Mel Barnes

The largest coalmine ever built in Australia, and one of the biggest in the world, received final approval from the federal environment minister Greg Hunt on July 28. The Carmichael coalmine in central Queensland, owned by Indian company Adani, is forecast to produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year over the next 60 years. This dwarfs Australia’s current largest mine, which produces 20 million tonnes a year.
The Greens have faced criticism for their position on Israel’s war on Palestine. At a Palestine rally in Melbourne on July 26, Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice was booed for calling for an arms embargo on both Israel and Palestine. At a Palestine rally in Brisbane on the same day, Greens candidate Jake Schoermer had a shoe thrown at him for condemning violence on both sides, New Matilda reported.
A front page article in the Australian on July 11 reported claims that “asylum-seekers are coached and encouraged to attempt self-harm by refugee advocates who then use the incidents as political capital”. The allegations were made by former director of offshore processing Greg Lake, who said when he worked at what is now the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, “some refugee advocates were clearly urging asylum-seekers to self-harm as a form of protest so they could put out a press release about it”.
Australian man Jock Palfreeman was assaulted by a guard at Sofia’s Central Prison in Bulgaria on July 8. Palfreeman has been serving a 20-year in the prison since being found guilty of murder in 2007. Andrei Monov was killed during a street brawl in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. He was the only son of two well-connected people in the Sofia legal fraternity. Palfreeman says he went to the defence of a young Roma boy who was being attacked in the street by Monov and others. When Palfreeman intervened, he was also attacked and acted in self-defence.
Welfare groups have expressed anger at changes to welfare for people with disabilities, which the federal government released in a draft report on June 29. The McClure report proposes far-reaching changes to the welfare system and cuts the number of welfare payments to just four; a working age payment, disability support, child support and the age pension. There are 830,000 recipients on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Social services minister Kevin Andrews has suggested only people with a permanent disability would be eligible for the DSP.
Greens leader Christine Milne is challenging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to call a double dissolution election this year over the passage of a renewable energy bill. Milne said: “The Greens are ready for an election over the prime minister's global warming denial and his brutal budget.”
Tender Written & directed by Lynette Wallwarth A new documentary film, Tender, screened at the recent Sydney Film Festival, follows residents of the Wollongong suburb of Port Kembla who are working to start a not-for-profit funeral service in their local community. Recognising the local need for affordable and meaningful funeral services, the Port Kembla Community Centre decided to provide them. The film follows their journey as they gather community support and explore alternatives.
Repealing the carbon tax, abolishing the department of climate change, and getting rid of the Clean Energy Fund were the top three wishes in “75 radical ideas to transform Australia”, released by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in 2012. Number six was to repeal the Renewable Energy Target (RET). In the recent federal budget, the Coalition government is aiming to do all four.
The premiere of new film Radical Wollongong was held in Wollongong, NSW, on May 18. About 230 people attend the event at the Gala cinema. Film writer and co-producer John Rainford introduced the film and Aboriginal leader Mark Bloxsome gave a welcome to country.
The NSW government has suspended Metgasco’s licence to drill for gas at Bentley, near Lismore. Energy minister Anthony Roberts said on May 15: “The Office of Coal Seam Gas made the suspension on the grounds that Metgasco did not fulfil a condition of its exploration licence, namely to undertake genuine and effective consultation with the community as required.”
The election of the Tony Abbott government in September last year signalled an intensification of attacks on workers' rights, the public sector, jobs and what remains of the social wage. As the global economic situation deteriorates, the ruling class is intent on imposing widespread privatisation, outsourcing of public services, job cuts and wage cuts.
An ongoing blockade of an unconventional gas drill site in Bentley, 12 kilometres from Lismore’s CBD in NSW, has so far stopped gas company Metgasco from starting exploration in the area. This test drill will help determine whether there are commercial quantities of gas available, and if so, up to 1000 wells could potentially be drilled in the area. Hundreds of people are permanently camping on land next to the drill site, and at times numbers have swelled to 2000, as the community acts to stop heavy machinery from entering.
The Great Barrier Reef is almost certainly going to suffer permanent damage due to coral bleaching if countries do not act to reduce carbon emissions, the Fifth Assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on March 31. A lead author of the report, Chris Field, told the ABC’s 7.30: “Warm water coral reefs are one of the world's ecosystems that's most threatened and especially threatened by the combination of a warming climate and acidification of the ocean waters.”
Socialist Alternative has denied allegations by the Jewish Students’ Society at the Australian National University (ANU) that members of the socialist group abused them with anti-Semitic slurs.
The Liberal Party swept to victory in the Tasmanian elections on March 15, winning 14 seats of the 25 seat parliament. The Labor Party, which had governed for the past three years in coalition with the Greens, received a swing against of 9.5%. It won only six seats. The Greens were also heavily punished, losing two seats in an 8% swing against them. Party leaders Nick McKim and Cassy O’Connor managed to keep their seats. Kim Booth looks likely to be re-elected as well.
Coal seam gas (CSG) company Santos has admitted to polluting an aquifer in north-western NSW with uranium, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 8. The incident is the first recorded groundwater contamination in Australia from CSG operations.

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