The detention of about 150 asylum seekers in a disused mining camp at Leonora, near Kalgoorlie in remote Western Australia, is a return to the dark days of previous Coalition prime minister John Howard. Under Howard, asylum seekers were detained at a disused defence department shooting range at Woomera in South Australia. Both cases involve refugees being detained at remote prison camps and only allowed out accompanied by detention centre staff.
25 intrepid activists left on July 2 for Alice Springs as part of a Justice Ride to show solidarity with Aboriginal people fighting against the NT intervention. They will take part in the Defending Indigenous Rights: Land Law Culture convergence in Alice Springs from July 6 to 9.
Just after becoming prime minister, Julia Gillard told media on June 24 she could understand “the anxiety and indeed fears that Australians have when they see [refugee] boats”. She did not cite evidence for this claim. She said that, as PM, she would explain to the Australian people “what we are doing to manage our borders and what we are doing to manage asylum seeker flows”.
The ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the April 20 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig has exposed the obscene behaviour of the world’s fourth-largest corporation, British Petroleum (BP). Evidence has come from many sources revealing BP was aware of safety concerns, but did nothing about them.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) began industrial action on June 30 to pressure management to reach agreement with the union on a range of claims. They want reinstatement of job security protections for contract research staff; improved conditions for casual and fixed-term staff; Indigenous employment targets and an increase in paid parental leave from 26 to 36 weeks.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is enjoying a honeymoon in the polls since taking Kevin Rudd’s place. A July 2 Reuters Trend poll confirmed a series of polls since Gillard became PM on June 24, giving Labor the lead over the right-wing Coalition. The June 26 Sydney Morning Herald said a Herald/Nielson poll found Greens support since Gillard took over had fallen from 15% to 8%. But another crucial poll indicated the true nature of Gillard’s rise to power. As soon as she was installed as prime minister, the share price of the large mining corporations rose.
Mel Barnes, a well-known Tasmanian political activist, will contest the seat of Denison in the upcoming federal elections, for the Socialist Alliance. Barnes is a leading climate and renewable energy campaigner involved in Climate Action Hobart. She has also campaigned for women’s rights, Palestine solidarity, refugee rights and Latin American solidarity. In 2006, Barnes went on a solidarity tour of Venezuela to learn about the revolutionary changes occurring there. Barnes stood for the Socialist Alliance in the recent state elections.
The number of “High Net Worth Individuals” (HNWIs) in Australia — those with more than US$1 million in investable assets, excluding the family home — soared to 173,600 last year. This, according to the latest World Wealth Report, was an increase of 34.4% on the year before. The June 30 Sunshine Coast Daily said: “What's more impressive is Australia's ranking in the global population of HNWIs. Out of 71 countries, Australia has the 10th biggest population of HNWIs in the world, in front of Brazil and just behind that millionaire's paradise of Switzerland.”
Workers from Kennon Auto in Melbourne have not received a pay rise for the past three years. They stopped work on July 1 because their boss is refusing to negotiate a collective agreement. The workers make parts for Toyota. They are ex-Nylex workers who had to fight to keep entitlements after Nylex went into receivership. Some of Nylex’s product lines were sold to Kennon Auto.
The Northern Territory intervention has reached its third year and, despite several government commissioned reports and outside expert analysis claiming that it has failed to achieve its aims, aspects of it look likely to be extended to other parts of the country. On June 21, the Senate voted to extend one of the aspects of the intervention, welfare quarantining, to more people in the NT and allow the government the option to extend it to other parts of Australia after a year.