"An American-based company accused of bulldozing trees in koala habitats in Victoria has emerged as the buyer of Queensland's major forests in a $603 million deal with the State Government”, said the May 19 Courier-Mail. “The deal is the first major privatisation of state assets by the Bligh Government.” This is the first of several fire-sales of public assets, including forests, rail, ports and motorways, proposed by the state Labor government since last year. Unions and community groups have strongly opposed the privatisation plan.
Sam Watson, Aboriginal community leader and Socialist Alliance senate candidate for Queensland, spoke at a May 19 rally outside state parliament. He called for the sacking of police commissioner Bob Atkinson; the charging and conviction of police who kill Indigenous prisoners; for investigation of police to be carried out by an independent, community panel; and for a new Royal Commission into Black deaths in custody.
“One of the great scandals of Australia's history: Aboriginal labour in the 20th century”, was a the title of a lecture by Dr Ros Kidd in the Queensland Trades and Labour building on May 20. The Alex Macdonald Memorial Lecture attracted about 80 people. It was organised by the Brisbane Labour History Association and sponsored by the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU). Kidd's latest book, Trustees on Trial, documents the abuse and misappropriation of Aboriginal wages during the last century. "The fight for justice is still going on”, Kidd said.
One hundred people rallied in Brisbane Square on May 14 to commemorate Al Nakba —— “the catastrophe”. Al Nakba took place on May 15, 1948, when Israeli forces drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians out of their lands, and consolidated the Jewish state.
More than 60 people attended Brisbane's premiere screening of a new documentary by Sydney's Actively Radical TV about the construction of the Alyawarr people's Protest House at their walk-off camp near Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory. The film has interviews with unionists from across the country who worked with the community to build the house. It also features community members and leaders.
The coroner in the third inquest into the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004, Queensland deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine, has handed down an “open finding”. This means no criminal charges will be laid against senior sergeant Chris Hurley. Delivering his report on May 14, Hine cited the unreliability of witnesses, who changed their stories many times throughout the various investigations and inquiries, as the reason for his inability to make a definitive finding. But he also said there was evidence of collusion by police officers to protect Hurley.
“Stop trampling rights to win votes”; “Stop breaking laws to win votes”; “Stop racist policy risking lives” and “Stop the freeze on asylum seekers' rights” were key slogans at a rally organised by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations on May 8, as part of a national day of action. The 300 protesters heard from Chaman Shah Nasiri, a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan who had suffered in the now-closed Nauru detention camp under previous Coalition prime minister John Howard's Pacific Solution policy.
Queensland ALP deputy premier Paul Lucas and other ALP leaders faced hostile chants and heckling from workers at the annual Labour Day march in Brisbane on May 3. The main message from the union contingents, numbering 10,000, was opposition to the sale of state assets — including railways, ports, forests and motorways — by the Bligh Labor government. Premier Anna Bligh herself was overseas to promote the sell-off to North American investors.
The Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) remains defiant about its ban on conducting the NAPLAN national schools test, despite the state Labor government forcing it to go before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC), said the April 29 Courier-Mail. The QIRC hearing took place on April 30, after the QTU refused to abide by a direction from the commission, a week earlier, to lift its boycott of administering the tests.