Pat Brewer

A new influenza pandemic is quite possible, according to a study by researchers at the University of NSW’s School of Public Health. The study notes that 19 different influenza strains have affected humans in the last 100 years, but the speed with which new strains have emerged has increased over the past 15 years. There have been seven new strains in the past five years alone.

It took more than 100 years of struggle to ensure the poorest workers in Australia received reasonable wages and conditions. But today inequality and poverty are growing rapidly. The living standards of the majority continue to drop, while at the same time there is a huge expansion of the wealth of a tiny minority.

Andres Garin died in Wollongong in December, aged 77.

Andres was a founding member of Socialist Alliance as well as an activist with the Democratic Socialist Party and its predecessor, the Socialist Workers Party, for whom he ran as a senate candidate in the 1983 federal election.

Andres was a comrade of great integrity and political conviction. He was always a fighter for justice and a better world against capitalist oppression and exploitation here in Australia and internationally, particularly in the struggles in the Caribbean and Latin America.

In a David and Goliath struggle that became known as the “Jobs for Women” campaign, 34 mostly migrant, unemployed, working-class women took on Australia’s largest company, Broken Hill Propriety Limited (BHP).

In a landmark legal and industrial struggle, they sued BHP’s subsidiary, Australian Iron and Steel (AIS) in Port Kembla for sex discrimination because they refused to employ women. After a long, hard struggle over 14 years, the campaign eventually won damages estimated at up to $9 million for more than 700 women who had applied to work at the steelworks.

The Fair Work Commission decided on February 11 that two male mine workers at the Crinum mine in the Bowen basin in Queensland were not eligible for paid primary carer’s leave to look after their newborn children.

The case was brought by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CMFEU) as part of the dispute settlement procedure in the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance Enterprise Bargaining Agreement 2012.

In New South Wales, politicians have been debating a bill known as “Zoe's Law”, originally introduced by Christian Democratic Party’s Fred Nile.

Zoe’s Law aim to give legal rights to foetuses older than 20 weeks or weighing more than 400 grams. The law opens up the possibility of a pregnant woman being charged for damaging her own foetus.

A private member’s bill was successfully passed on November 21 last year to remove abortion from Tasmania’s criminal code.

Tasmania has joined the ACT and Victoria in decriminalising abortion. Until then, the criminal code set out the limitations of when an abortion is not lawful and when and how it can be lawfully obtained.

Mandatory counselling was also imposed on women. These limitations were so restrictive that abortion access was minimal and women and doctors faced the real or perceived threat of criminal charges being laid against them.

Just what questions can you be asked when you apply for a job? According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 12, global energy company Chevron asks some intrusive reproductive health questions of women applicants in its recruitment process. Questions include whether an applicant has been sterilised, their pregnancy history, how many abortions and stillbirths they have had, the number of “normal” children they have and any birth defects their children may have.

The United States has led the world in deregulation of the financial sector, the economy and social services on the basis of “the market rules”.

This facilitated the great financial crisis from 2007 onwards with devastating impacts on the welfare of the majority of citizens globally. Yet when it comes to US women’s right to control their own fertility, just the reverse has taken place.

Increasing regulation has become the norm undermining the reality of individual choice.

Doug Lorimer, a life-long committed revolutionary, died on July 21 in Sydney after a year of fighting deteriorating ill health and long term hospitalisation.

Lorimer was born April 17, 1953 in Dundee in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents Connie and Bill when he was four years old to settle in the South Australian steel town of Whyalla.

Lorimer radicalised as a high school student. He first became involved in left politics through the Australian movement against the imperialist war in Vietnam, when he and his mother joined the moratorium marches in Adelaide in 1970.

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