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 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.
Trevor Grant, former cricket writer for The Age, makes the case for boycotting Sri Lankan cricket. Grant maintains the website What's the Score, Sport?. * * * For all its international posturing about human rights these days, Australia has a sordid history of being a denier, or passive follower, rather than a leader in protecting the most vulnerable people in our world. There is one exception, which makes this attitude all the more damning.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
President Hugo Chavez announced on public television on the night of December 8 that he would return to Cuba to receive surgery for new malignant cells, and that vice-president Nicolas Maduro will be in charge during his absence. Chavez said Cuban doctors informed him that the area where he has previously been affected will need to be operated on again, as new malignant cells have appeared. He also said that “there are always risks in processes like this” and that “if anything happens to me that hinders me [from performing as president]”, Maduro was his preference to replace him.