In an article in the Australian on April 20, Adam Creighton asserted that: “Teachers’ unions in Australia and worldwide have been astonishingly successful at hoodwinking the public into thinking smaller classes matter.” As a teacher with over 30 years’ experience and a member of the Australian Education Union, I can say articles such as that display ignorance about what it is really like to be a teacher in front of a class.
The smuggling of cameras inside detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island by the ABC's Four Corners has added to pressure on Labor to answer for the shocking conditions in which men, women and children are being held. Footage that was aired on April 29 showed rows of muddy tents, derelict amenities and ablution facilities and image after image of people who are losing the will to live.

James Hansen resigned from his position as director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in April to devote more time to campaigning to cut global carbon emissions. In addition to his scientific research on climate change, Hansen has been arrested several times in recent years at protests against coal mining and tar sands mining. Bravo James Hansen — precious few scientists and academics live and breathe their politics as he does.

New South Wales’ peak advocate for housing justice, Shelter, held a conference in Sydney on April 18 to look at the challenges in housing assistance facing policymakers and decide what key steps need to be taken to improve housing outcomes for disadvantaged people. NSW Minister for Community Services Pru Goward opened the conference. She said the housing situation in NSW is grim due to housing being more expensive, less plentiful and inadequately funded. People who require housing also have more needs, she said.
About 200 people rallied outside NSW government offices on May 3 to protest the decision of the NSW Liberal government to defund the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC), an advice and advocacy service for pensioners, the unemployed and other welfare recipients. The $400,000 cut is 40% of the WRC funding (the rest coming from the federal government) and is seen as an attempt to silence a voice for the poorest sector of society. This follows federal Labor government cuts to sole parent pensions, a step which plunged thousands more women under the poverty line.
Anyone who reads Green Left Weekly would probably know Bernie Rosen was an inexhaustible letter writer and so it seems fitting to compose one in his honour. Although it should be said that Bernie’s emphasis on letters later in his life was no doubt in part because his other favoured forms of political campaigning, such as door-to-door canvassing, newspaper distribution and public oration, were less and less physically possible for him. Letters were his way of engaging in the class struggle until the very end of his 88 years.
Social justice and anti-deaths in custody organisations around Australia formed a new national coalition on February 10. The new group will allow for national actions to be organised when a death in custody occurs that requires a national response and coordinated action. The organisations involved include the Indigenous Social Justice Association and the Deaths in Custody Watch committee. Groups in other states and territories have expressed interest in joining the coalition.

Economic forecasting agency BIS Shrapnel has reported that engineering work, spurred on by the mining boom, would be about $128 billion in Australia this financial year. It may be easy to suggest that, despite the rumours, the mining boom is set to continue long into the future. However, the report was quite downbeat. ABC Online said BIS Shrapnel predicted that a "slowdown in mining investment and its related infrastructure is expected to reduce activity by 5.4% next financial year … engineering construction will be 20% below this year's peak by 2016-2017."

Austerity almost seems like the defining feature of politics today. Across Europe and the US, crippling cuts to education, health care and welfare budgets are driving millions further into poverty. Even in Australia, where our economy has been spared the worst of the financial crisis, both big parties are raising taxes on ordinary people and applying cuts to welfare and education. Last year, cuts to courses and staff at several universities, including Sydney University and La Trobe University, led to strong campaigns by staff and students to defend their education and jobs.

Moreland Council is proposing to install more CCTV cameras in response to concerns about safety after the murder of Jill Meagher last year. The expansion of CCTV cameras, already a civil liberties concern, would do little to make women safer on the streets at night.

The federal Labor government had a rare win when it wedged Tony Abbott and the Liberal opposition into supporting its plan to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through an increase in the Medicare levy. But will this be enough to stop Abbott from winning the next election? If the bookies know their business, few are game to put money on this. An ALP win is at its longest odds since Sportsbet opened betting on the election result.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on April 30, in response to apparent plans to move children and women to high-security detention centres in Australia’s north and north-west. Wickham Point detention centre, near Darwin, was built by the Labor government in 2011. Curtin detention centre, with Christmas Island and the Northern Immigration Detention Centre, has one of the highest rates of self-harm.

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