WestConnex sale ‘biggest misuse of public funds’

The WestConnex privatisation “involves arguably the biggest misuse of public funds for corporate gain in Australian history”, Sydney University transport analyst Chris Standen wrote on September 3.

Standen was commenting on the August 31 announcement by the New South Wales Coalition government that it was selling off 51% of the controversial WestConnex tollway complex to a Transurban-led consortium for $9.3 billion.

Transurban already owns seven of Sydney’s nine tollroads. Despite this, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) gave Transurban the go-ahead to bid for the project and further strengthen its monopoly in the city’s tollway network.

Silica is the new asbestos says Victorian Trades Hall

“Crystalline silica is the new asbestos, but Australians are simply not aware of the dangers involved in working with such a common substance as compressed stone,” Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) secretary Luke Hilikari said at the release of the new silica dust standard in late August.

There has been a significant rise in the number of workers suffering silicosis and lung cancers caused by inhaling silica particles while manufacturing, cutting and installing compressed stone benchtops.

Hilikari said the “safety standard is a huge step” and that “we’re doing it because the current Australian safety standards aren’t keeping workers safe at work.”

The new VTHC standard is a dramatic improvement on the existing standard. It reduces the definition of safe exposure to silica to 0.025mg/m3 in an 8-hour time weighted average.

Despite visa ban, Manning delivers message of hope

Banned from entering Australia by the federal government, former United States intelligence analyst turned whistleblower Chelsea Manning instead delivered her message of hope to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane via video link.

The Australian immigration department denied Manning a visa on the basis of failing “the character test”, citing as grounds the time she spent in jail for leaking documents that exposed US war crimes in Iraq.

In response to the ban, more than 20,000 people signed a petition demanded Manning be allowed to enter the country.

At a September 7 meeting in Melbourne, Manning spoke about her life as a trans woman, soldier, whistleblower and prisoner. She also addressed US politics and data privacy issues.

“Finding out who I am and what I stand for has been a big part of my life,” said Manning.

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