The recent visit of the NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard and his departmental bureaucrats to Lismore was always going to be a fiery one. There’s an important context in Lismore. This city voted 87% against coal seam gas (CSG) mining in September 2012, and three days later the NSW government renewed expired licences and gave one of the first approvals for CSG production to gas company Metgasco, that operates exclusively in the Northern Rivers region.
Environmental campaigners have won a reprieve from plans by the federal government to hand environmental protection powers to state governments and fast track applications for some developments. A discussion paper by the Business Council of Australia, prepared for the Commonwealth of Australian Government (COAG) meeting on December 7, made several proposals. These included:
Activists rallied in Melbourne on December 8 to defend and extend public housing. The Victorian government and housing minister Wendy Lovell are attempting to privatise public housing and give greater power to the non-transparent Housing Associations. These Housing Associations have been criticised for not being accountable to the people and communities they claim to serve.
In a spectacular workplace accident at a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) construction site on November 27, an intense fire broke out in the cabin of a crane before the arm collapsed onto scaffolding below. No one was injured, but hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby office buildings. The incident took place next to Broadway, one of Sydney’s busiest roads. The November 28 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the crane’s driver swung the arm away from the street before escaping from the fire. It is believed the fire was started from leaking diesel fuel.
The Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) published this statement on December 4. *** The state government’s budget and job cuts across Queensland Health are out of control, are not based on any serious clinical plan, have been announced without proper consultation with nurses and midwives or their union and are starting to threaten patient safety. QNU secretary Beth Mohle said the likelihood that nurses and midwives will have to take action to protect patient safety, in many Queensland Health facilities and services, is increasing by the day.
Socialist Alliance will run three candidates in the March 9 elections in Western Australia. The main message of the campaign is that the state government should take steps to bring the big mining companies operating in the state into public ownership. This will make it possible to fund urgent social justice and environmental projects in WA.
The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) is calling for people to sign a petition to reinstate internet access for refugees on Nauru. They released a statement on December 6 that said: “The Salvation Army administration has come under fire for drastically reducing the time allowed for an appointed representative, Mahdi, to maintain the Nauru asylum seekers Facebook page and website.
Friends of the Earth released this statement on December 5. *** Friends of the Earth's Radioactive Exposure Tour will take place from Friday March 29 to Sunday April 7 next year. These tours have exposed thousands of people first-hand to the realities of “radioactive racism” and to the environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.
The Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition released this statement on December 7. *** Wikileaks supporters in Sydney and Melbourne staged sit-ins in Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) buildings on December 7, to mark the second anniversary of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s detention without charge in Britain. They demanded that the Australian government seek a guarantee from the US that Assange will not be subjected to prosecution there.
Venezuela has abolished entrance visas for Palestinian visitors among a set of new agreements with the Middle Eastern country. Venezuela became the first country to abolish visas for Palestinians carrying civil or diplomatic passports as part of talks in early December in Caracas between representatives of the two countries. Venezuela also committed itself to build a new hospital in Palestinian territory and made new agreements in the areas of health, education and tourism.