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A bill to recognise crime or harm against a foetus was debated a second time in NSW parliament on October 17. About 100 protesters rallied outside before filling the public gallery to witness the debate. Liberal MP Chris Spence's bill, the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 No. 2, also known as “Zoe's law”, aims to amend the NSW Crimes Act. It would give rights and personhood to foetuses of more than 20 weeks (or weighing more than 400 grams), which has troubling implications for women’s reproductive control.
International students and supporters rallied on October 17 to oppose international students being exploited, bullied and pushed into poverty in Melbourne’s office cleaning industry. The rally was called by cleaners’ union United Voice as part of anti-poverty week. United Voice Victoria secretary Jess Walsh said: "International students are a very important part of our community. A quarter of the international students we surveyed received less than $10 an hour at work, and 60% received less than the minimum wage and many reported experiencing racism and sexual harassment.
A group of Iranians were on hunger strike outside the immigration department in Melbourne on October 19. Local Australian-Iranian man Jahangir Hosseini has been on hunger strike for more than 30 days. Another four women and one man have joined him on hunger strike. The hunger strikers plan to continue their hunger strike until seven hostages abducted by Iraqi forces are released. Hosseini called on the Australian government to intervene to secure the immediate release of the seven hostages, six of who are women.
I recently had the misfortune of being granted an audience with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and was unlucky enough to conduct an interview with him. I include the transcript below. * * * Well, thank you very much, prime minister, for agreeing to this interview. Well, I am always very happy to be interviewed by my good friends at the Daily Telegraph. Yes... You’ve moved offices I see. Nice Che Guevara poster! Yes... Can I get you something to drink? I’m having a beer. You don’t have any Bollinger do you?
Refugee advocates in Australia reported that 15 pregnant women would be sent to the Nauru detention camp on October 18, as the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) released alarming information about conditions in the camp. Immigration minister Scott Morrison had earlier overseen the transfer to Nauru of two pregnant women — one seven months pregnant with twins. He said Nauru’s hospital had two delivery beds, six post-natal beds and a “special-care baby unit”.
Call me old-fashioned, but as far as celebrity outlaws go, I’ll take Ned Kelly over Chopper Read any day. The rise to fame of recently deceased Mark “Chopper” Read symbolised the emptiness of our celebrity culture. In a world governed by large-scale gangsters in control of big industry and finance, Read was a mere petty psychopath and opportunist who figured out how to turn a buck from the fact that, as he famously noted, “posh people love gangsters”.
A half-day strike by NSW public servants planned for October 22 has been called off after the Barry O’Farrell government agreed to meet with the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) to discuss the union’s concerns about the high number of redundancies being implemented across the public service. The PSA central council voted on October 14 to put industrial action on hold pending talks with the NSW government about the axing of 15,000 public sector jobs over four years and concerns about the new Government Sector Employment Act.
Protesters gathered outside the immigration department CBD offices on October 18 to call on the Australian government to allow seven West Papuan asylum seekers to seek protection in Australia. The seven West Papuans arrived in Australia’s Torres Strait on September 24. They fled West Papua, fearing reprisal for involvement with a Freedom Flotilla from Australia.
The Victorian treasurer has recently announced a budget surplus, but Melbourne taxi drivers have been forced to protest outside of parliament this week due to the Coalition's austerity-driven taxi reforms. The Denis Napthine government wants to deregulate taxi licensing and claims that taxi standards have been compromised due to a lack of "competition" in the industry. Taxi drivers and stakeholders know this is a lie.
The federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane announced early in his term that one of his first priorities was to expand the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in NSW. This will put him on a collision course with a powerful rural and city alliance – including activists like mother-of-four Melinda Wilson from western Sydney. Wilson helped form No CSG Blacktown and CSG Free Western Sydney. She is organising a protest outside the East Coast Gas Outlook conference in Sydney on October 22.
More than 100 residents of Sydney's inner western suburbs attended a public meeting at Leichhardt Town Hall on October 10 to oppose the NSW Liberal government's plan to build the WestConnex toll road. The road would link the M4 motorway to Sydney Airport. The $10-15 billion project would involve a 33-kilometre toll road to extend the M4 from Strathfield to Mascot Airport and Port Botany, and duplicate the M5 East and M6 tollways.
A new free trade deal to be signed this year could allow foreign corporations to sue the Australian government for introducing environmental regulations on coal seam gas (CSG). Australia has joined 11 other countries — the United States, Malaysia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Unlike most trade deals, other countries can sign on in the future.
PRIVATISE HECS Prime Minister Tony Abbott is considering a plan to sell off Australia’s $23 billion Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) debt, Yahoo News said on October 16. The debt, owed by university students, could be privatised and sold to investors.
Hundreds braved rain on October 13 to rally against the construction of the East West link in Melbourne's inner suburbs. The Socialist Party's Anthony Maine, vilified by the Herald Sun as a “serial pest” spoke at the rally. He said: “The government is making decisions on behalf of the road lobby. We have the potential of mass support on our side of people that want to see more rail [lines] built. Our goal has to be to mobilise these people into action."
In the ballot to elect the Australian Labor Party leader that concluded on October 9, 74% of the membership voted — 30,426 of the party’s 43,823 members — apparently energised by the novel prospect of having a say in the leadership. Although the two aspirants, Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese, are leaders of the party’s right and left factions respectively, both avoided controversy by saying next to nothing about policy.
On Thursday October 17, New South Wales suffered the worst outbreak of bushfires in decades. Although it is not yet summer, the day was another one of high temperatures and hot, dry gusty winds. Fires raged out of control destroying hundreds of homes and killing one 63-year-old man trying to defend his home. Sydney city and surrounding suburbs, as well as Newcastle and Wollongong, were covered by towering smoke plumes and ash, even though the nearest bushfires were tens of kilometres away to the north, west and south. It was apocalyptic.

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