Australia

“I’ve never felt so good about an election”, an upbeat Senator Bob Brown told a packed crowd at Leichhardt Town Hall on July 29. The Greens parliamentary leader urged people to help his party out in the August 21 election in which the Greens hope to win the balance of power in the Senate. Having been excluded the previous week from the “great debate” featuring Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Coalition leader Tony Abbott, Brown used the opportunity to talk up policies that, had he been included, may have made it worth watching.
These poems by Iranian poet Mohsen Soltany Zand mark the chasm that has opened around and within us. A century ago, the war poems of World War I conveyed the futility and horrors of war. By doing so, they expressed a clinging to life. For instance, Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti wrote “lying a whole night/beside a butchered comrade/never have I clung so to life”. This clinging and choosing of life, persisted even when it seemed the nuclear threat of “mutually assured destruction” was imminent.
A prolonged industrial dispute is continuing at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) as a result of the ongoing refusal of vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer to bargain in good faith with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) over staff concerns about pay and conditions — especially job security. Hilmer’s intransigence should come as no surprise. When Hilmer announced his decision to take up a tidy $750,000 annual salary package as vice-chancellor of University of New South Wales back in 2005, he said partial deregulation of education was like being “half pregnant”.
After spending over two weeks on the road together, students and activists onboard the New South Wales “Indigenous Solidarity Ride” stopped at Olympic Dam on July 15 to protest against a proposed uranium mine expansion. The bus riders travelled through rural NSW and South Australia to attend the Defending Indigenous Rights: Land, Law, Culture convergence in Alice Springs over July 7-9. They also took part in the Students of Sustainability conference in Adelaide.
No one won the so-called Leaders’ Debate on July 27 — not even the “worms”. It was no debate at all, and showed that people and the environment will lose with either the ALP or the Coalition in government. Coalition leader Tony Abbott hasn’t convincingly shed his climate change denialism and his promise that Work Choices is “dead, buried and cremated” is even less credible. Prime Minister Julia Gillard presided over Work Choices-lite and shares with Abbott an irresponsible determination to avoid serious action on climate change.
The family of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who died in the back of a prison transfer van in January 2008, will receive $3.2 million from the WA government. It is in addition to the $200,000 interim payment previously given to the Ward family. The payment comes in the wake of escalating protests organised by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) in support of the family. The most recent rally was a large march through the city on July 11 in the wake of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) decision not to lay any charges in this case.
On July 25, climate change minister Penny Wong, Australia’s first openly queer government minister, came out against equal marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. “On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect”, she told Channel 10. Wong’s statement dramatically shows the utter moral bankruptcy of the Labor Party on the issue.
The launch of the Nuclear Freeways Campaign took place outside federal resources minister Martin Ferguson’s office on July 30. The launch was a send-off for a group of activists from Friends of the Earth who will travel the likely route nuclear waste will be transported from Sydney to a proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty station in the Northern Territory.
For 10 years, the former Tip Top bakery site in Brunswick East has attracted ambitious property players who later saw financial ruin. These include disgraced property spruiker Henry Kaye followed by Norm Carey’s property group Westpoint. Thanks to the new owner, Toll Holding’s CEO Paul Little, the heritage buildings of the site are sitting exposed to elements and vandals. In April, Little demolished all buildings other than the Harry Norris frontage.
Protesters had coal trains backed up for kilometres at the small mining town of Collinsville, inland from Bowen, north Queensland, on July 26. They were protesting against the dust and noise of the trains, and the plan to upgrade the rail line to bring up to 70 coal trains a day through their town. About 15 coal trains a day rumble through the middle of Collinsville. The residents picketed the line for three days, bringing coal train traffic to a complete halt.

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