Not a week, nor even a day, goes by without a new outrage from the Tony Abbott government. One recent outrage was when Abbott declared that Australia was “unsettled” before the British invasion — taking us back to the days of terra nullius. This stand, alongside plans to quarantine how young people spend welfare payments while earmarking billions of dollars for unneeded (and technically dubious) fighter jets, indicates the character of the Abbott government.
Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.
“At the end of the day,” Bella Bropho of the Swan Valley Nyungah Community told Green Left Weekly, “we want that land returned to us.” She was referring to the Lockridge camp site which was home to the community until it was closed by the Western Australian government in 2003. Despite the closure, the community has maintained a continuous connection with the site and still meets there every week. At 5pm on June 10, government contractors moved in to remove fences and “desecrate” vegetation that was planted by community members.
The Western Australia senate election re-run has resulted in a big drop in support for the major parties and significant swings to the Greens and the Palmer United Party (PUP). Greens, PUP and Labor have won one seat each while the Liberals have won two seats. The final seat will be decided by preferences and is expected to go to either Liberal or Labor.
For the first time in Australian history, construction workers are facing government moves to seize houses and cars in relation to an industrial dispute. The 33 workers affected took part in an eight-day strike in north-west WA in 2008. Mick Buchan of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) told the ABC that the dispute between workers and the company was resolved at the time. “It was some time later that the ABCC [Australian Building Construction Commission] intervened and brought charges against individuals”, he said.
Modestly describing herself as “Australia's richest intellect”, Gina Rinehart has launched a new intervention into Australian politics that is calling for a cut in government spending and other measures to make private corporations “thrive”. True, she is not calling for an end to government subsidies to the mining industry. She is not calling for an end to corporate welfare and she's not calling for a reduction in wasteful military spending.
Murdoch Universiity administration has acted to close down student club stalls in the academic orientation week prior to classes beginning and the clubs and societies "O-day". Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance was one club that set up a small stall on February 17. Campus security were called to remove the stall from campus. Resistance members complied with the request and packed up the stall, settling to hand out leaflets promoting events on campus. Murdoch University then demanded the leafleting stop.
“Steve's case is really a case about all of us,” renowned Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva said in support of organic farmer Steve Marsh. It is about the right to “have the freedom to eat healthy, safe organic food”. Marsh lives in Kojanup in Western Australia, and is embroiled in a landmark “David v Goliath” legal case about the effects of genetically modified (GM) crops on his farm.
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett's unpopular shark cull policy is facing legal and political hurdles as activists plan protest actions for February 1. On January 22, the media reported that an unidentified fisher had been contracted to administer the baitlines along the south-west coast of WA, even though he admitted to have “practically no experience as a shark fisher”. He had a “direct line” to police should his activities be interfered with, he said.
Australian Services Union leader Sally McManus has compiled a list of 85 broken promises or other attacks on Australians by the Abbott government since the federal election. Prominent on the list are attacks on refugee rights, workers' rights, public services and the environment. They include: abolition of the Climate Commission, abolition of the High Speed Rail Advisory Group and formal attempts to wind back the world heritage listing of Tasmania's forests.