"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.” — Lisa Fitzpatrick, State Secretary, Australian Nursing Federation (Victoria). The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) of Victoria has had a good win. At a time when the employers are on the march, the Victorian ANF ran a campaign that involved two periods of industrial action, including bed closures, elective surgery cancellations and four hour rolling stoppages twice a day.
The federal immigration department said on March 20 that it would bring all asylum seekers under a “new single protection visa process”. From March 24, refugees that arrive by boat would be able to put their cases for refugee status to the same body — the Refugee Review Tribunal — as those who arrived by plane. Since former Liberal prime minister John Howard excised large parts of Australia’s migration zone in 2001, asylum seekers that arrived by boat were taken to the Independent Merits Review (IMR) system.
The Northern Territory’s peak doctors’ body says Darwin’s main hospital is struggling to cope with up to five refugees a day coming in for treatment for self-harm, mental illness and chronic anxiety. See also: The Northern Territory: Australia's refugee detention capital
For many months now, major party politicians and the big business media have sung paeans to the Lucky Country’s luckiest mining bonanza yet, riding the coat-tails of the rapid industrialisation of China and India. Federal treasurer Wayne Swan told the National Press Club on March 5: “Asia’s enormous appetite for our mineral commodities drives an investment pipeline in the resources sector worth $456 billion.
Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said on March 20 that his government’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) was “central to the government’s plan to spread the benefits of the mining boom to more Australians for generations to come”. Lauding the tax, which had passed through parliament the day before, he said the MRRT was about “ensuring all Australians share in the benefits of the mining boom, not just a fortunate few”.
About 120 unionists and supporters rallied outside the New Zealand Consulate in Sydney on March 19 in solidarity with 292 Auckland wharfies who were sacked for being members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand. The rally was organised by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). It called on the NZ government to pressure the Auckland Council, which owns Auckland port, to immediately reinstate the workers.
The New South Wales Liberal government said on March 11 that it planned to force schools to bear the responsibility for its latest funding cuts. The government did not consult the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) before releasing the “Local Schools, Local Decisions” and “Empowering Local Schools” initiatives, which it claimed would deliver “autonomy” to local public schools. In reality, the move is a smokescreen that forces public school principals to implement the government cuts of $250 million a year.
The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry presented its final report on March 16 into the January 2011 flood that submerged parts of suburban Brisbane. There have been very few more expensive exercises in irrelevance than this 658-page report.
Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi
One of my first jobs as a junior reporter was to meet flights bringing famous people to Australia. Growing up in a country far from everywhere (except, as my father would say, "where you come from"), I was led to believe that Australia's honour was at risk unless a well-known person from Over There said something flattering about us, preferably the moment they arrived at Sydney airport.
Members of Occupy Melbourne took Melbourne Council to court on March 20 over its attacks on the movement last year. Occupy Melbourne said: “Hearings commence today at the Federal Court as part of the legal challenge against the City of Melbourne’s response to the peaceful Occupy Melbourne protests held throughout the city since October 2011.
Liam Flenady, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane, released the statement below on March 21. * * * The Socialist Alliance declares its full support for the Sovereign Embassy Brisbane, established by the Murri community in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, on March 13.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released the statement below on March 20. * * * The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) has been informed that an Iranian man in Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) swallowed parts of a light bulb today as a form of self harm. The man is detained in the North 2 compound that has seen large numbers of suicide attempts and self-harm incidents this year.
More than 100 activists and refugee campaigners gathered on March 17 for the first protest held at the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) detention centre in Pinkenba. The protest was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (Queensland). Originally intended as a centre to house people who had overstayed their visas, due to the overcrowding in other detention centres in Australia BITA now serves as yet another refugee detention centre.