Australian News

A panel of union militants will lead a discussion about the new challenges facing unions and unionists in the wake of the passing of the federal Coalition government's Australian Building and Construction Commission and other anti-union laws.

Activists campaigning against coal seam gas have cautiously welcomed Santos’ December 8 statement that it is downgrading its controversial Narrabri Gas Project in the north west of NSW. 

For some three years, Gamilaraay people, famers and activists have been campaigning against the coal seam gas project, concerned about its potential harm on the Great Artesian Basin.

Now, they hope that Santos’ restructure is a signal that the company may be looking to extricate itself from the project.  

A community meeting in inner city Newtown, called at short notice to hear from WestConnex and a panel of traffic, heritage and health experts, attracted some 170 people on December 6.

Peter Boyle, speaking on behalf of Vivien Johnson of the newly-formed Newtown Residents Against WestConnex, opened the meeting explaining how it came about — residents being letter-boxed by Johnson informing them that WestConnex had re-routed the M4-M5 link right underneath their houses.

The Electrical Workers Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union issued the following statement on December 7 after the 55 sacked Carlton and United Brewery maintenance workers at the Abbottsford brewery voted on a resolution to the dispute that started on June 10.

* * *

The ETU and AMWU announced today that they have reached agreement to immediately end the dispute with the maintenance workforce at the Abbotsford brewery in Melbourne, Victoria.

Dylan Voller, a young Aboriginal man at the centre of the torture scandal in the Don Dale youth detention centre, is threatening to go on a hunger strike over threats of abuse by guards in the Darwin Correctional Centre.

Joanne Voller, Dylan’s mother, has just visited Dylan and said he is terrified by what might happen to him if he gives evidence to the royal commission sparked by the Don Dale scandal. The commission is due to hear his testimony in the coming week.

On December 6, 17 people taking part in a non-violent direct action against fences erected in Beeliar Lake, south of Perth, were issued with move-on orders by WA police. The next day, more people were given move-on notices.

Chris Jenkins, one of those issued with such a notice, told Green Left Weekly that the protestors were not giving up and that the atmosphere was one of “quiet determination”. They set up camp that night and are preparing to stay for a second night.

The Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the University of Tasmania have joined forces for a refreshing new study on Black–white relations in Darwin.

Telling it like it is: Aboriginal perspectives on race and race relations is the “first study to undertake comprehensive research on how Aboriginal people view settler Australians and settler Australian culture”, according to UTas’s announcement of the study’s early findings.

The nearly two-year struggle against the Perth Freight Link (PFL) freeway project is entering what may be a decisive period. While the campaign on the street has quietened somewhat, that may soon change.

While the Colin Barnett government beat a strategic retreat on Stage 2, it has declared its intention to push ahead with Stage 1 (Roe 8) through the Beeliar Wetlands. The Premier even claims that construction may begin before Christmas.

Residents responded to ambulance workers’ calls to protest the proposed shut down of Fairfield’s Ambulance Office, with about 200 people gathering on November 26 to show their opposition to the NSW government’s plans to close it down.

The government plan involves basing all local ambulances at a new “superstation” at Bankstown, to coordinate with outlying paramedic response points.

Protests against the burial of fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) in Manila, were held in Melbourne on November 20 and in Sydney on November 27.

The outrage in the Philippines and around the world is a result of the blatant revision of history by the Marcos family and its supporters, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte, who authorised the burial.

The Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizen’s Alliance and other refugee activists interrupted Question Time at 2pm on November 30 because there is no opposition to cruelty in our parliament.

We came to parliament because the Australian government has become a world leader in cruelty. 

Seven of us were superglued to the balustrade and 30 of us inside the chamber spoke in unison: “We are here today because you are all complicit in the murder, rape, torture and child abuse of refugees”. 

Queensland passed laws on November 10 that require miners to get a water licence to extract groundwater.

However environment minister Steven Miles moved a last minute amendment to remove objection rights to groundwater licences for the Adani Carmichael mine.

New Hope’s proposed Acland Stage 3 coal expansion and the Alpha and Kevin Corner coalmines will now need licences.

Farmers and communities will retain the right to object to the grant of those water licences.

Nearly 10,000 people attended two sold out Frack Off! concerts at Margaret River over the weekend of November 26–27, highlighting the growing opposition to unconventional gas across Western Australia.

The concerts included performances by John Butler Trio, Mama Kin, Pigram Brothers and Ten Cent Shooters.

There were speakers from the three regions threatened by unconventional gas — the South West, Mid West and Kimberley.

Supporters of the NSW Hunter Valley community of Wollar held simultaneous rallies in Sydney and Mudgee on November 29 against a coalmine expansion that threatens to wipe out the village. 

The NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) is reviewing the proposal to extend the Wilpinjong coalmine. It held a public hearing about the project in Mudgee but Wollar residents and supporters boycotted it and protested instead. They said the process is stacked against them and the community’s legal rights have been taken away. 

At a packed meeting on November 25, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at Murdoch University in Perth expressed no confidence in the university bargaining team and called on the Vice Chancellor to intervene in the negotiations.

They voted unanimously to begin industrial action with a stop work between 8.30am and 12.30pm on December 7. 

They will be the first university workers in this round of collective bargaining to take industrial action.

The Victorian government has backed down on its plan to transfer Aboriginal teenagers from a youth detention centre to a maximum-security prison.

The government had planned to transfer 40 children in youth custody to a segregated wing of Barwon prison while the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre at Parkville was being repaired.

The Zika virus, borne by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, was declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 18 to no longer be a global emergency, to the dismay of many health workers around the world. This decision will minimise the amount of research and public vigilance against Zika infection.

A Senate inquiry has recommended the closure of all 24 coal-fired power stations in Australia over the next 10 years and the creation of a comprehensive energy transition plan to help with the ordered closure of the plants.

The Retirement of Coal Fired power Stations Inquiry report, which was tabled in the Senate on November 28, made four recommendations:

Queensland Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles has announced that the state will ban single-use plastic shopping bags by 2018. About 800 million plastic bags are used there every year.

The government has been considering a ban for more than a year. Miles said Queensland would push ahead and not wait for Victoria and NSW to come on board for an east-coast ban.

A conservation group in the Kimberley is calling for six oil and gas exploration licences released this month by the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) to be withdrawn.

The leases cover sensitive areas of the region, including two national parks — Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek — and two conservation parks — Devonian Reef and Brooking Gorge. Another lease covers the Margaret River that flows into the Fitzroy.

About 40 members of Unions ACT, CPSU, United Voice, retired workers' organisation Vintage Reds, Socialist Alliance and the AMWU and ETU from Melbourne, representing the unions covering the 55 sacked workers from Carlton United Breweries, along with their inflatable anti-mascot, "Scabby the Rat", protested on November 22 on the front lawns of Parliament House.

The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) was launched on November 21 to challenge the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) in the wake of several wage scandals.

RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan said enterprise agreements struck between major retailers and the SDA mean “every day retail and fast food workers have over one million dollars taken from their pay packets”.

Cullinan said the RAFFWU is determined to help these underpaid workers.

Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) staff have made history by rejecting a management proposed deal on pay and conditions for the fourth time, each time by a larger margin.

Two other enterprise bargaining agreements were also rejected by staff in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the National Museum of Australia.

About 100 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and other unions rallied outside the Indonesian consulate in the Sydney suburb of Maroubra on November 16 in support of 1000 Indonesian truck drivers and port workers who have been on indefinite strike since November 1.

Solidarity actions were held in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth on November 16 as 100,000 people joined in the Bersih 5 democracy march in Kuala Lumpur on November 19.

Bersih is the Campaign For Free and Fair Elections in Malaysia and this was its fifth major mobilisation since 2007.

More than 150 community members marched down the main street of the western New South Wales town of Cowra to demand justice for Dennis “DJ” Doolan, who was shot in the back by local police two months ago. Doolan remains in custody in Bathurst jail.

The peaceful protesters, with banners and flags, demanded justice for all Aboriginal deaths in custody as they made their way to Squire Park.

Doolan’s relative Les Coe thanked the community for their support and said he hoped this show of solidarity would unite the community beyond Cowra.

Mark Rogers, a 66-year-old retiree and grandfather, has been threatened with legal action by the Department of Human Services (DHS) over a “misleading or deceptive” logo using the Medicare colours for his website, savemedicare.org.

Rogers has been campaigning to defend Medicare from the attacks of the Tony Abbott-Malcolm Turnbull Coalition government since 2014.

Leichhardt residents and other opponents of the controversial $17 billion WestConnex motorway project picketed a test drilling rig site near Pioneer Park on November 21, preventing the site’s establishment for 24 hours.

Protests continued at the site for several days after that, with information pickets planned every morning over the next week.

Due to route changes announced by Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) in early November, the M4–M5 link tunnel is now slated to go underneath a larger part of Leichhardt than previously proposed.

A rally outside Victoria’s Parliament House on November 20 organised by far right racist groups United Patriots Front (UFP) and True Blue Crew to celebrate the election of US president-elect Donald Trump attracted about 25 people, far short of the 1000 hoped for by the organisers.

The racists were outnumbered more than 10 to one by 300 anti-Trump protesters and more than six to one by police who kept the two groups apart.

Refugee rights activists in the Illawarra dropped off nearly 300 postcards at the Wollongong office of local MP Sharon Bird on November 18.

The postcards call on Labor to close the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres and bring the refugees to Australia.

Employees of a Brisbane 7-Eleven store have told the ABC they were forced to pay back thousands of dollars from their wages or face losing their jobs.

They have backed up their claims with covert video showing an employee handing back a sizeable portion of her pay to the store franchisee.

Known in the industry as the “cash back” scam, workers are paid the full award rate of $25 an hour, but have to hand back up to $11 for every hour worked to the store franchisee.

Wedge-tailed eagles have found a new but unlikely prey in the Western Australian goldfields: mining company surveying drones.

South African goldmining company Gold Fields, the world's seventh-biggest gold producer, has lost nine drones to the birds, costing the company more than $100,000.

Wedge-tailed eagles are one of the largest birds of prey in the world.

Their wingspan is more than twice that of the one metre-wide drones and they have razor-sharp talons that allow them to grab and destroy the drones in flight.

Iranian refugee Mojgan Shamsalipoor finally received her high school certificate on November 16 after missing her graduation last year because she was in immigration detention.

Shamsalipoor arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 and attended Yeronga State High School.

She lived in the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre (BITAC) but was suddenly removed to the Darwin detention centre last August.

Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale expressed his strong support for the embattled Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey at a Kurdish solidarity meeting at the Victorian Trades Hall on November 17.

The left-wing party has a strong base among Australia's oppressed Kurdish community. Di Natale condemned the current crackdown by the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The HDP’s joint leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, have been arrested along with a number of the party’s MPs.

The first time residents in Newtown — one of the oldest suburbs in Sydney — heard of a new Westconnex tunnel route under their homes was when a couple of test drill sites were set up in the neighbourhood. They immediately responded with a series of early morning protests at these sites.

Then an article in the November 11 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Mike Baird Coalition government had decided to bring forward the construction of an eight-lane tunnel to link the M4 and M5 tollways.

The NSW Coalition government is in deep trouble after the disastrous by-election in the rural seat of Orange on November 12 in which the Nationals suffered a 34% swing against it.

Nationals state leader and Deputy Premier Troy Grant has been forced to resign, and has been replaced by John Barilaro.

The swing was the highest ever recorded in a NSW by-election, with some booths reporting a swing away from the Nationals of more than 60%. It is now possible the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP) candidate, Philip Donato, could win the seat on Labor preferences.

NSW Premier Mike Baird agreed on November 15 to meet with residents campaigning against the controversial $17 billion tollway WestConnex. His promise came after they staged a sit-in at NSW Parliament House that day.

At the start of question time, three protesters attempted to drop a banner from the gallery that read “No WestCONnex / Baird it’s time to listen”.

The trio then chanted “No WestConnex” and informed MPs that dozens of residents were waiting for Baird to speak to them. They were escorted out by security.

The US Declaration of Independence declares: “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government”.

Err, like now, when we have just seen the racist, misogynist, billionaire bully Donald Trump “elected” US president by only 25% of the eligible vote and with 700,000 fewer votes that his opponent Hilary Clinton?

When the majority of US residents did not vote for either of these two candidates of the richest 1%?

Landholders are celebrating after a gas exploration lease south of the environmentally sensitive Whicher Range, near Margaret River, was cancelled on November 11 after it expired and was not renewed.

Mariah de Cerquiera from the Whicher Range Action Group said the cancellation was a victory for the local campaign to save the area from being turned into an industrialised gasfield.

Jasmine Pilbrow, a refugee rights activist who tried to stop the deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker, was sentenced on November 11 to a two-year good behaviour bond. No conviction was recorded.

In February last year, Pilbrow was among a group of activists trying to prevent the deportation of asylum seeker Puvaneethan.

She bought a ticket on his flight and once on board distributed flyers and refused to sit down unless he was allowed off the flight.

She was arrested by AFP officers and later charged with interfering with a cabin crew member and found guilty.

Pages