Susan Price

The Socialist Alliance's Sue Bolton and Socialist Alternative's Mick Armstrong addressed a packed public forum on left unity in Melbourne on May 21. Unity discussions have been taking place between the groups since last year. The forum attracted about 140 people, including individuals and observers from other left groups.
Ten thousand building workers walked off the job and rallied in Melbourne's CBD on April 30 to protest against the poor safety record of construction companies such as Grocon. Unionists led by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) marched from Trades Hall to Grocon's Swanston Street building site, where a wall collapsed and killed passers-by Alexander and Bridget Jones and Marie Faith-Fiawoo.
After a successful crowd-funding campaign that raised the funds for a manufacturing licence, Earthworker Cooperative Australia and Eureka’s Future Workers Cooperative will install their first solar hot water unit in Melbourne on April 15. A fully equipped worker-owned factory is still a way off, but project coordinator and Socialist Alliance member Dave Kerin says it is now one step closer.
A strong gust of wind in Melbourne’s CBD caused a brick wall to collapse onto passing pedestrians, killing three people, on March 28. The wall fronted the site of the former Carlton United Brewery on Swanston Street, which has been under redevelopment by the Grocon company for the past seven years. Grocon is a household name, but for all the wrong reasons. Thousands of construction workers protested against the company at another Grocon site on Lonsdale Street, just up the road from the collapsed wall, in September last year.

The federal government said on February 23 it would introduce several changes to the 457 temporary visa program, to take effect from July. The proposals were applauded by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and criticised by big business. The 457 visa system is a highly exploitative, insecure and discriminatory visa system, originally introduced under the former John Howard government. Once elected, the ALP kept the visa class in place as a favour to big business, tinkering with it rather than abolishing it in favour of strengthening permanent skilled migration.

The ninth National Conference of the Socialist Alliance was held in Geelong over January 18-20. More than 150 people took part in the conference, including Hashim bin Rashid representing the newly formed united party of the left in Pakistan, the Awami Workers Party. Rashid attended the conference as a special guest, and gave presentations on racism, refugees and the war on terror, as well as the continuing struggles of the poor, the dispossessed and oppressed communities in Pakistan today.
In last month’s Victorian local council elections, the Socialist Alliance’s Sue Bolton was elected to Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s north. Green Left Weekly’sSusan Price asked Bolton about her immediate plans for the council and what sets her apart from other councillors. * * * We are going to organise a meeting in Moreland of members of Socialist Alliance, plus other people who supported the campaign or support the victory that we’ve had, to work out a plan of action.
Reporting on the release of the mid-year budget update in the Canberra Times on October 22, Peter Martin wrote that “Tax collections from both wages and the GST are running ahead of projections. Dramatically lower company tax collections account for most of the $21 billion write-down.” Included in that $21 billion is a revenue downgrade of $4.3 billion dollars over four years in resource rent tax from petroleum and mineral extraction from a projected $13.4 billion.
In response to attacks on jobs and services by the Barry O’Farrell Coalition NSW government, Unions NSW is launching Local Union and Community Councils (LUCCs) across the state. Many of these groups are based upon networks established during the Your Rights At Work campaign in 2007. LUCCs have been set up in more than a dozen regional and metropolitan locations, and several groups are having their inaugural meetings over the coming weeks (see below for details).
Workers on Bovis Lend Lease building sites across the country have won site allowances and improved pay and conditions. Union and community action forced the company to complete negotiations on a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) with unions on July 31. Strikes and protest action across 22 Lend Lease sites were launched on July 25, after the company failed to reach agreement with unions on conditions including restored site allowances, improved job security, improved pay and conditions for subcontractors, and union right of entry.

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