When Treasurer Joe Hockey addressed the Sydney Institute on June 11, he complained that it is not fair that more than $6000 a head will be spent by the government on welfare this year. He said this means "the average working Australian, be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian."
Labor stood by its "longstanding principles" along with the Greens and refused to block the first of the supply bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate last week. Only Andrew Wilkie and Clive Palmer voted against these bills in the House of Representatives. There were no votes against the bills in the Senate.
LIFE FOR MOST AUSTRALIANS IS GETTING HARDER, WHILE POLITICIANS SERVE THE WEALTHY. BUT PUBLIC BACKLASH IS BREWING INTO A MOVEMENT TO CHALLENGE THIS SYSTEM, WRITES SUSAN PRICE. In handing down its first budget, the Coalition government echoed its National Commission of Audit, warning that a “business as usual” scenario for public spending on welfare, pensions, public services, health and education is “unsustainable”, even “irresponsible” in Australia today.
Indian feminist and socialist Kavita Krishnan was the keynote speaker at the People's Power in the “Asian Century” seminar in Sydney on June 7. The seminar was held as part of the Socialist Alliance’s 10th national conference over the weekend of June 7-9. Around 250 people attended the conference to hear Krishnan speak on the anti-capitalist struggle in India, and on capitalism, misogyny and sexual violence.
The turnout and energy at the March in May rallies on May 18 proved that people are not going to take this budget lying down. Numbers were up in several cities compared with March in March. In Melbourne, Hobart and Brisbane there were sizeable anti budget rallies on the day, even though March Australia groups had decided not to organise protests. Student rallies against the cuts to education on May 21 were bigger than any seen for a decade.
And so it begins — an offensive, on behalf of the Australian ruling class and corporate interests, to steal the future from the majority of Australians, to dismantle what remains of our social welfare system, in order to carry out, in the words of Treasurer Joe Hockey, "the government's solemn duty ... to build a stronger Australia".
A casino was a fitting venue to host Prime Minister Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th anniversary dinner of conservative think tank the Sydney Institute on April 28. Abbott's speech, coming two weeks before the federal budget, was full of promises of “happiness”, “security” and “a better life”. But in reality, Australian workers, pensioners and the poor will be lucky if they are left with much more than the shirts on their backs once the government is done fleecing them.
More than 1100 people, including a large number of young activists, attended Marxism 2014: Ideas to change the system, hosted in Melbourne by Socialist Alternative over April 17-20. The event continues to be an important public conference in Australia. This year there was an impressive Indigenous history and struggle stream, including activists such as Lex Wotton, who was jailed following the community response to Mulrunji Doomadgee's murder in custody by police on Palm Island, veteran activist Gary Foley; Marjorie Thorpe; Vicky Roach and former Tracker editor Chris Graham.
The 10th national conference of the Socialist Alliance will be held in Sydney over the long weekend of June 7-9. This gathering will take place at a time of extreme inequality, intensified conflict and ecological crisis on a global scale. Even in Australia, one of the “richest suburbs” in the world, the political temperature is rising with the 100,000-strong March in March signalling a broad resistance to the attacks from the Tony Abbott government. The conference will discuss strategies and tactics to advance people's power in this country and around the world.
More than five years since the global financial crisis, many OECD countries are still facing high rates of unemployment, losses in income and worsening social conditions. This was confirmed in the latest OECD social indicators report, Society at a Glance 2014, released on March 19. The reports says: "The financial upheaval of 2007-08 created not just an economic and fiscal crisis but also a social crisis ... Some 48 million people in OECD countries are looking for a job – 15 million more than in September 2007 – and millions more are in financial distress.
Five hundred construction workers walked off the job following the death of a young worker, who fell 30 metres from scaffolding at the Barangaroo construction site in Sydney on January 9. The NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) said emergency services were called to the site at 8.30am after Lend Lease construction workers reported that a man had plunged about 30 metres to the ground. Workmates on site attempted CPR, but the 26-year-old was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived on site.
About 200 people gathered outside the Liberal Party headquarters in Melbourne on December 4 to protest against the decision to restrict abortion in Victoria. The Victorian Liberal Party state conference voted on December 1 to wind back Victoria's abortion laws, which were amended in 2008 to decriminalise the procedure and to require a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer a woman to another doctor without prejudice.
Unionists and community activists protested outside the Melbourne headquarters of Australian-based mining company OceanaGold on November 15, in solidarity with the people of El Salvador and the Philippines. The protest took place in support of a tour by an anti-mining activist from El Salvador, Vidalina Morales. A grassroots environmental advocate, Morales has been a leader in her local area in the struggle to oppose mining in El Salvador's Cabañas province since 2006.
Supporters of refugees from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Newcastle converged on Parliament House in Canberra on November 18. About 600 protesters gathered, among them were Hazara and Iranian refugees. The protest coincided with the Labor parliamentary caucus meeting to decide whether to support the Greens move to disallow temporary protection visas.
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.