A Green Surge has hit Britain. Thanks to an ongoing growth spurt, the Green Party of England and Wales has now hit 54,000 members, on top of nearly 10,000 members in the Scottish Green Party. Opinion polls put the party on the rise, frequently beating the Liberal Democrats, who are governing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Greens now have more members than the far-right anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP), whose growing support has generated much media attention.
US media reported on February 14 that more than 4000 ground combat troops are heading to Kuwait. Reports indicate it could be the US’ largest ground force in the region. The move comes as President Barack Obama is petitioning Congress for an Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State group. Obama sent Congress the AUMF petition denying plans for a ground war, however the troops in Kuwait are prepared for any “contingency,” a Pentagon military source said.
Instro Precision, a factory in Kent, England, owned by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems was shut down on February 17 by four activists occupying the roof while others blockaded the entrance. Instro Precision is a manufacturer of military targeting systems. Its optical equipment is used in drones such as those Israel used to bombard Gaza during the summer of 2014, say the activists. Such surveillance equipment has also been installed in Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.
Palestinian student Lina Khattab, 18, a first-year media student at Birzeit University, was sentenced by an Israeli military court to six months imprisonment, a NIS6000 (US$1500) fine and three years probation on February 17. She is also a folkloric dancer with the world-renowned El-Funoun Popular Palestinian Dance Troupe and is active in other cultural and political student activities at the university.
NSW premier Bruce Baird was confronted by 200 TAFE students, teachers and supporters when he visited Newcastle’s Hamilton TAFE campus on February 16. His visit was to inaugurate the offices of the Hunter Business Chamber, which have been relocated to Hamilton TAFE. Significantly, the old TAFE signage out the front of the campus has been replaced with a sign that reads “Australian Business Apprenticeship Centre”.
Hundreds of people started a week-long walk through Sydney’s western suburbs on February 21 to highlight the risk coal seam gas poses to drinking water. Beginning at Cataract Dam the route will continue for 160 kilometres through Camden, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Fairfield, Prospect, Parramatta, Auburn, Ryde and Gladesville before finishing at Parliament House in Sydney. More than 10 community groups came together to organise the walk, including the Western Sydney Environment Network, Stop CSG Macarthur, Parramatta Climate Action Network and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
Unions NSW has launched a "NSW Not For Sale" campaign in the lead-up to the March 28 state elections. The campaign targets the state government's plans to privatise the power industry, as well as attacking private involvement in hospitals and TAFE. The campaign involves TV advertisements, as well as a radio and digital blitz. It aims to mobilise union members and other volunteers for doorknocking and mass telephoning.
A major victory has been won by ANZ workers and the Finance Sector Union (FSU) against ANZ bank. On February 16 ANZ’s proposed changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement were rejected by 64% of union members. This victory for ANZ staff came on the same day that ANZ announced a new CEO for its Australian operations. “Thousands of staff have said NO to a broken pay model, clawbacks on job security, hours of work and penalty rates,” said National Secretary of the FSU Fiona Jordan.
The National Union of Students organises national days of action, in which students around the country take part in rallies to fight back against the latest round of attacks against public education. This year, students are continuing to fight the biggest attack on accessible education since HECS was introduced in 1989.