1127

The Australian government, at the behest of the United States, has decided to boycott major United Nations nuclear disarmament negotiations beginning on March 27. It argues that US nuclear weapons are essential for Australia’s security and therefore should not be prohibited under international law.

Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced on February 22 that the presidential race will head to a second round after left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno came first in the February 19 election, but fell agonisingly short of the 40% needed to win a first-round victory.

Moreno, from the ruling Alianza Pais (AP) of outgoing President Rafael Correa, won 39.35% of the vote. He beat right-wing Guillermo Lasso of the opposition CREO party by more than 10 percentage points, with the ex-banker winning 28.12%.

The February 23 ruling by the so-called Fair Work Australia Commission to allow the slashing of weekend penalty rates for those working in the food and retail sector is a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable and underpaid workers in Australia.

Green Left Weekly’s Chris Jenkins spoke to Aaron Beardsell, WA state organiser of the newly formed Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) about the new union and the challenges facing workers in their sector.

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More than 400 people rallied for abortion rights outside the Queensland parliament on February 16 in the lead up to a March 1 debate on decriminalising abortion in the state.

One feature of the rally was the strong support by unionists speaking out in favour of the campaign demands. General secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions Ros McLennan gave a powerful speech criticising the “weak-kneed hand-wringing and flip flopping” of the state's politicians when the “right thing to do is just so clear”.

Eaten Fish

Iranian cartoonist Eaten Fish (Ali Duranti) ended his hunger strike after 18 days on February 18. He went on hunger strike to protest being sexually assaulted and guards ignoring his complaints, often bullying him in response.

The widespread jubilation when it was announced that Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera would be released in May shows that liberation struggle still resonates in the Caribbean island that remains a United States colony.

Australia ranks equal 15th overall in a new World Bank scorecard on sustainable energy, tied with five other countries in the bottom group of wealthy OECD countries.

The Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) provides benchmarks to evaluate clean energy progress.

RISE rates country performance in three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency, and access to modern energy (excluding advanced countries), using 27 indicators and 80 sub-indicators.

A protest was held on February 18 in response to the City of Melbourne’s proposed by-law amendments that ban any form of public camping and make it easier for the confiscation of unattended property — essentially criminalising rough sleepers in the streets of Melbourne.

Severe coral bleaching could return to the Great Barrier Reef in the next four weeks scientists warn, after new bleaching and unusually high ocean temperatures have been documented.

Newly bleached corals have been discovered near Townsville.

Vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef have been placed on Alert Level 1 by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch for the next four weeks — meaning that coral bleaching is likely.

Protesters have been camping outside a Sri Lankan Air Force base since January 31 at Keappaapulavu on the north-eastern coast of the island of Sri Lanka.

Women are playing a leading role in the protest. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken away to create a military zone. 

The Keappaapulavu base is one of many military bases built throughout the north and east of the island. After the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland, Tamil areas are under what amounts to a military occupation.

With the decision by the misnamed Fair Work Commission to slash the take home pay of some of the lowest-paid workers, it is worth restating that all wealth in our society is created by workers and not capitalists.

Profits come from the difference between the value of the goods and services created by a worker and what they are paid for their work. Some of this "surplus value" is invested back into production, but the rest is siphoned off as profit.

Victoria passes Climate Change Act

Victoria’s new Climate Change Act, which was passed on February 23, will set Victoria on the path to zero climate pollution.

The act will establish a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; require five-yearly interim emissions targets from 2020 onwards; improve accountability and transparency on efforts to cut emissions; and ensure all arms of government are factoring climate change impacts and emissions reductions into their decision making and policy setting.

The first few weeks of the Donald Trump administration have been extraordinary, and quite frightening — not just because of the incompetence of a president who appears to be little more than a self-obsessed idiot, but also by the actions of the dangerous ideologues at the helm of the world’s biggest economy and military power.

Legislation passed in the Queensland parliament on February 14 could mean that Wicked Campers’ vehicles with misogynist slogans that vilify women and promote rape culture are taken off the road from March 31.

The legislation says operators who refuse to remove “inappropriate” words or pictures within 14 days will have their vehicles deregistered. The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) will be responsible for determining if a slogan is inappropriate on receipt of a citizen’s complaint.

A push is underway to set up a safe injecting room in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond to reduce the number of fatal overdoses of drug users.

With the state coroner and other medical professionals supporting the push, Sex Party MP Fiona Patten has introduced a private member’s bill to set up a trial safe injecting room, which was debated in state parliament on February 22.

It was a packed night at the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-controlled gay bar in downtown New York City on June 28, 1969. Stonewall was the only bar in town where gays could dance together, which meant that despite it being dilapidated — there was no running water behind the bar, no fire exits, the toilets overflowed — there was a heavy door charge and the drinks were overpriced.

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