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After 40 years of struggle, in the place known as “Africa's last colony”, human rights abusers continue to be given a free hand by the international community. As Western Sahara's independence movement, the Polisario Front, commemorated four decades of struggle on May 10, news broke of a Sahrawi activist who died in a Moroccan prison three days earlier.
In February 2011, the Deputy Engineer of Gaza’s only electricity plant, Dirar Abu Sisi, travelled to Ukraine, his wife Veronika’s native country, to seek citizenship after Israel’s 2008-09 attack on the Gaza Strip. The ferocity of that war made him fear for the safety of their six children and he decided to leave the besieged Gaza Strip. Not long after Abu Sisi’s arrival in Ukraine, he disappeared while on a train. His distraught family had no idea what had happened to him.
A right-wing wave swept Pakistan in the May 11 general elections. At the federal level, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) will form the government having won 35% of the vote. Former Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf, came second with 19% of the vote and surprised many. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the ruling party for the past five years, came third with only 15% ― thanks to Sindh where it was able to fetch most of its votes.
The Socialist Alliance estimated in 2010 that its key policies for social justice and environmental sustainability would cost a minimum of $81-140 billion a year. Any budget devised by a party focused on putting people and the planet before profits would look significantly different to the “safe” yet largely austere budget the federal Labor government released last week.
There are two different visions for paid parental leave (PPL) — one put forward by the federal Labor government and the other by Liberal leader Tony Abbott. Abbott’s proposal is seemingly not supported by industry or sections of the Coalition. It would provide 26 weeks’ full salary to mothers earning up to $150,000 a year. Partners could opt to be primary carer if they accept payment according to the mother’s replacement wage of up to $75,000.
"By keeping, if needed, all Labor's budget cuts and by not implementing any of their budget spending measures unless specified, we will achieve the first duty of every government -- namely, to preserve the nation's finances," said Tony Abbott in his budget reply speech. This is what is to come under an Abbott government -- a continuation of Labor's cuts and restraint when it comes to spending.
It was almost a simple formality. Rejecting any attempt by the Greens to introduce rudimentary protections, the Australian Senate voted on May 16 to excise the entire country from the migration zone. It will most likely be given approval by the lower house soon. If implemented, it will mean that for all asylum seekers who arrive by boat, Australia -- and by proxy the Refugee Convention -- will legally not exist.
About 70 activists gathered in Parramatta Town Hall on May 11 for the second annual Climate Change-Social Change conference. Hosted by Green Left Weekly, the conference drew together a broad range of activists from various environment campaigns, anti-coal seam gas groups, the Greens and the Socialist Alliance, cementing its role as an important annual gathering for western Sydney activists.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) held a rally in Sydney on May 9 to demand that the federal budget raise the Newstart allowance by $50 a week. They also demanded all commonwealth benefits be properly indexed so they are in line with living expenses. About 100 people attended the rally with representatives from the Community and Public Sector Union, Australian Services Union, the Salvation Army and tenant advocates.
A South Australian council has voted to swap a recreation park in St Clair with a former factory site. Under the proposal the popular St Clair reserve will be sold to developers and used for high-density housing. The Actil site —which has contaminated soil — will then be developed as an open space. The decision by Charles Sturt council, on May 13, paves the way for the parkland — which had previously been earmarked for a war memorial park for World War II veterans — to be rezoned for housing development. The council’s may described the decision as "an affront to democracy."
The gulf between the science and the politics of climate change has never been wider. Consider the Arctic ice cap, which has lost half its volume in the five years from 2005. Experts say the Arctic ice cap is now in a “death spiral”. The region is warming two to four times faster than the global average.
After a week of being subjected to headache-inducing politicians posturing and spinning about the Great Budget Deficit, all that was needed was that speech from Richest-Australian-and-Walking-ATM Gina Rinehart. Billionaire Numero Uno was only outdone by Billionaire-Would-Be-PM Clive Palmer, who successfully outflanked, on Q&A, Labor and Liberals from the left on the treatment of refugees.