Australia

On May 5, Victorian Premier John Brumby announced that a deal had been struck with the Australian Education Union that would end the union’s 16-month-long industrial campaign. Victorian state school teachers had campaigned to secure better working conditions and pay rises and to reduce contract teaching.
Australia is a leading exporter of coal, shipping millions of tonnes every year around the globe. It was appropriate, therefore, that the annual environmental conference, Students of Sustainability (SoS), was this year held in the world’s coal export capital: Newcastle.
The Rudd government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine the economic, productive and social benefits of introducing a national paid maternity leave scheme. The Commission has heard submissions from a range of unions, business and community groups, and is due to release its report in February, 2009.
PM Kevin Rudd’s “education revolution”, a sad misuse of the word “revolution”, continues to starve public schools of funds. Meanwhile, wealthy private schools are given so much federal money they don’t know what to with it other than bank it or build Olympic-sized gymnasiums.
Rail workers’ militancy against Morris Iemma’s NSW Labor government has won some important concessions and forced the government onto the back foot.
“Unions are totally enmeshed in Cuban society”, Scott Wilson, an organiser for the Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union told a July 9 public forum, sponsored by the ETU and the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN).
The June 5 South Australian Labor government budget has been praised as “outstanding” by business groups and the corporate media. The budget reduces business taxes and funds extensive infrastructure development.
One of the less noticed consequences of the ALP’s pre-election promise to take a “meat axe” to the federal public service has been the impact of the cuts being made to cultural institutions.
The Victorian state government’s TAFE “reform” blueprint Securing our Future Economic Prosperity: Discussion Paper on Skills Reform, released in April, pitches for higher course fees and a Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS)-style payment system spread over a few years. Currently, TAFE students pay their course fees up front.
On June 2, the West Australian reported that WA Premier Alan Carpenter had called for a nationwide suspension of approvals for foods containing genetically modified (GM) crops until more health research was carried out. Carpenter said the national food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand should not approve any more food for human consumption until independent scientific trials were conducted to better determine the safety of GM foods.

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