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Socialist Alliance and Refugee Rights Action Network member Alex Bainbridge posted this report from Leonora in remote central Western Australia on January 28. Photos and video by Zebedee Parkes. * * *
Historically, racism has given rise to the belief that different human populations possess different capacities, some superior and some inferior, based on aspects such as cultural traits and genetic makeup. At its crudest, racist views often hold that genetic makeup can imply specific traits and characteristics, and has been used as a tool to separate people in our society. This kind of view became widespread across the world, justifying crimes such as the mass enslavement of Africans, the genocide committed by the Nazis, and the “white Australia” policy, initiated in 1901.
In Hobart’s Pontville detention centre, 35 Afghan refugees had been on hunger strike for a week, putting three of them in hospital, when they were joined by more than 100 others. It meant almost half the centre’s detainees were refusing food by January 24. The actions were in protest against the government’s failure to deliver its promise to release more refugees from detention to live in the community on bridging visas while their claims are assessed.
“Poker machine playing is a repetitive and insidious form of gambling which has many undesirable features. It requires no thought, no skill or social contact. The odds are never about winning … the machines … are addictive to many people. Historically poker machines have been banned … in the public interest, they should stay banned.” This quote is not from independent MP Andrew Wilkie, or “No Pokies” Nick Xenophon. It is from the 1974 Royal Commission into Gambling, Western Australia.
The small town of Kerry, located on the Scenic Rim in Queensland's Beaudesert, is a prime food-producing area one hour from Brisbane. The land is now the site of a coal seam gas (CSG) exploration well. The community hasn't let this happen quietly. The property on which the drilling occurred has also been the site of a significant protest. A community blockade against foreign-owned CSG company Arrow Energy stopped work on the site for almost 10 days, until the company's trucks broke through by driving over dozens of hats laid down in protest on January 21.
Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos Islanders, a tiny creole nation living midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean. The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends: “Keep smiling girls.”
Cathy has been a shopping centre cleaner in a busy Westfield in South Australia for more than 10 years. She takes great pride in her job, and she loves interacting with tenants and helping customers. To her, a clean shopping centre with happy customers is indicative of a good day’s work. But Cathy only makes $16.57 an hour. In fact, her hourly wage has only gone up by $3 an hour in the 10 years she's been working. Cathy’s husband is disabled and can’t work. So, for less than $600 a week, Cathy and her husband try to survive.
Wind farms might appear controversial in the media, but they enjoy an overwhelming 83% support in affected communities, say several recent reports. The only noise worth worrying about is that from the small minority who vocally oppose them. Unfortunately, that noise is drowning out other voices in the public arena.
Thousands of children starting preschool in NSW this week will be charged fees of up to $40 a day for the first time at government-run preschools.   Last year, Premier Barry O’Farrell’s government introduced fees without consultation for the 100 preschools run by the Department of Education and Community Services (DEC). Most are attached to public schools.   Many parents had already accepted a preschool place for 2012, or even enrolled their child, before learning that the previously free classes would attract daily fees.  
About 200 people rallied and marched to mark Invasion Day on January 26. Several speakers noted that sovereignty had never been ceded by the Aboriginal people to the British colonisers, nor to the Australian government. They stressed the need to continue to support Aboriginal rights, to campaign against Black deaths in custody, to oppose the Northern Territory Intervention and to pay back Stolen Wages. Speakers also emphasised the mobilisation in Canberra to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy occurring that day.

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