Mel Barnes

A crowd of about 200 attended the Wollongong welcomes refugees rally on June 25. Held during Refugee Week, the rally and march aimed to show support for people seeking asylum in Australia, to call for the closing of all the detention centres, and to let the government know that Wollongong welcomes refugees.
A Greens bill that would require all New South Wales government-funded infrastructure projects to use Australian-made steel is making its way through the NSW Upper House. The bill, which has the support of all parties except the Coalition, is expected to pass in the next session. The Greens say their Steel Industry Protection Bill will stop the loss of thousands of jobs in the Illawarra and provide long-term security to the Port Kembla steelworks.
More than 1000 people rallied in Wollongong on September 19 to demand the federal government take action to save jobs at the Port Kembla steelworks. Bluescope has announced it aims to cut $200 million from its operating budget and intends to sack 500 workers in the short term, with a possibility that thousands more jobs will go in the future. This is despite BlueScope posting a $134 million profit for the last financial year. Unions have launched a campaign to save the steelworks and emergency talks have been held between government ministers, unions and Bluescope management.
Water buybacks for the Murray Darling basin will be capped at 1500 gigalitres after Labor joined with the Coalition to pass a bill in the Senate on September 14. The bill was backed by the National Farmers' Federation and means the government will be able to buy back only 1500 gigalitres of water entitlements from farmers each year.
Newly-elected Nationals Party president Larry Anthony has been revealed to be the executive director and co-owner of a lobby firm that counted coal company Shenhua Watermark as a client. Anthony’s firm, SAS Group, lobbied for Shenhua until July this year. The company wants to build an open-cut coalmine near Gunnedah, on the Liverpool Plains. The mine is expected to produce 10 million tonnes of coal a year.
Labor and the Coalition will vote for new laws this week that will strip dual nationals of their citizenship at the discretion of the immigration minister. Both major parties agree that the laws should also apply retrospectively to those sentenced to at least ten years’ jail. A bipartisan committee released a report on the proposed laws on September 4 and recommended that some of its measures be watered down.
This week Canadian author Naomi Klein is visiting Australia to speak about why capitalism is incompatible with action on climate change. Her book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate encourages everyone already involved in fighting for social justice and equality to see climate change as the “best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world”.
Palestinians in Susiya demonstrate in May against Israel’s plans to destroy the village. Photo: Sarah Levy/Electronic Intifada. The Palestinian village of Susiya is at imminent risk of demolition. On May 5, Israel’s High Court of Justice refused to grant an interim order to freeze the demolition until the outcome of an appeal brought by villagers to prove the village’s legitimacy.
The federal government has been widely criticised for its weak carbon emission reduction target announced on August 11. The new target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 will replace the previous target of a 5% emissions reduction on 2000 levels. These targets are nowhere near enough to stay under a 1.5°C rise in global temperature, needed to prevent going over climate tipping points.
Under NSW government changes to TAFE called Smart and Skilled, many refugees are finding it difficult to study. While people with a permanent resident visa are allowed to study at TAFE, they are not eligible for VET-FEE HELP — the federal government loan that offers access to cover the cost of rising fees. Emmanuel Bakenga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, lives in Wollongong and works part time for Green Connect, a social enterprise that employs resettled refugees to grow vegetables, keep waste out of landfill and turn food waste into compost.
Grassroots climate groups are calling for large protests in cities around the world to coincide with the United Nations climate talks held in Paris in November and December, known as COP21. In France, a broad coalition of almost 100 groups, including trade unions, have created Coalition Climat 21 to organise mass mobilisations before and during the Paris talks.
New mothers will be pushed to return to work sooner and non-working families will be punished by having childcare subsidies reduced in the government’s latest budget. Treasurer Joe Hockey chose Mother's Day on May 10 to announce that almost 80,000 women will have their existing paid parental leave slashed, saving $1 billion. At the moment the government provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage of $600 a week.
About 100 people rallied against the Geelong Star super trawler in Adelaide on April 26. The crowd gathered at Port Adelaide to oppose the 95-metre long factory ship which protesters say will hurt recreational fishing and damage the marine environment. The rally then marched to Birkenhead Bridge and dropped a large banner that read “Stop the Super Trawler”.
Federal education minister Christopher Pyne has given $4 million to Danish climate sceptic Bjørn Lomborg to set up the Australian Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia. Lomborg is a well-known climate policy sceptic and the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, whose funding was cut by the Danish government in 2012.
Four Jobs for Women leaders in front of the steelworks in the early 1980s. Photo: Jobs for Women Facebook In Wollongong in the early 1980s, jobs for women were scarce. They either had to wake at dawn to travel to Sydney on the diesel train or they sewed in backyard sweatshops for minimal wages.
A new group has been established to campaign for women’s rights in Indonesia. In December, more than 100 women met in Jakarta to launch Indonesian Women’s Action – Kartini (API-K), which has begun campaigning for women’s rights in the workplace, home and society. Participants came from 32 cities across Indonesia. They included women who are involved in existing women’s networks, students, workers and urban poor. They spent three days discussing issues facing women in economics, politics and culture.

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