Coral Wynter

The Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has asked for another $104 million from the federal government to hold hearings until the end of 2017.

The commission has released an interim report, for which they held more than 1600 private sessions and received more than 1600 written accounts from survivors of sexual abuse.

Under intense lobbying by big electricity companies, the Tony Abbott government is attempting to scrap the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which aims to have 20% of Australia’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

In response to this threat, a new community group called Solar Citizens is campaigning to defend existing solar power and extend solar to even more households. They have held public meetings in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia is at risk of becoming a scientific backwater due to the federal government’s budget cuts to the CSIRO.

The government has proposed a $111 million cut to CSIRO funding in the May budget — about 20% of its total funding — and at least 1000 full-time staff will lose their jobs over the next four years.

Eight CSIRO sites around the country will close. Many are in regional country towns, which rely on the sites for employment.

The Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was set up in January last year, after decades of campaigning by victims.

Led by Justice Peter McClellan, the first public hearings began in April last year and apply only to children sexually abused up to the age of 18. It does not include physical or emotional abuse.

The Pilliga Forest is at the centre of a large battle over the right for companies to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) on public land.

Coal seam gas company Santos is planning to develop a $2 billion CSG project in the forest and it has already begun operating 40 exploratory gas wells.

The exploration licence was supposed to end on April 3, but Santos has been granted multiple extensions by the NSW government to put in more exploratory drill holes.

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aboriginal people made Australia
Bill Gammage
434pps, $40
Allen & Unwin, 2012

This is an extraordinary book that details how Australian Aboriginal people cared for the land, or as Bill Gammage calls it the “Biggest Estate on Earth”.

Gammage describes, with many examples, how Aboriginal people looked after the land. No corner was ignored, from deserts and rainforests to rocky outcrops, across the entire continent for at least 60,000 years until British colonisers began to destroy all this work after their arrival in 1788.

The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney hosted a talk by Basque activist Endika Zarrabeitia Salterain on February 3.

Zarrabeitia is a member of SORTU, a left Basque political party fighting for independence from Spain in a framework of moving towards socialism.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon introduced the evening, reminding the audience of the high number of Australian workers and Communist Party members, who fought on behalf of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War in 1935.

Australian-New Zealand mining company Oceana Gold has destroyed the isolated rural village of Didipio in the mountains of Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya, a province of the Philippines.

Oceana Gold has operated one of six mining projects in the Philippines covered by the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) since 1994. Fierce resistance from villagers, legal struggles and the financial problems of the company meant it was only this year that Oceana Gold was able to ship out its first 5000 tons of copper-gold concentrate.

Groups in Australia have claimed for several years that low-frequency noise and inaudible sound levels from wind farms have affected people’s health by causing sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fast heart rate, poor concentration and episodes of panic.

In 2011, the Victorian Liberal government used these claims to place a ban on windfarms being built within two kilometres of residential areas.

Is there any basis to these claims?

The United States Supreme Court ruled on June 13 that human genes cannot be patented.

This surprise decision is a victory for women who need genetic testing to detect whether they carry a genetic mutation that increases the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.

But the ruling has much broader implications. It puts in jeopardy thousands of patents already granted on human genes over the past 30 years.

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