1129

An Essential poll released on March 7 found 56% of voters disapprove of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy industries, while 32% approve.

Asked what would be the result of the cuts, 57% said businesses would make bigger profits; only 24% thought more people would be employed.

On whether the government should legislate to protect penalty rates, 51% said yes while 31% said it should accept the decision.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) said on March 7 it feared the system’s treatment of welfare recipients was scaring individuals away from exercising their right to claim income support.

Speaking as the Senate inquiry into the Centrelink debt recovery system began, ACT ACOSS Director Susan Helyar described the system as an abuse of government power that was undermining confidence in public administration.

“Some of our members have wondered whether individuals are being encouraged to stay out of the welfare system,” she said.

On March 7, Victoria became the first state in Australia to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the dangerous process used to mine unconventional gas. This important victory sets the stage for other states to follow.

The Victorian government has also decided to extend the moratorium on onshore conventional gas drilling until June 30, 2020.

Ecuador will return to the polls on April 2 after a first round presidential vote failed to deliver a decisive victory for Lenin Moreno, the candidate seeking to continue outgoing President Rafael Correa’s pro-poor “Citizens’ Revolution”.  

Moreno now faces the challenge of ensuring Ecuador does not join the list of countries in the region where the left has recently lost at the ballot box.  

A large commercial beekeeper in Darlington Point in the Riverina, southern NSW, has been forced to pack up and move after hundreds of beehives were devastated by pesticide-drift from nearby cotton farms. It is thought the bees died due to the spraying of neonicotinoid insecticides.

Monsanto, one of the world’s biggest pesticide and seed corporations and leading developer of genetically modified crop varieties, had a stock market value of US$66 billion in 2014. It has gained this position by a combination of deceit, threat, litigation, destruction of evidence, falsified data, bribery, takeovers and cultivation of regulatory bodies.

Thousands of unionists attended protests around the country on March 9 in opposition to the federal government's new building code, the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and its planned penalty rate cuts.

The rallies were called by the CFMEU Construction Division and supported by the ACTU and individual unions. Community anger against the cuts to wages and conditions was palpable.

The campaign against the NSW Coalition government's controversial WestConnex tollway is mounting. In addition to various locality groups maintaining their protests, a combined rally — “Grand Theft WestConnex — has been called outside NSW State Parliament on March 30 from 4.30pm.

The rally has been endorsed by a number of anti-WestConnex groups, and is seeking further endorsements. The rally is demanding that the $1.6 billion federal loan for WestConnex, which is yet to be paid, be stopped.

There have been destructive attacks on the homeless in the past year in Melbourne, but the vitriolic hate campaign and physical attacks on the street, and on squatters, has reached a deadly level: murder. 

Just before midnight on March 1, a cowardly arson attack set off a blazing fire at Kinnear’s rope factory in Footscray, which took 40 minutes for the fire brigade to control. Three squatters were tragically killed: Tanya Burmeister and her 15- year-old daughter Zoe were among the dead.

Ian Hodson, national president of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, explains why his union continues to support socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as the veteran left-winger faces fresh calls to resign over his alleged “unelectability”.

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