Australian News

GLW Issue 1108

Thousands of people across Australia have been coming out to refugee rights rallies in the wake of the Guardian's Nauru files documenting the systemic abuse of refugees in the Nauru detention centre and the PNG Supreme Court Refugee activists demanded the government immediately close all the detention centre's, end boat turnbacks and resettle all refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island in Australia. Sydney Photos by Zebedee Parkes
AGL was in court on August 25 after pleading guilty to 11 counts of breaking political donation disclosure laws in relation to coal seam gas approvals. The breaches were first uncovered by the Gloucester community when it was fighting AGL's attempts to set up 110 coal seam gas wells on rich farming land near the town on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. They relate to donations AGL gave to the NSW Labor Party and the Liberals from 2008 to 2014.
Asking the peak oil and gas industry body to prepare a report on Australia's future energy needs for federal and state energy ministers was always going to have a predictable outcome. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) was tasked to report to the Council of Australian Government (COAG) energy ministers meeting on August 18 and 19. Unsurprisingly, it recommended urgently producing and supplying more gas — and fast — before Australia runs out.
"We can't afford your units and we can't afford the bus; if you keep ignoring us, we're gonna make a fuss!" rang through the streets of West End as 150 people marched against the proposed development of the old Absoe site on August 21. Greens councillor on the Brisbane City Council and one of the organisers of the rally, Jonathan Sri, told the crowd that the original proposal for the site involved seven tall buildings with no connection to the street or the surrounding community.
Production and distribution workers at Carlton & United Breweries' (CUB) Abbotsford plant in Melbourne brought the site to a standstill for three hours on August 25, threatening further action if 55 sacked workers were not reinstated. Two hundred members of United Voice and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) at the brewery held a stop-work meeting to condemn CUB's sacking of its maintenance staff and raised concerns about the impact this has had on safety standards.
Sydney's Oxford Street was shut down on August 24 by hundreds of people protesting moves to absorb the National Art School into the University of New South Wales. The push to merge the nation's oldest art school is being promoted by the state government and is part of a broader plan involving three different Sydney art schools, including Sydney College of the Arts. For many, the plan to shift these art schools off prime real estate is motivated by the NSW government's desire to sell the sites to developers.
Workers at InTech Credit Union, who for the first time will be covered by an enterprise agreement, have won a 10.5% guaranteed pay rise across the board over three years, according to a statement published by the Finance Sector Union on August 19. Under the new agreement, InTech Credit Union will also join a growing number of employers in the industry to include Domestic Violence Leave provisions in their agreement with workers.
After months of protests, mass meetings and failed talks with the University of Sydney administration, about a dozen Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) students started an occupation of the Dean's office at its Callan Park campus in Rozelle on August 22.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced plans to reduce welfare payments for the poorest and most economically disadvantaged people in Australia. The cuts are part of a proposed package of $6.5 billion savings in the federal budget that parliament is still to vote on. Turnbull has proposed axing the energy supplement fund that all welfare recipients receive. This fund is worth between $4.40 and $7.05 a week, which might not sound like much, but is a lot for people who are already living below the poverty line.
An Australian version of an open letter from Asian Americans in solidarity with Black Lives Matter has been circulating on social media. “Letters for Black Lives” is a project that began in the United States to initiate cross-generational conversations between young Asian Americans and their families about anti-Blackness and police violence. The original letter has since gained 200 contributors, 30 translations, and dozens of audio and video recordings.

GLW Issue 1107

Students from Sydney's College of the Arts began an occupation of the Dean's office at Callan Park on August 22 against the corporatisation of their school. Every day more support has been pouring in. On August 24, the Maritime Union of Australia joined the solidarity protest and afterwards was invited in to talk with the protesting students. The occupation is asking for solidarity at the daily convergences at 1pm and 5pm. * * * The Maritime Union of Australia joined the rally of support for the student occupation of the Sydney College of the Arts Administration Building.
"We can't afford your units and we can't afford the bus; if you keep ignoring us we're gonna make a fuss!" This chant rang through the streets of West End in Brisbane as 150 people marched against the proposed development at the old Absoe site on August 21. The action began with a community breakfast aimed explicitly at developing community connections.
First Nations activists Raymond Weatherall and Ken Canning have sent solidarity messages to the students occupying the Sydney Arts School (SCA) in protest at the University of Sydney's corporatisation plans. * * * I am Ngarr Birriwa Galimaay, I am Gamilaraay, Goonal Goonal clan. Through my uncles I have started my cultural journey and have begun to learn how important art is for expression, story telling and empowering ourselves and future generations.
Students from the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) began occupying the campus's administration building on August 22. Resistance members have been involved in the occupation and the campaign leading up to it. Bronte Nicole Scott, Resistance member and a future SCA student, explained why she is part of the occupation to save SCA in a August 22 Facebook post. * * * Right now I am occupying the office of the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) administration because it is absolutely criminal that the arts are always the first up on the chopping block.
CSIRO staff remain sceptical about the future of the group's climate research program, with media reports suggesting that science minister Greg Hunt's recent announcement of additional jobs in the area does not include any new funding from the federal government. The allocation of $37 million -- tied to the nascent Climate Science Centre in Hobart -- will apparently be sourced from CSIRO's own funds over 10 years and involves the creation of 15 new positions, based at locations still to be determined.
The Victorian government tabled a bill on August 18 to allow transgender, gender diverse and intersex people the right to specify their gender on new birth certificates. The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016 also ensures couples will no longer be forced to divorce if one partner wishes to change the sex recorded on their birth registration. People will be able to nominate as male, female or specify a gender diverse or non-binary descriptor.
In an unprecedented move, more than 100 workers currently or previously employed in Australia's offshore detention centres called on the federal government on August 17 to immediately resettle refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. Among those speaking out were doctors, teachers, case workers, managers and social workers from Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), Save the Children, IHMS, Salvation Army and other contracted workers that have worked in the detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru.
More than 1810 academics from across Australia, including distinguished experts in refugee law, policy, health and politics, have signed an open letter to PM Malcolm Turnbull calling for a just and humane approach for refugees. The letter calls on the federal government to end offshore processing, boat turnbacks and the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which covers staff at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), said PM Malcolm Turnbull should be "apologising not finger pointing” for the August 9 Census debacle. CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “Staff saw these problems coming a mile off. There are 700 fewer staff at the ABS now than when the last Census was conducted five years ago and as a result staff are suffering under massive workloads.
Following a four-hour stop work meeting, staff from Victoria's Thomas Embling Hospital marched on the office of state mental health minister Martin Foley on August 16, demanding better services, staffing and safety. Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) state secretary Lloyd Williams said: "There is too much pressure on our staff so it means people with mental illness miss out."
An August 11 meeting at the Melbourne Trades Hall heard an inspiring report on the rebuilding of Kobane and the progress and problems of the Rojava revolution. Hawzhin Azeez, a former University of Newcastle academic and now a central figure on the Kobane Reconstruction Board, spoke for almost an hour outlining the significance of Kobane to the Kurdish freedom struggle and the importance of the rebuilding effort.
The fence outside Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek's office in Ultimo was adorned with cardboard cut-outs of children trapped behind bars on August 15. Some had messages urging Australia to bring refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia. The action was one of more than 40 across the country. They were organised as a response to the bipartisan cruelty towards refugees exposed in the Nauru files released by the Guardian the previous week.
Climate change is not just a scientific or technical problem, nor can it be solved in the “usual” way. Instead, people need to get organised and develop solutions that improve lives and communities as well as protect the environment. This was the central theme behind the “Creating a climate for change” public meeting held on August 11 in the Northcote Town Hall. The meeting was organised by the Melbourne Playback Theatre Company and Darebin Climate Action Now.
While the New South Wales government's disastrous WestConnex tollroad project is facing new challenges, the public campaign against the $17 billion privatised road network continues to grow. The latest headache for the government came about when chief commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) Lucy Turnbull triggered a public outcry after stating she was unaware of any large-scale destruction of houses in the heritage suburb of Haberfield, precisely as homes were being demolished in the inner-western Sydney suburbs.
Firefighters rallied outside state parliament house on August 16 to demand greater support for the victims of toxic contamination at the Country Fire Authority's (CFA) former Fiskville training facility. Fiskville was closed down in 2015, but a state parliamentary enquiry found that CFA management had known about the contamination since 2010 and allowed training to continue there. The chemicals have been linked to a rise in the number of incidences of cancer and other diseases among firefighters who trained there.
A four-year campaign by local residents has forced agrochemical giant Monsanto to abandon its plans to build one of the world's largest transgenic seed factories in the province of Cordoba, Argentina. The campaign included protests, concerts, blockades and a campsite that had been maintained since 2013. Local activist Vanesa Sarton said of their struggle: "[It] has become an icon of resistance. It demonstrates that people can organize, and even though it had appeared that everything was ready, closed and sealed, these decisions can be overcome. If the people organise, it can happen.”
Australia's peak trade union body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has finally adopted a position of supporting marriage equality. The decision follows a recent move by one of its largest affiliates, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association, to drop its militant opposition to marriage equality.
At least 170 people protested against land clearing outside the Queensland parliament on August 17 ahead of a bill which would have required landholders to prove they had not illegally bulldozed their land. The Palaszczuk government's bill was aimed at restoring stronger tree clearing laws and would have reversed the legislation brought in by the conservative Cambell Newman government. That change resulted in almost 300,000 hectares of native woodland being cleared each year.

GLW Issue 1106

Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek's office fence on Broadway in Ultimo was adorned with cardboard cut-outs of children trapped behind bars on August 15, with some holding messages urging that the refugees be bought to Australia. The Sydney-based action was part of more than 40 nation-wide that were initiated by Love Makes A Way and organised by local groups, including the Uniting Church.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Staff Association says the Turnbull government's backflip on climate science research does not go far enough to repair the damage done by the deep and ongoing cuts to Australia's leading public research body. CSIRO management is continuing with plans to slash 296 jobs across the organisation, including more than 60 experienced climate and marine scientists. About 40% of the jobs are expected to be cut through forced redundancies.