Alice Springs is a town unlike any other and to an outsider its racial tensions are noticeable. Walking through the shopping centre one sees security guards tell Aboriginal people to move on when they are window shopping. Poverty and homelessness are visible — and visibly black. It has always been a town that has struggled with dealing with this visible poverty — and the less visible disadvantage of the communities in the town camps. It has been back in the spotlight with a rise in social problems caused by an influx of Aboriginal people from other places.
The not-guilty verdict in October for a young woman and her partner put on trial for using the drug RU486 to induce an abortion came as a big relief to many. The Cairns jury took less than an hour to deliver long-awaited justice. Now the campaign has turned to smashing the anti-abortion laws that put the Cairns couple on trial in the first place. The case showed the urgent need to decriminalise abortion and realise that the right of women to control their fertility is a fundamental human right.
Toowoomba’s Catholic community expressed shock at the sacking of Bishop William Morris after a five-year Vatican investigation. But Father Peter Kennedy, of South Brisbane church St Mary’s in Exile, wasn’t surprised. Sacked from the church in 2009 for “unorthodox practices”, Father Kennedy continues to front his congregation at the Trades and Labour Council building courtesy of the Queensland Council of Unions. He, along with many others in the St Mary’s community, is responsible for Micah Projects, now one of Australia’s most respected homelessness projects.
“This is going to be the biggest environmental campaign this country has ever seen,” Drew Hutton, acting president of the Lock the Gate Alliance, told a rally of several hundred people outside the Sofitel Hotel on May 31. He was addressing the crowd outside a major conference of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry. “The coal seam gas sector and governments are hungry for cash, and are quite willing to tear up our countryside to get it. Every part of the country will be affected,” he said.
The deal to restructure the collapsing timber industry in Tasmania is struggling to make headway. Logging continues in old-growth forests at the same time as sawmills and woodchip mills close and more workers lose their jobs. Anti-logging protests are being held weekly outside the premier’s office in Hobart, and the talks between environment and industry groups continue despite a key player pulling out in frustration. The Wilderness Society (TWS) suspended its involvement in the Tasmanian Forest Agreement on May 18, citing a failure of leadership from state and federal governments.
About 40 people joined a “flash mob” action in the Myer Centre, Queen Street Mall, on June 3 to protest Seacret, as an Israeli company operating in Australia. Seacret is a cosmetics firm that uses minerals from the Dead Sea, which is part of the Palestinian territory stolen by Israel over decades of invasion and oppression. Participants in the flash mob occupied tables in the food court at Myers and chanted a song, beginning with the refrain, “We will boycott Israel! We will boycott Israel!” They then trooped through the centre, chanting, “Free, free Palestine!”
More than 60 people rallied outside parliament house on June 2 in support of rights for homeless people. This was the largest of three protests organised since the issue was raised in state parliament in April in relation to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Police minister Rob Johnson said on April 7 that homeless people would have to “sleep somewhere else'', implying they would be swept from the streets during CHOGM.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Codrington wind farm in Victoria’s southwest, the state’s first. On May 18, planning minister Matthew Guy announced approval for the latest, the three-turbine Chepstowe wind farm near Ballarat. But Victoria’s wind industry is threatened by the policies of the state’s new Liberal government. The government came to power with promises to ensure no-go zones for wind farms in the Macedon ranges, Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, and the Great Ocean Road. These are some of the best areas in the state for wind farms.
There's a huge anti-capitalist movement rocking Spain. If you're on Twitter the hashtag to follow is #spanishrevolution. We at Green Left Weekly have enthusiastically covered the events and the protesters known as “the indignants”. The movement has exploded into the streets; the central squares of cities and towns across the country have been taken over by a people crying out “the system is the problem”.
The Australian government has received heavy criticism in recent weeks for its inhumane treatment of refugees, in particular its “swap” deal with Malaysia and its mandatory detention policy. Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MP Andrew Wilkie moved a parliamentary motion on May 30 condemning the plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia.