Immigration minister Scott Morrison has angrily slammed allegations by Labor Senator Sue Lines that the federal government was using the “war on terror” to distract voters from its cruel and deeply unpopular budget. And fair enough, it was a ridiculous comment when you consider the huge number of terrorist attacks Australia has been subjected to in recent times.
The first asylum seeker to be forcibly returned to Afghanistan begged an Australian court for help the day he was due to be deported. The judge used a two-year out-of-date security assessment of Afghanistan to rule that the 29-year-old ethnic Hazara’s home district, Jaghori, was “reasonably stable”. “Jaghori is confined, it’s like a prison,” the man said through an interpreter, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. “The surrounding areas are all controlled by the Taliban. Many people die on the way to Jaghori.”
The imperial war drums are beating loudly again and the big parties in Australia, Liberal and Labor, are once more shoulder-to-shoulder for a new military intervention in Iraq. Defence minister David Johnston says the Australian armed forces are in a “high state of readiness” to join the US in bombing missions with Super Hornet warplanes. “They're incredibly capable,” he said. “They're exactly what flies off US aircraft carriers. Now, that's an obvious first port of call were we to consider it necessary to participate with our friends and our ally.”
Nick Riemer, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, addressed a Town Hall meeting on August 25 on the proposed deregulation of fees at Australian universities. Riemer is a member of the NTEU Sydney University branch committee. *** Fee deregulation means the entrenchment of educational disadvantage and the enclosure of knowledge in our society. That’s not irresponsible exaggeration: it’s an accurate characterisation that follows from the careful modelling done by a number of authorities.
The Coalition dominated Senate will vote on a raft of amendments to the Fair Work Act in July next year that includes the Building and Construction (Fair and Lawful Building Sites) Code. The code will be voted in as a piece of retrospective legislation. This means it will be backdated to April 24 this year. This is so the code will apply to all new enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA) due to be negotiated by all construction unions with the respective employers.
Palestinians in Gaza took to the streets on August 26 in celebration. After 51 days of merciless bombardment by the Israeli military, an open-ended ceasefire between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel was announced that appears likely to last for at least the immediate future. During the assault, homes, hospitals, shops, agricultural infrastructure and schools were pulverised. About 2100 Gazans were killed. An estimated 80% of these were civilians, including more than 500 children.
There has been a dramatic rise in the female prison population in Australia in the last 10 years. This increase is largely due to the rising number of Aboriginal women going to prison. In 1996, about 21% of women in prison were Aboriginal, last year it was 33%. The rate of increase is much greater than that of men. Australia has the dishonour of jailing the highest proportion of its Indigenous female population in the world. Aboriginal women are 17 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal women.
Thousands marched in Staten Island, New York City, on August 23 to protest against the police murder of an unarmed Black man, Eric Garner, in July. The action was led by Reverend Al Sharpton, who has been outspoken against police brutality since the killing. The marchers were inspired by the mass protests in Ferguson, Missouri, against the murder of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown by police. They took up the chant of the Ferguson protesters ― “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”
The Renewable Energy Target could become a victim of its own success. A review into the scheme, released on August 29, has recommended the federal government close new investment into renewable energy because it has produced more energy than originally planned. But Labor, Greens and Palmer United Party senators have vowed to block any changes to the scheme. At the same time, a debate has emerged among climate activists about whether we should “change tack” when it comes to campaigning on the issue of climate change.
Palestinian officials have recognised that Latin American countries were the first to condemn the Israeli onslaught against Gaza. The Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, thanked Latin America on August 27 for its solidarity with the people of Gaza and its condemnation of the seven-week Israeli massacre in the enclave. During a PNC meeting, the Palestinian leaders said the solidarity of Latin America with Palestinians “is an inheritance of patriots like Jose Marti and Simon Bolivar”.
University of Sydney staff, student groups and alumni voiced their opposition to the government’s proposed education reforms at a Sydney Town Hall meeting on August 25. Twenty-six speakers addressed the proposed fee deregulation. University of Sydney Union board director Edward McMahon put forward an informal motion calling on all university bodies to campaign against deregulation. “These cuts and reforms are being inflicted, ironically, upon my generation by the people who benefited from the more enlightened education policies of yesteryear,” McMahon said.
One of the most frightful ironies of climate change is that it will wreak the most havoc on the people who have done the least to cause it. Pacific Island nations are in the climate frontlines — affected by rising oceans, coastal erosion and extreme weather.