Farida Iqbal gave this speech on behalf of the March Australia committee in Perth on May 18. *** This is a budget founded on lies. There is no budget emergency. The whole thing is a complete fabrication. The budget deficit is 34.5% of GDP, compared to the average of 117% among OECD countries. But that wasn’t the only lie. Treasurer Joe Hockey told us we have to cut back the safety net because we are a nation of lifters, not leaners. When he said that, he lied to us about who is doing the lifting and who is doing the leaning in this country.
After 1370 votes went missing during the Western Australian senate election last year, the vote was declared void. Another election has been called for April 5. The difference between this election and the last one is that the agenda of prime minister Tony Abbott is clearer. Anti-Abbott sentiment was particularly dramatic at the March in March rally, which drew 3000 people in Perth.
Western Australia will go to the polls on April 5 to re-elect its federal Senators. The election was called to fix a mammoth electoral bungle, which left many Western Australians questioning the democracy of the political system. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam appealed for a recount of the Senate vote when it looked like he had narrowly lost his seat to the Palmer United Party in the September federal election. During the recount, it came to light that 1375 votes had gone missing, and the result of the election was declared void. Six seats are up for re-election.
Community opposition may soon put fracking on hold in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia. This could culminate in the first big victory for the anti-fracking movement in Western Australia. Buru Energy, partnered with Mitsubishi, intends to frack four wells east of Broome 34 times this year, starting in May. This is the largest single fracking proposal to be put forward in Western Australia so far. The area is a wetland used by Aboriginal owners.
In late January, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decided not to assess a proposal for fracking in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. Buru Energy plans to conduct 34 fracks in the region starting this year. It intends to conduct most of these fracks at four existing wells: two at Yulleroo, 90 kilometres east of Broome, and two at Valhalla/Asgard, 320 kilometres east of Broome.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at a Perth university has been forced to the brink of industrial action. University of Western Australia (UWA) management has spent over a year dragging its feet in enterprise bargaining negotiations, but has refused to budge on key issues of pay, workload limits and parking fees.
In his opinion piece “Will Radicals Set Back the Marriage Equality Movement?”, OutInPerth editor Graeme Watson writes that Equal Love is threatened by a “socialist takeover”.
Australian oil and gas company AWE has signalled its intention to mine for unconventional gas on farmland bordering Western Australia’s Lesueur National Park. The proposal, released in October, includes plans to use the damaging process known as “fracking” to extract gas, starting in March next year. The national park is a environmentally significant area. It holds more than 900 different plant species and more than 10% of the total known flora of WA. It also holds seven species of declared rare fauna, and nine taxa found nowhere else in the world.
Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Murdoch University have voted to call off industrial action and support a new enterprise agreement with the university. The agreement was offered as union members were preparing to go on strike on November 20. Initially, the university had refused a pay rise of more than 4% over the next two years. This would have been well below inflation and effectively a pay cut.
Rita Hester was found murdered inside her apartment on November 28, 1998. Hester was transgender and also African American, her death highlighting not only the issue of transphobic murder, but also the disproportionate representation of people of colour among its victims. Her murder is still unsolved but an international day of action known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is marked on November 20 each year. Hester’s murder was preceded and followed by other high profile transphobic murders.
The same-sex marriage bill passed in the Australian Capital Territory on October 22 was the most important victory of the equal marriage rights campaign so far. It is the first time queer people have had the right to marry in Australia and follows a seven-year campaign in the ACT, and a nine-year struggle nationwide. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is likely to do everything in his power to overturn the legislation. The federal government will be taking it to the High Court next month.
About 500 people rallied in Perth on October 19 to protest against a new forest management plan approved by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in July, which could destroy 2000 square kilometres of native forest over the next 10 years. The rally was organised by campaign group Forest Legacy, and indicates the re-emergence of the movement to protect forests in WA, important at a time of increased attacks from state and federal Liberal governments.
Last month 20,000 people rallied against education cuts by the state government. Following a stalemate over pay in enterprise bargaining negotiations, Murdoch University members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) voted to go to a ballot for industrial action.
Schools across Western Australia were shut down by a statewide stop-work on September 17, called to fight education funding cuts proposed by the state Liberal government. About 500 education assistants are set to lose their jobs. A change in the school staffing formula also means that there will be 585 fewer teaching places next year, in comparison to what there would have been under the previous funding model. Program cutbacks on top of this mean that altogether there will be up to 1000 less teachers next year.
Large stop-work rallies were held across Western Australia on September 19 to fight the Liberal state government’s education cuts. About 15,000 people attended the rally in Perth and another 5000 attended stop-work meetings across regional WA, including 2000 in Bunbury, 500 in Albany, 520 in Pinjarra and 200 in Port Hedland. Even small schools in the remote north-west of the state took part. A total of 62 schools were shut down for the morning.
The new Prime Minister Tony Abbott is infamous for his homophobia. Only recently he dismissed the equal marriage rights campaign as the “fashion of the moment”. The equal marriage rights campaign is about much more than marriage. It’s about a prejudice that kills people. Particularly for young people, life in the queer community keeps them constantly on their toes. All around, queer people are self-harming, and every day young people worry that somebody they care about might commit suicide. These are the consequences of homophobia and transphobia.