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Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on August 30 revealed mining company profits rose 62.7% to $25 billion in just the three months to June 30. Hopefully, those who fell for the hard luck stories of the mining billionaires when they were howling and screaming about the new Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) proposed by the former Rudd Labor government are now realising they were suckered.
A 21-year-old Tamil refugee has allegedly been the victim of an assault while in detention. Leela Krishna was recognised as a refugee by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in April this year, but is still held in Villawood detention centre. He was waiting for security clearance from ASIO before release. But, on August 21, he was allegedly assaulted in an isolation unit by a former professional kick boxer. The police are investigating the attack, and Serco — the private contractors who manage the centre — have placed Krishna in the “housing” component of Villawood.
On September 2, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett began the takeover of land at James Price Point in the Kimberley so the company Woodside can build a gas-processing hub. Barnett claims this is necessary, after two years of negotiating with the local Aboriginal community and the Kimberley Land Council (KLC). He said any further delays in the project will lose $30 billion after the $15 billion taxpayers have already spent.
Prisoners detained without trial at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin have staged dramatic protests. On August 29 and 30, about 120 Indonesian detainees, accused of (but not charged with) “people smuggling”, staged protests on the jail’s roof and set fire to garbage. On September 1, about 90 Afghan Hazara refugees broke out of the jail and held a peaceful protest on the Stuart Highway. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told AAP on August 30 she believed the Indonesians were poor fisherpeople who had been conned into making the journey.
“An oil platform explosion on September 2 in the Gulf of Mexico forced the crew to jump into the sea and threatened further damage to waters still recovering from the BP disaster”, AFP said that day. The explosion on the platform, owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy, comes in the aftermath of the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the gulf in April, which killed 11 workers. Bloomberg.com said on August 20 that 4.9 million barrels of oil escaped from the leaking well.
A high court challenge to Australia's offshore processing, on behalf of two Tamil refugees whose asylum claims were refused, has questioned the legality of the refugee processing policy. The case, heard in Canberra's High Court over August 24-26, occurred amid rising numbers of refugee claims being refused. Australia imprisons refugees in offshore detention and denies them full right of appeal in Australian courts. Access to legal advice and fair processing is greatly restricted. The lawyers acting on behalf of the Tamils labelled this practice unlawful and unconstitutional.
On September 13, construction worker Ark Tribe will face Adelaide Magistrates Court yet again. He is facing six months’ jail for failing to attend an interrogation by the construction industry police — the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), created by former Howard government as part of Work Choices, but left in place by the ALP.
A 2006 episode of the ABC’s Lateline program led directly to the greatest human rights abuse in the past half century, said founder and former editor of the National Indigenous Times Chris Graham, at a public forum of 150 people in Sydney on September 3.
With the symptoms of social and environmental crisis all around us — runaway climate change, Third World poverty, seemingly endless wars — it is sometimes easy to feel discouraged about our ability to change “the way things are”. We can forget that millions of ordinary people have many times over said “enough is enough” and come together to take action to change history.
In recent weeks, media commentary on the use of illicit drugs by professional sports players has exploded again. The first cause was the recently retired Australian rules football star and recovering drug addict Ben Cousin’s documentary Such is Life: The Troubled Times of Ben Cousins. It aired on Channel 7 on August 25 and 26. The second was the overdose on GHB of Travis Tuck, a player for Australian Football League (AFL) club Hawthorn, on August 27.
Local residents in Marrickville are opposing the proposed expansion of Marrickville Metro Shopping Centre. The Metro Watch group has developed a website, held information stalls, collected signatures on petitions, door-knocked the local area, and held protests. The effectiveness of this local campaign was demonstrated by the fact that a full-page ad promoting the expansion appeared on the second page of the September 2 Inner West Courier.
Undoubtedly the best thing about the election result was that people — everywhere — were talking about politics. Some of the discussion was about the hung parliament where neither major party won majority support. Because the result wasn’t clear, it gave everybody an opening to form and express an opinion about what should happen next. Other parts of the discussion surrounded the sudden emergence of political issues that had been completely ignored in the “boring” election campaign. The war in Afghanistan is the best example.
Review by Mat Ward
Fit to Print: Misrepresenting the Middle East By Joris Luyendijk Scribe Publications, 250 pages, $29.95 If you've ever felt like shaking your fist in anger at some of the reporting that comes out of the Middle East, this very honest book by a disillusioned Middle East correspondent will make you shake your head in wonder. Joris Luyendijk says he had no journalistic experience when he was hired by a newspaper in his native Netherlands to report on the Middle East. He was taken on solely because he could speak Arabic.
Socialist Alternative’s Corey Oakley thinks many on the Australian left have got the federal election wrong. There is nothing positive about the balance of power being held by four independent MPs and one Green, he wrote in an August 27 article on the Socialist Alternative website. He said the left should be fearful of the independents, but some activists were wrongly celebrating the new role of these reactionary politicians.
It is a film that advocates peace, yet the head of the ABC decided it was too controversial to be viewed by the Australian public. In May, the ABC pulled the plug on an independent film documenting daily life of Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank. Now, thanks to the power of public pressure, the ABC is reconsidering whether to broadcast Inka Stafrace’s documentary Hope in a Slingshot. Letters are flying thick and fast to the ABC, asking the broadcaster to air Stafrace’s film.
In 2007, federal election candidates made much of the seven vultures that were feeding on the carcass of the Howard government as it flailed around shifting further and further to the right. Those seven vultures were: • the denial of climate change; • touting of the war in Iraq; • Work Choices; • policy failure on education spending; • poor vision of infrastructure; • destruction of research and development; and • persecution of refugees with the Pacific Solution.

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