National protests have been held around the country to oppose changes to welfare payments for sole parents. The federal Labor government is forcing parents to switch to the Newstart allowance once their youngest child turns eight, leaving parents up to $140 a fortnight worse off. A new group, the Single Parents Action Group (SPAG), coordinated protests across the country on February 5. Rallies took place in every state and territory.
Soon after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the September 14 federal election, opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison confirmed the Coalition's startling plans to turn back every refugee from Sri Lanka without exception. This would include a new plan to enlist the Australian and Sri Lankan navies to detain and return to Colombo any refugee trying to flee the country by boat, Morrison told ABC's Lateline on February 4.
The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition (SAWC) is inviting people to join their float in this year’s Mardi Gras parade on March 2. Spokesperson Linda Pearson said: “SAWC is entering a float in this year’s Mardi Gras to raise awareness about Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and to demonstrate our solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities. We also wanted to offer our supporters this opportunity to take part in what will be a unique and enjoyable event.
A highly publicised report by the United Nations' refugee agency labeled conditions in the Manus Island refugee camp “unlawful”, but stopped short of pushing the government to close it completely. The report was released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on February 4 after a visit to the detention centre over January 15-17. It principally called for the release of children from the “closed” detention camp. It said the Australian government's regime of “arbitrary, indefinite detention” with no legal framework was “deeply troubling”.
Naturally, once Julia Gillard called the federal election for September 14, it was all hands on deck in Labor to spruik the party and its many great achievements to ensure Tony Abbott is denied keys to The Lodge.

Thousands of government and private school teachers plus education support (ES) staff will stop work for 24 hours on February 14. They will attend two separate stop work meetings, then join to march together on the Victorian parliament to show their determination to win better working conditions and pay. Why are teachers and ES staff striking?

Perth activist Trish McAuliffe had a run-in with Stirling City Council in Perth's northern suburbs over a banner on her property advertising a public meeting about gas fracking. McAuliffe is a member of grassroots campaign group No Fracking Way and put up a hand-painted banner on her property that said “Fracking = pollution”. The sign also gave details for a public meeting organised by the Clean Water Healthy Land Alliance featuring a speaker from the Lock the Gate Alliance.
The arrest on February 6 of an Indigenous elder and another Githabul traditional owner on a coal seam gas (CSG) blockade should act as a siren call to all those concerned about our future. They were arrested along with farmers and other Lock the Gate campaigners for mounting a blockade at Doubtful Creek in northern NSW to stop CSG company Metgasco carrying out test drills. See also: White paper reveals gas industry scared of global protests
Last August, La Trobe University was engulfed in protests from students demanding a reversal of cuts to the humanities and social sciences faculty. More than 600 subjects and 41 full-time positions were permanently wiped out by the corporate-minded vice-chancellor, John Dewar.   The campaign of peaceful protest and civil disobedience has been faced with severe repression and violence from the university security. One piece of video footage clearly showed a member of the security team physically assaulting and injuring one of the protest organisers.
Unemployed workers staged a protest at a Werribee construction site where they say workers have been brought from overseas on subclass 457 work visas, without advertising the positions locally.   “We've spoken to management on site, they have confirmed there's 457 visa workers here,” protest spokesperson Nick Donohue told Green Left Weekly.   “The 457 workers are welding tanks. We've got an abundance of skilled labour in the area that can do the same job, so there's no necessity for these workers to be brought here,” Donohue said.  


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