Issue 1113

News

On October 10, a protest was held outside the Philippines Consulate in Sydney by the NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) as part of a global week of action by the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) against recently elected Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign of extrajudicial executions of real and alleged drug users and dealers. More than 3500 such extrajudicial executions have taken place since Duterte assumed office on June 30. The statement below was released by INPUD.

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The Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham announced on October 5 that the federal government will shut down the failed VET FEE-HELP scheme.

The scheme, which has been comprehensively rorted by private for-profit providers, will be replaced with a new more tightly regulated and capped loans scheme.

The government will prohibit the use of brokers to recruit students and place greater emphasis on students actually completing courses.

Refugee supporters rallied in Sydney on October 5 in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru who held their 200th consecutive day of protest against their illegal detention that day.

Speakers included Danielle Austin, a former nurse on Christmas Island and convener of Mums for Refugees; Dr Barri Phatarfod, a convener of Doctors4Refugees; and Judith Reen, a former teacher on Nauru.

It has been 17 weeks since Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) terminated, through a contract arrangement, its entire maintenance staff and informed them they could come back to work under non-union terms and with a 65% wage cut.

It is expected that on October 10 CUB will be bought by AB InBev, the largest brewer in the world. It is hoped the new owners will overhaul the management framework and reinstate the sacked workers on their previous wages and conditions.

Refugee activists attended a meeting on October 3 to discuss strategy for the refugee rights movement.

The meeting was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) in response to an article written by Robert Manne, Tim Costello, Frank Brennan and John Menadue calling for a "compromise" solution to "our refugee crisis".

RAC invited Manne to speak at the forum. Chris Breen spoke on behalf of RAC.

The battle over the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project through the inner-western suburbs is heating up.

The Sydney Motorway Corporation has been granted conditional approval by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to commence work in Sydney Park, meaning dozens of trees are set for removal.

Three hundred workers assembled at the entry of the Geelong oil refinery on October 7 for a community protest against unsafe conditions at the refinery.

The 60-year-old refinery, previously operated by Shell, was bought by Viva Energy Australia in August 2014, and it immediately pledged $150 million for maintenance work.

On October 6 NSW Supreme Court Judge Natalie Adams reserved her decision on Kurdish journalist Renas Lelikan’s bail appeal until 14 October. Lelikan, who is charged with membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been remanded in custody since July 20.

Originally held in Sydney’s Silverwater Prison, he was transferred to isolation in the Goulburn “Supermax” jail following death threats against him by ISIS sympathisers.

About 50 people rallied on October 2 in a show of solidarity with the peoples of West Papua, and to protest the ongoing genocide and dispossession that has been carried out by a rapacious Indonesian state against the Indigenous population since the 1960s.

After some spirited speeches, including by members of the small local West Papuan community in exile, the rally set off for a short march from Town Hall to the New South Wales Parliament.

The rally also expressed its support for:

On September 28 police in the central New South Wales town of Cowra shot Dennis “DJ” Doolan in the lower back or buttocks after a “confrontation” on a suburban street. Doolan remains in an induced coma at Orange Base Hospital.

Then, on October 3, an Indigenous man was shot by West Australian police in Broome. Police media alleged the 66-year-old man from the remote Indigenous community of Balgo had “threatened police officers with a knife” before he was shot.

Three hundred workers assembled at the entry of the Geelong oil refinery on October 7 to start a community protest against unsafe conditions at the refinery.

The 60-year-old refinery, previously operated by Shell has been operated by Viva Energy Australia since August 2014, with $150 million immediate pledges for maintenance work.

AGL CEO Andrew Vesey likes to paint himself as a sort of “greenie” who is shifting the company in the right direction in these “carbon constrained” times.

Early on September 29 peace activists blockaded the Raytheon facility in Alice Springs. Four activists locked onto the gates of the facility preventing employees from entering.

This action is one in a series of protests against the military-industrial complex that supplies the joint US-Australian military base at Pine Gap.

In a unanimous decision on September 27, the Queensland Court of Appeal rejected the challenge by environment group Coast and Country to the proposed GVK Hancock Alpha coalmine.

The appeal was lodged in October last year. Hancock Coal Pty Ltd and the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage, were respondents at the hearing on June 7.

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government sent a letter to asylum seekers in Manus Island detention centre on September 27 saying the centre will be closed and outlining the next steps.

The letter states: “The purpose of this centre is for refugee status processing. All processing will end soon.”

The letter can be seen as moves by the Australian and PNG governments to close Manus Island detention centre.

Council workers at the City of Melbourne went on strike for two hours from 3.30 pm on September 27 and rallied outside Melbourne Town Hall. The rally was followed by a protest march along Swanson Street from Bourke to Flinders streets.
  
The workers are demanding a new agreement with better pay and conditions. City of Melbourne is the richest capital city in Australia.

About 70 people attended a forum on September 27 in Melbourne on Making Melbourne a Hanson free zone. The forum was hosted by the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

Guardian Australia columnist Jeff Sparrow spoke at the forum. He said: "Billions of dollars have been spent on fighting Islam by the Government so recent polls on racism are no surprise. There is a real danger that Hanson could become the new normal, a right wing version of the Greens."

About 200 people protested #DirtyAGL outside its AGM in Sydney on September 28.

AGL claims to be "green" but it is Australia's Number 1 fossil fuel polluter, owning three of Australia's most polluting coal fired power stations. It also runs NSW's major unconventional gas plant in Camden, south west Sydney.

At 5pm on September 23 anti-racism activist Jafri was attacked, pepper sprayed and detained without provocation by Victoria police while holding up his "Stop Racism Now" sign — as he has done for years at Flinders St Station. During the arrest Jafri was not given access to legal or medical support. 

In a show of support, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Flinders St intersection on September 24, demanding accountability from Victoria Police and protesting police violence.

Three “Quaker Grannies for Peace” set up breakfast on the road to Pine Gap on September 26 and invited military personnel arriving for work at the base to sit down with them.

The action is one of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the secret US military facility at Pine Gap, by groups advocating for the base’s closure.

Analysis

The federal government's much-vaunted parliamentary inquiry into the banking system was correctly called "a farce" by Labor MP Pat Conroy on October 4, the first day of a three-day hearing in Canberra. Conroy said: "I have two days of questions here" but no time to ask them.

The inquiry was an attempt by the government to deflect growing calls for a royal commission into the banking system.

When then-Minister for the Environment and Water Tony Burke signed over more than 1500 hectares of native vegetation, including endangered woodlands, to Whitehaven Coal in 2013, he did so amid contention and uncertainty. It would not go unchallenged.

Today, a parapet of accumulated earth protrudes from the Leard State Forest. The Maules Creek open-cut coalmine is now fully operational. But when exploitation ceases, the crater left in the mine's place will not be filled for centuries.

Yes, climate change was right there in the picture when a massive storm cut off power supplies throughout South Australia on September 28, forcing electricity workers to carry out a first-ever “black start” to get the state’s grid operating again. Estimated as a one-in-50-years occurrence, the storm left high-voltage transmission pylons bent like paper-clips.

Beginning on September 26, International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, hundreds of peace activists converged on the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility, less than 20 kilometres from Alice Springs, to expose its role in war, surveillance and nuclear targeting.

Socialist Alliance member, Sue Bolton, is standing for re-election as a councillor in the City of Moreland. Polling day is October 22.

Arguably, the University of Sydney’s decision to give former Prime Minister John Howard an honorary doctorate on September 30 has backfired badly. 

Academics and students spoke eloquently against the award before and during the ceremony, prompting some students who had just been given their degree to join in.

The university had cited Howard’s “world-leading gun law reform, leadership in East Timor and contribution to Australia’s economic reform” as reasons for the award. While many would question these, the elephant in the room was Iraq.

Efforts to halt plans for nuclear waste dumping in South Australia have made important advances in recent weeks, with environmental, trade union, indigenous and other bodies pushing for a joint opposition campaign.

At a September 16 meeting called by the peak labour movement body, SA Unions, and the Maritime Union of Australia, members of at least 14 organisations resolved to work toward forming a coordinating committee “around the common objective of preventing nuclear waste dumps being established in South Australia”.

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett survived a leadership challenge on September 20, easily seeing off his former Transport minister Dean Nalder. Another minister also resigned from cabinet in solidarity with Nalder in the lead up to the contest, which has been brewing since the start of the year.

Today, there are 55 workers still camping outside Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Melbourne, 16 weeks after they were sacked when their employer lost the maintenance contract for the brewery.

Most of these workers were directly employed by CUB until their jobs were outsourced in 2009. There was a hard fought campaign to keep the positions permanent but, in the end, the workers were forced to settle for contracts with no loss of income or conditions. Supposedly it was a “win/win”.

Power is gradually returning to South Australia after wild storms blew across the state last night, but some areas could be offline for days. The storm — associated with heavy rain, lightning, and severe winds — damaged transmission lines that carry electricity from power generators to people, causing a state-wide blackout.

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill told ABC radio “the system operated as it was meant to operate”.

Politicians such as Nationals leader Barnarby Joyce, independent Senator Nick Xenephon and, predictably, One Nation's climate denying Senator Malcolm Roberts have sought to pin the blame for South Australia's power outage on September 28 on the state's reliance on renewable energy, especially wind power. Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined the attacks, with

Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison died on September 24 in Sisters' Creek, Tasmania.

A few people are born who are world class heroes to those who know them and unknown to the great majority, until one day their inescapable influence floats to the surface and is generally recognised for the cream it is. In hindsight such leaders go on to become household names.

World

Venezuela confirmed shipments of humanitarian aid to the island nation of Haiti on October 5 after category four Hurricane Matthew made its way through Haiti. On October 8, the death toll fro the hurricane, which caused widespread devastation, was put at more than 800.

President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement of aid on his weekly television program In Contact with Maduro on the evening of October 4.

Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez called on the United States to pull out of its military bases across Latin America on October 6.

In a fierce speech, Rodriguez labelled the US military presence across the region as a threat to peace and stability.

“We denounce the presence of 70 US bases in our region, we have to unite and demand the closing of these bases,” said Rodriguez.

The comments were made while Rodriguez addressed the Latin American Summit of Progressive Movements in Quito, Ecuador.

Nearly 1000 Native American youth from the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe are seeking to raise US$100,000 to join month-long protests against the North Dakota Access Pipeline project.

Indigenous and environmental activists say the pipeline will ruin sacred burial grounds and pollute local water supplies — as well as transport oil that will contribute to global warming.

The youths are from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is among the poorest areas in the US.

In late September and early October, two big political explosions shook the already unstable foundations of the Spanish state. On September 25, Carles Puigdemont, premier of Catalonia and head of the pro-independence Together For The Yes (JPS) regional government, told the Catalan parliament that the country would decide its political status by September next year through “a referendum or a referendum”.

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians marched in silence in cities across the country holding candles and torches on October 5 in support of a peace deal that only just lost a plebiscite on October 2, Morning Star said.

The huge marches came after the shock victory of the “No” vote in a plebiscite on whether to accept the peace deal negotiated between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

New reports of police murdering Black people seem to occur daily. Three recent police killings that have sparked huge protests took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Charlotte, North Carolina; and El Cajon, California.

The Charlotte murder and demonstrations have received the most coverage. Before he was shot dead on September 20, Keith Scott, a 43-year-old African American, was sitting in his car waiting for his child to come home from school.

Poland’s ruling far-right Law and Justice party has reversed its support for a draconian abortion ban after women across the country went on strike to protest the proposed law.

Jarosław Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said that large protests and strikes on October 3 had “caused us to think and taught us humility,” The Guardian reported.


Thousands of people took to the streets on October 3 against plans for a total ban on abortion in Warsaw, Poland.


Peace supporters react to the plebiscite result.

The "No" vote was won by a half of a percentage point in a Colombian plebiscite on October 2 on a peace deal between the government and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which aims to end more than five decades of civil war.


Left to right: President Rafael Correa, Pais aliance presidential candidate Lenin Moreno andhis vice presidential running mate Jorge Glas.

Attendees at a conference of Momentum, a group of grassroots supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, in Liverpool to coincide with Labours' national conference.

It wasn’t a surprise, but that didn’t make it any less historic.

Culture

 The protests by professional sports players in the United States during “The Star-Spangled Banner” have spread since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked the controversial movement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in August by refusing to stand for the anthem before games. The protests have spread, with other NFL players joining in as well as sportspeople from soccer and volleyball.

Good news (for a change)

Supreme Court Justice David Hammerschlag dismissed former NSW minister Eddie Obeid’s civil case against the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on September 27.

Obeid had claimed he had suffered financial and reputational harm as a result of ICAC’s inquiry into a coal deal in 2012 and that he had been denied procedural fairness at the hearing which found he acted corruptly.

He faces a sentence hearing in October after a jury found him guilty of wilful misconduct in public office in 2007 over retail leases at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

Truck drivers are celebrating a major win over industry lobby group NatRoad in its bid to pay them less by seeking an exemption from rules in NSW setting minimum pay rates.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission dismissed NatRoad’s application, which was opposed by the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), on October 4.

TWU NSW branch secretary Richard Olsen said: “This is an important win for owner drivers in NSW. NatRoad do not represent owner drivers, they represent companies that want to rip them off.”