As Venezuelan people fight to have the elected government of Nicolas Maduro recognised, the nation’s democracy and election processes have been questioned by Australian media. Australians, as well as being told how lucky they are to live in such a prosperous country, are also told how lucky they are to live in a democracy where opinions are heard, unlike in other countries. But this onerous truism doesn’t really stand up to comparison. There have been some historical achievements in Australia, even if this was still marked by ugliness.

Business Council of Australia (BCA) chief Tony Shepherd was on his bipartisan and diplomatic best when he addressed the National Press Council on April 17 to outline the peak corporate body's “economic vision and action plan for Australia”. But if you sweep aside the verbal camouflage, these were the core messages from the corporate rich delivered in the BCA chief's speech: 1. “We own you.” “We are not doing this work because we see ourselves as having special authority,” he said.
A 10-day hunger strike and protest carried out by a group of refugees in a Melbourne detention centre ended on April 17. Twenty-seven refugees in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre in Broadmeadows were refusing food and water, and sleeping on the ground outdoors to draw attention to their lives in limbo. Despite being found to be genuine refugees by Australia, they have been denied a protection visa due to adverse ASIO security checks. This means they will never be allowed to live in Australia, but cannot be deported because they have a genuine fear of persecution.
A protest was held outside Labor minister Tanya Plibersek's office in Sydney on April 17 to protest the Julia Gillard government's $2.3 billion cut to tertiary education over the next four years. The government says they are cutting money from tertiary education in order to increase funding to school education, but the government plans to give a $2.4 billion increase to private schools over the same period. This will increase public funding of private schools to $85 billion over that period. Another protest will be held at Sydney University on April 24 at 12pm.
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network released this statement on April 17. *** The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network joins with all those voices for democracy and peace to call for an immediate end to the opposition-initiated violence now occurring in Venezuela. On April 14, a majority of Venezuelans voted for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) presidential candidate, Nicolas Maduro. In doing so, they voted to continue the Bolivarian revolution previously led by Hugo Chávez.
Global military spending rose to US $1.74 trillion in 2011. The Australian government spends $25 billion a year — or $68 million per day — on defence spending. This is a travesty when 125,000 Australians are homeless every night and budget cuts are being made to higher education. Demonstrations were held on April 15 in cities around Australia and in over 100 centres world wide to mark a global day of action on military spending. This coincides with the publication by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute of world military expenditures for the past year.
Rallies were held around the country on April 13 to protest the federal government's cuts to single parent benefits which will force families deeper into poverty. In the western Sydney suburb of Penrith, 30 people gathered to hear from speakers which included single parents, Penrith city councillor Michelle Tormey and founder of ChilOut, Dianne Hiles, who campaigns to get refugee children and families out of detention. Photos: Tessa Barrett
The Australian Greens have called on the federal government to end fossil fuel subsidies for big mining companies. The Greens say costings by the Parliamentary Budget Office show that Labor’s spending on fossil fuel subsidies for mining companies will cost the public more than $13 billion over the next four years. Included in these subsidies are diesel fuel tax rebates, accelerated depreciation on assets and accelerated depreciation on exploration.
Australian Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Sydney released the statement below on April 12, after the Student Representative Council voted to support an academic boycott of Israel. *** The Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Sydney passed a motion this week endorsing Associate Professor Jake Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel.
At first, a bridging visa seems like a new life. A brief glimpse of freedom is felt by many asylum seekers who, after years in detention, see an opportunity to live freely in Australia. The temporary, selective visa gets asylum seekers six weeks’ accommodation and financial support of $219 a week — a figure that is 89% of the Newstart allowance. But after six weeks — a nanosecond in Australia's cumbersome and bureaucratic refugee processing system — asylum seekers are expected to go out on their own, find somewhere to live, and somehow survive on a few hundred dollars a week.
The Tasmanian Labor-Greens government and Housing Tasmania has faced criticism over its proposal to evict public housing tenants who earn above a certain income. Originally, Consumer Affairs minister Nick McKim wanted the cap to be fixed at $66,000 a year. But a lobby campaign by the Tenants Union forced the government to remove the set limit and make it flexible instead. The ABC said Housing Minister Cassy O'Connor said income limits would be decided by “regulation” and Housing Tasmania.
About 80 protesters made their voices heard from outside Sydney's Intercontinental hotel as the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard gave his “no regrets” on Iraq speech, hosted by conservative think-tank the Lowy Institute on April 9. The protest was organised by Stop the War Coalition and a network of concerned groups and individuals.