Photos by Chelsea Dennison The good turnout to national rallies on August 27 and 28 shows the refugee rights' movement is starting to gain political ground. A number of pro-asylum seeker groups are forming to force an end to the cruel policy of locking up refugees in offshore detention.
More than 2 million Bolivians have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the past decade since President Evo Morales's government came to power. Bolivia's economy is on course to grow by 5% this year, placing it among the top performers in Latin America. It is one sign of Bolivia's rapid economic transformation. Another indicator is falling poverty rates. When Morales took office in 2006, the rate of extreme poverty was 38.2%. This year, the figure is 16.8%.
Since the extra-judicial killing of Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri independence fighter, by Indian security forces in a village in south Kashmir on July 8, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris have once again taken to the streets in protest. Kashmir is occupied by India and the territory is also claimed by Pakistan. Many Kashmiris, however, are struggling for independence.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says 4475 people were killed in the nation's horrific civil war during July. Of these, 1289 were civilians, including 263 children. Almost three quarters of these civilian casualties were killed in airstrikes by the government or its ally, Russia, and other attacks by the pro-government side, SOHR said. Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed, between 4-to-5 million people have left Syria as refugees and about 8 million have been internally displaced.
More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on September 2 to support Jasmine Pilbrow who was found guilty of “interference with a crew member of an aircraft”. In February last year, Pilbrow refused to take her seat on a Qantas aircraft in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being taken to Darwin before being deported to Sri Lanka. Melanie Brown told the gathering her friend had peacefully explained to others on the plane her reasons for taking the action. Two other people then also stood up.
Refugees rescued from the Mediterranean. Lampedusa, August 30. Despite the public outcry over the death of three-year-old asylum seeker from Syria, Alan Kurdi, in the Mediterranean last year, Oxfam said refugee deaths have risen since then. World refugee deaths over the past year have risen by more than one-fifth, according to international charity Oxfam.
Refugee rights activists are pleased with the September 1 announcement that Wilson Security will not tender for another contract for Australia's offshore detention centres, but say the camps must be closed immediately. Wilson's contract ends in October next year. It follows an announcement in May by Ferrovial, a Spanish infrastructure company which took over Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), that it would not be renewing its contract on Manus Island and Nauru when it ends in February.
Well-respected socialist activist Sue Bolton is recontesting her position as councillor for the North East Ward in Melbourne's City of Moreland Council election. Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, was elected in 2012 on a platform of “Community need, not developer greed”. An experienced working-class activist, Bolton was born in western Queensland, and worked (among other things) as a bus driver and public servant, and has been an active trade unionist over many years.
Tens of millions of public sector workers in India went on strike to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push for privatisation and other right-wing economic policies. “This strike is against the central government, this strike is for the cause of the working people,” Ramen Pandey of the Indian National Trade Union Congress told Al Jazeera.
As we go to print, the students occupying the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) administration building at Rozelle can proudly say that theirs is the longest occupation in the history of the University of Sydney. It has now surpassed the 10-day occupation, in 1983, of the Department of Political Economy. The occupiers want the university to guarantee it will let SCA stay at Callan Park, drop its proposal for a 60% staff cut and reinstate the Bachelor of Visual Arts (BVA).
Workers in retail and fast-food outlets, including Woolworths, Hungry Jack's and KFC, are being underpaid more than $300 million a year, in a national wages scandal centred on deals struck with the socially conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA). Fairfax Media has uncovered evidence that some of Australia's biggest employers are paying their employees less than the award in a longstanding and cosy partnership between big retail and fast-food employers and the union.
Last month I read an article that first appeared in the Huffington Post titled "X Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here". It explains how real wages in the US shadowed growth in productivity in the years after World War II. But in the mid-1970s wages growth completely stalled. If wages had continued to shadow productivity growth they would now be double what they are today. This explains a lot about contemporary US society: all the gains of increased productivity have been absorbed by the rich.
The federal government has published a proposed law to restrict the rights of firefighters and other emergency service workers. The new law will amend the Fair Work Act to ban enterprise agreements covering workers employed by a “designated emergency management body” from containing “objectionable” terms — including requirements for management to consult with the relevant union.
Australia’s first health clinic catering solely for the needs of the transgender and gender diverse community has opened. The Equinox Gender Diverse Clinic, a peer-led trans-focused clinic, is run by the Victorian AIDS Council. The clinic bulk bills, making the service accessible to the entire transgender community. Starting with a GP service, Equinox plans to expand into a counselling service later this year, and beyond that into addressing trans homelessness.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officer's Union (AMOU) have hailed a High Court victory that will protect local jobs on offshore oil and gas projects and curb the exploitation of foreign workers. The High Court unanimously ruled on August 31 against the federal government's decision to exempt workers on vessels in the offshore oil and gas industry from visa requirements. The unions argued that the exemptions provided an incentive for companies to hire foreigners on lower wages and undercut safety standards and conditions.
The Bolivian mining cooperative protests and the August 25 killing of the Bolivian Vice-Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes by cooperative miners requires us to question our assumptions about the cooperatives. Most of Bolivia’s mining cooperatives began during the Great Depression as miners banded together to work a mine in common. However, like many cooperatives in the US that arose out of the 1960s, they have turned into small businesses. Regardless of their initial intentions, cooperatives existing in a capitalist environment must compete in business practices or go under.