Australia

The statement below was released by Tangentyere Council on February 11 in response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Closing the Gap 2011 address. *** The intervention in the Northern Territory has created a number of alarming issues. To a large extent the Aboriginal population in the Central Australian Region has become disengaged from any development process with growing signs of increasing despair and family breakdowns.
Activists from the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) confronted Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and opposition Immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison at a Harmony Day event in Sydney on February 17. "You've forgotten to tell us what you did this morning," RAC's Paul Benedek called out to Bowen after his speech. That morning, Bowen had overseen the forced return of 22 survivors of the Christmas Island tragedy (including Seena, a nine-year-old boy orphaned in the incident) back to detention on the island after a short stay in Sydney to bury their dead relatives.
Three years ago then-prime minister Kevin Rudd promised to release children from immigration detention. Instead, his legacy left more children in detention centres than under the conservative Howard government — 1003 at last count. In October 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said locking up children was not "the Australian way". Community housing was the solution and all children would be out by June 2011, she said.
Climate action groups from across Australia will assemble in Melbourne over April 9 to 11 for the third Climate Action Summit. Organised by the Community Climate Network, which involves more than 100 grassroots climate action groups, the summit will provide an opportunity for activists to share information and discuss ways to build a stronger movement for real action on climate change. The 2011 summit will build on the successes of the previous two events, both of which took place in Canberra and involved between 300 and 500 climate activists.
Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance upper house lead candidate in the March NSW elections, spoke at an election forum on climate change hosted by Climate Action Central Coast on February 9. The chief speaker was Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) executive director Matthew Wright. Candidates for the NSW seat of Gosford, Peter Freewater (Greens) and Chris Holstein (Liberal), also spoke. Labor candidate Katie Smith was invited, but did not attend. The article below is based on Boyle’s presentation. * * *
The Business Council of Australia (BCA), which represents Australia's 100 biggest companies, said on February 14 that the federal government should consider cutting the disability pension as an alternative to the Queensland flood levy. How low can these grubs go? Only days later, BCA’s biggest member, BHP-Billiton, posted a record $10.5 billion half-year profit.
Activists fighting to defend Sandon Point won an important victory in the Land and Environment Court in early February, opening the way for ongoing legal challenges to Stockland’s development at the site. Stockland has been clearing the site to build the McCauley's Beach residential development. It is the last green strip from the escarpment to the coast in the northern Illawarra. A community campaign against the development has been going for over 10 years. In late 2009, then-planning minister Kristina Keneally approved the development under Part 3A planning laws.
Elections in the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are being held throughout Australia in the National and State branches in February. There are two main tickets contesting the national and NSW elections. In NSW, the incumbent right-wing Labor leadership team is called Unity. It has failed to defend conditions and jobs against the unpopular Labor government's cuts and privatisations. The Members Voice (MV) ticket is a broad united front of those who oppose the current leadership and advocate increased funding and staffing, and a clear strategy to reverse privatisation.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered the federal government’s third “closing the gap” report on February 9. The report is an annual review of national efforts to address the mortality gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. In an outrageous denial of the government’s failure, Gillard called for Aboriginal people to accept the blame for critical crises in health, education, employment and housing and chronic community breakdown.
In the lead up to the NSW state elections, several organisations and individuals have joined forces to demand the incoming NSW parliament pass a bill for equal marriage rights. Activists representing Community Action Against Homophobia, Australian Marriage Equality, the Metropolitan Community Church Crave, Organisation Intersex International, The Greens and the Socialist Alliance gathered for a joint press conference outside state parliament on February 18. Below is a video of the press conference by Liz Duck-Chong:

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