Jonathan Strauss

Do we need to debate whether Australia should become a republic? After all, it is not just parties that say Australian society should be transformed (Socialist Alliance) or reformed (the Greens) that want a republic. The national leaders of the major capitalist political parties and all the state premiers agree on ending the situation where a British monarch is Australia's head of state. I suspect this is in line with what most Australians think: who gave birth to you should not make you the head of state, even nominally. So why is there an argument about this?
Two examples of development proposals that put profit before people and the environment in Far North Queensland appear to have suffered defeats.
The Labor Party has enjoyed a remarkable recovery in the recent Queensland elections. Three years ago, after Labor privatised publicly owned railways, ports and forests, the party was reduced to a 27% primary vote and seven state seats. At the January 31 election, its primary vote rose to 38% and, with a stronger flow of Greens preferences, it won at least 43 seats with a possible total of 45 — the final result will be determined by further counting. Forty five seats would give the party an absolute majority in state parliament.
Treasurer Joe Hockey could not escape hearing the voice of the people when 100 staff, students and community activists rallied on the Smithfield campus of James Cook University in Cairns on September 18. The rally highlighted the federal government's planned cuts to higher education and the rest of the budget. The National Tertiary Education Union JCU branch called the rally because Hockey was speaking at a business conference at JCU before attending a G20 finance ministers meeting in Cairns.
What does it say about Australian politics when a mining billionaire who rides around in a Rolls Royce becomes the people’s champion in parliament? The Palmer United Party (PUP), formed and largely funded by Clive Palmer, continues to disrupt the two-party game played by most politicians and their media supporters. To them, the PUP is “maverick”, a label that fits after Palmer’s outburst this week about “communist” China trying to “take over” Australia.
In heritage-listed trees around Cairns’ main library, a colony of flying foxes has lived and bred for 30 years. As evening sets in, thousands of fruit bats fly out across the city and Trinity Inlet in search of food. Tourists look up in wonder at this wildlife event in the heart of a city. Fruit bats, or spectacled flying foxes, have been listed as vulnerable due to a decline in overall numbers.
Not just the hall but the verandah of the Serbian Centre was packed when more than 300 people came to the first public meeting of Aquis Aware, a group formed in response to the proposed Aquis casino in one of the city’s beachside suburbs, Yorkeys Knob. The mega-resort would have nine hotels and big entertainment and sports venues. An environmental impact statement for the project has not been tabled, so details of the Aquis proposal are murky. But speakers were able to address many of the concerns of those present, most of who were opposed to or questioned the proposed development.
The Freedom Flotilla to West Papua departed on August 17, a week after the arrival of its supporters who had travelled in a land convoy from Lake Eyre. Aboriginal elders, West Papuan refugees, filmmakers, musicians and artists will sail the flotilla’s two boats to West Papuan waters, via Cooktown, Thursday Island and Daru, in Papua New Guinea.
More than 600 unionists and supporters rallied in Cairns’ City Place as part of the statewide day of action against the Campbell Newman government’s budget cuts on September 12. Larger groups of teachers, United Voice members, Ergon electricians, state public servants in purple Together Union T-shirts, and others, flanked contingents of ambulance officers and firefighters in uniform. The mood was sombre and intense, with people standing still and listening more quietly than usual to the speakers.
The campaign against the Liberal National Party Queensland government’s public sector cuts and suppression of alternative views is gathering momentum in the state’s Far North region.

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