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In mid-October, principals in Victorian public schools told their staff they had been instructed to identify underperforming teachers and education support staff (ES staff) by the end of that month. These staff members would not immediately be told they were underperforming, but would only receive a letter in March next year informing them they would not receive a pay rise. Some staff might even be fast tracked out of the profession. The government told principals that between 20% and 40% of staff were to be identified as underperforming.
Top officials from the John Howard government's Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) have been appointed to head its successor, the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate (FWBII). The ABCC was never completely abolished under the recent Labor government, but instead had most of its functions transferred to the Inspectorate. Employment minister Eric Abetz appointed former ABCC deputy commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss as director of the inspectorate, and former ABCC commissioner, John Lloyd, as chair on October 17.
The same-sex marriage bill passed in the Australian Capital Territory on October 22 was the most important victory of the equal marriage rights campaign so far. It is the first time queer people have had the right to marry in Australia and follows a seven-year campaign in the ACT, and a nine-year struggle nationwide. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is likely to do everything in his power to overturn the legislation. The federal government will be taking it to the High Court next month.
The Australian mainstream media publishes a “substantial amount” of articles critical of the scientific consensus on climate change, says a report from the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism. The report has found that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp publications have a high rate of climate change scepticism, which leaves a large section of Australia without information on climate change science.
Under the guise of “law and order” and protecting the community from “criminal bikie gangs” Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has passed new laws that have implications for the civil rights of the wider community. The Liberal-National Party used their majority to rush the laws through parliament on October 17. The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill, Tattoo Parlours Bill and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill specifically target bikies.
About 50 people attended a Latin American forum and cultural night at the Spanish Centre in Brisbane on November 2 to hear a panel of speakers discuss various aspects of Latin American politics and history. The forum was co-sponsored by Australian Solidarity with Latin America in Brisbane and the Sydney-based Latin American Social Forum. Talks focused on issues in five countries of the continent: El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. Links to Australia were also highlighted in some presentations.
It was nice of former prime minister John Howard to let us know he was still alive and spending his politician's pension wisely by flying to Britain to give a talk insisting the threat of climate change was “exaggerated”. Howard gave the keynote address at the Global Warming Policy Foundation on November 5. The foundation was set up by climate “sceptic” and former chancellor in Margaret Thatcher's government Nigel Lawson.
There is one obvious answer to the climate change crisis that is rarely up for discussion — the government has to take the lead with a huge green public investment drive.
On November 3, Brian Manning, one of the Northern Territory’s most respected activists and trade unionists, passed away surrounded by friends and family at the age of 81. He was a long-time member of the Communist Party of Australia and the Search Foundation. This obituary was written by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). *** Manning was a wharfie and staunch MUA member up until his retirement in 2002. He continued to be very active in the trade union movement until his passing.
Recent mid-term elections in Argentina revealed three key tendencies: a continued decline in support for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her Peronist-allied Front for Victory (FPV), the reemergence of new forces to its right, and what many have dubbed a “historic” vote for the Trotskyist left. At stake in the October 27 national elections were half of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the Senate, along with several elections for state parliaments and local councils.

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