Australia

Seven climate activists who temporarily shut down coal loaders at Newcastle harbour in a September protest will wait another month to find out if they owe Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) $525,000 in “compensation”. The activists appeared in Newcastle Local Court for two days of hearings on January 31 and February 3. They were convicted of “remaining on enclosed lands”. Each was fined $300, plus $79 in court costs.
Heavy-handed policing in Sydney over the past few months may indicate a heightened, anti-protester attitude of NSW police. States and territories across Australia have either a “permit” or “notice” procedure for holding protests. NSW law has the “notice” procedure, which is very favourable for those organising protests. The completion of a simple form, given to the police with seven days’ notice, protects activists from arrest for offences like obstructing traffic. This favourable legal situation no doubt frustrates police, who are using more aggressive means to curb protests.
Community group Save The Old Kings School (STOKS) held a protest in Parramatta in Sydney’s west on February 2 to demand the historic old Kings School site stay in public hands. Local residents, STOKS activists and members of the Greens and Socialist Alliance attended the action. The school site dates back to the early days of the colony. When the school relocated to North Parramatta in 1968, the site was sold to the NSW government. It has been unused for many years.
Climate change was a big factor in the devastating floods that swept through Queensland and other states in January. For decades, scientists have warned that carbon pollution will lead to more frequent weather disasters. The floods are yet more evidence that we must quickly phase out fossil fuels and embrace 100% renewable energy. As the flood crisis began to emerge, University of Melbourne climate scientist David Karoly told ABC News on December 31 that the extreme weather was not so unexpected.
Margaret River, a town on the southwest coast of Australia, is an important agricultural area, supporting olive farms, dairies and livestock. It attracts tourists from all over the country eager to check out its famous beaches, forests, artists and wineries. But residents were shocked when news surfaced in July that a proposed coalmine will be built just 15 kilometres from the town centre.
Forest campaigners have engaged in a series of actions on the New South Wales south coast, protesting against alleged illegal logging of old-growth forests in the area. Lisa Stone, spokesperson for South East Forest Rescue, told AAP on January 21: "Recent audits have exposed illegal logging of rainforest, land registered on the National Estate, endangered ecological communities, a gazetted Aboriginal Place and rocky outcrops. We have proven systemic re-occurring breaches on the south coast that show a pattern of non-compliance to the law."
In a move that took most people by surprise, Tasmanian Labor Premier David Bartlett resigned on January 23. Deputy premier Lara Giddings was sworn in the next day as the first female premier of the state. Giddings will also keep her position as Treasurer. Bartlett announced his decision with a message on his Facebook page that said: “To all my Facebook friends and contributors. I have decided to step down as premier and leader of the Labor Party.” He said his reason was that he wanted more time to be a better father to his children.
The recent Queensland and Victorian floods make it clear — Australia needs a comprehensive, national, public insurance scheme, to cover floods, bushfires and other major natural disasters. The federal and state governments should combine to establish a national insurance scheme to protect the interests of working people and small businesses. The January 21 Sydney Morning Herald reported on the abject failure of most private insurance companies to provide proper coverage to ordinary, working householders.
In 2005, the people of Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America, elected the poor nation’s first Indigenous president: Evo Morales from the Movement for Socialism (MAS). Since then, the people’s struggles to end multinational corporations’ plunder of Bolivia’s natural resources, and for forms of development and democracy that meet the needs of the majority, have captured the attention of oppressed people around the world.

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