencing three of them while upholding the sentences of Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez. We urge you to look into the refusal of visas to the Adriana Perez, the wife of Gerardo, and Olga Salanueva, the wife of Rene. The separation of these prisoners from their wives and their families is cruel and a denial of internationally observed prisoner rights.

We recognise the appalling situation of the denial of rights to the Cuban Five is an inheritance from previous administrations. We look forward to your intervention to remove this stain on the human rights record of the United States.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Hannah Middleton
General Secretary
Communist Party of Australia

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rann worried by developers?

Looks like the people of SA will be the last ones to know the detail of the Rann Government’s 30 year Plan for Greater Adelaide. It has refused a request from Greens MLC Mark Parnell to make available a report about future housing development and re-zoning because it is “potentially highly commercially sensitive,” as Urban Development and Planning Minister Paul Holloway put it. Strange, then, that the author of the report is working for property developers seeking to re-zone and develop the same land identified in the report. Exactly who is the government worried might get their hands on some really first rate real estate tip-offs?

Happy ending in SA 457 case – risky system remains

The case of the nine Filipino painters ripped off by painting contractor Paint Professionals in Adelaide has ended well overall. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union (CFMEU) in South Australia has found the men alternative employment and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC) has withdrawn the company’s authorisation to sponsor 457 visa-holding workers for three years. The company could be fined over the scandal and its director could face up to 10 years imprisonment. Unfortunately, while the workers have had their lives turned upside-down, the company is carrying on with business as usual and the 457 visa system that invites abuse of foreign workers remains in place.

The Filipinos came to the notice of local workers on an Adelaide construction site last month. They were quiet and kept to themselves. They weren’t aware of safety issues on the job. When their circumstances were investigated it was found that the men were owed back-pay of around $150,000. The nine of them were being charged between $250 and $350 each to live in the same suburban house. One of the men was paying the rent even though he was living elsewhere with his sister.

The workers were brought to Australia as painters but two of them were computer technicians, another was a carpenter and another a plasterer. They were promised $43,000 a year for working a standard 38 hour week. At times they were working up to 70 hours a week for no extra pay and not in the jobs they’d been promised when they were recruited in the Philippines.

The workers had been told to stay away from the union and that local workers did not appreciate their working on local sites. However, local workers, the CFMEU and the migrant community have been very generous in their support. SA State Secretary of the CFMEU’s Construction and General Division, Martin O’Malley, has also praised the Immigration Department officers involved in the case for their thoroughness and assistance. In this instance the Department was not the problem; it was the wide scope for abuse of the 457 system under the current legislation. It was one of Howard’s gifts to shady employers.

The CFMEU is opposed the 457 “guest worker” program. “The policy in our union, and we’d encourage it in any union, is if they want to bring people over to work in Australia they have to be given the opportunity to live in Australia,” Martin O’Malley told The Guardian. “This thing about being able to come over for two years or four years is just a load of bloody rubbish. That’s just a recipe for disaster and exploitation. If people are given the opportunity, they’re brought over here, they’ve got the skills and they want to work here they should be given the opportunity then to stay here,” he said.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CPA SA State Conference

The Communist Party's 22nd SA State Conference was held last Saturday and concluded with a public event attended by representatives of trade unions, political parties, solidarity groups and members of the community.

Party President Vinnie Molina spoke on developments in Latin America and guests heard a recorded message from a political prisoner in Colombia wishing the Conference success. At its conclusion, Port Adelaide Branch member Rex Munn led the gathering in a memorably rousing rendition of the Internationale.

The Conference heard reports and considered a document to be finalised at the Party's Congress in Sydney in October. The following motions were passed by the Conference:

The SA State Conference of the CPA condemns the recent decision by Fair Pay Australia to effectively cut the wages of Australia’s lowest paid workers. The Federal Government’s statements that it would have preferred a modest increase are not convincing. The decision should be overturned and relief given to these workers and their families struggling with rising utility, petrol and food prices and spiralling rents. Reducing these workers’ purchasing power will not help the current economic crisis; it will be worsened.

The SA State Conference of the CPA adds its voice to the growing international chorus of condemnation of the recent coup in Honduras. The US government’s response is weak and must be made proportionate to the massive violation of the rights of the Honduran people. The Australian government must use its influence on its US counterpart and join efforts to ensure the restoration of the legitimate government of President Manuel Zelaya.

This South Australian State Conference of the Communist Party of Australia sends greetings to the Cuban Five and a message of solidarity. This Conference rejects the recent decision of the US Supreme Court on June 15 not to review the cases of the five Cuban anti-terrorists. It calls on US President Obama to pardon them and send them home. The Conference also rejects moves in the US legal system to split the case of the Five by resentencing three of them while upholding the sentences handed down to Gerardo and René. We pledge our commitment to campaigning for their freedom.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Speak out about Honduras coup

The FMLN in Adelaide has called for a protest against the coup in Honduras and for the return of the legitimate government of President Manuel Zelaya. The military and the local oligarchy (with suspected assistance from the CIA) have reacted against changes sweeping Latin America and attempted to turn back the clock on social progress. Members of parliament and foreign ambassadors have been detained and abused. Unionists and student leaders have been rounded up. Protestors have been shot. The elected President has been prevented from returning home to his people. Speak out by being there!

When? From 4 till 5pm on Friday July 10

Where? Steps of Parliament House, Adelaide

Organised by? The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front of El Salvador in Adelaide

Monday, July 06, 2009

Just another cog in the machine