Australia

On May 5, Victorian Premier John Brumby announced that a deal had been struck with the Australian Education Union that would end the union’s 16-month-long industrial campaign. Victorian state school teachers had campaigned to secure better working conditions and pay rises and to reduce contract teaching.

The campaign to stop the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania’s south-west wilderness resulted in a historic victory for the environment movement in 1983. More than 1000 people came together on July 1 to mark the 25th anniversary of this victory in a night of celebration at the Grand Chancellor’s Federation Ballroom.

The Rudd government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine the economic, productive and social benefits of introducing a national paid maternity leave scheme. The Commission has heard submissions from a range of unions, business and community groups, and is due to release its report in February, 2009.

Australia is a leading exporter of coal, shipping millions of tonnes every year around the globe. It was appropriate, therefore, that the annual environmental conference, Students of Sustainability (SoS), was this year held in the world’s coal export capital: Newcastle.

One thousand farmers from across Victoria descended on Melbourne on June 3 to protest the state government’s North South Pipeline plan, which will bring 75 billion litres of water each year from the Goulburn River across the Great Dividing Range to Sugarloaf Reservoir. The pipeline is due to be completed by 2010.

On June 5, I joined a suburban World Environment Day campaigning stall organised by Resistance, a socialist youth group in Australia.

On June 2, while announcing the withdrawal of 550 Australian combat troops from Iraq, PM Kevin Rudd told parliament that all the arguments justifying the troop deployment in the first place were lies. This vindicates the anti-war movement’s position since the 2003 invasion.

The June 5 South Australian Labor government budget has been praised as “outstanding” by business groups and the corporate media. The budget reduces business taxes and funds extensive infrastructure development.

One of the less noticed consequences of the ALP’s pre-election promise to take a “meat axe” to the federal public service has been the impact of the cuts being made to cultural institutions.

The Victorian state government’s TAFE “reform” blueprint Securing our Future Economic Prosperity: Discussion Paper on Skills Reform, released in April, pitches for higher course fees and a Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS)-style payment system spread over a few years. Currently, TAFE students pay their course fees up front.

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