Prominent British columnist George Monbiot announced in the British Guardian on March 21 that he now supports nuclear power. That isn't a huge surprise — having previously opposed nuclear power, he announced himself “nuclear-neutral” in 2009.
About 50 people gathered at Murray St Mall, Perth on March 22 to participate in a speak-out called by the Refugee Rights Action Network. The protest was called in response to the deteriorating conditions inside the detention centres and the recent use of tear gas and rubber bullets against the Christmas Island protestors.
On March 20, 1500 people marched in Tokyo opposing nuclear power in the aftermath of the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima that followed the devastating March 9 earthquake. Protesters also opposed the imposition of fiscal austerity by the government in the face of the earthquake disaster. Activists have also staged speak-outs at the offices of Tokyo Electric, which runs the Fukushima plants, and government offices.
United States President Barack Obama’s visit to El Salvador on March 22 became a focal point for protests. Protests were organised that day by Central American social movement organisations and their North American allies outraged by US trade policy and military meddling in the region. Local environmental and community organisations joined with allies such as US-El Salvador Sister Cities and Committees in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador to mobilise students and workers for rallies in the US and El Salvador on March 22.
Two days after staging a rooftop protest, Burmese Rohingyan refugees inside the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC), received a notice on March 17 from the immigration department. “Your concerns about the delays in finalising cases are understandable,” it said.
Australia is one step closer towards embracing disability as part of human diversity. On February 28 the Australian Government Productivity Commission released a draft report on Disability Care and Support. If the general recommendations of the report were to be implemented, people with disability, their families and carers would achieve a much-needed improvement to their lives, albeit starting in 2014-15. The report recommends a doubling of funding to the disability support system based on 2009-2010 spending, financed from general revenue.
The United Nations Security Council voted on March 19 to approve a military intervention into Libya, with 10 votes in favour and five absentions. It was presented as a response to calls from besieged rebels fighting the Muammar Gaddafi dictatorship for a “no-fly zone” to protect them, especially in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The rebels also said they opposed “Western intervention”.
The federal ALP government is pushing ahead with the punitive system of “income management” despite the fact that it is racist, unfair and expensive. In June 2010, the federal government passed legislation allowing the extension of welfare quarantining beyond the 73 Northern Territory remote communities that were its first target.
Campaigners won a stunning victory on March 21 when the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announced that there is “adequate information to demonstrate that Vasse Coal Management’s coalmining proposal is environmentally unacceptable”. EPA Chairperson Paul Vogel said: “In effect, this is an EPA ‘no’ to the proposal.” The proposed Vasse coalmine was to have been 15 kilometres from the popular tourist destination, Margaret River. Internationally renowned as a wine-growing region, Margaret River is in the south-west of Western Australia.
Power worship is what the corporate media does best, and there has been plenty of that on display in recent Libya coverage. Donning his “white man’s burden” hat, Peter Hartcher, in the March 22 Sydney Morning Herald, responded to the United States/European Union bombing by saying: “To the relief of millions in Libya and millions more around the world, the West has unsheathed the sword against [Gaddafi’s] resurgent forces.” Such comments are the background noise that has lent a veneer of legitimacy to the West’s imperialist adventures since the end of the Cold War.
The situation inside every one of Australia’s refugee detention centres has grown dangerously volatile. Just days after the Christmas Island breakout and subsequent protests, nine refugees climbed on the roof of a detention centre in Darwin after watching the assault of another refugee on March 15. Two days later, a 20-year-old Afghan man hanged himself with a bedsheet at the Scherger detention centre after his refugee application was rejected.
Coal seam gas exploration is becoming a key political issue in NSW. The Labor and Liberal parties are pushing for a huge expansion in gas mining, including coal seam gas. But farmers, regional communities and city-dwellers are becoming increasingly worried about the health and environmental consequences of the gas rush. The NSW government recently approved energy company AGL’s bid to drill 90 coal seam gas wells and build a pipeline and processing centre near Gloucester, north of Sydney.
Isn’t it marvellous that all these governments are determined to do “something” about Colonel Gaddafi? For example Hillary Clinton said she supported military action once the Arab League — made up of countries such as Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — backed air strikes. And it is encouraging that the policy of not tolerating a dictator has the backing of so many dictators.
There has been intense activity in 2011 around the social and community services pay equity wage case pursued by the Australian Services Union (ASU) and four other unions. The claim, which was lodged in March 2010, is rapidly approaching its conclusion. Since late January 2011, there has been: • A new round of site visits, during which members of the Fair Work Australia tribunal hearing the case visited public sector workplaces to see how the work compared to that in the non-government sector.
Melbourne activists protested outside Zimbabwe Airlines office on Monday 21 March to call for the release of six Zimbabwe activists who are facing charges of treason with threat of a death penalty. The activists were arrested while watching a film about the uprising in Egypt and have been tortured in prison. Forty-five people were arrested but 39 have since been released. The remaining six are still in serious danger.
“Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of ‘trophy’ photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed”, said the March 21 British Guardian. The photos, compared by officials in NATO’s occupying forces to the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures depicting US soldiers torturing Iraqis, were published by German newspaper Der Spiegel.