A six week-long battle at Swift Australia Meatworks in Brooklyn, Melbourne, has ended with 140 National Union of Workers (NUW) members keeping conditions that were lost by the plant’s 500 other employees two years ago. Swift Australia locked out the picketers in early December after they took protected industrial action in the course of their enterprise bargaining negotiations. The strikers are mostly of migrant backgrounds, from all corners of the globe. Some are recently arrived refugees.
The flood disaster that struck three-quarters of Queensland over the past month and then spread to Victoria and Tasmania is the worst overall flood catastrophe in recorded Australian history. It has also inspired a massive outpouring of public sympathy and solidarity. The disaster has shown in practice the huge potential for ordinary people to mobilise in support of fellow human beings in need of help. Tens of thousands of Brisbane residents volunteered to help people whose homes had been flooded by the raging Brisbane River, especially over the weekend of January 15-16.
The Socialist Alliance (SA) has criticised recent state government changes to the Liquor Control Act as an infringement of civil liberties. Under the changes, police have the power to issue “barring orders”, which ban an individual from licensed premises without incurring a criminal conviction. “Giving police the power to issue barring orders to patrons of licensed premises is tantamount to dishing out punishment before a person has been found guilty,” said SA spokesperson Alex Bainbridge.
A fresh federal government inquiry was announced on January 14 into the alleged torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib. This follows the release of independent evidence supporting Habib’s claims and the recent undisclosed compensation settlement the Australian government made with him in December. Prime Minister Julia Gillard had asked the inspector-general of intelligence and security Vivienne Thom to conduct the inquiry after new evidence was presented supporting Habib’s allegations that Australian officials were involved in his torture in Egypt in 2001.
Paola Harvey, Socialist Alliance candidate for Keira, has called on the NSW government to reverse its January 14 approval for a second gas-fired power station at Tallawarra. She said the government should make plans to phase out coal and gas-fired power and invest in a large-scale size solar-thermal power station. Harvey said the decision to build the gas-fired station was “suicidal in the context of global warming”.
People who grew up in Queensland can tell you about the afternoon storms that heralded the start of summer. Like clockwork, shortly after the kids finished school, the clouds would start to gather. And then that strange quiet, before a great gust of wind would send leaves swirling and branches swaying. And then the rain would come. Huge droplets of rain that would smash down for maybe an hour, maybe more — and then it was over. Sure enough the next day it would come again — the monsoonal downpours that would cool everything down after a sweltering summer’s day.
Testimony to the NSW upper house inquiry into the sale of NSW’s electricity assets has alleged that only a fraction of the $5.3 billion price tag will reach the public purse. Billions will be eaten up by “associated costs”. These costs include about $1.5 billion in government funds to buy a new coal mine north-east of Lithgow to ensure a cheap coal supply for the new private owners. A further $1 billion in coal price subsidies is guaranteed to the private energy companies over the life of the mine.
Australia Day is traditionally the most racist day of the year for Aboriginal people. When people celebrate on January 26, there is no escaping the fact they are celebrating the day that one race of people invaded another race of people’s country and took control of Aboriginal lands and tried to dominate Aboriginal people. Invasion Day, as it should be called, celebrates the dispossession of land, culture, and way of life of Aborigines.
Marrickville Council has stayed firm in the face of criticism for its recent decision to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid in Palestine. The council passed a Greens-initiated motion to support the BDS campaign on December 14.
The significance of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks can be measured by the hysterical and panicked response of the powerful to it. Wikileaks’ ongoing release of thousands of secret US government cables and other secret documents is being met with outrage, assassination threats, censorship, a corporate boycott and legal action. Much of this has centred on Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. The allegations of sex crimes (for which no charges have yet been laid) have been used to hound him through the courts.