Jacob Andrewartha

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas unveiled his election year state budget on May 1, with highlights including increased investment in public transport, health and education, with more than $172 million dollars allocated to make TAFE free for 30 priority courses.

Victoria Police are being used by the state Labor government to threaten and harass protesters who have been organising in support of asylum seekers on Manus Island. Activists described the behaviour of the police at a recent rally as state sanctioned violence.

On November 24, a neo-Nazi grabbed the rally microphone and began screaming into it that refugees were rapists and that they should not be bought to Australia.

In a win for residents, the Markham Housing Estate in Ashburton has been saved from being partially privatised.

Coalition and Greens MPs voted on November 17 to stop the Labor state government from amending the planning laws that would allow the partial privatisation of the estate.

Changes to Victoria’s rental laws have been described by campaign group Make Renting Fair as “a significant step in the right direction”. However, spokesperson Mark O’Brien said more changes are needed because the state still “lacks adequate safeguards against eviction”.

More than 50 community services, local governments and others have been working for nearly a year, under the Make Renting Fair banner, to push the government to change the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

“Don’t let our community be destroyed” was the message of the Gronn Place community meeting organised by Friends of Public Housing and Socialist Alliance on August 30.

About 50 public housing tenants and supporters of public housing gathered to discuss their rights. This was the second meeting on the estate. The first meeting was held on July 15.

The Radical Ideas Conference organised by Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance over August 18 to 20 attracted young and older radicals committed to “sparking the resistance”.

Celeste Liddle, an Arrente woman, union activist and writer joined abortion rights and Socialist Alliance activist Kamala Emanuel and Mia Sanders from Resistance in a fascinating panel “Women fight back against misogyny and rape culture”.

Local comedian Pauline Fartson (aka Helchild) summed up the sentiment of the Busk for Free Speech rally on August 6 when she held up a giant permit, which said “Permit to breathe in public places in Moreland”.

Busk for Free Speech was held to highlight some of the anti-democratic and discriminatory local laws being proposed by Moreland City Council as part of its review of local laws. Most of the proposed laws already exist under the current local laws but they are also being included in the draft general local law.

Many councils across Australia have local laws that restrict free speech. Most people are unaware of these laws, until there is an issue that engages them enough to want to exercise their right to free speech and set up a stall, hand out leaflets, get petitions signed and maybe organise a protest rally.

Only when a council officer tells them they have to pack up and leave, do they realise there are undemocratic laws on the books.

We condemn the terror attacks in London and Manchester, but we also need to call out the cynical and dangerous response from those in charge who have one solution — more of the same.

British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump are using these tragedies to ramp up Islamophobia, expand police powers, weaken civil liberties and strengthen the “war on terror” — the same policies that have failed to stop individuals from carrying out terror attacks.

Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has outraged students with his announcement of cuts affecting higher education that will come in the federal budget on May 9. Speculation is rife about the impact the cuts could have on students.

The cuts revolve around a 7.5% increase in university fees. But the reality of the fee hike could be much worse.

In conjunction with the budget’s $2.8 billion in cuts to university funding, universities could be forced to raise student fees by a minimum of 25%.

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