Jim McIlroy

A report commissioned by the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) shows that energy sector privatisation in Australia has been "a dismal failure", which has produced "no benefits" for consumers, but has resulted in "large fiscal losses" for taxpayers. Economist John Quiggin, from the University of Queensland, reviewed energy sector privatisation and the related process of electricity market reform between the early 1990s and now, and found no long-term benefits for either governments or consumers.
Activists have held solidarity actions against right-wing violence in Venezuela in several Australian cities, as part of an international campaign of solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution. About 20 people rallied outside Sydney Town Hall on February 19. Holding banners and placards expressing support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution, the protesters handed out leaflets explaining to passersby the need to defend the people of Venezuela and their government against extreme right attacks, backed by the US government.
Several hundred residents and supporters rallied in Ashfield Park, in Sydney’s inner west, on February 9 to protest against the WestConnex road development. Rally organisers said: "WestConnex intends to widen Parramatta Road in order to create an entrance to the planned westbound tunnel under Parramatta Road. We stand to lose a 10-20 metre stretch of Ashfield Park. "Ashfield Park may be used as a depot for trucks and heavy machinery for up to seven years. Now is the time to protest."
A builder who donated $200,000 to the Liberal Party last year has gone into administration owing sub-contractors and suppliers an estimated $30 million. The collapse of Steve Nolan Constructions affects five building sites in the northern suburbs of Lindfield, St Leonards, Roseville and Gordon, where apartment blocks are being built for developer, the Ralan Group.
"One year after Hugo Chavez's death: Eyewitness reports from Venezuela," was the title of a public forum organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) at the Resistance Centre on February 4. More than 40 people attended the forum, which heard a panel of speakers discuss issues facing the Bolivarian revolution today.
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has called for Australia Post to expand its services to include banking and insurance. The postal workers' union said this would help strengthen Australia Post as a public enterprise, while challenging the power of the big four banks and improving services in regional and rural areas.
Unions NSW has endorsed a “Stop Abbott: Save Medicare” rally planned for February 15, 1pm, at Town Hall Square. Mark Lennon, secretary of Unions NSW, will speak at the action with representatives of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and the Health Services Union. Other speakers will include members of the Doctors Reform Society, Aboriginal and pensioner organisations, and political parties. The main rally demands are: no fees for GPs, free and fully funded health care, and no privatisation or cuts.
More than 200 people attended a rally on January 18 in Goddard Park, Concord, in Sydney's inner west, to protest against the WestConnex motorway project. The rally was organised by the WestCon Action Group, which is campaigning against the NSW and federal governments' $11.5 billion tollway-tunnel plan — Australia's single most expensive road project.
"The war in Colombia has been ongoing for decades, with little public discussion internationally," Oliver Villar, from the University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University, told a Sydney forum on November 30. The forum was organised by the solidarity organisation United for Colombia. "The roots of the conflict, and why peace is so difficult, lie in the country's history. It is a story of US imperialist domination, and Spanish colonialism before that, which left a semi-feudal system almost intact.
"Qantas in crisis: 1000 jobs to go; Warning of $300 million loss; [federal transport minister Warren] Truss rules out aid," was the dramatic headline on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald on December 5. The deep problems ailing Australia's national airline pose a clear choice between two options: allow the airline to battle on in the chaos of the international airline wars, or re-nationalise Qantas as a key part of a socially progressive and environmentally sustainable public transport policy.
Conflict In The Unions: The Communist Party of Australia, Politics & the Trade Union Movement, 1945-60 By Douglas Jordan Resistance books, 2013 312 page, $30 Conflict In The Unions is an important new book examining the union activity of the Communist Party of Australia during a very turbulent time in Australian and world politics. The book looks at the period of 1945-'60, when the Cold War reached its height.
"Never before in the history of Latin America have there been such a number of left-wing governments in power at the same time," Steve Ellner, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and professor in economic history at the Eastern University in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, told a public forum in Sydney on November 9. The forum was organised by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) and also featured Sarah Motta, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Newcastle. Both speakers had edited editions of the journal Latin American Perspectives earlier this year.