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The signing of the much-anticipated “Forest peace deal”, an agreed statement of principles between some conservation groups and the timber industry, was announced on October 19. Most of the statement of principles had already been leaked. Still up in the air was the two last minute demands made by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania. These concerned recognition of already existing supply contracts from publicly owned native forests and the use of forests for wood-fired power station.
An exciting new event will soon make its appearance on the calendar of the Australian workers movement. It's the first Union and Community Summer School, held in Melbourne over December 10-11. Called “Winning Our Rights”, the school will bring together experienced labour activists from different generations and most left political traditions, to discuss the way forward for the union movement.
On October 27 a public meeting at Brunswick Town Hall discussed "public space vs. market place". University of Melbourne lecturer David Nichols discussed the design of modern shopping centres, which discouraged people from gathering in groups even for informal discussion. Victorian branch secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union Trevor Dobbyn spoke of his experiences in the struggle for the right to march in Queensland in the 1970s — a struggle in which thousands were arrested.

Construction workers and trade unionists from across Australia will once again rally behind rigger Ark Tribe when his struggle against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues on November 3 at the Adelaide Magistrates Court. Fundamental workers rights rest on the outcome of the case. The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) has led the call for the six-month jail sentence Ark Tribe faces to be thrown out, and for the ABCC, which continues to treat construction workers as second-class citizens, to be abolished.

The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin By Chris Hammer Melbourne University Publishing 2009, $34.99 pb Canberra journalist Chris Hammer has spent over a decade reporting on the crisis facing the Murray-Darling river system, and the communities that rely on it for their livelihoods. To write The River, however, Hammer actually travelled from tail to tip of the river system — from Cunnamulla to Dubbo and Echuca, from Bourke to Menindee and the Murray Mouth — and witnessed first-hand a river system in terminal decline.
In a win for community campaigners and the environment, BHP Billiton has dropped plans for a massive long-wall mine under the pristine Dharawal State Conservation Area (DSCA) on the NSW south coast. The decision came on October 26 after a review by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission that said society would be better off without the mine. Importantly, the review backed up the argument made by community groups that “remediation”, where the company would take responsibility for cleaning up the site, is a myth in these circumstances.
"A Jewish majority in a solely Jewish state necessitates perpetual discrimination against the Palestinians”, Anna Baltzer, a Jewish-American award-winning speaker for human rights in the Middle East, told an audience of 100 at the Queensland Parliamentary Annexe on October 27. Baltzer is an author, former Fulbright scholar and granddaughter of Holocaust refugees. She has lived and worked in the West Bank, and has contributed to four upcoming books on the Palestinian struggle.
McDonalds bans community languages Sue Bolton, Melbourne Global burger chain store McDonalds has banned its employees in Australia from speaking languages other than English while on duty. Employees in Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs were told of the order by senior management figures at special regional paid training sessions.
The following statement was adopted by the Trade Union Climate Change Conference held in Melbourne on October 9. * * * This conference of Victorian union activists and local climate activists commends the report by Beyond Zero Emissions and Melbourne University’s Energy Research Centre. The report outlines a technically feasible and economically viable way for Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy within 10 years.
About 50 people attended a meeting on October 27 to stop the sell-off of Gleniffer Brae, a historic, heritage-listed manor house in Wollongong. Organised by Reclaim Our City, the meeting discussed the need for Gleniffer Brae — owned by Wollongong City Council — to stay in public hands, and questioned the right of unelected administrators to decide the future of such a valuable community asset.
In a first for the post-Howard industrial relations system, the Fair Work Ombudsman has granted the National Union of Workers (NUW) the right to enter and inspect time and wage records of all workers at Adelaide’s Lilydale chicken factory. The company was investigated by ABC’s Lateline on October 21. It showed the sacking of Sudanese migrant Anyoun Mabior and the terrible conditions at the factory. These conditions included underpayment, bullying, harassment, racism and breaches of health and safety laws.
Mike Smith, the CEO of the ANZ Bank has fumed about Liberal-National shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s recent populist rhetoric against the four big banks that increasingly dominate the Australian economy. “The Liberals’ economic credentials have been hijacked by out-there proposals”, Smith said in the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald. “Mr Hockey seems to be on some kind of personal vendetta. It would appear he has been taking economics lessons from Hugo Chavez.” Has Hockey been taking lessons from Venezuela’s socialist president?