“I believe in capitalism. Capitalism to me is a spiritual concept. Democracy just gets in the way. Democracy is annoying. Let them buy stuff and eat cake. Where I come from, if you don't believe in capitalism you're going to hell.” A “Yes Men” parody? No, these serious words of US billionaire investor Ken Fisher give an insight into the Forbes Global CEO Conference held in Sydney on September 28 and 29.
During recent protests in Villawood Detention Centre that followed the September 20 suicide of detained Fijian exile Josefa Rauluni, detainees who tried to help rooftop protesters with water and blankets were stopped by security. One man was bashed.
A University of Newcastle student group, the Fairtrade Club, has had a win: a campus cafe has agreed to serve Fairtrade-certified coffee. The club formed earlier this year. It campaigns for shops and cafes at the university to sell fair trade products like coffee and chocolate. It also organises awareness-raising events, like “Fairtrade Fortnight”.
A “people's assembly for refugees” met in front of Parliament House on September 28 to call on the government to introduce humane policies and stop using refugees as political footballs. More than 160 people from Victoria, the ACT and NSW were joined by Greens parliamentarians Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt, and independent MP Andrew Wilkie. The rally was called by the Refugee Advocacy Network, a Melbourne-based coalition of refugee activist, advocacy and support groups. It was endorsed by 48 groups from across Australia.
Wollongong's satirical Billionaires for Coal rallied in Sydney on September 29 in defence of the Forbes CEO conference, which brought together billionaires from across Australia and the globe. The three billionaires faced off against a group of activists dressed as pirates, who were protesting against the system of global inequality epitomised by the conference.
“After the election: What now for refugee rights?” was the theme of a September 29 Refugee Action Collective forum. Wesley Widlend, from National Labor Students, condemned federal Labor’s “disgraceful display” on asylum seeker policy. “Many members of the Labor Party consider the party policies inhumane”, he said. An immediate aim of the refugee rights movement should be “community processing of asylum seekers”. The Greens’ Elissa Jenkins said it was “time for the Greens to listen to people's ideas” on the goals of the refugee rights movement and for a “real campaign plan”.
In the lead-up to the November 27 Victorian state elections, the Council of Single Mothers Action Group has expressed its concern about the right of religious institutions to legally discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents. Until amended last year, Victorian Equal Opportunities legislation granted religious bodies many exemptions. This meant they could discriminate against many groups of people in employment and service provision. The amendments did not remove the right to discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents.
South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley’s September 16 budget faces widespread opposition. The budget would slash $2 billion from public spending over four years. A leak to the September 15 Adelaide Advertiser of the Sustainable Budget Commission's report showed recommendations for wide-ranging spending cuts and the closure of schools, hospitals and police stations. Not all of the recommendations will be implemented, but 35 of the Commission’s 43 general recommendations will be acted on.
About 6000 Queensland health workers walked off the job from October 1 across the state demanding better wages and conditions. "The Queensland Public Sector Union [QPSU] said the Government was unfairly targeting its own workers to cut costs to make up for the nurses' payroll debacle”, the September 30 Courier-Mail said. The workers are demanding an increase of 4.5%, 4% and 4% over three years, with allowances and extra leave protected. The government has refused to increase its offer of 2.5% a year over three years.
On September 28, a British Guardian reporter who interviewed me by phone published an article on the September 26 Venezuelan National Assembly elections titled “Opposition Gains Loosen Chavez’s Grip on Power.” According to the article, I said the electoral results “suggested the government should try to modify its radical discourse and accommodate the opposition, as long as it accepted the government’s legitimacy”.