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The ninth National Conference of the Socialist Alliance was held in Geelong over January 18-20. More than 150 people took part in the conference, including Hashim bin Rashid representing the newly formed united party of the left in Pakistan, the Awami Workers Party. Rashid attended the conference as a special guest, and gave presentations on racism, refugees and the war on terror, as well as the continuing struggles of the poor, the dispossessed and oppressed communities in Pakistan today.
Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan hit the headlines after he distributed a fake media release in the name of ANZ bank on January 7. It claimed that the bank was withdrawing a $1.2 billion loan that would finance the proposed Maules Creek coalmine owned by Whitehaven Coal, due to its corporate responsibility policy. It read: “We want our customers to be assured that we will not be investing in coal projects that cause significant dislocation of farmers, unacceptable damage to the environment, or social conflict.”
Green Left Weekly's Patrick Harrison spoke to Sahema Saweri, president, and Shoaib Doostizadah, public officer, of the Australian Hazara Students Group, at the January 15 vigil in Melbourne for the victims of the Quetta bomb blasts. *** Can you tell me what these vigils have been about?
The NSW Barry O’Farrell government has been criticised for having close links to mining companies after it made two controversial decisions in December last year. The Coalition government announced it would appoint a former mining company executive to the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) and confirmed it would axe funding to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).
Earthworker is a new manufacturing cooperative that aims to build renewable energy products in Australia. It is worker-owned and controlled, and committed to supporting local jobs at the same time as providing a way to reduce carbon emissions. Beginning with solar hot water systems, the aim is to eventually expand to include a full range of green technologies.
I left the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in July last year after working there for 22 years. I was given a redundancy package. My job had not been abolished, but a clause in the ATO enterprise agreement says: “An employee whose services can no longer be effectively used in their current job because of changes in technology or work methods or changes in the nature, extent of organisation of the ATO [can be given a package].” This is popularly called the “not coping with change” clause.
The Broome Community No Gas Campaign released this statement on January 15. *** Traditional custodians have responded to revelations that state minister Peter Collier has authorised Woodside to destroy sacred sites on the Kimberley coast, north of Broome, as part of its exploration and assessment work at the controversial James Price Point gas hub site. Spokesperson and Goolarabooloo law boss Phillip Roe says he and senior law boss Joseph Roe had not been given prior notice of the decision and had learnt about it via the media.
The Only Democracy In the Middle East (TM) held elections on January 22, which is what all good democracies do — even if not all those actually governed by the Israeli Knesset got to vote. Those in Gaza, which depends on the Israeli government elected in the poll to decide such things as which basic goods are let in to the besieged territory and whether or not they will be bombed on any given day, didn't get to cast a ballot. But in the West Bank, you'll be pleased to hear it is more mixed.
Cuts to the Victorian health budget are having a significant impact on Victorian hospitals. More than 300 beds have been closed, elective surgeries have been delayed, and jobs are being lost as hospitals attempt to implement a funding cut of $107 million by June this year.
Leichhardt Friends of Hebron released this statement on January 10. *** Since 2009, Leichhardt Friends of Hebron has been helping provide pre-school education facilities in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Palestine. In Palestine, the path to education is not easy and straightforward. Children must pass through Israel’s military checkpoints, deal with soldiers and the fear of attack from residents of Israel’s illegal settlements.
The second day of the trial of Perth protester Kamala Emanuel ended on January 24 with no verdict from the magistrate. Emanuel was charged with failing to comply with a police officer's direction to leave a legal, peaceful rally last April. Twenty people protested outside the court in support of the right to protest without police interference.
The 2013 Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund was launched on January 19. To keep the project afloat, we again set the target of an ambitious $250,000. Last year we fell short, but still raised an impressive $209,000 for this vital, independent media project.
About 150,000 people converged on Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, for an opposition-called People's Uprising rally (Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat) on January 12. This huge but peaceful mobilisation was an implicit warning to the Barisan Nasional (BN) government not to “steal” the coming general elections through the intimidation, corruption, electoral registration fraud and gerrymanders that have been used to hang on to power since formal independence from British colonial rule in 1957.
Tamil refugee Ranjini and her two sons made headlines last May when they were taken without warning to Sydney's Villawood detention centre and locked up after Ranjini was labelled an ASIO “security risk”. The very next day, 33-year-old Ranjini learned she was pregnant. She gave birth to Paartheepan (Paari) on January 15. The newborn boy has the right to live outside detention with his father, Ganesh, who married Ranjini a year before she was detained and lives nearby in Sydney.
Members of dozens of local Aboriginal Land Councils protested outside the office of the NSW Land Council on January 25. The peak body of Aboriginal affairs has been criticised for applying for exploration permits for uranium and coal seam gas in areas throughout NSW. Chairperson of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, Roy “Dootch” Kennedy, told Green Left Weekly they were protesting because of serious concerns about the effects of mining and the lack of consultation about the decision.
A group of women asylum seekers share their reasons for seeking protection from Australia and their dismay and despair at being transferred to Manus Island. Their letters are reprinted below unedited. *** Letter 1 I am a 33 years old Iranian woman and I have a son, nine years old. We had to leave Iran because of the personal hardship that I experienced there.

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