Australia

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. On May 15, thousands around Australia marked it by marching in support of equal marriage rights. In Melbourne, 3000 people from diverse organisations rallied at the state library. Among the speakers were the director, cast and crew members of the current production of Waiting for Godot, including well known actor Ian McKellen.
The Henry Review aims to develop the best possible tax-and-transfer policy for Australian big capital. But there are other proposals that would make up a tax-and-transfer policy for the working-class majority. The Rudd government has already ruled out action on 27 of the Henry review’s 138 recommendations.
Socialist Alliance is planning an ambitious socialist ideas conference in Perth for the last weekend in June. Featured guest speakers include Socialist Party of Malaysia member of parliament Jeyakumar Devaraj. He will speak about the role of socialists in parliament and the link between parliamentary work and community organising.
On May 6, the federal executive of the Australian Education Union (AEU) caved in to the Labor government over the campaign against league tables and the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) ban. As the May 11-13 dates for the NAPLAN tests approached, the dispute over the AEU ban on them heated up. Teachers said the tests could be used to produce school league tables. Australian Council of Trade Unions president Sharon Burrow facilitated discussions between the AEU executive and education minister Julia Gillard.
On May 6, women gathered in Melbourne dressed in pyjamas and hair curlers, ready for the Mothers’ Day breakfast in bed that they never get because of poverty and the stress of being a single parent. The action was to call for an end to poverty for single mothers. Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) project worker Kerry Davies told the protesters that “single mothers and their children are Australia’s poorest families and are now the single highest group of homeless people in this country”.
MELBOURNE — In the wake of the Rudd government’s backflip on climate change, more than 250 people rallied outside the Victorian parliament on May 6 to urge Labor Premier John Brumby and Coalition leader Ted Baillieu to commit to replacing Hazelwood coal-fired power station, the world’s dirtiest, with clean energy by 2012.
CAIRNS — State and federal ALP parliamentarians were sent to the rear of the Labour Day march and rally in Cairns, trailing behind about 1000 unionists and their supporters. The theme of the march was opposition to the Queensland government's privatisation plans. Far North Queensland region Electrical Trades Union organiser Stuart Traill called for the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, with its special interrogation powers, and other laws directed against workers in the construction industry.
MELBOURNE — At a mass meeting and protest rally outside Telstra’s main shop in Melbourne on May 5, Telstra workers voted unanimously to continue their campaign of strikes, bans and other disruptions, aimed at winning a new enterprise agreement and defeating Telstra’s attempts to discriminate against its unionised workers. Marching through the Melbourne CBD, the workers, who are members of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) communications division, demanded equal pay with the non-union workers in Telstra.
The conspicuous presence of barbed wire in Australian immigration detention centres, such as Rudd’s newly re-opened Curtin detention centre, is a reminder of the inhuman pedigree of these grim despair factories. It is no accident that barbed wire — or the “devil’s rope” as the First Nations people of North America called it — has accompanied and facilitated many of the worst crimes against humanity of the modern era.
Thirty people gathered on May 6 at a meeting organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF). The theme of the meeting was “Trade Unions and Climate Change: Challenges, Opportunities and Alliance Building”. Jeremy Kerbel, climate justice campaigner with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, outlined some of the LHMU’s climate change initiatives, such as calling hundreds of delegates in the lead-up to the 2009 Walk Against Warming and sponsoring the event.

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