1036

Three years after Barry O'Farrell promised to ban coal seam gas (CSG) mining in Sydney's drinking water catchment, the NSW government’s gas plan says nothing about protecting this sensitive area. The plan, aimed at defusing community anger about CSG approvals and mining in the lead up to the March state election, has done the opposite.
Days before the Victorian elections on November 29, the Labor opposition promised to scrap the East West Link, a massive road project in Melbourne with an estimated cost of $18 billion. On the back of a large community campaign to stop the project, this position helped Labor win the election. The history of the campaign to stop the tunnel provides lessons on how the community can successfully beat the power of corporations and governments.
Australians have begun the grim journey through the centenary of World War I. Our newspapers have special articles and multi-page wrap arounds commemorating every significant date. This is driven by a multi-million dollar government fund designed to whip up militarisation in contemporary Australia by obscuring the truth about WWI. Part of the truth is that in Christmas 1914, just months after the war began, millions of soldiers ceased fighting and fraternised across the trenches. In some areas, this lasted for a week.
The world's top climate scientists issued their latest warning in November that the climate crisis is rapidly worsening on several fronts — and that we must stop our climate-polluting way of producing energy if we are to stand a chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
Almost 70% of NSW voters oppose the partial sale of state-owned electricity "poles and wires" assets, according to a Fairfax/Ipsos opinion poll reported in the November 24 Sydney Morning Herald. Only 29% say they support the NSW Coalition government's plan to lease 49% of the power facilities to private corporations. The same 69% of people also believe that electricity prices would rise if the sale goes through; while only 7% think prices would fall. About 20% consider prices would remain the same.
Nicole Judge worked at refugee centres on Nauru and Manus Island and despite warnings from various bodies, stood before a packed crowd at a Refugee Action Coalition forum in Sydney on November 17 to give an account of her time there. When Judge first set foot on Manus Island she knew she was not getting what she had been promised. When she first signed up to work on Manus Island, she thought it would be a “working holiday”. She was looking for a break; what she found was despair, desperation and the deterioration of minds and bodies.
Sweeping changes to refugee law were passed through the Senate on December 5. These include the reintroduction of temporary protection visas (TPVs) that will grant refugees in Australia a visa for three years but does not allow them to apply for permanent protection. When it was elected in 2007, Labor dumped this unpopular policy of the former John Howard government. Immigration minister Scott Morrison has been working to reintroduce TPVs since the Coalition was elected last year, but it has been repeatedly blocked in the Senate.
Nearly four months in and the new US-led war in the Middle East is enjoying patchy progress at best. At an official briefing at defence headquarters in Canberra on November 25, Australian Defence Force Chief of Joint Operations Vice-Admiral David Johnston said Australian-led air strikes Iraq the previous week had killed about 100 fighters from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
The 18th South Asian Associations for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit took place at Kathmandu, Nepal on November 25 and 26. The heads of the eight states of South Asia took part in the summit. Kathmandu was a showcase of what has happened repeatedly in the three decades since the birth of the SAARC. Leaders make rhetorical speeches and spend time on expensive retreats and sightseeing — then head home forgetting what was said in the summit hall.
When Labor claimed victory in the Victorian elections, many of the smaller parties also celebrated their electoral success. The Greens won their first seat in Victoria’s Lower House, with the victory of Ellen Sandell over the incumbent Jennifer Kanis, the only Labor MP in the Legislative Assembly to lose a seat.
The news came through on December 3, as I write this, that another grand jury has refused to indict a white cop for murdering an unarmed Black man. In this case, the murder was caught on video in New York City on July 17. The widely watched video, taken by a bystander, showed 43-year-old Black man Eric Garner being set upon by a group of cops for selling individual cigarettes on the street. One cop is seen putting Garner in a chokehold. The other cops pile on, and Gardener is choked to death. The cops then arrested the man who shot the video and his girlfriend.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture urged the United States on November 28 to investigate and prosecute police brutality and shootings of unarmed Black youth. The panel's first review of the US record on preventing torture since 2006 followed protests across the country after a November 24 grand jury decision not to charge officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Sixteen concerned residents of Kuantan travelled all the way from Malaysia to Sydney to protest at the November 28 shareholders' annual general meeting of an Australian rare earth mining and refining company. Lynas Corporation's toxic refinery in the outskirts of Kuantan (population 700,000) on Malaysia's east coast is deeply unpopular with local residents and other concerned Malaysians who, together with Australian supporters, have mounted protests in Sydney at the past four AGMs.

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