Naarm/Melbourne

Scandal has erupted in Victoria as GDF Suez, the majority owner of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station, refuses to pay an $18 million bill to the Country Fire Authority. The bill is for the firefighting effort at last year's coalmine fire that blanketed local towns with soot and smoke for 45 days.
On June 24 about 150 people attended a forum organised by the Refugee Action Collective, Labor for Refugees and the Refugee Advocacy Network on the theme “How can we get Labor to oppose offshore detention?” Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney told the meeting that the ACTU has recently adopted a stronger policy on refugees, based on recognition that “seeking asylum is a human right”.
More than a thousand people rallied in Melbourne on June 26 against the forced closures of remote Western Australian Aboriginal communities. Melbourne organiser of the protest, Meriki Onus from Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance said the Victorian community wished to stand by Aboriginal communities in other states, who were losing their communities. Photos by Ali Bakhtiarvandi
On May 31, about 400 anti- racist protestors confronted a far-right protest of racists outside Richmond Town Hall in Melbourne. There were about 70 far-right protesters, carrying Australian flags and wearing swastika t-shirts and green and gold. The action was called by a splinter group of Reclaim Australia that calls itself United Patriots Front (UPF). They attempted to storm the town hall but were thwarted by the hundreds of anti-racists present.
About 200 people attended a meeting on Islamophobia on May 31. The meeting was co-chaired by Steve Jolly, a Socialist Party member and Yarra city councillor, and Monique Toohey, a board member of the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV). Toohey told the meeting that the harassment of Muslims had made many of them fearful of going out in public. Ghaith Krayem, the president of the ICV, said that under proposed new laws people could be deported by the decision of a minister, based on suspicion, with no right to challenge claims made by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Exorbitant gas and electricity bills are threatening Victorian living standards. The Essential Services Commission (ESC) of Victoria reported that more than 34,000 households were disconnected from essential utilities in 2013/14. The residential electricity disconnection rate increased this year to 1.47 disconnections per 100 customers, a 36% increase on the 1.07 disconnections in 2012/13. The ESC also reported an increase in the gas disconnection rate to 1.33 disconnections per 100 customers, a 42% increase on the rate in 2012/13.
Melbourne Fair Go For Pensioners protest, May 20, 2015. Photo: Annaki Rowlands Pensioners rallied in Melbourne on May 20 to protest against the federal government's budget. The rally was organised by the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition.
Wendy Brabham

Melbourne Resistance Centre was packed on May 9 as people gathered to hear First Nations activists and other anti-racism activists talk about fighting racism in Australia today. The seminar began with Wendy Brabham, nationally-respected Aboriginal academic and traditional owner from the Wamba Wamba, Wergaia, Nyeri Nyeri and Dhudhuroa first nations.

Socialist Alliance Sue Bolton council meeting

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the second of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton.

People who regularly visit refugees and asylum seekers detained in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows have reported that the rules for visiting have recently become much more restrictive. Visitors must now give 24 hours notice. They must give the names of the specific detainees they wish to talk to, and are not allowed to talk to any others. This makes it hard for them to make contact with new arrivals in the detention centre. Requests to visit are often refused on the pretext that the visiting room will be full, whereas in fact the room is often half empty.
The Moreland council in Melbourne became the first council in Australia to pass a motion last month condemning plans for forced closures of Aboriginal communities, and to send a letter of solidarity to those communities. The motion was moved by me as a Socialist Alliance councillor on Moreland council. The motion passed unanimously, with even the Liberal party councillor voting for it. On April 28, a second Melbourne council, the Moonee Valley council, passed the same motion. The motion was moved by Jim Cusack, a Labor councillor.
More than 200 heavily armed police raided five homes in south-east Melbourne on April 18 to arrest five teenagers for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack on Anzac Day. Two were held in custody and charged under “anti-terror” laws, one was charged on summons for weapons offences and two were released without charge. Family and neighbours of those arrested said that the raids were carried out with unnecessary violence.