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Ireland’s new Fine Gael (FG)-Labour Party (LP) coalition government has set out an agenda of continuing the savage austerity and spending cuts of the Fianna Fail (FF)-Greens coalition ii has replaced. The cuts are enforced by the International Monetary Fund-European Union bailout of the Irish government. In the February 26 elections, FF and the Greens were thrashed in a backlash against the bail-out and the anti-worker austerity that goes with it. The Greens failed to win a seat in the Dail (Irish parliament) and FF slumped from 77 seats to 20.
Every election time, a fraction of the population turn up to a polling place, muttering under their breath, and give withering looks to the volunteers offering them “How to Vote” cards. They wait in line to get their name marked off. With their obligations completed for another few years, they hastily scribble a “1” next to the name of whichever candidate happens to come first on the page, and, still muttering, march off home.
Environment Tasmania (ET), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and The Wilderness Society (TWS) launched television and radio advertisements on March 30 that call for an end to logging in native forests. The ads feature University of Tasmania biologist Peter McQuillan, who says: “We need government to implement the agreed forest solution”.
“Peace is not just the absence of violence; but the presence of justice,” Samah Sabawi, Palestinian-Australian writer, and co-author of Journey to Peace In Palestine, told an audience of about 80 people at the University of Queensland on March 31. She was commenting after a showing of Michael Weatherhead’s excellent documentary Return to Gaza. The documentary is based on the journey of her brother, Fetah Sabawi, who returned to Gaza with his wife and child in 2006 to visit family members and set up a music school for young Palestinian refugees.
I was having a conversation about the likely outcome of the NSW elections on Radio SkidRow, a Sydney community radio station, just days before the March 26 election. “We know what is going to happen after [the Liberals'] Barry O’Farrell wins the election, don’t we?” I said. “He’ll wait a couple of weeks then he will announce that Labor has left the cupboard bare so they’ll have to bring in an emergency budget.
Two days before a March 23 rally against the government’s proposed carbon price took place in Canberra, Liberal MP Dennis Jensen told reporters gathered outside parliament house why he opposed the policy. He held up a piece of charcoal and dropped it to the ground. “Does anyone know what that is? Charcoal, also known as carbon,” he said. “If you notice when I let it go, it doesn't float into the air.”
Things haven’t been going well for the Israeli occupation over the past few years. Numerous Israeli atrocities, such as the invasion and blockade of Gaza and the killings of civilians on the aid flotilla, have made many people aware of the truly oppressive situation facing the occupied Palestinians. Lately, Israel has hardened its repression against the Palestinians even further in response to the popular revolts breaking out in the surrounding Arab countries and the loss of its ally, the Mubarak regime in Egypt.
Tara Estate

Residents of Queensland’s Western Downs and their supporters have witnessed arrests, police harassment and some exciting victories over the past week in their fight to prevent coal seam gas expansion on the Tara estate, near Chinchilla. During a protest organised by Lock the Gate Alliance on March 29 Friends of the Earth campaigner and Queensland Greens co-founder Drew Hutton was arrested and charged with impeding the construction of a coal seam gas pipeline. Mr Hutton refused bail conditions and faced 30 days prison, but was soon released on unconditional bail.

Manufacturer BlueScope Steel has been at the forefront of the campaign against the carbon price proposed by Labor and the Greens. Chief Executive Paul O'Malley has argued it could spell “the end of steel manufacturing in Australia”; something the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott agreed with during a recent tour of BlueScope's steelworks in Port Kembla. Both have said that a price on carbon would threaten the company's profitability and therefore force operations offshore in search of cheaper labour.
A vicious smear campaign against the Greens candidate for Marrickville Fiona Byrne in the NSW state election reveals just how worried the powers-that-be are about the prospect of the NSW Greens winning a lower house seat. This smear campaign focused almost exclusively on the Greens pro-Palestine stand, in particular their support (along with ALP councillors) for Marrickville council’s decision to sign on to the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Israeli forces have sealed the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar since March 24 for an indefinite time. Soldiers continue to arrest young Palestinian residents and hold them in Israeli detention centres. In a move akin to the four-year-long economic blockade against the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers have closed the six entrances to the village of 17,000 inhabitants. It has imposed a widespread prohibition policy against all major imports and exports from the village. This includes gasoline, produce, raw industrial materials and basic supplies.
About 30 people attended a rally in King George Square on April 1 to call on Western powers to stop the bombing of Libya. Adrian Skerritt, from the Stop the War Collective, told the rally: “The main reason for intervention by the US and its allies in Libya is that the West cannot handle being sidelined by the popular revolutions which have swept the Arab world in recent months. “Yet, the US has acted against Gaddafi because he is isolated in the region. They haven't intervened in Yemen or Bahrain, where the repression is just as severe, because they are client states of Saudi Arabia.