Pip Hinman

On March 7, Victoria became the first state in Australia to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the dangerous process used to mine unconventional gas. This important victory sets the stage for other states to follow.

The Victorian government has also decided to extend the moratorium on onshore conventional gas drilling until June 30, 2020.

The misnamed Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision on February 23 to cut penalty rates will hit hundreds of thousands of casual and part-time workers. But women will fare worse because the gender pay gap continues.

The employer’s argument, that penalty rates prevent them from hiring and remaining open on Sundays, is disproved by the facts. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that despite the mining boom slow down, the retail and hospitality sectors are booming.

Attorney-General George Brandis has moved fast to neutralise a recent Federal Court finding that all, not just some, native title claimants must agree for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) to be valid. The February 2 ruling overturned a ruling in 2010 that had decided the opposite.

The family of TJ Hickey is still being denied justice, 13 years since the 17-year-old died after being impaled on a fence in Waterloo during a police chase.

The refusal by successive NSW governments to bring the police officers responsible to court — and allow the family some closure — is testimony to the endemic racism First Nations people have to endure.

NSW police refuse to concede their officers were responsible for Thomas James Hickey’s death. They claim it was an accident. 

According to an Essential poll released on January 31, 40% of those surveyed believe the system needs to be “fundamentally changed”. Just 6% say it works well.

Rising unemployment, low wages, climate change, corruption, attacks on single parents, welfare recipients, refugees, asylum seekers and Indigenous people are just some of the concerns motivating people to join various protests and rallies.

Residents in Blacktown, in Sydney’s west, are organising to stop the construction of an incinerator at Eastern Creek. They are concerned it will cause health problems for those living nearby and potentially pollute the Hawkesbury-Nepean river basin.

Next Generation NSW wants to build an incinerator (dubbed an “energy from waste facility”) just 800 metres from homes that will burn waste to generate electricity. 

The 12th Socialist Alliance national conference, held over January 20 to 22 at the Geelong Trades Hall, discussed the challenges facing the left and the state of the fightback against neoliberalism in Australia. It also adopted new policies and elected a new national executive.

“Richard Di Natale, I am a member of Left Renewal and I hope you can hear this because the Greens are my party too,” a woman said to great applause at a meeting of Left Renewal (LR) on January 25.

More than 100 people, including from Newcastle and Wollongong, came to the first public meeting of LR, an anti-capitalist grouping within The Greens, to hear about its aims and objectives.

In an overt case of political censorship, the unelected Inner West Council (IWC) sent contractors to remove Invasion Day graffiti on a wall in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park on January 24.

The graffiti — which read "Only fuckwits celebrate genocide" — was only painted alongside the First Nation flag the night before on a wall backing on to the Camperdown Cemetery.

Anyone who walks through this park knows that the walls, built in 1848, are full of graffiti, only some of which is political.

The New South Wales state government has released changes to the state’s planning law which, if passed, will grant big mining companies more power and reduce communities and councils’ already limited rights of appeal.

The government says the changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EP&A Act) 1979, released on January 9, are primarily about promoting “confidence” in the state’s planning system.

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