1130

Will the election of former Australian Services Union NSW head Sally McManus as ACTU secretary result in a strategic shift in the trade union movement in this country? Many unionists and activists are hoping so.

The government is tightening the screws on workers and the poor, intent on further attacks on the social wage, privatising health, education and welfare services and attacking refugees. We need to fight back. Strong, fighting unions are essential to building an effective resistance to corporate power and to defending our rights.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale raised the prospect of a “four-day work week or a six-hour day” as part of an address to the National Press Club on March 15.

This is a good discussion to be having in a country where people work among the longest hours in the world and where productivity growth has massively outstripped wage growth in recent decades.

Di Natale also flagged the possibility of a Universal Basic Income — which he described as a “guaranteed adequate income”.

The so called Fair Work Commission made the decision on February 23 to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates, affecting nearly 500,000 workers in the retail, hospitality and fast food sectors.

The cuts to public holiday penalty rates will take effect from July 1, however it has not yet been decided when the cuts to Sunday rates will take effect.

About 100 students from universities across Australia and New Zealand shared campaign stories and made plans for the year ahead at the Fossil Free Convergence in the Blue Mountains in NSW over March 10–13.

Organised by 350.org, the convergence brought together fossil fuel divestment groups from universities across Australia and New Zealand, including the Australian National University, University of Auckland, University of Queensland, Melbourne University, RMIT, University of Newcastle and University of New South Wales — which brought 25–30 people to the conference.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor might be willing to support the deportation of children who commit crimes.

Australia does not currently deport minors. 

But the Joint Standing Committee on Migration is examining the screening process when people are given Australian visas and support services when they arrive in Australia.

They are also looking into whether their visa can be revoked if child migrants join gangs.

Shorten said there may be merit in changing the law.

A group of Brisbane grandparents occupied the South Brisbane headquarters of Queensland Labor for 10 hours on March 6. The Grandparents for the Galilee came prepared with food and bedding, vowing to stay until Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk signed a legal letter rejecting the proposed $1 billion loan to Adani.

An interim report from the Koala Expert Panel, established by the state government after a catastrophic koala population crash in south-east Queensland last year, has offered little hope for the state’s faunal emblem.

A Federal Court judge has blasted the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for wasting time and taxpayers' money on taking two Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials to court for “having a cup of tea with a mate”.

Justice Tony North said on March 10 it was “astounding” that the ABCC had conducted days of hearing with dozens of participants over two years for “such a miniscule, insignificant affair”.

Dylan Voller joined a small crowd protesting against the conditions in NT detention centres as the Royal Commission into Juvenile Justice resumed hearings in Alice Springs on March 13.

Footage broadcast on the ABC showing Voller being tear-gassed, spit-hooded and shackled to a restraint chair prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call the inquiry.

Speaking outside the commission, Voller said he wanted to support the other young people giving evidence.

For the first time scientists have cured Tasmanian devils suffering from the deadly devil facial tumour disease by injecting live cancer cells into infected devils to make their immune system recognise the disease and fight it off.

Five devils with the disease were treated using the technique over six years, and three survived.

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