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October 12 is the trial date set for a young Cairns couple charged with procuring an abortion. According to Dr Caroline de Costa in a book released this month, Never Ever Again …Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform, no woman has previously been charged with procuring her own abortion since the 1899 criminal code was first decreed in Queensland. De Costa believes this could be the first trial of its kind in Australia’s history.
Thousands of republicans from across Ireland gathered on July 20 in Sallins, County Kildare, to honour Theobald Wolfe Tone, known as “the father of Irish republicanism”. Tone led an uprising against British rule and for an Irish republic in 1798. When it was defeated, Tone was sentenced to death.
Forget about the climate science and the record high temperatures. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has decided she doesn’t need a serious climate change policy to win the federal election. In its place, she kicked off her election campaign on July 18 with a “sustainable Australia” policy. It promised a future of low population growth, which “preserves our quality of life and respects our environment”. Opposition leader and climate denier Tony Abbott was quick to say he fully agreed with this vision, but was even more committed to it than Gillard.
A draft program for the Climate Change Social Change conference, over November 5-7, has been released and is available on the conference website. Major conference sessions include topics such as: “A safe climate — what will it take?”; “Climate justice: their agenda and ours”; “Food sovereignty for surviva”l; and “The global economic crisis and the ecological revolution”.
On July 18, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) administration was forced to reinstate 80 staff members and start two weeks of intensive bargaining. As a result, UNSW union members voted to lift a ban on releasing student results on July 23. The UNSW branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) imposed the ban from June 30 in response to management delaying bargaining for 16 months over union demands for improved job security, pay and other conditions.
On July 17, 25 members of Justice for Palestine (JFP) Brisbane met in the CBD to launch their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli goods and services. The target for the first BDS action was the Israeli Seacret cosmetics company that uses “mineral-rich mud and natural mineral salts of the Dead Sea”. It makes no mention of the occupied Palestinian land from which the minerals are extracted or the apartheid conditions under which Palestinians live every day.
The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union ended its 20-day strike at Kennon Auto on July 20 after voting for a new agreement with a 10% pay rise and protection for the union’s conditions. Kennon Auto used to be part of the now-liquidated Nylex group. The new owner, Maggie Dong, at first refused to negotiate a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) with the union.
On July 24, the NSW Combined Rail Unions announced they had successfully applied to take industrial action for their enterprise bargaining agreement in 2010. Of key concern to the unions are safety and service levels, which have declined because of a RailCorp staff review that has cut staff at many stations. The CCTV system, a costly and inadequate method of security for train stations, is set to have its staff numbers cut — further endangering commuters and staff.
Brain science — neuroscience — is big business, big science and big research. Neuroscientists are offering to explain, mend and manipulate the mind. Many see no problems with this. For example, Eric Kandel, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on memory, said: “You are your brain.” This is an extraordinary, arid reductionism. This is the idea that you can collapse the complex phenomenon that goes on in the human mind into being simply the working of cells or molecules.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was supposed to launch Labor's new policy to tackle climate change on July 23. But in essence she merely restated the same old Labor climate policy: delay, delay and delay again. Gillard's speech was pages long, but her climate agenda can be summarised in just four words: more talk, less action.
“The poisoning of groundwater near Kingaroy is just the tip of the iceberg with coal seam gas [CSG] extraction”, climate change activist and Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Brisbane Ewan Saunders told Green Left Weekly. The contamination of groundwater by toxic chemicals was revealed two weeks ago, sparking calls for urgent action against the CSG industry, which is rapidly expanding in south-eastern Queensland.
A spectre is haunting the healthcare system — the spectre of Big Pharma. Fears over the side effects of a widely used diabetes medication in Australia have revealed the power of big money and its influence on the healthcare system. The medication — known as Avandia — is under fire for potentially causing heart attacks and strokes in patients. The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is accused of hiding evidence of the drug’s harmful side-effects.