Sam Wainwright

More than 1600 delegates gathered for the third annual conference of La France Insoumise, the radical left political project that has stormed onto the stage of French politics, over November 25-26 in the city of Clermont-Ferrand.

The group’s name defies a neat translation, often rendered as France Unbowed, Unsubmissive or Untamed. Only launched in February last year, the group is widely seen as the only real and effective opposition to President Emmanuel Macron. Founding spokesperson and former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is recognised in opinion polls as the effective leader of the opposition.

On a cold, wet November morning in the village of Rocles in central France, I attended a World War I centenary event unlike any I had seen before.

In the town square there is a small war memorial with a marble plaque listing the district's fallen sons, much as you find in every locality across France and Australia.

However, on closer examination, this one is a bit different. Instead of "Vive la France", it has palm leaves engraved in the stone, slogans calling for peace and acknowledges all the victims of war. How could this be?

The decision by the City of Fremantle to drop its annual Australia Day fireworks has inevitably shaped the contours of the looming council elections, even though no candidate has made it the centrepiece of their campaign.

The election is largely pitting a generally socially progressive group of incumbents of different political stripes (Labor, Greens, socialist and independents) against an alliance of conservative challengers headed by mayoral candidate Caroline “Ra” Stewart.

Thanks to a passing reference in this column only a week ago about statues and other monuments featuring colonial "founding fathers" that participated in massacres of Aboriginal people and other wrongs, I got lumped into Andrew Bolt's collection of "statue haters".

Others in the corporate media suggested that even having the discussion was like Nazi book burning. Right. And we're the ones disrespecting history!

What local councils do or don’t do on January 26 has burst into the national political debate, and what a good thing that is. No matter the frantic condemnation from the corporate media or the pompous and arse-about assertion by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that councils were “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”.

These opponents of an honest examination of Australia’s history may want to shut down the conversation but the opposite has happened.

The Sydney Morning Herald published audio on July 19 from a Liberal Party function in Sydney at which former Western Australian state MP Michael Sutherland described anti-fracking campaigners and refugee rights activists as "a bunch of cockroaches".

Last year we wondered where the Australian Bernie Sanders would come from. Now we're asking, who will be our Jeremy Corbyn? Could it be Anthony Albanese? Nah, too right wing. What about Scott Ludlum or Sally McManus?

Posing it this way gets the question the wrong way around. The circumstances produce the leaders that answer the call.

In both the US and Britain recession and austerity inflicted pain on working people to a degree not yet felt by most Australians, although it's surely on the way.

A recent essay by Australian philosopher Clive Hamilton The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it was both moving and frustrating.

Moving because he’s right when he says: “…a calamity is unfolding, that the life systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival.”

Runaway global warming threatens mass species extinction and the collapse of agriculture. It may bring with it the most traumatic and violent phase of human history. It’s truly scary stuff.

In April the Federal Court ordered the oil and gas multinational Chevron to pay $340 million in tax. For the past few years this company has gotten away with paying no company tax at all by claiming that it did not make a profit.

The truth is it made billions, but the company inflated its expenses by having its Australian operation take a loan from a US subsidiary with an interest rate 25 times higher than the market norm.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that the government would scrap 457 visas left no one happy. The 457 will be replaced with two new Temporary Skilled Shortage Visas (TSSV) — one that lasts for two years and offers no pathway to permanent residency and another which may be issued for up to four years. 216 roles have been removed from the list of occupations for which a visa can be issued.

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