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.
Finance minister Mathias Cormann has threatened the opposition parties that if they continue to block key budget measures — such as the demolition of universal health care and welfare, the deregulation of university fees, and the hike in the interest rate on student HECS debts — then the government would be forced to look at raising taxes.
The Tasmanian Liberal government released its first budget on August 28. About 1500 people protested outside Parliament House on the same day to voice their opposition to the government’s plans. The budget will cut 700 full-time jobs from the public sector and freeze public sector wages for at least one year. School attendant and United Voice member Ken Martindale addressed the rally about the impact the pay freeze will have on low-income families in Tasmania, saying that bills will go up each year even if pay does not.
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.
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.
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.”
As the deadly disease Ebola spreads throughout West Africa, some in the West have been engaging in fear-mongering and racism. Others are seeing this deadly outbreak as a golden chance to profit off desperation. But the high death toll is caused by the intersection of Ebola and poverty. Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms that include headache, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as the signature symptoms of internal and external bleeding. It is caused by a virus that is spread through contact with fluids such as saliva, urine, blood and semen.
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!”
After four venues cancelled bookings under pressure from protesters, the World Congress of Families announced a fifth venue for its conference in Victoria — the headquarters of notorious anti-Muslim hate group Catch the Fire Ministries. A coalition of groups opposing the WCF called a media conference on August 28 to explain why they were determined to stop the right-wing fundamentalist Christian conference from going ahead in Melbourne on August 30.
Around 50 protesters held a picket outside the opening of the World Congress of Families on August 30, which finally found a venue in the bunker-like premises of the Catch the Fire Ministries in outer suburban Hallam. This sect gained notoriety for declaring the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires were a punishment from God due to the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria. READ MORE: Why we disrupted the World Congress of Families
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.
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.
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.
Australian-based organisation Stop Lynas released a paper on August 28 criticising Australian rare earths company Lynas for operating without a social licence in Malaysia. The paper has been submitted to Lynas for response.
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.
Forty per cent of Australians do not believe that democracy is the best form of government, the Lowy Institute found in a poll it conducted earlier this year. The main reasons given were that what now passes for democracy is serving vested interests rather than the interests of people, and that there is no real difference between the two big political parties. This is a perfectly logical reaction to the convergence of the major parties around the economic doctrine of neoliberalism.