National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members have been on indefinite strike at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) since November 18, in pursuit of a new agreement with fair pay and conditions. Staff and their union have been trying to negotiate a new agreement since February 2011, and have not had a pay rise since May 2010. Their pay is 20% behind teachers in the TAFE sector, despite the Box Hill TAFE buying the CAE back in 2010.
Unity negotiations between Australia's two largest socialist organisations, the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative, ended after the latter's National Committee decided on October 26-27 that the unity process had “reached an impasse and consequently we are for ending the negotiations with the Alliance”. Over the past few months there were tactical disagreements between the two groups over how to advance the movements for the rights of asylum seekers and for women's liberation.
Police on horseback and riot officers violently broke up a student protest in Melbourne on October 30. The demonstration was held to oppose federal government threats to higher education, and was part of a national week of student action, called by the National Union of Students. Just two days before the protest, education minister Christopher Pyne told the ABC’s Q&A the government was investigating the possibility of selling off student HECS debt to private companies.
Emergency service workers rallied on October 29 to oppose attempts by the Victorian government to introduce sweeping changes to the Transport Accident Act, which would take away emergency workers’ common law right to seek injury compensation for psychological injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Peter Marshall, Victorian Secretary of the United Firefighter Union, told the rally: “63% of firefighters have moderate post-traumatic stress levels, 17% have full blown post-traumatic stress levels, and that is on the increase.
Women and men took to the street in Brunswick for Melbourne's Reclaim the Night rally and march on October 19, to demand an end to victim blaming and violence against women. Speakers included Yorta Yorta woman Monica Morgan, chairperson of Elizabeth Hoffman House, Poppy Jacob from Hollaback Melbourne, an organisation dedicated to ending the street harassment of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals, Rose Ljubicic from the Council of Single Mothers and their Children, and Jane Green, a sex worker activist from the Vixen Collective.
Abortion rights activists will mobilise in Melbourne on October 12 to oppose threats to women’s access to abortion from the federal government and anti-choice groups. The rally, to be held at the steps of the Victorian parliament, is a counter-rally to the annual "March for the Babies", which will be staged on the same day. Pro-choice activists will also protest the controversial "Zoe’s law", currently under debate in the NSW parliament.
About 1000 protesters marched through the streets of Melbourne on September 21, in opposition to the Coalition government’s attacks on refugees. It was the first refugee rights rally since the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The rally heard from several speakers, including Bishop Philip Huggins, from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Ingrid Stitt from the Australian Services Union, Janet Rice, newly elected Greens Senator for Victoria, and Karen Jones from the Refugee Action Collective.
The 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington led by Martin Luther King Jr will take place on August 24. In 1963, a quarter of a million people marched for jobs and freedom. They gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial where King got up to deliver his “I have a dream” speech. A year later, in 1964, the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. It outlawed racial segregation in public places, introduced equal employment opportunities, and guaranteed the right to vote regardless of colour.
The Socialism 2013 conference took place in Chicago from over 27-30, organised by the International Socialist Organization (ISO). The conference has been going for more than two decades, bringing together activists to exchange and debate ideas. A highlight was the session with investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been publishing the leaks of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The feature talk was the first detailed speech Greenwald had given on his Earth-shaking work with Snowden ― who remains on the run from US authorities.
When I asked Margarita Windisch, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Wills, to explain why she became an activist, the answer was simple. She said, “Life is very political, like it or not. So it’s better to get into the fray and fight for what we want and what the planet needs than to leave it up to a small rich minority who will put their bank accounts before humanity. That’s what I decided to do anyway and have never looked back.”