Australia

Wander through the labyrinthine lanes from Chippendale to Marrickville, and it will strike you: Sydney has been hit with a tidal wave of new art galleries. Galleries like MOP in Chippendale, At The Vanishing Point on south King St and First Draft in Surry Hills are among a new generation of art spaces that are strictly not-for-profit, often self-funded and always run by and for artists. They’re called artist-run initiatives (ARIs), and they’re blasting a fresh gust of air through the art community.
“I’ve never felt so good about an election”, an upbeat Senator Bob Brown told a packed crowd at Leichhardt Town Hall on July 29. The Greens parliamentary leader urged people to help his party out in the August 21 election in which the Greens hope to win the balance of power in the Senate. Having been excluded the previous week from the “great debate” featuring Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Coalition leader Tony Abbott, Brown used the opportunity to talk up policies that, had he been included, may have made it worth watching.
A prolonged industrial dispute is continuing at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) as a result of the ongoing refusal of vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer to bargain in good faith with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) over staff concerns about pay and conditions — especially job security. Hilmer’s intransigence should come as no surprise. When Hilmer announced his decision to take up a tidy $750,000 annual salary package as vice-chancellor of University of New South Wales back in 2005, he said partial deregulation of education was like being “half pregnant”.
The family of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who died in the back of a prison transfer van in January 2008, will receive $3.2 million from the WA government. It is in addition to the $200,000 interim payment previously given to the Ward family. The payment comes in the wake of escalating protests organised by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) in support of the family. The most recent rally was a large march through the city on July 11 in the wake of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) decision not to lay any charges in this case.
No one won the so-called Leaders’ Debate on July 27 — not even the “worms”. It was no debate at all, and showed that people and the environment will lose with either the ALP or the Coalition in government. Coalition leader Tony Abbott hasn’t convincingly shed his climate change denialism and his promise that Work Choices is “dead, buried and cremated” is even less credible. Prime Minister Julia Gillard presided over Work Choices-lite and shares with Abbott an irresponsible determination to avoid serious action on climate change.
The launch of the Nuclear Freeways Campaign took place outside federal resources minister Martin Ferguson’s office on July 30. The launch was a send-off for a group of activists from Friends of the Earth who will travel the likely route nuclear waste will be transported from Sydney to a proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty station in the Northern Territory.
After spending over two weeks on the road together, students and activists onboard the New South Wales “Indigenous Solidarity Ride” stopped at Olympic Dam on July 15 to protest against a proposed uranium mine expansion. The bus riders travelled through rural NSW and South Australia to attend the Defending Indigenous Rights: Land, Law, Culture convergence in Alice Springs over July 7-9. They also took part in the Students of Sustainability conference in Adelaide.
Protesters had coal trains backed up for kilometres at the small mining town of Collinsville, inland from Bowen, north Queensland, on July 26. They were protesting against the dust and noise of the trains, and the plan to upgrade the rail line to bring up to 70 coal trains a day through their town. About 15 coal trains a day rumble through the middle of Collinsville. The residents picketed the line for three days, bringing coal train traffic to a complete halt.
Soubhi Iskander is a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for NSW in the 2010 federal elections. He was born in Sudan and has been a socialist for more than half a century. Despite being jailed and tortured, he remains a committed and active socialist and now is the editor of Green Left Weekly’s Arabic supplement, The Flame. Iskander is furious but not surprised at the scapegoating of refugees and recent immigrants in the current federal election campaign.
The Cairns Women’s Network (CNW) has endorsed a planned national day of action for abortion rights on October 9. “We do not understand why a section of the Qld Criminal Code from 1899 is being used to bring charges against a young Cairns couple in 2010”, said Dr Carole Ford from the Cairns Women’s Network. “All people who respect a woman’s right to control her own fertility should support repeal of these archaic laws.” Ford said the CNW was planning a peaceful vigil in Cairns beginning on October 11.

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