About 200 past and present students, teachers, local residents and local traders rallied to save Swinburne University of Technology’s Prahran TAFE campus on August 5. The event was organised by the National Tertiary Education Union and former staff and students. Former Swinburne executive director of educational development Judy Bissland has worked at the campus for 30 years. “I am still involved with campus through working with disengaged youth,” she told the crowd. “Funding cuts to TAFE and the vocational sector [are] disastrous. We need to take action to stop cuts or modify cuts.”
Student activists at La Trobe University have begun a campaign against a proposal to slash funding to the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty. About 150 students and staff protested at the university’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne’s northern suburbs on July 31. Students marched to the administration building where security guards wrestled with a protester and locked the students out. Undeterred, students marched to the office of Humanities and Social Science dean Tim Murray where they were also locked out but occupied the corridor outside the office.
On July 25, Tamil refugee Dayan Anthony (formerly known as "Mr X" in Australia in an attempt to protect his identity from Sri Lankan authorities), was deported from Melbourne. Australian authorities handed him over to the Sri Lankan intelligence forces - who had held Mr Anthony in custody for years, and had tortured him.
Coles warehouse workers met two days into an indefinite strike on July 12 and voted unanimously to reject the latest offer from their direct employer Toll Logistics. Hundreds had gathered on a picket line to prevent trucks entering the site. Striking workers outside the warehouse, which owner Coles outsources to Toll, told Green Left Weekly that the offer wasn’t really “new”, but was only tweaked slightly from the old offer.
The indefinite strike by Coles warehouse workers in Somerton, Melbourne, began with a few hundred people on the picket lines from 6am on July 10. At the time of writing, no trucks have been allowed in or out of the site. Coles outsources the operation of the warehouse to Toll Logistics. Coles and Toll had expected industrial action, but they hadn’t expected that the workers would vote for an indefinite strike.
In the first construction worker rally in years, up to 10,000 workers marched through Melbourne on July 4, telling the state government to dump its new building code. Premier Ted Baillieu’s Coalition government began to implement its Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry on July 1. Unions say the new code is all about attacking unions. Building companies that fail to comply with the code on any site will be thrown off the government tender list.
About 500 Toll warehouse workers at Somerton in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have voted for an indefinite strike in their campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement. The warehouse is a Coles distribution centre, but Coles outsources the workers to Toll Logistics. This has resulted in workers getting up to 20% less pay than other Coles warehouse workers.
The Victorian Coalition government has taken to the state with a razor and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget. These are the biggest cuts since the Jeff Kennett-led Coalition government that ruled Victoria from 1992-1999. Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. The level of cuts was so severe that higher education minister Peter Hall sent a letter to TAFE heads on April 29 indicating that he had considered resigning from the ministry.
The Ballroom at Melbourne Trades Hall was packed with about 130 people on May 4 for a public forum titled “Protest on Trial”. The event sought to build support for the “Max Brenner 19” — Palestine solidarity activists on trial for taking part in a protest outside a Melbourne Max Brenner chocolate shop last year. Speakers at the forum drew links between the violent attacks on Occupy Melbourne last year and the police repression of peaceful Palestine protesters outside Max Brenner.
Nineteen Palestine solidarity protesters face court on May 1 for their involvement in a protest on July 1 last year in support of Palestine. At the July 1 protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate store, the police ran wild, viciously attacking peaceful protesters. Max Brenner is owned by Israeli conglomerate the Strauss Group, a company that provides “care rations” for the Israeli military forces in occupied Palestine, including the Golani and Givati brigades.