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Journalists have confirmed that up to five boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia have been turned back to Indonesia since December 10.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Statement issued on January 3 confirmed that last year was the hottest year on record in Australia. Average temperatures were 1.2 degrees above the long-term average. Every month of the year had national average temperatures at least 0.5C above normal. The previous record was set in 2005 when the long-term average was up by 0.17C.
About 4000 people gathered at Cottesloe Beach on January 4 to protest against the Western Australian Liberal government's plan to cull sharks. This policy would have Perth’s beaches lined with drum lines and baited hooks a kilometre out from the coast and shark fishermen instructed to kill any tiger, great white or bull sharks spotted in the designated zones.
A lawyer, families, high school and university students, unionists and many long-time activists took part in a joint Christmas visit to the Villawood detention centre in Sydney’s west on December 21. Visit coordinator Rachel Evans told NewZulu.com that Serco, the private company that operates Villawood, tried to confuse and put off visitors, by insisting that forms be faxed to the office 24 hours before the visit, and even phoning some people who had submitted forms.
About 400 members of the National Union of Workers took a day's strike action on January 17, with a picket line at the Coles/Linfox warehouse facility in Truganina, on the western fringe of Melbourne. The strike action was in support of the union's demand for a site agreement, something other Coles warehouses have. The workers are asking for a range of improvements in conditions, including an extra paid rest break per shift and a fair pay rise. NUW delegate Mathew Davies told Green Left that the workers are demanding “fair pay for everyone.”
The ice storm that struck central and eastern Canada and northeastern United States, on December 20-22 should be viewed not only an important news event, but also a big climate change story. Not because the storm was a direct consequence of the Earth’s average warming temperatures. That would be a speculative claim. No, it’s because of the social crisis created by this weather emergency and what it illustrates about the challenges that are facing human society in a new and warming world. Power loss
Human rights conditions in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara remain dire according to activists, even though the territory is once again open for business to European fishing companies. Despite Moroccan pledges to improve conditions for Western Sahara's indigenous Sahrawi, head of the Sahrawi Centre for Media and Communication Mohamed Brahim said the situation is getting worse under Moroccan rule. “Nothing seems to be improving,” Brahim told Green Left Weekly from Laayoune.
A major rift has developed in the ruling class over the revelations by Edward Snowden of the huge spying by the NSA of every American and hundreds of millions worldwide. On December 16, Richard Leon, a conservative federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, ruled that the vacuuming up of phone “metadata” of US citizens was most likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure.
An estimated 700,000 Cambodian garment, accessories and footwear workers (90% of whom are women) are among the lowest paid in this globalised industry. They produce fashionable products sold at high prices in the West under big brand names like Gap, Walmart, H&M, Puma, Nike, Adidas, Columbia and Levi Strauss. Major Australian retailers that source garments from Cambodia include Coles, Kmart, Target, Big W and Pacific Brands.
Lock the Gate released this statement on January 13 *** Protesters launched a blockade at the site of Whitehaven’s controversial Maules Creek coal project in North West NSW on January 13, turning back vehicles seeking to clear the forest for construction of rail infrastructure.
The tributes and praise from various world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, for Israeli war criminal Ariel Sharon who died on January 11, are vile but sadly predictable. But probably the most distasteful of all comes from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who declared himself “saddened by the death of Ariel Sharon”.
Five hundred construction workers walked off the job following the death of a young worker, who fell 30 metres from scaffolding at the Barangaroo construction site in Sydney on January 9. The NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) said emergency services were called to the site at 8.30am after Lend Lease construction workers reported that a man had plunged about 30 metres to the ground. Workmates on site attempted CPR, but the 26-year-old was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived on site.
Campaigners for equal rights had their first win for 2014 as a Pakistani-born gay man, Ali Choudhry, obtained a temporary deportation reprieve just as nation wide protests began on January 7. A petition with 120,000 signatures was also handed to the Sydney office of immigration minister Scott Morrison. Later, about 50 protesters staged a "die-in" outside the department of immigration office in Sydney. A protest was also held outside the department of immigration office in Melbourne.
The first of a number of rallies organised around Australia to protest a proposal of the Abbott Liberal-National federal government to introduce a $5-$6 "co-payment" for Medicare bulk-billed visits to the doctor was held on January 4 in Sydney. Organised through social media, about 500 attended on short notice. Rallies will be held in other major cities over the next week. These include: Perth 3:00 PM, Saturday, January 11, 2014 - Murray St Mall https://www.facebook.com/events/212272045625191/ Melbourne
One of the most extraordinary films about Australia is soon to be screed across Australia. This is Utopia, an epic production by the Emmy and Bafta winning film-maker and journalist John Pilger. Utopia is a vast region in northern Australia and home to the oldest human presence on earth. "This film is a journey into that secret country," says Pilger in Utopia. "It will describe not only the uniqueness of the first Australians, but their trail of tears and betrayal and resistance - from one utopia to another".
More than 4000 people protested against the Barnett government's plan to cull Great White Sharks -- a protected species -- on January 4.

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