Ben Courtice

In the same boat
Channa Wickremesekera
Bay Owl Press, 2010

It almost seems superfluous to review this book. At a mere 62 pages, it is barely a novella — a short story, perhaps. Why not just read the book, and skip the review?

Once you start, if it's going to appeal to you at all, the first few pages will draw you in and you will finish it in the same sitting.

A protest against using the Victorian port of Hastings for brown coal exports attracted 200 people on November 9, including locals and community members from across Gippsland.

Several coal export projects are seeking to use land at Hastings in Western Port, south-east of Melbourne, for a one-square-kilometre brown coal drying facility and port.

About 200 residents blockaded Somerville Road during morning rush hour in the inner-west Melbourne suburb of Kingsville on November 12 to protest against the number of container trucks using the street.

Somerville Road is a two-lane residential road that carries 3000 trucks a day. There are three primary schools and a kindergarten nearby with 1500 children enrolled.

The protest was organised by Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) and heard from Maribyrnong Mayor Grant Miles, MTAG president Samantha McArthur, and Merryn Redenbach from Doctors for the Environment.

Unionists at the Woolworths warehouse in Barnawartha, northern Victoria, have won an 8.3% wage rise and other benefits after an eight-day strike that ended on November 1.

The 350 members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) went on strike on October 25 due to pay rates much lower than Melbourne employees doing the same job. A NUW statement said management had offered a raise of 74¢ per hour for Barnawartha workers, compared to $1.04 for Melbourne employees.

Members at the Barnawartha warehouse already earned $203 a week less than workers in Melbourne.

Top officials from the John Howard government's Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) have been appointed to head its successor, the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate (FWBII).

The ABCC was never completely abolished under the recent Labor government, but instead had most of its functions transferred to the Inspectorate.

Employment minister Eric Abetz appointed former ABCC deputy commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss as director of the inspectorate, and former ABCC commissioner, John Lloyd, as chair on October 17.

More people die from air pollution in Australia than the road toll, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale told a public meeting in Melbourne’s inner-west municipality of Maribyrnong on October 23.

Di Natale instigated the recent Senate inquiry into the effects of air pollution on human health, which concluded in August. He said there had been a “catastrophic failure in this country to monitor air quality”.

Despite a Victorian state moratorium since last year barring the use of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) to extract gas, communities across the state continue to protest against gas drilling and exploration.

Sixty locals protested at a test drilling site in Yarragon in Gippsland, east of Melbourne, on October 19, where Greenpower Natural Gas holds a licence to explore for coal seam gas (CSG). The moratorium on fracking does not prevent exploration works such as drilling and flaring off.

McDonald’s Australia has ceased legal action against eight community protesters — dubbed the “Tecoma 8” — who were being sued for damages over delays to construction of a McDonald’s restaurant in Tecoma, in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Markets are neither free nor efficient, and they are bad for the environment. Market choice is not cheap. While that may sound like a timeless left-wing credo, it's also a simple assessment of Australia's 20 years of privatisation and market-oriented restructure of electricity supply.

Outside small left-wing dissident circles (from Keynesians to Marxists), operating the power industry according to market principles has become an unquestioned and unspoken assumption.

Unemployed workers staged a protest at a Werribee construction site where they say workers have been brought from overseas on subclass 457 work visas, without advertising the positions locally.
 
“We've spoken to management on site, they have confirmed there's 457 visa workers here,” protest spokesperson Nick Donohue told Green Left Weekly.
 
“The 457 workers are welding tanks. We've got an abundance of skilled labour in the area that can do the same job, so there's no necessity for these workers to be brought here,” Donohue said.
 

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