Australia

The Socialist Alliance proposals for the federal election, detailed at www.socialist-alliance.org, won’t come cheap. They include lifting welfare payments above the poverty line, ending the 200,000 public housing waiting list, achieving 100% renewable energy by 2020 through a plan of public investment, boosted public transport including inter-city high-speed rail, and closing the gap in Indigenous health, education and housing.
Brami Jegan, a young campaigner for social justice who is standing for the Greens in the New South Wales Senate, is very critical of the ALP’s policies on asylum seekers and the war in Afghanistan. Jegan told Green Left Weekly she understands the challenges migrant communities face in settling in this country. She also had first-hand experience of the devastating impacts of war. “During my visits back to Sri Lanka between 2002-2006, I was able to spend time with Tamils affected by the war.”
Liberal leader and extreme conservative Tony Abbott, who famously described climate change as “absolute crap”, is looking dangerously close to becoming prime minister on August 21. The prospect of a government headed by a Christian fundamentalist nicknamed “the mad monk” has struck dread into many progressive-minded people. The August 7 Sydney Morning Herald reported that a Herald/Nielson poll showed the Liberal/National Coalition had increased its lead in the primary vote to 44% to Labor’s 36%. Coalition led Labor 51% to 49% on a two-party preferred basis.
Aboriginal activist Michael Eckford, better known as Michael Anderson, launched his campaign for the NSW Senate on August 3. Eckford was forced to stand under his birth certificate name because of Australian Electoral Commission regulations. Eckford is running with former ALP member Criselee Stevens, who said she quit Labor because “they are so out of touch with the real grassroots concerns and priorities”.
Residents are organising to stop mining company LD Operations plans to start a new coal mine next to the town of Margaret River in Western Australia. Margaret River is five hours south of Perth famous for its wineries, surfing spots and outstanding natural beauty. A public meeting on August 1 with only one day’s notice drew 60 people. It is a sign of strong community opposition. There are plans to hold a demonstration as part of the national Walk Against Warming rallies on August 15.
As of June 25, more than 4116 people, 566 of them children, were in Australian immigration detention centres, according to figures published on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website. The site also noted an increase of 46 people in the past week. In a country of 22 million people, 46 is a minute figure. That “stopping the boats” is a key election promise of both major parties illustrates the mean-spiritedness of their campaign.
Review: Vale Kwementyaye Ryder — a photo essay Bob Gosford, The Northern Myth
Jim Sharp, a well-known veteran of the left and labour movements in the city, launched his book of poetry, entitled Leftside at the Queensland Council of Unions building on July 31. About 100 people attended. Speakers included Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen and music was provided by Jumping Fences.
Some of the Illawarra’s foremost fighters for social justice have backed Socialist Alliance candidate Jess Moore in the seat of Cunningham on the New South Wales south coast. Highly regarded, veteran trade unionists Monica Chalmers, Neville Arrowsmith, Jim Keogh and Ken McBride, who have all spent decades in union and solidarity campaigns, have endorsed Moore and are helping her campaign. Moore is a well-known community activist who is national coordinator of the socialist youth organisation Resistance.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have vowed more industrial action to fight the ongoing refusal of vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer to negotiate on improvements to job security, pay and other conditions for UNSW staff. In particular, the union is concerned about the unregulated use of fixed-term contracts and casual employment at the university. An NTEU meeting on August 4 voted for partial work bans in preparation for and participation in UNSW promotional events from August 30 to September 4.

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