The Defence Department has confirmed it was responsible for starting the ferocious State Mine fire in the Blue Mountains that burnt over 50,000 hectares of bushland in the past two weeks. An investigation found that a large amount of explosives — exceeding normal limits — were used during a training exercise at Marrangaroo. Unlike the young boys who were arrested for lighting fires this week, it is unlikely anyone from defence will be charged.
Cairns police arrested two people under Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's new anti-association laws on October 18. A search was carried out on their clubhouse and the two men, Peter Johnston and Mark Filtness, have been charged with being in a criminal organisation and entering a prescribed place. They were both granted bail. The Liberal-National Party used their majority to rush the new laws through parliament on October 17. The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill, Tattoo Parlours Bill and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill target bikies specifically.
The Australian Capital Territory assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill on October 22. The Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Bill 2013 allows same-sex marriages of ACT residents and non-residents, and is a huge step forward for marriage equality. The ACT is the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise same-sex marriage, after a mammoth fight against a federal same-sex marriage ban. The Labor ACT government passed the bill with the support of Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury while the Liberal Party opposed it. The bill passed narrowly, nine votes to eight.
Soh Sook Hwa, a member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia, is taking part in the conference “How to make a revolution” organised by Resistance. Resistance member Sean Brocklehurst interviewed her about the political campaigns she is involved with in Malaysia. *** What is happening in Malaysian politics at the moment? There was a historic election in May this year. Many Malaysians expected the government to lose power but the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), was re-elected with a majority of seats and 47% of the popular vote.
When Neville Cunningham died, the world lost a great fighter for peace, justice and equality. I first met Neville Cunningham through fellow communist, band mate and cellmate Harry Anderson in the 1960s.
NSW MPs supporting a Liberal MP's private members bill to recognise crime or harm against a foetus — dubbed “Zoe’s law” — have tried to avoid any connection between it and their reactionary anti-choice backers. But on October 24, Katrina Hodginson, National MP for Burrinjuck, publicly thanked Margaret Tighe, national president of Right to Life Australia, for her encouragement. After declaring her support for the bill, Hodginson said she believed that there was a need for more laws “from the victim’s perspective”.
With political advantage from a national celebration of the centenary of World War I in mind, the Julia Gillard government last year allocated an initial $83.5 million towards the “Anzac Centenary”. Through a local grants program, up to $125,000 is available for each federal MP to fund suitable projects in their electorates. But unfortunately for Labor, the project is now headed by Tony Abbott, who has appointed himself head of the Centenary. Stand by for a broadside of jingoism and a celebration of empire.
Members of the Chilean community and other Latin American supporters rallied outside NSW parliament on October 23 to protest against Liberal Upper House whip Peter Phelps, who has praised Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a "hero." Protesters are demanding an apology from Phelps and disciplinary action against him from Premier Barry O'Farrell. Phelps made a speech to parliament on September 11, the 40th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. Phelps described Pinochet as a "morally courageous man”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott had a really busy time last week, running around fighting fires before rushing back to his office to slash funds to those affected. Between volunteering with the Davidson Rural Fire Service brigade to help fight the fires near the Blue Mountains and tightening eligibility requirements for bushfire victims to deny funds to those cut off from their homes, the poor guy must be absolutely exhausted.
Last month, the High Court heard a case brought by lawyers for Ranjini, a Tamil woman who was accepted as a refugee but is being held in indefinite detention because ASIO considers her a security threat. Ranjini is one of 47 people in this situation. They face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in detention because ASIO claims that they are “likely to engage in acts prejudicial to Australia’s security”. Ranjini’s lawyers said detaining people for life without charge, trial or conviction for any crime is illegal. The High Court has reserved its decision.
The NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) is campaigning to reverse cuts to the state fire services budget by the Liberal state government. Under the theme, "Stop Fire Station Cuts and Closures," the FBEU is circulating an open letter to NSW Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell stating: "As NSW faces devastating bushfires — the worst since 1968 — your closures and cuts to fire stations puts lives at risk when we most need protection.
Immigration minister Scott Morrison reintroduced temporary protection visas (TPVs) on October 18 in a two-page “regulation” that amends the Migration Act and strips many rights and protections for refugees in Australia. Morrison said the move was part of the government's “border protection policy” and aimed to “discourage” people from making “dangerous voyages to Australia”.