Action updates


Evans confronted at NGO conference

MELBOURNE — More than 50 people gathered outside a Community Aid Abroad Conference on Asia on February 23, at which foreign minister Gareth Evans was giving an opening address, to protest against the Australian government's record on East Timor. Members of the East Timorese community, progressive candidates in the election and solidarity activists joined the picket, which was organised by University Students for East Timor, Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) and Fretilin. Speakers included Irene Bolger, independent candidate for Batman, Sarah Nicholson from the Greens, Richard Grummett from the Democrats, who called for "a free East Timor by the year 2000", Susan Price from the Democratic Socialists, who pointed to the need to build a strong solidarity movement, Alana Kerr from Resistance, Jo Brown from ASIET and John Sinnott from AETA.

Free Langer, free elections

MELBOURNE — On February 23 more than 100 people rallied outside the GPO in support of Albert Langer, jailed for explaining how to cast a non-preferential vote. After hearing speakers, the crowd distributed leaflets like those of Langer. No arrests were made. The Australian Electoral Commission was invited but declined to send a representative.

Minister's office occupied

MELBOURNE — Activists from the Friends of Richmond (FOR) occupied the office of education minister Don Hayward and his number one bureaucrat, Geoff Spring, on February 20. The action was prompted by the delay of the Directorate of School Education in releasing documents to FOR, as directed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The documents are likely to detail collusion between the Victoria Police and the DSE in the infamous baton charge at Richmond Secondary College in December 1993.

Election alternatives

WOLLONGONG — There was a lively discussion on alternatives to Labor and Liberal at a public meeting here on February 20. Democratic Socialist candidate for Cunningham Dr Margaret Perrott explained that Labor's claims to represent workers and the social movement were false and stressed that an alternative to big business politics had to be based on activism.

Picket for cheap electricity

HOBART — "Power for the people" was one popular slogan at a picket on February 12 which demanded cheaper electricity for low-income earners and abolition of the Hydro-Electric Commission (HEC) network charge. The protest, organised by Youth Action Priorities (YAP), pointed out that the network charge means that people who use very little power face a 20%-30% increase in the price of their electricity. Daniel Martin, spokesperson for YAP, noted that reduced charges have been implemented for companies which use a lot of power.

Gay-lesbian demonstration

HOBART — Up to 200 people attended a Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) demonstration against discrimination and for law reform at Parliament House lawns on February 16. Rodney Croome from TGLRG said that the gay and lesbian community did not want a government that discriminates against gays and lesbians. Nick Toonan, who is currently involved in a TGLRG High Court challenge, spoke of the Liberal government's homophobic law and order policies. David Ogendorff, who has faced workplace discrimination, said that gays and lesbians have little or no power against such discrimination and harassment, and no job protection within the public service. Jenny Gorringe, an Aboriginal Tasmanian and long-time campaigner for womens' rights, and Judy Therkall, a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also spoke.

Alternative candidates meeting

SYDNEY — At a meeting on February 24, Karen Fletcher from the Democratic Socialists, Sue Stock from the Greens and No Aircraft Noise candidate Wendy Bacon spoke and answered questions about their parties' policies and campaigning. On immigration, Fletcher said the Democratic Socialists supported an open-door policy for refugees without internment. Bacon said that NAN opposed racism but that it did not have a policy on immigration. Stock said the Greens saw a need for reduced consumption and therefore population and that they supported current immigration levels. The Democratic Socialists opposed the construction of a second airport at Badgerys Creek and called for a new site — preferably near Goulburn. Both NAN and Greens wanted a "more democratic environmental impact statement" to be done on Badgerys before committing themselves to another site.

Progressive rally

BRISBANE — "Socialists and greens need to unite and learn the lessons of the past", prominent environmentalist and former NSW Builders Labourers Federation leader Jack Mundey told a progressive candidates' rally in the City Mall on February 23. The rally was called to support a statement of solidarity, signed by the progressive candidates in the seat of Brisbane: Greens, Democratic Socialists, the Australian Women's Party, the Australian Indigenous People's Party and the statement's sponsor, independent Bob Leach. The statement declares opposition to the converging right-wing policies of Labor and Liberals and supports the building of a progressive alternative.