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The government is ducking and weaving in the face of combined resistance to its cruel budget. Employment Minister Eric Abetz admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing on June 26 that the Productivity Commission's review of the Fair Work Act will now be delayed until the second half of this year. The media say this is to allow the government to devote its energies into getting its budget measures through, and to avoid an all-out campaign by unions to "revive the spectre of Work Choices".
In the first two weeks of hearings at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, further claims were made against Labor leader and former national secretary of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Bill Shorten. Former Health Services Union (HSU) official Marco Belano told the commission that Shorten donated $5000 to his 2009 union election campaign when Shorten was parliamentary secretary for disabilities in the Labor government.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance released this statement on June 23. *** The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union and professional association for Australia’s journalists, condemns the verdict of the Cairo court in the case involving journalists from Al Jazeera English and calls on Egyptian authorities to urgently intervene to free the three journalists who have been detained for simply doing their jobs.
A glaring omission from the strategy debate over how to fight the budget has been any solid discussion from most union leaders about how and when to deploy industrial action. At the packed out mass delegates' meeting in Sydney on June 12, National Tertiary Education Union activist Susan Price moved two amendments to the official motion that, judging from the room, had they been put would have committed Unions NSW to do just that.
Dozens of Palestinians held without charge or trial by Israel ended their 63-day hunger strike protest on June 25. It was the longest hunger strike in the history of the Palestinian prisoners movement. Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups said on June 26 that about 80 of the hunger strikers were still hospitalised and shackled to their beds. Meanwhile, the Israeli government is set to push through laws to permit the force-feeding of hunger strikers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weilded this threat in a bid to break the two-month strike.
An Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges on June 23. Baher Mohammed, the team’s producer, received an extra three years for possession of ammunition, a charge concerning a souvenir spent shell found in his possession, Morning Star said that day. The verdicts against Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed came after a five-month trial that Amnesty International described as a “sham”, calling the rulings “a dark day for media freedom in Egypt”.
Australian environmental campaigner Natalie Lowrey has been released after spending five days in a Malaysian prison. She was arrested in Kuantan, Malaysia on June 22 after participating in a protest against Australian company Lynas. A petition for her release gained 15,000 signatures and protests calling for her release were held in Sydney, Perth and Alice Springs. The “Shut Lynas Down” protest was organised by the Green Assembly, a Malaysian environment movement protesting Lynas’ polluting rare earths processing plant.
In the Shadow of Gallipoli By Robert Bollard NewSouth, Sydney 2013 On April 25, 1915, Australian troops landed at Gallipoli on Turkey’s coast. They were part of a British imperial force aiming to capture Constantinople (now called Istanbul) and the land alongside the narrow waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. It was hoped this would enable British ships to enter the Black Sea and bring supplies to allied Russia.
Three Muslims were killed and about 10,000 made homeless after attacks by Sinhalese Buddhist mobs during the week starting June 15. Violence began in the town of Aluthgama after a rally by the Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinist group Buddhist Power Force (BBS). It then spread to several other towns. Muslim-owned shops, houses and vehicles were burnt by the mobs. Police were sometimes present, but did nothing to stop the violence. The BBS has been engaging in a campaign of anti-Muslim propaganda and violent attacks for several years.
Breakthrough 2014, National Climate Restoration Forum, held over June 21 to 22 in Melbourne, brought together scientists, economists, engineers, business leaders and climate activists. In some regards, the forum represented an important step forward for the Australian climate movement. It highlighted the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis and discussed the possibility of restoring a reasonably safe climate in which human civilisation could continue.
Nine days before the Senate changeover, the High Court ruled that immigration minister Scott Morrison’s cap on the number of protection visas he could grant was invalid. In March, using his arbitrary ministerial powers, Morrison limited the maximum number of protection visas to be granted in the financial year to 2773 — the exact number already given. This was in response to Labor and the Greens uniting in the Senate to block the reintroduction of temporary protection visas (TPVs).
Australian resident Natalie Lowrey remains in detention in Malaysia after her arrest at a peaceful protest demanding an Australian company to close down its operation of the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) in Kuantan. Lowrey was arrested at the peaceful protest on June 22 along with 15 Malaysian citizens — the locals have all been released, yet Lowrey remains detained. Colleague and Rare Earth campaigner Tully McIntyre is in Malaysia, has visited Natalie and has expressed concern for her wellbeing.