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Port Kembla Coal Terminal workers began a week-long strike on February 1. The action is a result of management scaling back conditions during negotiations over a new enterprise agreement. BHP Billiton operates the coal terminal on behalf of its owners, which include Xstrata, Peabody Energy, Gujarat NRE and Centennial Coal. Management’s latest offer triggered Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) delegates to take industrial action. About 100 workers had previously voted to approve a seven-day stoppage from February 1, unless management made a late offer
This year, the rules of the game have changed drastically. The ALP now supports marriage equality, and the Greens submitted its Marriage Amendment Bill 2010 to a senate inquiry on January 26. The problem is the numbers in parliament. The ALP has allowed a conscience vote, which means its MPs can vote against party policy, while Liberal Party members are required to vote against marriage equality.   
A looming staffing problem in Western Australia's 26 Police and Community Youth Centres (PCYC) is exposing premier Colin Barnett and the Liberal government's disregard for youth services and the complete hypocrisy of the law and order rhetoric that crops up at every state election. PCYCs are formally independent non-profit organisations, supported by the state through the provision of police officers as full-time centre managers.
Thousands of Victorian nurses, mental health workers, public servants and others have been trying to negotiate new enterprise bargaining agreements with the Coalition government. Premier Ted Baillieu's intransigent state government has insisted it will not agree to any pay rises above 2.5% a year without productivity trade-offs. The exception was the police force, which won a 4.5% annual pay rise a few days after more than 500 police violently evicted Occupy Melbourne protesters from City Square.
Rupert Murdoch's flagship newspaper, The Australian, has been on a campaign to destroy the Greens because the party represents a big electoral break from the two-parties-for-capitalism system that has dominated politics in this country for more than a century. In the past two weeks, this campaign has been hyped into McCarthyite Cold War hysteria.
State planning minister Brad Hazzard released draft guidelines to regulate NSW wind farms in December. The guidelines allow anyone with a residence within two kilometres to veto a wind power project. If the guidelines become law, this would put the brakes on the wind industry, as the coal seam gas industry bolts ahead.
Socialist Alliance candidate Liam Flenady, who will run in the March 24 Queensland state election, announced the party's key policy pledge on February 4. The policy said: “Set up a new Queensland State Bank: Provide low-interest loans to householders, farmers and small business. Stop the private banks ripping off the community.”
Nearly 10 years of a mining boom has made big changes to Australia’s economy and environment. Resource companies have made record profits. This has given Australia’s rich mining billionaires an inflated sense of entitlement. When the Resources Super Profits Tax (RSPT) was proposed we saw Gina Rinehart speaking to an anti-tax rally from the back of a truck along with fellow billionaire Andrew Forrest, who wore a high-visibility work shirt as though he was just another struggling worker.
A collage of the 'big four' banks signs.

US gangster Al Capone once said: “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” 19th century US president Thomas Jefferson said: “Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”

Miranda Gibson in The Observer Tree.

The statement below was posted on the Observer Tree blog on February 3.

About 200 unionists gathered at King George Square on February 2 for a meeting to commemorate the centenary of the 1912 Brisbane General Strike, one of the first of its kind in the world. The Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) jointly sponsored the meeting. Speakers, including RTBU state officials Owen Doogan and David Matters, ALP Senator Claire Moore, and QCU assistant secretary John Battams outlined the history of the 1912 strike and its significance for today. Murri elder Bobby Anderson gave a welcome to country.
A new government report has found that just 174 of the 700 workers laid off by BlueScope Steel late last year have found new jobs. The federal Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education compiled the report.