Australia

On June 25, federal trade minister Simon Crean signed a deal to export up to 20 million tonnes of dried brown coal to Vietnam. The deal was signed with ironically-named Victorian company Environmental Clean Technologies (ECT). Fifty people protested outside the venue in Southbank where the deal was signed, despite the rain and only a few hours notice of the event.
Breaking story (last updated June 25): Socialists and progressive trade union and social movement activists have reacted sceptically to the leadership change in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) federal government of Australia. Julia Gillard displaced Kevin Rudd as PM on June 24 after a surprise leadership challenge that came into the open the night before. She became the country's first woman PM. Wayne Swan replaced Gillard as deputy PM.
A press conference was held on June 23 behind NSW Parliament House calling for an inquiry into 34-year-old Veronica Baxter’s death in custody. Activists presented 500 signatures to NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale who undertook to present them to the New South Wales Parliament. On March 10, 2009, three days after Mardi Gras,Veronica Baxter was arrested by Redfern police and held on remand at the all-male NSW Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre. Six days later, after a 14-hour break between checking her cell, she was found dead, hanging in her single cell.
On June 15, around a 1500 people, representing nearly every union, gathered outside Adelaide Magistrate's court for the first day of a week of rallies supporting construction worker, Ark Tribe, in his battle to defend himself against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week has begun to sweep across Australia. On Sunday June 20, people came from all over Melbourne as well as Ballarat, Geelong and other regional areas for the rally, indicating that refugee rights networks are being re-established. Given the rain, organisers were happy with the size of the rally, between 1000-2000. This has been the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years. Rallies also took place in Canberra, Perth (200) and Brisbane (300) over the weekend.

An internationally renowned academic in the field of Islamic and Gender Studies, Dr Samar Habib (pictured), says pressure from management at the University of Western Sydney caused her to resign from her staff teaching position. Habib said she felt under intense pressure from the university while setting the course material for her compulsory first-year subject, Texts and Traditions. “There were constraints placed on me in terms of what texts I was able to include and who to teach with, and it became very difficult to exercise academic or creative control over my unit”, she said.

Traditional owners of Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory have launched a federal court challenge over a proposed nuclear waste dump on their land. A small group of traditional owners signed a deal for $12 million in exchange for roads, housing and infrastructure, but senior elders from all five of the clan groups for Muckaty maintain that they did not consent to the waste dump proposal.
Muckaty Voices is a 10-minute video documentary that tells the story of the Muckaty traditional owners opposed to a radioactive waste dump on their country. Traditional Owner Dianne Stokes said: “We made the video throughout the Warlmanpa land. It is all of the Milwayi story. Along with that, we have some songs and dances to represent the country. “Martin Ferguson has avoided us and ignored our letters, but he knows very well how we feel. He has been arrogant and secretive and he thinks he has gotten away with his plan, but in fact he has a big fight on his hands.”
Jeff Carrol, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) seafarer, was on the Front Puffin when the burnt bodies of Afghan refugees from Ashmore Reef were hauled onboard a year ago. On June 7, he was with the Tamil refugees from the Oceanic Viking in the union rooms as they received the donations mining and maritime unions pledged to them last year at the height of the controversy.
It was the good news of the month on the Australian economic front. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) announced on June 10 that the official unemployment rate had dropped to 5.2%. But economic commentators have warned that this is close to the lowest level of unemployment the economy can bear without risking inflation. This was not good news for the 600,900 people who the ABS estimates are still officially unemployed (on a seasonally adjusted basis).

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