Australia

On February 17, several thousand people from more than 30 community groups and unions marched through Sydney to demand the NSW state government fix the public transport system.

Andew Chuter, one of the organisers, told Green Left Weekly it was a “big achievement” to unite so many groups across NSW around this important issue.

“These sorts of campaigns tend to be quite localised, so getting people to see them as connected is quite significant. Some of those who took an active role in this rally had never been to a protest before.”

A final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal, which will reduce tariffs and other trade barriers between 11 countries in Asia and Latin America that amount to 13% of global GDP, was released on February 21.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton reported that on February 14 Moreland City Council in Victoria passed her motion calling for an increase in the Newstart allowance. This follows similar decisions by 10 South Australian local councils prompted by campaigners from the Anti-Poverty Network.

The motion called for Newstart to be increased to the Henderson poverty line. Newstart is currently $177 below the poverty line.

The Anti Poverty Network (APN) Perth’s Graham Hansen spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Chris Jenkins about poverty in Western Australia and the key campaign areas APN will focus on this year.

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Can you briefly describe what was happening in WA when APN Perth was formed?

Anyone who is a public figure can expect a bit of hate mail. Recently I received about half a dozen colourful phone messages after WA One Nation parliamentarian Charles Smith published a Facebook meme attacking the City of Fremantle for having "the most Un-Australian [sic] council in the Nation". Included were my contact details and those of the Mayor, with outraged right-wingers encouraged to communicate their rage at us for "destroying Australia Day".

Pacha Guzman, a leading activist with the Venezuelan-based Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ), is touring Australia in March. Guzman will be visiting various cities where she will address public forums and meet with trade unions, politicians and solidarity organisations.

The FNCEZ is Venezuela’s largest peasant-based organisation and a member of La Via Campesina and the Latin American Coordinator of Campesino Organisations.

Less than three weeks out from the Batman byelection, Labor has yet to announce a definitive policy on Adani’s Carmichael coalmine.

Climate activists have focused their campaign on calling for Labor to announce that in government it would reverse existing approvals for new coalmines in the Galilee Basin. Labor leader Bill Shorten has responded with statements that have been interpreted as being “tougher on Adani”, but that have fallen far short of the demands of the movement which regards Labor as still straddling the fence.

As I marched through Sydney streets on February 17, along with activists from 30 community groups and trade unions opposed to the blatant privatisation scams that pass for NSW transport infrastructure, I am sure I was not the only one in the crowd reflecting on the ridiculous contradiction between what is possible for our society and what is forced on us from above.

This was yet another clear case of government working in the narrow and selfish interests of a small corporate elite. Similar examples of community resistance to corporate greed can be found all around the country.

Late last year, amid the ongoing citizenship crisis engulfing several federal MPs and Senators, Labor MP David Feeney revealed that he was unable to produce documentation confirming he had renounced his citizenship of either Britain or Ireland. On February 1, Feeney announced his resignation and did not recontest the seat.

Alex Bhathal, who has run for the seat before and went close to winning from Feeney at the last federal election, is the Greens candidate.

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