Australia

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.
PM Kevin Rudd’s “education revolution”, a sad misuse of the word “revolution”, continues to starve public schools of funds. Meanwhile, wealthy private schools are given so much federal money they don’t know what to with it other than bank it or build Olympic-sized gymnasiums.
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.
On June 2, the West Australian reported that WA Premier Alan Carpenter had called for a nationwide suspension of approvals for foods containing genetically modified (GM) crops until more health research was carried out. Carpenter said the national food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand should not approve any more food for human consumption until independent scientific trials were conducted to better determine the safety of GM foods.
NSW Treasurer Michael Costa’s third budget, on June 3, included massive handouts to big business and a nasty backhander to workers.
Like many others, I cut my activist teeth during the Franklin River campaign of the early 1980s. Like thousands of others, I joined the blockades in south west Tasmania and, like hundreds of others, was arrested for my troubles and spent a week in Risdon Jail.

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