1031

About 50 people rallied outside the Mint Bistro in Macquarie Street on October 28, carrying placards and black balloons marked CO2, to protest against Whitehaven Coal’s annual general meeting being held inside. The protesters accused the company of ignoring the wishes of communities living near mining projects in the Leard National Forest and at Maules Creek in northern NSW.
Tasmania’s Liberal government has amended its anti-protest bill to allay fears from concerned groups who say the laws are undemocratic and a threat to free speech. The laws were passed in the state’s Upper House on October 30, and will be further amended by a committee. A coalition of more than 20 community groups, including unions, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Lawyers Alliance, released a joint statement urging parliamentarians to drop the Bill.
Edinburgh’s Augustine United Church is a pretty cold place when the wind is howling, as it was when the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) held its annual conference there on October 25. But all feelings of chill disappeared when the 200-plus SSP members got down to tackling the challenges of an inspiring new period in Scottish politics. The period is marked by unprecedented popular engagement in activism and debate over Scotland’s future. This phase was triggered by the referendum on Scottish independence, won by the No vote by 55% to 45% for the Yes side.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated his government plans to increase the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Before last year’s election, Abbott promised the Australian people that “the GST won't change, full stop, end of story”. But on October 27, he called for a “mature debate” on the topic, making it clear his government intends to increase GST revenue.
The long-term average rise of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wage price index is 3.6%. In the first half of this year, it increased at an annualised rate of only 1.7%. The latest National Australia Bank quarterly business survey shows labour costs have been rising at an average annualised rate of 1.5% since the last quarter of 2012. This compares with an average of 3% a year between 1998 and 2008.
At Geelong's Walk Together rally on October 25, Labor's shadow immigration minister Richard Marles told the crowd Labor would “welcome” refugees. Despite trying to appeal to the crowd's message of acceptance and tolerance, Marles was heckled by members of Rural Australians for Refugees and the Socialist Alliance. Unionists from the Geelong Trades Hall stood up front and turned their backs on him while he spoke.
The People's Common Rights and Provisions Bill 2014 was debated in a mock parliamentary sitting in Brisbane on October 28. Community group Lock the Gate planned to hold the event inside Parliament House. But Speaker Fiona Simpson said the event was an affront to the dignity of parliament and would not allow it. The Bill was organised by activists to protest about the state of politics in Queensland and address issues such as a lack of democracy, unrestricted mining and the loss of clean air, water and agricultural land.
The University of Western Sydney Bankstown Resistance activists Mia Sanders and Ian Escandor have been elected to the Bankstown Student Campus Council (SCC) and the campus magazine CrUWSible editorial board. The results were announced on October 31. Sanders told Green Left Weekly she believes students related to the “RES Out West” ticket because it emphasised fighting the federal government’s education attacks and rejecting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, women and refugees.
It is ominous. As the federal government's joke climate change “Direct Action Plan” passed the Senate with the support of coal baron Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party, the first heatwave of an early Australian summer had just smashed new temperature records for the hottest day in October. The Bureau of Meteorology said October 25 was Australia’s warmest October day on record, kept since 1910. Average maximums across the nation reached 36 degrees Celsius.
Over the past week, residents in Ashfield, Leichhardt and Haberfield have sprung into action in attempts to stop geotechnical drilling by tenderers for the WestConnex tollway. About 200 drill sites have been identified along the proposed route of WestConnex, between Concord and Rockdale. Drilling for stages 1 and 2 of the project has been underway since mid-September, but residents have been kept in the dark about when and where drilling will happen.

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