1044

The Irish coalition government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party tried to turn the tables on its left-wing opponents in recent days, with efforts to portray them as “dangerous” and “anti-democratic”. The exchanges came amid ongoing demonstrations over the jailing of anti-austerity protestors in Dublin. Five activists were ordered to be locked up by a court last month for failing to stay away from the installation of water metres.
In August last year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott thought it would be a good idea to send 1000 Australian soldiers to Ukraine. Their intended purpose was to guard the crash site of the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down there killing 38 Australian citizens. The proposal was quietly dropped after military planners advised that, as none of the troops could speak either Ukrainian or Russian, and would not be able to tell the difference between the militias of either country, it was not such a great idea after all.
The ABS's steam-powered computer systems are too outdated to run a census. The various agencies of Australian governments have a capacity to access data generated by individuals that is unprecedented — one of the “benefits” of the communications revolution that we are living through.
Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who chaired the Special Task force on Domestic and Family Violence, handed the report to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on February 28. The task force was established on September 10 last year by the previous LNP government and charged to deliver its findings by February 28. It included several now-former MPs.
Despite widespread public opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne are determined to get their higher education deregulation bill through the Senate. Students, on the other hand, are just as determined to stop it. Mia Sanders, the UWS Bankstown Student Council Secretary and an education activist, told Green Left Weekly that students would not back down.
Blink and you might have missed it, but February 27 was the “Great Debate” between Luke Foley and Mike Baird. The media reported that Premier Baird handed Labor’s Foley his election slogan, because Baird has no plan B for infrastructure without the electricity sell-off to fund $20 billion in projects.
Offshore oil drilling operations off Western Sahara, carried out by the US firm Kosmos Energy, were . “Kosmos Energy did nothing to obtain the consent of the people of Western Sahara,” said WSRW chair Erik Hagen. The Dallas-based company said its exploration well had not yielded a commercial find and would be plugged, .
The onshore gas industry in south-east Australia is in trouble. Public opposition, low international oil prices and projected supply shortfalls have combined to cast doubt on the profitability of the industry. The international has indicated that the LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facilities at Gladstone in Queensland may fall short of meeting their export contracts in coming years, by up to 30%.
About 150 relatives of missing people protested outside a hearing of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in Trincomalee, a city on the east coast of Sri Lanka, on February 28. The protesters were mainly Tamil women whose relatives are still missing after being arrested or abducted by the Sri Lankan armed forces. They expressed their lack of confidence in any commission appointed by the Sri Lankan government, and demanded investigations by a United Nations team.
“The findings of guilty are set aside and dismissed and appellant’s sentence is vacated.” With this statement on February 18 the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), found David Hicks innocent of a previous guilty plea of providing military support to terrorism. Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Hicks said: “I am not jumping up and down for joy. I am very tired by it all. Then there are the government’s and media’s attitude to it all. I am quite fed up with it all.”
If Tony Abbott’s government has its way, new laws further empowering Australia's secret police to greatly expand their mass surveillance powers will be rammed through federal parliament by mid-March. But it will succeed only if the Australian Labor Party backs the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill.

“We will not be treated like slaves,” a refugee forced to live on Nauru said during a series of public protests held by refugees on the island. Hundreds of refugees living in the community, alongside asylum seekers still held in detention camps, have been holding a campaign of non-cooperation and protest since February 25. Children have boycotted class, refugees with jobs have begun a stay-away strike and many are refusing to talk to their case mangers.

The recently exposed the practice of live baiting in the multi-billion dollar greyhound racing industry. It showed greyhound trainers strapping piglets, possums and other animals to mechanical lures and encouraging the dogs to chase them and then maul them while still alive. The trainers say “blooding” the greyhounds helps the dogs run faster. The suffering inflicted on the bait animals is horrific, but “blooding” is just one part of this notoriously corrupt industry.
Health minister Sussan Ley’s announcement that the GP co-payment has been dropped was welcomed by Save Medicare Sydney (SMS). But the group warns: “Medicare is not safe while the rebate remains frozen and the government looks for other ways to dismantle universal health care.” Jean Parker from SMS said: “Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott and Ley want Medicare bulk-billing to become a safety-net for the ‘vulnerable’.
Venezuela has launched a campaign against the environmental toll of hydraulic fracturing in the United States with a new exhibition entitled “Fucking Fracking”. Government official Ernesto Villegas announced the inauguration of the exhibition on March 2. It will veature talks by economists and oil experts, as well as an anti-fracking play. The exhibition's logo is a fractured heart dripping with black oil, with dried up leaves coming from the arteries.
Thousands of people threatening to hold a late night pyjama party at Perth train station have forced a backdown from the state government. State transport minister Dean Nalder issued a on March 3 promising that late night trains on Friday and Saturday evenings would remain. Previously the Public Transport Authority had announced that the 1am and 2:15am train services would be cancelled.

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