Australia

Residents of Queensland’s Western Downs and their supporters have witnessed arrests, police harassment and some exciting victories over the past week in their fight to prevent coal seam gas expansion on the Tara estate, near Chinchilla. During a protest organised by Lock the Gate Alliance on March 29 Friends of the Earth campaigner and Queensland Greens co-founder Drew Hutton was arrested and charged with impeding the construction of a coal seam gas pipeline. Mr Hutton refused bail conditions and faced 30 days prison, but was soon released on unconditional bail.
About 30 people attended a rally in King George Square on April 1 to call on Western powers to stop the bombing of Libya. Adrian Skerritt, from the Stop the War Collective, told the rally: “The main reason for intervention by the US and its allies in Libya is that the West cannot handle being sidelined by the popular revolutions which have swept the Arab world in recent months. “Yet, the US has acted against Gaddafi because he is isolated in the region. They haven't intervened in Yemen or Bahrain, where the repression is just as severe, because they are client states of Saudi Arabia.
More than 100 people rallied outside the South Australian Parliament on March 25 in solidarity with the people of the Middle East. The focus of the rally was the attacks on protesters by snipers in Yemen, the invasion of Bahrain by Saudi troops and the ongoing civil war and bombing in Libya. People from various Middle Eastern communities waved flags and placards demanding an end to the military crackdowns.
About 8000 people demonstrated for urgent action on climate change in Sydney's Belmore Park on April 2 in a powerful counter-mobilisation to a 2000-strong climate deniers rally led by right-wing radio shock jocks Alan Jones and Chris Smith from Radio 2GB held in Hyde Park. The climate deniers rally was a repeat of a similar-sized rally held in Canberra a week earlier and is part of an attempt to build a right-wing populist Tea Party-style movement as exists in the US. The climate change activists rally was organised by the internet-based group GetUp!
A vicious smear campaign against the Greens candidate for Marrickville Fiona Byrne in the NSW state election reveals just how worried the powers-that-be are about the prospect of the NSW Greens winning a lower house seat. This smear campaign focused almost exclusively on the Greens pro-Palestine stand, in particular their support (along with ALP councillors) for Marrickville council’s decision to sign on to the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
On March 29, pro-choice protestors gave Melbourne City Council (MCC) a clear message: don’t mess with our free speech rights! Councillor Cathy Oke tabled a bulky tome — nearly 600 statements signed by individuals and organisations, telling the council to uphold the right to protest and stop using local laws against pro-choicers defending the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne against anti-abortion harassment. From the public gallery, placards demanding “Make Melbourne a free speech city!” underscored the message.
Environment Tasmania (ET), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and The Wilderness Society (TWS) launched television and radio advertisements on March 30 that call for an end to logging in native forests. The ads feature University of Tasmania biologist Peter McQuillan, who says: “We need government to implement the agreed forest solution”.
If the last federal election promised the beginnings of a break from the two-parties-for-capitalism electoral system that has plagued Australian politics for the last century, the March 26 NSW election seems to be a lurch in the other direction. The Liberal-National Coalition won dominance of the Legislative Assembly and (with small right-wing parties) control of the Legislative Council because a large number of working-class voters punished the Labor party with a 13.5% swing in primary votes.
Manufacturer BlueScope Steel has been at the forefront of the campaign against the carbon price proposed by Labor and the Greens. Chief Executive Paul O'Malley has argued it could spell “the end of steel manufacturing in Australia”; something the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott agreed with during a recent tour of BlueScope's steelworks in Port Kembla. Both have said that a price on carbon would threaten the company's profitability and therefore force operations offshore in search of cheaper labour.
About 50 people gathered at Murray St Mall, Perth on March 22 to participate in a speak-out called by the Refugee Rights Action Network. The protest was called in response to the deteriorating conditions inside the detention centres and the recent use of tear gas and rubber bullets against the Christmas Island protestors.

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