A planned strike set for September 22 was cancelled when the tram and bus division of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) struck a deal with Yarra Trams. Workers had to take industrial action to win an agreement — they had non-uniform days, they banned short-running on tram routes and they had two four-hour strikes. They were about to go on strike again for four hours when the negotiations reached a resolution.
More than 1000 people rallied in Wollongong on September 19 to demand the federal government take action to save jobs at the Port Kembla steelworks. Bluescope has announced it aims to cut $200 million from its operating budget and intends to sack 500 workers in the short term, with a possibility that thousands more jobs will go in the future. This is despite BlueScope posting a $134 million profit for the last financial year. Unions have launched a campaign to save the steelworks and emergency talks have been held between government ministers, unions and Bluescope management.
There is a growing chorus of people and groups calling on Malcolm Turnbull to recall and recycle the Radicalisation Awareness Kit that claims environmentalism is a pathway to violent extremism. The Greens have called for it to be withdrawn from circulation immediately and consigned to the recycling bin. Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said: “This booklet is so tainted by Tony Abbott’s politics of fear it should be shredded. Malcolm Turnbull has got to assert his leadership and declare Abbott’s culture wars are over.
The Queensland government's Reef Water Quality Protection Plan released its Report Card 2014 on September 21. It states, “Results show the need to accelerate the rate of change and drive innovation to meet the ambitious targets.” Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles, who released the report, said there was more bad news than good in the report. “If one of my kids came home with a report card like this, I'd be a bit disappointed,” he said.
Students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) marched through the university on September 22 to deliver a 1000-signature petition to the Vice Chancellor calling on the administration to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Student group Fossil Free RMIT is calling on the university to rule out any further investment in fossil fuel stocks, make a public declaration of commitment to fully divest in a specified time as well as periodic reporting of its divestment progress.
"This morning marks 50 days since the start of this important dispute," Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch assistant secretary Paul Garrett told Green Left Weekly on September 25. He was speaking at the community assembly outside the Hutchison Ports terminal at Port Botany, which was set up after the company's sudden sacking of 97 waterside workers by text and email on August 6.
The Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association (VAHPA) has begun an industrial campaign with the current pay deal due to finish at the end of the year. There are about 7500 VAHPA members in the public sector. Health professionals include physiotherapists, medical imaging technologists and social workers. The union recently conducted a survey that found 49% of health professionals were considering leaving their current employer and almost 25% were actively seeking work outside the health sector.
Disciples of Fred Nile and his Christian Democrat Party (CDP) gathered in Belmore Park in Sydney on September 20 to convince each other that their anti-marriage equality stance is right. They were supported by police, who facilitated their bigoted ranting and kept marriage equality protestors as far away as possible.
About 500 people attended Geelong’s first marriage equality rally on September 19. It was largely a young crowd with the visible presence of the local Socialist Alliance branch, the Greens, local Deakin University students, and the Geelong Adolescent Sexuality Project, a local support service for LGBTI youth.
Dr Leslie Cannold, a founder of Reproductive Choice Australia, told a forum in Albury on September 23 that abortion does not need a special law. It should be administered no differently than a knee replacement, she said. “We don’t have a special tonsil law, we don’t have a knee replacement law or a liver cancer law, and we don’t need a particular law governing abortion either.” Abortion should be regulated like all other medical procedures, she said.
More than 1000 people rallied on September 20 to declare Victoria free of coal seam gas. Sixty-seven communities have already declared themselves gasfield free. Many regional councils across Victoria are also opposed to coal seam gas. The rally vowed to stop unconventional gas drilling, or fracking, from gaining a foothold and demanded the state government ban unconventional gas in Victoria. Drew Hutton, from Lock The Gate Alliance, said: “This is an historic moment. This state is officially going to become a gasfield-free state.
Disturbing allegations came to light on September 21 about the trouble-plagued Northern Territory juvenile justice system. Fifteen-year-old Travis, who spent time at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre last year, told a youth justice forum about the humiliation and depravation inside the centre. According to the ABC, Travis said staff at Don Dale made young people fight and eat animal faeces in exchange for extra junk food.
Australian governments have always encouraged extractivist industries, particularly coal mining. These industries now face a well-organised environment movement, which is challenging environmentally damaging projects and calling for an end to coal mining. The federal government under PM Tony Abbott took attacks on the environment movement to a new level, by introducing legislation to restrict environmentalists’ influence.
Do you like listening to alternative music? Have you attended a protest for the environment? Congratulations! According to the Radicalisation Awareness Kit produced by the Australian government, you could be on your way to becoming a violent extremist.
A coalition of refugee activists, lawyers, unionists and church groups, called No Business in Abuse, has formed to apply pressure on Transfield Services, the main contractor in Australia’s offshore detention facilities. The campaign aims to “dry up” Transfield’s opportunities for expansion by signing individuals and businesses up to a pledge not to work with businesses that profit from the detention industry. As the lead contractor for the Australian funded detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island, Transfield has already faced a separate campaign of divestments.
Unionists rallied in Melbourne on September 23 to defend penalty rates as employers, such as the Australian Hotels Association, demanded the Fair Work Commission cut weekend penalty rates. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is considering reducing Sunday penalty rates. Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox told 3AW on September 23 that there were concerns about penalty rates because they were a "cost to employment”. “Sundays are not hugely different to any other day, but there still should be a reward for working weekends”, said Willox. “Employers recognise that."
Two local residents opposed to the construction of a mosque in Bendigo have lost a Supreme Court bid to stop construction going ahead before an appeal is heard in November. The residents sought an injunction to prevent the Australian Islamic Mission from building the mosque but the two judges rejected the application after deliberating for only a few minutes.
The Papua New Guinean police has called for the extradition of two Australians implicated in the murder of asylum seeker Reza Berati at Australia’s Manus Island detention centre. But there is no sign that the two will return to face justice. The call comes as the trial of the two Papua New Guineans charged with his wilful murder is listed to begin in Lorengau, the largest town on Manus Island.
If you are reading this, you are clearly at high risk of “radicalisation” — a budding violent extremist probably only a few Triple J Hottest 100 tracks away from blowing up Parliament House, or at least picketing the offices of a classic FM station.
The Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) new higher education policy, announced on September 21, risks being indistinguishable from that of the Coalition under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. That is because the new Prime Minister has signalled a departure from the bully-boy antics of former education minister Christopher Pyne, who had threatened to introduce his doomed education cuts a third time to the Senate this spring.
September 21 was declared International Peace Day by the United Nations. This is an abridged version of a speech given by Pip Hinman on behalf of Sydney Stop the War Coalition to protest against the bombing of Syria at a rally on that day. * * * Stop the War Coalition (STWC) adds its voice to those saying Australia should not join the latest “Coalition of the Killing” and the disastrous bombing of Syria.
Canadian activist and author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus Climate Naomi Klein spoke to a packed audience at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Sydney Opera House on September 5. This is an edited transcript of her speech. Klein and Avi Lewis’ film This Changes Everything is about to be released. ***
“When it comes to technology policy, [now Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull has been a disaster. The Member for Wentworth will be remembered as Australia's worst ever Communications Minister — the man who single handedly demolished the NBN [National Broadband Network] and put a polite face on draconian Data Retention and Internet Piracy Laws.”
Carol Hucker worked in Manus Island Detention Centre as a counsellor for International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and as a case worker for the Salvation Army from June 2013 to July last year. She has allowed Green Left Weeklyto publish her account so that people can become more aware of what is happening on Manus Island. She said: “It is my hope that through this brief account the men on Manus will not be forgotten.” This is the fifth part of a multi-part series and covers November 2013 to January 2014. * * *
The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report of its investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka found “reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights law … were committed.” The investigation deals with the period between February 2002 and November 2011. It thus includes the final years of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka and was defeated in May 2009.
SYRIZA pulled off a remarkable victory at the September 20 Greek election. Although burdened by its acceptance of the draconian austerity measures in the third memorandum imposed by Greece's creditors and eight months of rule in the midst of recession, closed banks and capital controls, SYRIZA's vote fell by only 0.88% and its parliamentary seats by just four.
Threats from a senior general that the army would take “direct action” against a possible Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government show a jaw-dropping contempt for democracy. Top brass “wouldn’t stand” for a prime minister committed to international peace, said the September 20 Sunday Times, and would be prepared to use “fair means or foul” to stop a PM who “jeopardise[s] the security of this country”. The outspoken military chief remains anonymous, of course.
Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Stopwar.org.uk. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader has raised hopes for people who oppose Britain's wars. More than in any other area, it will take a mighty effort to make those hopes real. There is no other area in which national politics so ignores the population at large. On the economy, health, education and so on, there is at least debate.
In Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this month, a range of human rights groups co-sponsored a side event during the 30th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) addressing “the extensive use of torture and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment in the Saudi criminal justice system”.
Workers from Venezuela's 'housing mission', which is building large numbers of public housing, march on Venezuela's independence day, July 5. Photo from Venezuela Analysis. Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution has transformed the country since the rise to power of late socialist president Hugo Chavez in 1998 on a platform of tackling poverty and promoting participatory democracy.
Whether or not it is true, the internet has decided that British Prime Minister David Cameron probably put his private parts into the mouth of a dead pig when he was at Oxford. The allegations have been made by extremely well-connected Establishment figures, former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman Lord Michael Ashcroft and former Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott, and is published in the Daily Mail. This is the highest possible tier of character assassination in British politics.
More than 1 million people took part in a pro-independence march in Barcelona on September 11, Catalonia's national day. A year has passed since the British establishment won the September referendum on Scottish independence with a final campaign week of blackmail, dirty tricks and multi-party sworn promises yet to be kept.
I had no intention of going to Ferguson, the flashpoint of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality. It was the United States’ dirty problem, not Australia’s. Then I read a piece about Black Lives Matter activists taking the mic from Bernie Sanders while he campaigned for Democratic presidential candidacy. Parts of the crowd booed.
Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan. There are an estimated 1,400,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. Tragic photos and videos of masses of asylum seekers and immigrants from the Middle East and Africa have recently shocked the world. But these ordeals have been going on for a long time.
Austria, as well as Serbia and Croatia, have joined other European countries in temporarily closing their borders. On September 21, Croatia closed its last checkpoint for trucks on the Serbian border where thousands of refugees are waiting to cross in the hope of a better life.
It has been a year since the death of Black teenager Michael Brown, a year since the rebellion in Ferguson, a year since the Black Lives Matter movement began to shift the conversation in just about every avenue of US life. That shift can be seen in culture — music, in particular. Not surprisingly, hip hop has led the way — not just through a predictable barrage of tweets by musicians and artists, but a sustained, meaningful wave of creativity engaging with a bold, sometimes chaotic movement.
Four big Australian musical acts have united to release two tracks in support of SOS Blak Australia's campaign to oppose the closure of dozens of remote Aboriginal communities.
The recent election of socialist MP Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s Labour Party has spurred a flurry of debate on the left, particularly after the failure of anti-austerity SYRIZA to live up to its promise of standing up to Europe’s imposed memoranda. Regardless of where we stand on the Labour Party generally, there is no denying that Corbyn’s victory has generated huge excitement and mobilised thousands of young people new to politics and seasoned Labour members alike.
The arts sector is celebrating the removal of the arts portfolio from Attorney-General George Brandis in the aftermath of sustained protests over the Brandis-led cuts to the Australia Council for the Arts. An open letter, signed by a collective of dozens of writers including renowned musician and author Nick Cave, had demanded new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sack Brandis as arts minister and reverse arts funding cuts. In Turnbull's cabinet shake-up following his replacement of Tony Abbott as prime minister, Senator Fifield was appointed arts and communications minister.
Undercover West Papua documentary Forgotten Bird of Paradise has been awarded Best Short Documentary at the 2015 Davis International Film Festival in the US. More than 1100 films were submitted to the festival from 80 countries. Since its release in 2009, Forgotten Bird of Paradise has been shown at dozens of film festivals around the world, providing a rare and moving insight into the ongoing struggle for freedom being waged by the West Papuan people living under Indonesian colonial rule.