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The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has condemned the federal Coalition government for allowing multinational company Serco to operate a Centrelink call centre, saying the move will put thousands of vulnerable people at risk.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has announced Serco subsidiary Serco Citizen Services will begin operating a Centrelink call centre in Melbourne within weeks, with 250 full-time equivalent staff.

Electricians working on the Sydney Opera House renovation scored a win on October 9 after they stopped work over asbestos on site. SafeWork NSW issued a Prohibition Notice to builder Laing O'Rourke banning work on ceilings where friable asbestos was identified.

It ordered the main contractor Downer to conduct an independent inspection of the site.

This meets the demands raised by Electrical Trades Union (ETU) members who walked off the job on October 6.

ETU organiser Stewart Edward said the victory came because of strong collective action by union members.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is prosecuting a case under the Horticultural Award, which could have wide implications for piece rates — where a worker is paid for the units produced or actions performed rather than an hourly rate.

The case centres on the alleged underpayment of more than 400 mushroom pickers at a farm south of Brisbane in 2014.

FWO said under the Horticulture Award 2010 a piece rate should allow a worker to earn at least the minimum hourly rate plus 15%.

The Federal Court has dismissed a legal challenge by United Voice and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) to the Fair Work Commission's (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates for pharmacy, hospitality, retail and fast food workers.

The court found on October 11 that the commission met its legal obligations when it decided in February to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for full- and part-time workers.

Delegates to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National Council, the union’s annual conference, condemned Murdoch University and Victoria University managements’ anti-union attacks and called for enterprise agreements to be terminated only where workers and unions agree.

Major corporations and multinational companies are dodging up to $3.5 billion in company tax every year, according to new figures released by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on October 11. After audit checks by the ATO, this figure could be reduced to $2.5 billion.

Poverty is everywhere — in cities, towns and the bush across Australia: shivering people sleeping in doorways or cars; ragged people hanging around shopping centres begging for money or food; overstretched private welfare agencies unable to meet the requests for assistance; people turned away from emergency accommodation; and abused women and children turned away from refuges.

But those are only the most visible signs of poverty. The true extent of the poverty crisis is hidden.

A member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) for the ruling Likud party, Anat Berko has presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with plans to change the status of 300,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem.

If implemented, Jerusalem would be formally divided and a group, similar in number to that of Wollongong would suddenly find itself stripped of permanent residency within Israel’s formal borders, as well as associated rights. The 300,000 would instead be considered residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank.

Students and staff of Jaffna University rallied on October 4 in support of three Tamil prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The prisoners are accused of having been members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, until defeated in May 2009. The Sri Lankan government’s victory was accompanied by a genocidal massacre of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians.

Sarah Hathway is a member of Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance and a social work student at Deakin University. She is running for the Socialist Alliance in the City of Greater Geelong council election with union activist Sue Bull. Sarah is a marriage equality activist and vice president of Geelong Rainbow.

Green Left Weekly’s Mia Sanders asked Sarah about the campaign.

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An individual risks a $44,000 fine for unauthorised access to Sydney’s water catchments. But the NSW Coalition government has just rammed through a new law allowing Centennial Coal to continue to pollute one of the main waterways in the , which supplies water to 4 million people in western Sydney.

Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont officially declared an independent Catalan republic on October 10, only to announce a suspension in its implementation to allow for talks with Madrid.

The harsh reply of the conservative People’s Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came two days later: abandon all thought of secession or see Catalan self-rule erased under article 155 of the Spanish constitution.

While the marriage equality campaign is currently focused on maximising a Yes response in the national survey, supporters of marriage equality and of LGBTI rights more generally need to look beyond the horizon of the survey itself.

This is because a majority Yes in the survey will not definitively resolve the question of marriage equality and because there are many other challenges facing the LGBTI community, particularly around legal rights.

The Queensland parliament has given its stamp of approval to another corporatisation measure for universities on October 10. A new law reduces staff and student representation on university councils or senates and changes other parts of the seven universities’ power structures in favour of management.

University managements, headed by their vice-chancellors, have been pushing for years for their governing bodies to have less staff and student representation. These are the elected members of the councils.

Tony Abbott reckons a bit of global warming could be a good thing, especially if it comes with capitalist prosperity.

He’s checked a few pics of his local Manly Beach and has seen no signs of sea level rises (the islands that have already disappeared beneath the South Pacific being, conveniently, beyond the horizon).

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by Greens MP Jamie Parker over her 2012 decision to grant a 20-year lease extension on government-owned land in Leichhardt without going to public tender.

Anti-motorway community group Leichhardt Against WestConnex (LAW) has demanded that negotiations to buy the contentious Dan Murphy’s bottleshop site in Darley Road for use as a mid-tunnel dive site for the WestConnex M4-M5 Link must stop until details of its lease to a private company are independently examined.

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