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The popular uprising which has swept Egypt over the past two weeks, inspired by the revolt which drove the Tunisian dictator from power in mid-January, is the expression of a people’s power movement in the Arab world which has been 40 years in the making. I have been waiting for this for a long time. I lived in Cairo for six months in the first half of 1967, until the so-called Six Day War forced my family to leave Egypt for Britain. My father was a meteorological scientist working through the United Nations with the Eqyptian agriculture department for a time.
The persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is unfortunately nothing new in the history of Australia or other Western nations. The outward appearance of democratic government often masks a darker, anti-democratic reality. Dissenters and truth-tellers such as Assange, who dare to challenge the official version of events, have been subjected to acts of bastardry in the past. The Australian government’s treatment of Assange today invites comparison with the earlier case of the Australian socialist journalist Wilfred Burchett, who died in 1983.
Perth man Brendan O’Connell was sentenced to three years jail under WA’s racial vilification laws on January 31. He was found guilty of six counts of vilification relating to anti-Semitic comments he posted on a YouTube video in 2009. His jailing, and the length of the sentence, has opened up a certain controversy. Conservative columnist Paul Murray pointed out in the February 2 West Australian that a person convicted of glassing someone in a pub could expect to receive an 18-month sentence, whereas O’Connell received three years for an “essentially political [speech]”.
Thousands of West Papuans marched in the capital Jayapura on January 26, AFP said that day. Marchers rejected the area’s “special autonomy” status within Indonesia and demanded a referendum on independence from Indonesia. Protesters chanted: “Indonesia the coloniser, Indonesia the oppressor, Indonesia the robber.” The action included students from Cenderawasih University, the Indonesian Christian Students Movement and church members, Tempo Interactive said on January 26.
New federal drug laws could make thousands of native and common garden plants illegal. The proposed legislation will place common plants under schedule II of the drug code along with plants such as marijuana and opium poppies. The most worrying aspect of the legislation is the sheer number of plant species that will be made illegal. Many of the substances produced by the plants are already illegal to manufacture or consume. However, there is not any significant market for making drugs from these plants and they are not sold or produced by organised crime.
West Papuan refugees in Papua New Guinea have been terrorised and arrested by police, West Papua Media Alerts said on January 28. They were allegedly arrested on behalf of the Indonesian military and local logging interests. Police and soldiers rounded up 79 refugees living in camps around Vanimo, on PNG’s north coast near the border with West Papua, in the early hours of January 23. The soldiers burned down at least 30 refugee houses, destroyed crops and food, and assaulted people, WPMA said. Other refugees have reportedly fled to the jungle.
The following petition was initiated by the Sydney University Climate Action Collective and Yarra Climate Action Now. * * * Our top scientists have been telling us for decades that our carbon pollution is creating ever-worsening natural disasters such as floods, droughts and bushfires. Despite this and the record high ocean temperatures which contributed to our recent heavy rain, our state and federal governments have been reluctant to link climate change to the recent floods.
NSW planning minister Tony Kelly announced on January 18 he had approved plans by Delfin Lend Lease to build 4800 homes in Calderwood, west of Albion Park. The decision has angered many nearby residents. It also ignored strong opposition from Shellharbour council. Opponents of the development say it is unnecessary and will destroy prime agricultural land. The Calderwood development, which falls within the boundary of Shellharbour Council, was approved under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

Four hundred people braved very warm weather to gather at the State Library of Victoria on February 4 to show solidarity with the recent democracy protests in Egypt.

Thousands of students braved the notoriously brutal Sudanese police and security forces on January 30 in anti-government protests inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, SudaneseTribune.com reported that day. Rallies took place at three universities and other sites across the capital, as well as in east and west Sudan. Students called for General Omar al Bashir’s National Congress Party government to resign and condemned recent austerity measures and ongoing attacks of democratic rights.
About 300 people turned out for a free outdoor film screening of the award-winning US documentary Gasland in Sydney Park on February 5. The screening was supported by the City of Sydney and Palace Cinemas, and was organised by Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas, a community group established to oppose plans for exploratory gas drilling in the inner-west suburb of St Peters.
There seems to be a misconception in the general community that there is something attractive or good about jobs in the mining sector. But as someone whose main career included 25 years in the refinery, mining construction and production industries, I can state quite emphatically that mining jobs are shit jobs. It wasn't always the case, but mining jobs have become progressively less desirable in the past 20 years.