Hundreds of Aboriginal West Australians who had their wages withheld from successive state governments could miss out on a reparations payment, after the Barnett Liberal government refused to extend the deadline. The Stolen Wages Reparations Scheme was announced earlier this year, offering a $2000 ex-gratia payment in exchange for the millions of dollars in Aboriginal wages and entitlements withheld within a system of trust accounts from 1905 to 1972. The withholding of wages and pensions compounded the disadvantage and poverty of Aboriginal people throughout Western Australia.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Sydney's prestigious Hilton Hotel hosted the “PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Investment Conference” over December 3-5. The event summed up the nature of the resource industry in PNG. PNG Mine Watch said on December 1: “The Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Conference in Sydney will be a room full of white men dicing and slicing PNG’s assets with little or no participation or informed consent from the people of Papua New Guinea.