New legislation introduced by the federal Labor government will entrench many aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response, the NT intervention, for 10 years. The Senate Community Affairs References Committee released the findings of its inquiry into the Stronger Futures in the NT Bill and related legislation on March 13. It suggests some minor amendments, but leaves the substantive content of the bill unchallenged.
The recently released independent Gonski review into school funding reaffirms what many teachers and parents already knew. Current school funding arrangements are dysfunctional and inequitable and the failure to reform the way we resource our public schools has come at an immense social and economic cost. Gonski’s recommendations are far from perfect and recommend continued public funding of elite private schools. But they do highlight the need for an immediate injection of funds into public schools. The problem
Victorian nurses crowded into Festival Hall in Melbourne on March 16 to hear their nine months of struggle had reached a successful outcome. After what the ABC said was Victoria’s longest running industrial dispute, nurses have won 14-21% pay increases and kept their nurse-to-patient ratios in return for minor productivity offsets. Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: “This is a bittersweet victory for nurses and midwives after an unprecedented industrial marathon with the Baillieu government to protect patient care and secure a fair pay rise."
Newly appointed foreign minister Bob Carr said in a January blog post: “As [NSW] Premier, I never saw a demonstration that didn’t hurt the side that mounted it. And I was never persuaded by a noisy crowd with a few placards.” But on March 2, the same week he was appointed, the federal government gave a powerful confirmation of the power of protests.
Climate activists like Newcastle group Rising Tide have labelled December’s draft Energy White Paper (EWP), which charts the federal government’s plan for Australia’s future energy mix, a “black” paper. The group says the paper “plans to further expand fossil fuel extraction (both domestically and for exports) at the expense of renewable [energy]”.
The Northern Territory has become Australia’s refugee detention capital. The federal immigration department’s new plan is to fund extra police for NT detention centres. The immigration department, Australian Federal Police and the NT police agreed on March 12 to a two-year deal for 94 new police officers, worth $53 million. NT chief minister Paul Henderson said it was “great news for the people of Darwin”.
Another company is following in the footsteps of Qantas by locking out its workers from March 5 to 14. Sigma, a company that distributes pharmacy products to wholesale and retail customers, locked out 150 workers in an attempt to intimidate them into ceasing all industrial action. The workers are members of the National Union of Workers. The workers walked off the job for 48 hours on February 23 after Sigma management told them that it would cut night-time shift loadings. Workers at both the company’s sites at Rowville in Melbourne and Shepparton walked off.
Community workers were granted long-awaited pay rises in a historic decision by Fair Work Australia on February 1. Before this decision, the 16 previous equal pay cases tried to improve pay for sectors that employ mostly women, such as the community services sector. Every case failed. The Australian Services Union waged a determined and ultimately successful campaign. This decision will give wage rises from 23-45% to youth support, disability, refuge, family support and social workers, and also clerical and administrative staff.
Beattheblockade.org released the statement below on March 16. * * * Today marks the launch of “Beat the Blockade” — a day of action on April 5 to protest the extrajudicial financial blockade of WikiLeaks and raise vital funds for its work to continue.
Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi
Bob Katter’s homophobia is abhorrent, says socialist candidate The Socialist Alliance Queensland released the statement below on March 15. * * * Liam Flenady, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane in the March 24 Queensland elections, has slammed the TV ad by Bob Katter's Australian Party (KAP) that attacked Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman over the equal marriage issue. "The advert is homophobic and abhorrent to all decent human values," Flenady said.
Over 200 people attended a coal seam gas community forum in Oakdale on March 11, packing out the Workers’ Club. Local residents organised the meeting to tell the community about CSG development in their suburb. They were incensed that they had not been told by the NSW government or gas companies Apex/Ormil about the drilling of a nearby CSG exploration well in the Warragamba Dam water catchment area.
Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on March 16. * * * Thursday March 15 2012 was a big day for the coal seam gas (CSG) issue in our state parliament. In the morning a motion was put to the NSW Upper House by Jeremy Buckingham of the Greens — to place a moratorium on all CSG projects in the state, other than the Camden production field.
The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on March 13. * * * The 1968 My Lai massacre of at least 500 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam was a turning point in the US war on Vietnam. Most of the victims of the US platoon outrage were women, children (including babies) and elderly people. It was not until the following year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of this atrocity that it became one of the tipping points in finally ending the US-led war on the Vietnamese people.
The case of the soldier who went berserk in Afghanistan and killed 16 people must be utterly baffling to psychiatrists. Who can imagine what might cause someone in a stable environment such as Kandahar, with reliable role models training you to distrust the entire local population as terrorists, and no access to weapons except automatic machine guns, to flip like that? Still, they say it's always in the tranquil places that these things happen.