Jim McIlroy

Denis Walker, an Aboriginal rights activist and freedom fighter who died on December 4 at the age of 71, has been described as a trailblazer, revolutionary and a giant in the Aboriginal movement.

A Noonuccal man from Minjerribah, Stradbroke Island, in southern Queensland, Walker was the son of poet Oodgeroo Noonucal (Kath Walker) and Bruce Walker.

He was a major figure in the civil rights and land rights movements of the 1970s, and continued to fight for a treaty between the Australian government and Aboriginal nations until his death.

Sam Watson, a leading Murri activist from Brisbane, has been involved in Aboriginal rights struggles since the 1960s.

He is a prominent author, playwright and filmmaker, and is the Aboriginal affairs spokesperson for Socialist Alliance. A Birri Gubba man, he was previously an academic at the University of Queensland, and received honours for his 1990 novel The Kadaitchi Sung and acclaim for his 1995 film Black Man Down.

Watson spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Jim McIlroy about the issues confronting Aboriginal people.

Rail workers will stop work for 24 hours on January 29 to push management to negotiate a fair enterprise agreement. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) said on January 16 that the government and management had left them no choice but to take this kind of action.

A coalition of anti-tollway groups has called for a mass rally early next year to bring together communities fighting against the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway and other disastrous road projects being pushed by the NSW Coalition government. The rally is planned for February 17 at 2pm.

The humiliating about-face forced on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he announced a royal commission into the banking and financial sectors on November 30 could be the beginning of the end for the Coalition government.

The publication of NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s new pamphlet, Sold off, sold out: the disaster of privatisation and how to reclaim our common wealth, is timely.

With the federal government now supporting a royal commission into the banks and widespread controversy over national energy policy, the damaging consequences of privatising many of the country’s formerly publicly owned industries is clear for all to see.

Momentum for a new super-union has accelerated with a strong vote by members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) in favour of amalgamating with the giant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Both unions reported an overwhelming Yes vote.

The MUA vote was 87% in favour, with 50% of members participating. This involvement is higher than past internal MUA elections for union officers.

Workers at the Streets ice-cream factory in the south-western Sydney suburb of Minto voted on November 22 to end a boycott campaign against the company, after agreeing to ratify an in-principle agreement with Streets over pay and other issues.

The new agreement will reportedly give the workers a 5% wage increase over three years, maintain their current working conditions and rosters and add 39 new flexible part-time jobs to the company’s workforce.

Centrelink, the federal government's main social welfare agency, is planning to hire 1000 private labour-hire staff to carry out "debt recovery" operations and assist in enforcing compliance by welfare recipients.

This latest large-scale outsourcing exercise comes just a month after the Coalition government announced that controversial multinational corporation Serco would use 250 employees to staff a Centrelink call centre, supposedly to help reduce long waiting times.

A rally outside NSW Parliament on November 22 delivered more than 5000 letters to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, calling her to halt the controversial WestConnex tollway and initiate a thorough review of the wasteful $18 billion project.

Greens MPs Jenny Leong and Jamie Parker, City of Sydney Deputy Mayor Jess Miller, independent MP Alex Greenwich and Inner West councillor Pauline Lockie called on the NSW government to listen to the growing opposition.

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