Paul Benedek

The path for Maori liberation, debates on left perspectives and the 30th anniversary since the 1981 Springbok tour were some of the discussions at “Workers Power”, the national conference of the Workers Party held in Hamilton over June 3 to 5. The recent formation of the Mana Party was a focus of the discussions. Prominent Maori leader and MP Hone Harawira initiated Mana after leaving the Maori Party, frustrated over its deals while in coalition with the right-wing National Party. Harawira resigned his seat to force a by-election and stand again as a Mana candidate.
One hundred people, including many from the Latin American community, ex-ALP members, members of the Greens, plus members of Newcastle, Wollongong, and several Sydney branches of Socialist Alliance, helped launch the SA’s campaign in the NSW state election on February 26 at St Lukes Hall in Enmore. Hosted by lead SA Legislative Council candidates Peter Boyle and Jess Moore, the night featured music, theatre, political speeches and more. The night was also about people-powered culture, with performances from the Freedom Fighters and Newcastle-based band GRCO.
Carrying signs such as "Coal seam gas stinks", "Gas mining under Sydney Park - no fracking way!", and "Gutless government giving in to gas", over 400 local residents and supporters rallied on December 19 at Sydney Park to protest the NSW government's secretive approval for exploratory drilling for coal seam gas (CSG) mining in the inner-western suburb of St Peters.
"Is it fair that disability support workers earn less than workers who stack supermarkets shelves?" Australian Services Union NSW secretary Sally McManus asked 2000 protesters, including people with disabilities and disability sector workers. "Is it fair disability workers are forced away from Sydney because they can't afford to pay the rent?"
“I believe in capitalism. Capitalism to me is a spiritual concept. Democracy just gets in the way. Democracy is annoying. Let them buy stuff and eat cake. Where I come from, if you don't believe in capitalism you're going to hell.” A “Yes Men” parody? No, these serious words of US billionaire investor Ken Fisher give an insight into the Forbes Global CEO Conference held in Sydney on September 28 and 29.
The Socialist Alliance national council meeting on September 5, involving 72 members from around the country, grappled with the new and intriguing political situation opened up by the August 21 federal election result. At the time, it was unknown who would form a minority government. But it was already clear that the result presented a challenge and opportunity for the progressive social movements to mobilise to demand a just, equitable and sustainable response to the big problems facing society.
"It seems that the whole narrative of politics is going through a seismic shift”, said Greens lead candidate for the NSW upper house at the 2011 state election, David Shoebridge at an August 25 forum discussing the post-election political landscape. Shoebridge told the meeting, which was organised by Socialist Alliance, that the result would impact on upcoming state elections in Victoria and NSW. In NSW, Labor is particularly hated.
Just three days after the federal election, with the result still in the balance, the Refugee Action Coalition held a protest outside the Sydney law courts in support of a High Court case that is challenging the legality of off-shore processing of asylum seekers. If the case fails, there will be no further legal barrier to deporting refugees currently held in detention centres.
Ten activists from Thai Red Australia, plus Guatemalan and El Salvadoran activists from the Latin American Social Forum, were part of the 80-strong Socialist Alliance NSW state conference on May 22 in Sydney. The conference launched Socialist Alliance’s federal election campaign. In the opening session, Senate candidate Rachel Evans outlined a “people’s budget” that puts the environment and people’s wellbeing over militarism and profiteering.
“The life of a trade unionist in Colombia is very difficult and complex”, visiting union leader Edgar Paez told Green Left Weekly. Paez said 4000 unionists have been murdered in Colombia in 28 years. “Last year, 47 unionists were killed, 48 the year before. Union leaders need armed guards, bulletproof cars, camera surveillance and bulletproof windows on their offices. “They lose the possibility of a normal family life.”
A sea of about 150 red shirts packed a restaurant in Cabramatta on April 25 to show solidarity with the democracy struggle in Thailand, led by the "Red Shirt" movement. Organised by Thai Red Australia, the night had added importance due to the threat of a military crackdown as thousands of Red Shirts occupied central Bangkok. Speakers urged active support for the democracy uprising, in the face of brutal military attacks that have killed more than 20 civilians.
Chanting "Stop killing Thai people, bring democracy back now, no more dictatorship!", 40 members and supporters of 'Thai Red Australia' marched from Hyde Park to the Thai Consulate on April 12. Organisers gave out a statement during the protest. The statement was handed to the consulate. It said: "At least 19 people have died and 825 injured as a result of violent clashes in Bangkok, Thailand, as troops tried to retake areas from anti-government protesters on April 10.
The Socialist Alliance in New South Wales has added two migrant activists to its list of candidates for the upcoming federal election.
Socialist queer rights campaigner Rachel Evans, who helped re-launch Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) in 2004 when the same-sex marriage ban was touted, has been preselected on the Socialist Alliance's New South Wales Senate ticket.
Leading anti-war campaigner Pip Hinman, who is currently helping organise protests that will meet the visit of US President Barack Obama, has been preselected as Socialist Alliance’s candidate for the federal seat of Grayndler in Sydney’s inner west.
Five years ago, Mulrunji Doomadgee was arrested by senior sergeant Chris Hurley for “disorderly conduct” and taken to a police cell on Palm Island, near Townsville. Within an hour, the Aboriginal man was dead.

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