Sydney

June 15, 2010 - Thousands rallied and marched around Australia in support of Ark Tribe, a construction worker possibly facing jail for simply failing to attend an interrogation by the construction industry police “Star Chamber” - the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Workers held an overnight vigil outside the ABCC offices in Melbourne, 500 rallied and marched in Sydney and up to 1,500 rallied outside the Adelaide Magistrate's court. Trade unionists from other parts of the country have gone to Adelaide to show their solidarity.
SYDNEY - Such is the groundswell of community anger against the Israeli commando attack on the peace flotilla to Gaza that the Campbelltown branch of the ALP passed a strongly-worded motion on June 7 including calling on the Rudd government to cut ties with Israel. The motion also condemned the attack and the blockade of Gaza, and called for support for the solidarity protests being organised by the Palestinian community and their supporters.
By Rosamund Dallow-Smith and Pip Hinman SYDNEY – Conservation and other groups are opposed to the NSW environment minister Frank Sartor’s National Park development bill, introduced into the NSW parliament on June 2. The plan will shift the focus of National Parks away from conservation toward development. It will also allow tourism to be formally recognised as a purpose of national parks, contravening the long-held principle that national parks were only for nature conservation and visitation.

Ophelia Haralgi, Pip Hinman, Sylvia Hale and Phil Monsour at the End The Siege of Gaza rally and march, Sydney , June 5, 2010.

One sentence in the final declaration of the Search Foundation’s Left Renewal Conference (From Global Crisis to Green Future) captured the key issue: “Capitalism has been unable to address inequality, war and ecological degradation, and must be replaced by a democratic system that puts human need before greed, and socialises wealth instead of debt.”
On May 30, big protests were held in most Australian capital cities against recent killings in the Afghan province of Behsud. Fifteen hundred people rallied in Sydney and up to 400 in Melbourne. Initially, the protest was to demand the Australian government stop deporting Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan, because the situation is not safe for the Hazara ethnic minority. However, when news broke that some Hazara had been massacred by Afghan Pashtun nomads in the province of Behsud, the protest’s focus shifted to calling for international support for the Hazara.
The national executive of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) decided at its May 12 meeting to join the global campaign to isolate apartheid Israel. The union assessed the approach of trade unions around the world and consulted Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia.
“Break the war alliance” is one of the key messages anti-war groups will send to US President Barack Obama when he visits Australia in June. Protesters plan to focus on the stepped-up US war drive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will also demand of Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that the occupying troops leave. Compared to the Bush administration, total US defence spending is projected to rise from US$534.5 billion in 2006 to $663.7 billion in 2010 according to Congressional budget papers.
More than 200 people rallied to call for an end to the Northern Territory intervention at Sydney Town Hall on May 28. Monica Morgan, from Amnesty International, told the crowd the intervention was forcing Aboriginal people off their lands and taking away their culture. Morgan said this was the outcome of an ongoing process of assimilation that began in Sydney in 1788 and spread across the country. She said ongoing solidarity was necessary for Aboriginal people to survive as a culture.
SYDNEY— One hundred and fifty people took part in a pro-choice rally on May 29. The rally called for the repeal of anti-abortion laws and for charges against the Cairns couple facing prosecution for having used RU486 to be dropped. Labor MLC Penny Sharpe and Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon echoed the views of pro-choice activists in saying the laws were draconian and needed to be repealed. The protest, called by Women's Action Abortion Campaign, was timed to coincide with a Right to Life conference, which ended up not going ahead.
The New South Wales offices of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) construction division, was firebombed on Thursday May 13. “It is a miracle no one was killed or injured”, Howard Byrnes, CFMEU state councillor and delegate at Botany Cranes, told Green Left Weekly.
Members of the Iranian community and their supporters protested outside the NSW state parliament on May 13 after the executions of five union activists in Evin prison in Tehran on May 9. Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mahdi Islamian, Farzad Kamangar and Farhad Vakili were hanged after being convicted of Moharebeh — “waging war on God”. Four of the activists were members of Kurdish opposition groups.
The campaign against league tables continued on May 11 with a protest organised by the Inner City Teachers Association (ICTA) of the NSW Teachers Federation. Fifty people rallied outside the office of NSW education minister Verity Firth. After the Australian Education Union federal executive’s last-minute decision to lift the ban on the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests, the action showed the campaign against league tables, and the damage they do to school communities, will continue.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Villawood detention centre. Most of what I knew came from mainstream media, which usually ignores a particular perspective: that of the refugees themselves. “Queue-jumpers”, “expensive”, “unwelcome”, “should be sent back” are common themes. This rhetoric reduces asylum seekers and their experiences to nothing more than blood-sucking parasites looking for a warm place to nestle. “Boat people” make up only 3% of all refugees coming to Australia. The rest arrive in planes. Where’s all the hype about “plane people”?
Thirty people gathered on May 6 at a meeting organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF). The theme of the meeting was “Trade Unions and Climate Change: Challenges, Opportunities and Alliance Building”. Jeremy Kerbel, climate justice campaigner with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, outlined some of the LHMU’s climate change initiatives, such as calling hundreds of delegates in the lead-up to the 2009 Walk Against Warming and sponsoring the event.

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