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In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union, announced his candidacy in the Mana By Election in Wellington earlier today. Matt has had a quarter of century's experience fighting for New Zealand's poorest workers, and was a founding member of both the New Labour Party and the Alliance. Now standing as a member of the Independent Left, he would make an excellent champion for the thousands of low-paid and unemployed workers in Mana.
Greens federal parliamentary leader Senator Bob Brown spoke in the parliamentary debate on the Australian military intervention in Afghanistan on October 25. His speech came amidst in the Australian Labor Party ranks over the conservative line being implemented by the Gillard Labor minority federal government and an associated rise in support for the Greens to a record 14%.
One hundred people gathered in Brisbane’s King George Square on October 22 to commemorate the tragedy of the SIEV X, an Indonesian fishing boat bound for Australia, which sank on October 19, 2001, drowning 353 asylum seekers — 146 of them children. The rally and the march through the city was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC). A RAC statement said: “The Australian government knew of this disaster and allowed these refugees, fleeing war and persecution, to die.
PERTH — Jewish American author Anna Baltzer spoke to a packed audience of more than 100 people at a forum hosted by Friends of Palestine WA on October 21. She began by explaining that there were differences between the words "Jewish" (relating to faith or kinship), "Israeli" (relating to citizenship in the state of Israel) and "Zionist" (a political ideology). Most of her presentation documented the illegal occupation of Palestinian land sponsored by the state of Israel and the effects of that occupation.
The federal Labor government has announced plans to move some children and families out of refugee detention, but will not change its policy of locking up unaccompanied children who arrive in Australia by boat. The October 18 announcement followed a concerted campaign by refugee advocacy groups to end mandatory detention and a Greens bill to release all 738 children presently in detention.
Boats — an enemy evoked by major Australian political parties to win elections — have become a symbol of international resistance to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. This is particularly the case since Israeli commandos attacked an aid flotilla headed for Gaza in May, killing nine people. With this in mind, the Berlin Coalition for Gaza (BCG) launched a one-boat “flotilla” through an inner-city Berlin canal on October 15.
“History was made early today on the other side of the world”, said Grant Morgan, an Auckland-based organiser of the Kia Ora Gaza convoy bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s siege. Kia Ora is a six-person New Zealand team that has joined the Viva Palestina covoy. “The vicious Israeli siege of Gaza has been broken by an international aid convoy of 400 volunteers from 30 countries driving 150 vehicles carrying vital medical supplies worth NZ$7 million.”
A survey of 8800 Australian teenagers, carried out over 10 years by La Trobe University, has found that the number of young people having sex has risen. The proportion of sexually active year 12 women who reported having had sex with three or more partners in the previous year more than doubled to 27% in the decade to 2008. Meanwhile, the NSW health department said in September that sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly chlamydia, were on the rise.
Family, friends and justice supporters rallied on October 16 in support of Jock Palfreeman, a 23-year-old Australian jailed in Bulgaria, whose appeal started on October 21. Palfreeman was convicted of premeditated murder for an incident in 2007. But he says he was acting in self defence when he ran to the aid of two Roma men being attacked by 16 men. During the ensuing conflict, two of the attackers suffered stab wounds, and one died. Palfreeman was sentenced to 20 years’ jail and fined $375,000, despite eyewitness accounts supporting his account and key CCTV footage going missing.
Two weeks ago, NSW Labor Premier Kristina Keneally sparked controversy when she declared that NSW would not honour its commitment to the national occupational health and safety (OH&S) harmonisation process. The October 18 Australian said PM Julia Gillard had threatened the NSW government by withholding a $144 million reform incentive if it did not continue with the process, as agreed by all states except Western Australia in December last year.
As Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan continues to preach about a strong Australian economy underlined by a surge in job creation, youth unemployment figures continue to rise to record heights, reflecting a disturbing global trend. According to the August 12 Sydney Morning Herald, in 2009, global youth unemployment grew at a rate twice that of adults, affecting 13% of 15 to 24-year-olds. Australia was not exempt from the alarming trends.
On October 21, 70 local parents and supporters filled Moreland Concert Hall to hear state election candidates from the Pascoe Vale and Brunswick electorates speak on the issue of a high school for Coburg. The meeting was organised by the campaign group High School for Coburg. HSC was established about two years ago by a group of parents who were concerned that there was no local high school for their children to attend.
A million trade unionists marched past Rome’s Colosseum on October 16 in defence of rights that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government and Fiat bosses are trying to water down. The attacks are part of the government’s “deficit reduction” measures. Under red flags, and the banners of the metal workers’ union (FIOM-CGTI), workers from metal and other industries, students and opposition politicians shouted: “Strike, strike, strike!”
On October 20, thousands of students and workers marched on Downing Street in London to protest against the savage cuts in social spending announced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, Counterfire.org reported that day. The protest was organised by the Coalition of Resistance, Camden Trades Council and the People’s Charter. The cuts in public spending announced by British chancellor George Osborne that day amount to 81 billion pounds.
On October 20, 50 people attended a forum, “Politics, the Union Movement and the Illawarra”, organised by the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC). Speakers included Darin Sullivan, president of the NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union; Naomi Arrowsmith, Illawarra organiser of the Australian Services Union; and Nicole Calnan, regional organiser of the NSW Teachers’ Federation.
About 15,000 New Zealand workers joined the “Fairness at Work” National Day of Action on October 20, highlighting growing opposition to the government's proposed employment law changes, said the country’s largest private sector union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU). At least 7000 people packed the TelstraClear Pacific Stadium in Auckland and 4000 rallied outside parliament in Wellington. Thousands turned out in regional centres including Hamilton, Hastings and Nelson.

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