1127

The appointment of former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh as CEO of the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA) is a desperate public relations ploy by the Big Four Australian banks to head off a looming royal commission into their crimes and misdeeds.

It seems unlikely to succeed, given the anger in the community against the Big Four — the Commonwealth, National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ — and their systematic gouging of the general public.

March for refugees in Barcelona, February 18.

Hundreds of thousands of people overflowed the streets of central Barcelona on February 20 in the largest ever European demonstration in support of refugee rights. The city police estimated attendance at 160,000 people; the organisers — the “Our House, Your House” campaign — put it at half a million people.

All along the vast march, its thematic sea-blue placards stood out in the light of the bright winter’s day: “Enough excuses! Let’s take them in now!"

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.

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.

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