Within a week of the government-appointed Houston panel’s recommendation that Australia return to the “Pacific solution” for asylum seekers, the toxic atmosphere of John Howard's “children overboard” era resurged powerfully in Australian politics. On the same day the Houston report recommended indefinite refugee detention on Nauru and Manus Island for all asylum seekers arriving by boat, 67 asylum seekers taken aboard the Singapore-bound MV Parsifal were the subject of a tense stand-off at sea.
Walking into the Summer Hill Childcare Centre, it's clear that the children and workers alike are busy and happy. I went to meet the centre's director, Roberta de Souza, to find out more about child care in the inner west of Sydney. Sitting among the children, who range from three to five years old, de Souza was critical of government policy, which she said undervalues childcare workers. “It supports nurses, fire fighters, ambulance drivers. But we are also providing an important service – to future adults.”
“It would be easier for 100 camels to pass through the eye of a needle than for [the capitalist class] to win the election”, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking at the Caracas Municipal Theatre on August 15. It is just six weeks until Venezuela’s October 7 presidential election pits incumbent Chavez and his pro-revolution Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) electoral alliance against his main rival Henrique Capriles. Capriles heads the right-wing opposition bloc, the Democratic Unity Forum (MUD).
In the lead up to its first budget next month, Queensland’s Liberal National Party (LNP) government has intensified its slash-and-burn approach to public and community services. In its first 100 days in office, it axed 7000 public service jobs. Premier Campbell Newman says a further 13,000 job cuts are to come. Newman has wielded his axe indiscriminately. School cleaners, teachers’ aides, child safety, paramedics, firefighters, local courts, QBuild tradesmen and apprentices are all in the firing line.
The Greek right-wing New Democracy(ND) party won the June 17 elections by a narrow margin, getting 29.7% of the vote. Left-wing Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) came second with 26.9% on a clear platform of opposing the savage austerity measures imposed on Greece. ND’s dubious victory was largely achieved through blackmail and mud-slinging against SYRIZA ― as well as promises to negotiate the harsh memorandum measures if it was elected.
Venezuela and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) have backed Ecuador against “threats” from Britain, after Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on August 16. ALBA is an anti-imperialist bloc of eight nations that includes Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia. Swedish authorities want to extradite Assange from Britain to investigate allegations against him of sexual assault.
Department cuts cost baby's life A baby who was bashed to death near Wollongong had been reported to the Department of Family and Community Services twice in the weeks leading up to his death. Community services staff walked off the job on August 9, in protest at the Barry O'Farrell government's cuts to their budget, which they say led to a “preventable death”.
Papua New Guinea's new cabinet was named on August 10 by re-elected Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. It marked the end of the election period that ended the country's long-running political crisis. The election period began in June and was extended in some areas due to violence, delays, fraud and voting problems.
Congratulations to Tony Abbott on becoming prime minister. We all know how just badly he wanted this job, and he didn't even have to sell his arse. Or worse, support nominal action on climate change. His rise to the nation's top office was marked on August 15, when his government passed his asylum seeker policies, with the opposition — Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie — voting against.
Three open cut coalmines have been proposed over the Leard State Forest and adjoining farmland near Boggabri in NSW. Two mines currently operate in the forest, but their proposed expansion and a brand new mine would clear 50% of the forest. The National Parks Association of NSW says the forest is “home to 26 threatened plant and animal species” and is “the single biggest remnant of native vegetation left on the heavily cleared Liverpool Plains”.