The long-term average rise of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wage price index is 3.6%. In the first half of this year, it increased at an annualised rate of only 1.7%. The latest National Australia Bank quarterly business survey shows labour costs have been rising at an average annualised rate of 1.5% since the last quarter of 2012. This compares with an average of 3% a year between 1998 and 2008.
The annual Reclaim the Night rally was held in Sydney on October 31. Hundreds rallied in Hyde Park to protest against gendered violence, rising Islamophobia and the closures of women’s refuges. Photos by Peter Boyle.
The University of Western Sydney Bankstown Resistance activists Mia Sanders and Ian Escandor have been elected to the Bankstown Student Campus Council (SCC) and the campus magazine CrUWSible editorial board. The results were announced on October 31. Sanders told Green Left Weekly she believes students related to the “RES Out West” ticket because it emphasised fighting the federal government’s education attacks and rejecting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, women and refugees.
Over the past week, residents in Ashfield, Leichhardt and Haberfield have sprung into action in attempts to stop geotechnical drilling by tenderers for the WestConnex tollway. About 200 drill sites have been identified along the proposed route of WestConnex, between Concord and Rockdale. Drilling for stages 1 and 2 of the project has been underway since mid-September, but residents have been kept in the dark about when and where drilling will happen.
About 50 people rallied outside the Mint Bistro in Macquarie Street on October 28, carrying placards and black balloons marked CO2, to protest against Whitehaven Coal’s annual general meeting being held inside. The protesters accused the company of ignoring the wishes of communities living near mining projects in the Leard National Forest and at Maules Creek in northern NSW.
Tasmania’s Liberal government has amended its anti-protest bill to allay fears from concerned groups who say the laws are undemocratic and a threat to free speech. The laws were passed in the state’s Upper House on October 30, and will be further amended by a committee. A coalition of more than 20 community groups, including unions, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Lawyers Alliance, released a joint statement urging parliamentarians to drop the Bill.
"We talked about the real issues that the ALP couldn't face up to and received a good hearing from local people," Steve O'Brien, Socialist Alliance candidate for the Newcastle byelection on October 25, told Green Left Weekly. The byelection followed the forced resignation of Liberal MPs for the state seats of Newcastle and Charlestown, who were implicated in corruption scandals.
The People's Common Rights and Provisions Bill 2014 was debated in a mock parliamentary sitting in Brisbane on October 28. Community group Lock the Gate planned to hold the event inside Parliament House. But Speaker Fiona Simpson said the event was an affront to the dignity of parliament and would not allow it. The Bill was organised by activists to protest about the state of politics in Queensland and address issues such as a lack of democracy, unrestricted mining and the loss of clean air, water and agricultural land.
When the idea that the US Congress should establish the House Un-American Activities Committee was first proposed in 1934, the un-American activity that was to be investigated was the racist propaganda from fascist Germany that was being spread by organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Susan Price, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Summer Hill in the NSW state election next year, released this statement on October 30. *** Socialist Alliance candidate calls on West Ward residents to reject the racist Australia First Party (AFP) on November 15 in the Marrickville Council by-election. Susan Price, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Summer Hill in the NSW state election next March, was horrified to receive election material in her Dulwich Hill letterbox from the Australia First Party's Jim Saleam over the weekend.
Israeli drink machine company SodaStream announced on October 29 that it will close its settlement-based factory in the occupied West Bank next year. The move was hailed as a victory by campaigners for the boycott of Israel, who said they would continue to target SodaStream for its other human rights violations.
Australian-based company OceanaGold is suing El Salvador for US$301 million for its “right” to continue operating a gold mine that is destroying the Central American nation's water supply. The El Dorado goldmine was originally owned by Canadian company Pacific Rim, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of OceanaGold last year. The Australian company is continuing Pacific Rim's lawsuit, suing the Salvadoran government over a moratorium on mining permits. In 2008, the right-wing National Republican Alliance (ARENA) government was forced by public demand to issue the moratorium.
A young Kurdish woman called “Rehana” has garnered a great deal of media attention over the past few days, after reports emerged claiming she had killed more than 100 Islamic State (IS) fighters ― single-handedly ― in the struggle to defend predominantly Kurdish Rojava in Syria's north. A picture of the smiling beauty, wearing combat gear and toting a rifle, is still making the rounds of social media. Even as Rehana's circumstances remain uncorroborated, the overabundance of attention she has received raises several important questions.
The Vancouver Sun published a description on October 24 of the troubled man who killed a guard in Ottawa two days before and then entered Canada’s parliament building carrying his gun. The 32-year-old man, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot and killed by police. The Sun reporters spoke to people who knew Zehaf-Bibeau while he lived in Vancouver during recent years. They described an angry and troubled man grappling with mental illness and drug addiction.
Israel’s July-August war on Gaza, under the pretext of Operation Protective Edge to counter Palestinian rocket fire, demonstrated why it will never defeat the Palestinian resistance. Israel formally withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005, yet has retained absolute control over the strip via its siege. Israel controls everything going in and out of Gaza. It officially imposed its blockade and a “buffer zone” inside Gaza that led to 20% of the strip being declared a no-go area for Palestinians.
Since the start of the year, many newspapers have dedicated article after article to predictions of a looming demise of South America's so-called “Pink Tide” The term “Pink Tide” is used to refer to the wave of left-of-centre governments elected in South America in recent years. Several such governments have recently been up for re-election. Pollsters and commentators alike argued that for many, their time in government was up. Instead, on October 26, Brazilians re-elected Dilma Rousseff as president, ushering in a fourth consecutive Workers’ Party administration.
Leaders from the Landless Peasants' Movement (MST) and the Homeless Workers' Movement (MTST), powerful social movements in Brazil, have declared their intentions to increase their mobilisations this coming year in the afermath of the presidential elections. The Workers' Party (PT) candidate and incumbent Dilma Rousseff won the second round of Brazil's presidential elections on October 26 with 51.6% of the vote. The pledge for greater mobilisation is in sharp contrast to the decisions of these movements to suspend political actions after the first PT government was elected in 2002.
Edinburgh’s Augustine United Church is a pretty cold place when the wind is howling, as it was when the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) held its annual conference there on October 25. But all feelings of chill disappeared when the 200-plus SSP members got down to tackling the challenges of an inspiring new period in Scottish politics. The period is marked by unprecedented popular engagement in activism and debate over Scotland’s future. This phase was triggered by the referendum on Scottish independence, won by the No vote by 55% to 45% for the Yes side.
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the 23rd time on October 29 to condemn the decades-long United States economic embargo against Cuba. Reuters said that day that many nations praised the socialist country for its response in fighting the deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging west Africa. Cuba has sent hundreds of doctors to affected countries in west Africa.
Representatives from more than 30 countries across the Americas met in Havana on October 29 to discuss a regional plan of action to combat Ebola. The specialists and government representatives were invited by the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) bloc to exchange experiences and create prevention strategies to address the Ebola virus. ALBA was formed in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela to promote pro-people regional integration and now has eight nations.
In an article in the Guardian on October 28, Antony Loewenstein says that he does not write about feminism because he fears being “attacked by women for questioning a consensus position on feminist issues”. “Writing about feminism when male is like gate crashing a party,” he said, “and I’m concerned I’ll be slammed for daring to arrive without an invitation.”
Bill Deller was a well-known left-wing activist in Melbourne and presenter on community radio station 3CR. He died on October 17. Below are remembrances of Bill’s life from some of his comrades. *** Lalitha Chelliah — radio co-host and a friend and comrade of 24 years I met Bill Deller in 1990 when he employed me to work at the State Public Services Federation (SPSF).
Moreland City councillor Sue Bolton gave this speech to a rally in solidarity with Kobani in Melbourne on October 25. *** There are two reasons to support the Kurds of Kobane. One reason is humanitarian: to prevent a massacre. The other reason is to protect and defend the building of an alternative society which should be a beacon for all left and progressive people in the world.
The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign (GCPC) was formed in mid-February at a meeting of the Marrickville Peace Group, Marrickville Residents for Reconciliation (now part of ANTaR Inner West), Pax Christi and the Marrickville Greens. Since then a number of local individuals have also participated in the coalition’s meetings and events.
At Geelong's Walk Together rally on October 25, Labor's shadow immigration minister Richard Marles told the crowd Labor would “welcome” refugees. Despite trying to appeal to the crowd's message of acceptance and tolerance, Marles was heckled by members of Rural Australians for Refugees and the Socialist Alliance. Unionists from the Geelong Trades Hall stood up front and turned their backs on him while he spoke.
One of the most striking features of the first year of Tony Abbott’s government is the sustained attacks on Centrelink clients. These started with the federal budget and its proposed cuts to Newstart Allowance for those aged under 30, Family Tax Benefits for sole-parent and low-income families, and restricted access to Disability Support Pension. These were followed by employment minister Eric Abetz announcing the expansion of Work for the Dole to all jobseekers under 50.
The University of Western Sydney Resistance club released this statement on October 28. *** Student campus councillor at UWS Bankstown Mia Sanders has slammed the federal government’s higher education reform bill which went before the Senate on October 28.
A fierce debate over women’s participation in video game culture has erupted online. Known as “GamerGate”, it is a battle over power and sexism in video games. Women now represent nearly half of those who play video games, and the traditional gamer identity is being challenged. The problem of sexism in video games is part of a wider problem of misogyny in society, and in the same way misogyny is being confronted in parliament or at universities, it is also being confronted in gaming.
The passing of former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the age of 98 on October 21 provoked a wave of emotion from the community, both young and old. At a time when the federal government is trying to smash the remnants of the progressive reforms initiated during the Whitlam government — in office from December 1972 to November 1975 — the Whitlam era seems like a period from another political universe.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated his government plans to increase the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Before last year’s election, Abbott promised the Australian people that “the GST won't change, full stop, end of story”. But on October 27, he called for a “mature debate” on the topic, making it clear his government intends to increase GST revenue.
The authority responsible for managing the East West Link has sent residents in inner-city Melbourne an eight-page brochure extolling the virtues of the new motorway. The newsletter says that work is set to commence on the project to build 4.4 kilometre twin tunnels between the Eastern Freeway and City Link in Moonee Valley. It would create about 3700 jobs, including 150 for automotive workers facing unemployment from the closure of Ford, General Motors and Toyota plants in Melbourne and Geelong.
It is ominous. As the federal government's joke climate change “Direct Action Plan” passed the Senate with the support of coal baron Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party, the first heatwave of an early Australian summer had just smashed new temperature records for the hottest day in October. The Bureau of Meteorology said October 25 was Australia’s warmest October day on record, kept since 1910. Average maximums across the nation reached 36 degrees Celsius.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for “a mature debate” on whether to raise the GST — and, make no mistake, he'll shirtfront any economic girlie-men who try to stop it.
The Making of English Social Democracy By Peter Cockcroft. Australian Ebook Publisher Kindle edition 236 pages, $1.05 It may seem a strange ask to encourage socialists to examine the politics of late Victorian Britain when there is so much else to be done. But Peter Cockcroft makes a significant case that understanding this aspect of the past can help us to make some sense of where we are now.
Australian urban roots and reggae band Blue King Brown have joined musicians, artists and writers using their artistic talents to expose the political fraud and brutal genocide that the Indonesian government has committed against the West Papuan people.
Pirates, Punks & Politics, FC St. Pauli: Falling in Love With a Radical Football Club By Nick Davidson Sports Books, 2014 251 pp., $16.50 I must admit that I don’t know one end of a soccer ball from another, but having read this book I don’t care. I’m now passionately interested in this extraordinary German football club, FC St Pauli, with its skull-and-cross-bones emblem.
Ezekiel Ox is a long-term singer-songwriter and activist for social justice. He has a reputation for energetic live performances across Australia, the United States and Britain with bands such as Full Scale, Mammal and Over Reactor. Ox is an artist who puts ideas into practice, founding Musicians Against Police Violence, organising actions and fundraisers to fight racism and regularly MCing and leading chants at demonstrations.