The 74-day long mobilisation for democracy that shut down the centre of Bangkok ended when the leaders of the Red Shirts movement surrendered on May 20. The surrender came after the Thai army launched an armoured assault on the capital. The military used bulldozers and tanks to destroy the Red Shirts’ four-metre high bamboo and tyre barricades. More than 75 protesters and two soldiers have been killed since the protests began in March. At least one of the soldiers was shot accidentally by another soldier.
Kalgoorlie MP John Bowler said public housing is “not a right” but a “privilege”, after the federal government passed legislation that will shift community housing from a federal to a state responsibility in Western Australia. The state Liberal government will get about $500 million to fund new, and upgrade existing houses. The takeover has been defended by Bowler, who says the change will encourage better treatment of the housing by tenants.
By May 18, students at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) had entered their fourth week of a strike and occupation at the Rio Pedras campus in San Juan. The students are appealing for solidarity after university administrators and the government escalated repression. The strike and occupation began in mid-April and escalated after UPR President Jose Ramon de la Torre, Rio Piedras’ campus rector Ana Guadalupe Quinones and the UPR Board of Trustees refused to meet with representatives of the students.
Hadestown Anais Mitchell CD, Righteous Babe Records The “folk opera” Hadestown is an interpretation of the ancient Greek myth of the poet Opheus’ doomed quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld. It is set in a near-future post-apocalyptic US, beset by ecological and economic disaster. Orpheus, representing all poets, believes in the healing power of nature, but his wife is seduced by the promises of the huckster Hades.
Around the world, disturbing new evidence of rapid global warming has come to light in the past few weeks. Past temperature records have tumbled. The warming is consistent with climate change predictions. Victoria and Tasmania had their hottest 12-month period recorded, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said on May 3. Victoria’s weather was warmer than average month-by-month for year to April. Tasmania was warmer for 11 of the 12 months.
The land around Muckaty Station, 120km north of Tennant Creek, was nominated in 2007 as a possible nuclear waste dump site by the Northern Land Council. A small group of traditional owners, hoping for a combination of cash and improved services like roads, housing and education, agreed. Many other traditional owners remain opposed to the plan and have been highly critical of the process and approach taken by resources minister Martin Ferguson. Labor simply repackaged John Howard’s racist laws for the dump.
"An American-based company accused of bulldozing trees in koala habitats in Victoria has emerged as the buyer of Queensland's major forests in a $603 million deal with the State Government”, said the May 19 Courier-Mail. “The deal is the first major privatisation of state assets by the Bligh Government.” This is the first of several fire-sales of public assets, including forests, rail, ports and motorways, proposed by the state Labor government since last year. Unions and community groups have strongly opposed the privatisation plan.
On the first anniversary of Australia signing a key international treaty outlawing torture, an independent monitor of detention appears no closer, despite a recent surge in custodial deaths. The final report of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, was released in February. It identified a global phenomenon of overcrowding, prolonged isolation and high numbers of pre-trial — all key issues for Australian custodial detainees.
Five young queer artists — the Centrepiece Collective — were evicted by Marrickville Council from the abandoned former nurses quarters at the old Marrickville hospital on May 18. The artists set up a work and refuge space in the “nurses quarters” in the inner west in April. Sydney's rental market is prohibitive and, for artists, studio art space is an added burden. The multi-storied building had been vacant for 15 years.
Gunns Limited and the entire forest industry in Tasmania is in crisis. Gunns chairperson John Gay, and fellow board member and former state premier Robin Gray have resigned from the company’s board. They were pressured to resign by major shareholders after Gunns posted a 98% loss in half yearly profit in February this year, the April 23 Hobart Mercury reported. Their profit was just $400,000 — down from $33.6 million at the same time last year.