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.
An angry Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the May 12 7:30 Report that he was “passionate about acting on climate change”. Yes, we know. But if only he’d stop acting and start doing. The demise of the Rudd Labor government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is not the problem. It’s a good thing. The problem is that the government still has no serious climate change policy.
In late April, activists from the Intervention Rollback Action Group (IRAG) toured several communities affected by the NT intervention. In particular, they looked at how employment patterns had changed. The results were the same everywhere they went: This is as bad as it has ever been. It has been almost three years since the former federal Coalition government announced the intervention into remote Aboriginal communities (which has continued under Labor). It has been three years of broken promises and declining living conditions for those the intervention was supposed to help.
The tensions between staff and management in The Wilderness Society (TWS) have been building for years. Beginning as a small activist organisation that battled to save the Franklin Dam and won, it has evolved into a large, professional organisation with 45,000 financial members, campaign centres in most capital cities, and 150 paid staff.
Victoria’s “spending bonanza”, as the mainstream media called it, was announced on May 4. Being an election year, the state budget was heavy with promises of cash injections for health care, housing, education and public transport. However, much of the spending announced will be to fund a big increase in “cops on the beat”, a natural step given the recent strengthening of police stop-and-search powers and the accompanying corporate media fear campaign.
The number of cars using Brisbane’s first road tunnel, which opened on March 18, has remained far below the target projected by the Brisbane City Council. After an initial toll-free period, when 65,000 vehicles used the tunnel daily, the usage plunged to a daily average of only 21,178 vehicles after a discounted toll was introduced. The drop in patronage has forced the tunnel operators, River City Motorways, to extend the discounted toll period by another seven weeks in an attempt to boost vehicle numbers.
It took the Rudd government some time to work out how best to exploit the final report of Australia’s Future Tax System Review, led by Treasury Secretary Ken Henry. Which of its 138 recommendations to implement straight away, which to reject, which to stick in the too-hard basket?
On March 13, five women, the oldest aged 69, began walking 1400km from Brisbane to Canberra to take a message to the prime minister that we should take steps towards a nuclear-free future. The women will arrive at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra on May 24. They proudly carry a message stick presented to them by elders of the Turrabul and Yuggera people of Brisbane, which conveys a story of sustainability and will be presented to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on May 25.
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.

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