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.
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).
The National Rugby League (NRL) establishment is in damage control once again after one of the game's stars took a courageous stand against racism in the sport. Star centre Timana Tahu quit the New South Wales State of Origin team on June 11 in protest against racism directed towards an opponent. NSW assistant coach Andrew Johns described Queensland centre Greg Inglis, an Aboriginal man, as a “black cunt” in his training instructions to the team, and has been accused of making racist remarks about other Queensland players.
Andrew John Brent is an activist with Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH). He recently visited Villawood dentention centre to speak with Leela, a queer Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka. This is his story. More information on the campaign to free queer refugees can be found at the CAAH website. ***
Attempts by Tahmoor mineworkers to negotiate with mining giant Xstrata have collapsed yet again after the company refused to budge during mediated talks in May. For 20 months, the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union (CFMEU), has been trying to negotiate an agreement.
Large mining companies enjoyed a huge profit margin of 46.1% in 2008/9, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on May 28. The mining sector as a whole has a profit margin of 37.1%, making it the most profitable sector in the economy, with professional and scientific services second (24.6%) and private health care third (21.5%).