Australia

Climate activists gathered outside the Melbourne head office of mining giant BHP on January 21 to show solidarity with victims of the recent floods in eastern Australia. Evidence has emerged linking severe flooding in Australia with human-induced climate change. Shaun Murray, an activist from the Switch off Hazelwood group, said: "The recent catastrophic floods are the result of human-induced climate change. “As coal is the biggest contributor worldwide to emissions, the coal industry should pay the cost of clean-up and reconstruction for these disasters.”
People who grew up in Queensland can tell you about the afternoon storms that heralded the start of summer. Like clockwork, shortly after the kids finished school, the clouds would start to gather. And then that strange quiet, before a great gust of wind would send leaves swirling and branches swaying. And then the rain would come. Huge droplets of rain that would smash down for maybe an hour, maybe more — and then it was over. Sure enough the next day it would come again — the monsoonal downpours that would cool everything down after a sweltering summer’s day.
When I met Kathir (not his real name), in the maximum security stage of Villawood Detention Centre just before Christmas, he had been on hunger strike for five weeks. The Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka was protesting against ASIO’s negative security clearance assessment of his asylum claim. This assessment — made entirely in secret — allows him to be held indefinitely.
Ten-year-old Tamil refugee Brindha faces deportation to Sri Lanka after being rejected by the immigration department, the January 3 Australian said. In March 2010, she told Green Left Weekly the International Organisation for Migration was treating refugees “like animals”. At the time, she was onboard the Jaya Lestari, a boat packed with 254 Tamil asylum seekers who had tried to reach Australia for protection from persecution.
The governments of Australia and Afghanistan have struck a deal to send back rejected Afghan asylum seekers against their will. Australia promised $5.8 million to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai to “improve the passport system” and fund resettlement, but has been condemned for neglecting the interests of refugees themselves. Immigration minister Chris Bowen signed the deal with a minister of the corrupt Karzai regime on January 17. Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Dr Jamaher Anwary was in Sydney to take part in talks on “people smuggling”.
Hundreds of protesters rallied in support of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks and its editor in chief, Julian Assange, in Sydney on January 15. Other rallies also took place in major cities around the world. The rally, which began at Sydney’s Town Hall, was addressed by several key speakers. The protesters later took to the streets for a loud and lively march, which went past the US consulate and ended at Hyde Park.
The Socialist Alliance (SA) has criticised recent state government changes to the Liquor Control Act as an infringement of civil liberties. Under the changes, police have the power to issue “barring orders”, which ban an individual from licensed premises without incurring a criminal conviction. “Giving police the power to issue barring orders to patrons of licensed premises is tantamount to dishing out punishment before a person has been found guilty,” said SA spokesperson Alex Bainbridge.
A fresh federal government inquiry was announced on January 14 into the alleged torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib. This follows the release of independent evidence supporting Habib’s claims and the recent undisclosed compensation settlement the Australian government made with him in December. Prime Minister Julia Gillard had asked the inspector-general of intelligence and security Vivienne Thom to conduct the inquiry after new evidence was presented supporting Habib’s allegations that Australian officials were involved in his torture in Egypt in 2001.
Paying rent sucks. That's nothing new. Its not really profound or controversial to say that — hardly a purely socialist slogan. All of us would like a bit more dosh, and to hand over hard earned cash just for a shitty flat isn’t something anyone enjoys. But these days it’s much more than that — paying rent is hard, and getting harder.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has delayed its decision on the controversial new coalmine proposed for Margaret River in Western Australia. The EPA decision was expected early January. Yet it has chosen to give the mining company LD Operations more time to provide more information. The EPA chairperson is now expected to make a decision at the end of February.

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