Pip Hinman

Senator Glenn Lazarus’s 117-page interim Senate report on unconventional gas mining in Australia was released on May 4. It makes a case for much tighter federal control of the industry and the public resources it has access to, but does not recommend its closure.

If anything the report underscores the need for a royal commission into the toxic industry that relies on commercial in confidence provisions to get away with poisoning people and the environment.

In many ways, environment minister Greg Hunt's attendance at the New York signing of the Paris Agreement on April 21 underscored the Coalition government's resistance to in taking real action to curb toxic carbon dioxide emissions.

Mainstream media chatter about recent polls showing the Coalition's honeymoon has dramatically ended has ignored another revealing statistic: there is a growing slice of the population that rejects the politics-as-usual model. They are the people the surveys lump into the category of “don't know”.

These are the people who do not engage with the pollsters' questions. They have a variety of reasons, but disengagement from the whole political process as they see it on TV and hear it on the radio is one of them.

The Mike Baird government's push for local government to roll over to its forced amalgamation push is looking decidedly shambolic.

The NSW government wants to reduce 43 Sydney councils to 25 and 109 regional councils to 87. It has argued that efficiencies and savings will be made by doing so. But it is facing stiff opposition from progressive and conservative councils alike. Even federal Liberal and National MPs, worried about their seats, have urged Baird to back off.

The so-called “nice guy” Premier Mike Baird is introducing laws in New South Wales that are designed to intimidate ordinary people from taking part in legitimate protests.

The NSW government’s new anti-protest laws, which it is dressing up as being about public safety, were passed on March 15. Now, despite police minister Stuart Ayres admitting crime rates are falling, the government wants to give the NSW Police Force extraordinary powers to stop protests from even being organised.

Opponents of Shenhua-Watermark's mega coalmine in the Liverpool Plains in north-western NSW have been given a boost by the Chinese government-owned company's annual report released on March 24, which hinted it may not proceed.

Amnesty International Western Sydney University students hosted a forum at the Parramatta campus on March 15. Speakers included James Arvanitakis, Debra Keenahan, Luce De Buitleir Andrews and Sev Ozdowski.

Keenahan spoke about how refugees had become “dehumanised” since former PM John Howard said: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

An important conference for activists will be held in Sydney on May 13 to 15. “Socialism for the 21st Century” will focus on deepening the discussion about the theory and practice of the socialist movement today.

Conference organiser Susan Price told Green Left Weekly that the conference would discuss the challenges of building movements for radical social change while taking the struggle into capitalist institutions, such as parliaments and councils.

The powers-that-be in NSW have deemed that there are so many examples of “unsafe protest activities” across the state that, to make everyone safe, we need new laws that will protect “lawful business activity”.

Protesters will be able to be jailed for up to seven years for “intentionally” or “recklessly” interfering with a “mine” — the definition of which has been changed to include an exploratory or test site.

The NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee is keen on new anti-protest laws in NSW. He claims to be concerned about the safety of the workers as well as the protesters “illegally accessing mine sites”.

Mining and Energy Minister Antony Roberts has been a little more blunt: he says the new law is aimed at better enforcing the protection of private property and “lawful business activity”.

Most, however, can see through the spin.

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