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"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.
Over the last eight months at least seven political activists around Australia have been approached by federal or state intelligence agents for information about other activists. Green Left Weekly spoke to human rights lawyer and researcher Dale Mills who explains what rights activists have — and what they should do — if they are approached for information by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) or other political police. * * *
“I’m in Villawood!” Jock Palfreeman exclaimed, with the cheerful exuberance he displayed throughout an interview conducted through glass and wire-mesh partitions in the gloomy surroundings of the visiting room of Sofia central prison. He told Green Left Weekly that it was the plight of refugees detained in Sydney's Villawood detention centre that first radicalised him. His first protest, as a high school student in Sydney, was a blockade of the offices of Villawood’s then operator Australasian Correctional Management on May Day in 2002.
The other day, I stood outside the strangely silent building where I began life as a journalist. It is no longer the human warren that was Consolidated Press in Sydney, though ghosts still drink at the King's Head pub nearby. As a cadet reporter, I might have walked on to the set of Lewis Milestone's The Front Page. Men in red braces did shout, "Hold the front page", and tilt back their felt hats and talk rapidly with a roll-your-own attached indefinitely to their lower lip. You could feel the presses rumbling beneath and smell the ink.
Newcastle Trades Hall Council (NTHC) and Lock The Gate released this statement on May 14. *** The Lock The Gate Alliance looks forward to working with the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, after the peak union body declared it is totally opposed to further coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and drilling in the Hunter Valley. The motion passed by the Council cites risks to the environment and the community, and concerns for agricultural lands and townships, and supports the NTHC working closely with groups opposing CSG until the unconventional gas mining practice is proven safe.
About 100 people packed into the Gaelic Club on May 10 for the Politics in the Pub forum: "Venezuela — A New Democracy or a Command Capitalist State?" Speakers were Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions co-author Federico Fuentes and Latin American studies post-graduate Rodrigo Acuna. The speakers rejected the "Command Capitalist State" definition of Venezuela today.
A meeting was held in Geelong on April 30 for students to discuss and plan action against the continued cuts to public sector education. University, TAFE and High School students were invited. At this meeting, the Student Action Collective (SAC) was formed and a list of immediate demands, mid-term and long-term goals were developed.
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A selection of this week's politically-relevant entertainment news.

France’s National Assembly and Senate have voted to extend the country’s military intervention in Mali. A resolution passed both houses of parliament on April 22 with a single vote against. Three days later, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2100, creating a policing mission (known as MINUSMA) starting July 1. Its projected size is 11,200 soldiers and 1440 police.