Paul Benedek

She’s proposed nuclear explosions for open-cut mining, funded tours by climate deniers and called for bringing in cheap migrant labour to work her mines. Now Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, has bought the largest individual stake in Fairfax Media, which runs the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review, plus various radio stations and regional papers.
“We can’t eat money, we need to save our future food,” seventh generation farmer Tim Duddy told a packed forum on February 6. Organised by the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, the forum examined the impacts of coal and coal seam gas (CSG) activity on farming regions that make up Australia’s food bowl.
US gangster Al Capone once said: “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” 19th century US president Thomas Jefferson said: “Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” These quotes capture the bastard nature of the dangerous racket that is the Australian banking cartel. See also: Socialist candidate says fight private bank ripoffs
“Poker machine playing is a repetitive and insidious form of gambling which has many undesirable features. It requires no thought, no skill or social contact. The odds are never about winning … the machines … are addictive to many people. Historically poker machines have been banned … in the public interest, they should stay banned.” This quote is not from independent MP Andrew Wilkie, or “No Pokies” Nick Xenophon. It is from the 1974 Royal Commission into Gambling, Western Australia.
After unilaterally locking out the Qantas workforce in October, grounding the fleet and leaving workers and travellers stranded, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been handed a positive outcome by the federal government’s Fair Work Australia (FWA). Joyce’s lockout resulted on October 30 in FWA terminating the legal, protected industrial action that Qantas unions had voted for, rewarding Joyce’s industrial sabotage.
Refugee rights activists representing groups and individuals from Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney, and the Blue Mountains met on December 3 to plan campaign activities for this year. It was the first national gathering of refugee rights campaigners since federal Labor's 2007 election, and fittingly occurred on the same weekend as the ALP's national conference. Labor further entrenched its anti-refugee policies, in particular offshore processing.
The global economic meltdown is yet to hit Australia hard, but 2011 was still a busy year of struggle in this relatively sheltered, wealthy country. The year began with an Australian citizen on the global centre stage. WikiLeaks cables embarrassed governments worldwide, revealing war crimes and treachery, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested without charge. He was detained for all of last year. His supporters fear he will be extradited to the US, where conservatives have openly called for his assassination.
Chanting “shame Barry, shame”, 35,000 people from dozens of unions and their supporters rallied in Sydney’s Domain on September 8 to oppose savage cuts to public services and job conditions. Contingents of teachers, nurses, firefighters, police, rail and bus workers, and public sector workers swelled the ranks of the protest, the largest union rally in the state in 20 years. The rally, held just two days after the O’Farrell government handed down its budget, was almost double the size predicted by Unions NSW.
Chanting “refugees — freedom now, don’t treat people worse than cows”, 50 refugee rights protesters confronted immigration minister Chris Bowen at a refugee conference on June 17. The protest, which was called by the Refugee Action Coalition, marched into the University of NSW lecture theatre in which Bowen was addressing the conference, before police and security ejected the activists. Many of those inside the conference, which was organised by the Centre for Refugee Research, supported the protest. About half the room turned their backs on Bowen.
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.
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