Australian News

GLW Issue 1043

Last week, as mainstream media across Australia reported on recovery efforts in Queensland following Cyclone Marcia, thousands of Aboriginal people displaced by a different cyclone in the Northern Territory were all but ignored.

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GLW Issue 1042

The Redfern tent embassy in Sydney has received an eviction notice from the Aboriginal Housing Company. It claims the owners of the tent embassy do not have “permission to be on this site” and are “trespassing”.

The tent embassy was set up in May last year to stop land being taken from the Block and redeveloped for commercial space and private housing.

READ MORE: Redfern Tent Embassy remains strong

A major victory has been won by ANZ workers and the Finance Sector Union (FSU) against ANZ bank.

On February 16 ANZ’s proposed changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement were rejected by 64% of union members. This victory for ANZ staff came on the same day that ANZ announced a new CEO for its Australian operations.

“Thousands of staff have said NO to a broken pay model, clawbacks on job security, hours of work and penalty rates,” said National Secretary of the FSU Fiona Jordan.

Unions NSW has launched a "NSW Not For Sale" campaign in the lead-up to the March 28 state elections. The campaign targets the state government's plans to privatise the power industry, as well as attacking private involvement in hospitals and TAFE.

The campaign involves TV advertisements, as well as a radio and digital blitz. It aims to mobilise union members and other volunteers for doorknocking and mass telephoning.

Hundreds of people started a week-long walk through Sydney’s western suburbs on February 21 to highlight the risk coal seam gas poses to drinking water.
Beginning at Cataract Dam the route will continue for 160 kilometres through Camden, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Fairfield, Prospect, Parramatta, Auburn, Ryde and Gladesville before finishing at Parliament House in Sydney.
More than 10 community groups came together to organise the walk, including the Western Sydney Environment Network, Stop CSG Macarthur, Parramatta Climate Action Network and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

NSW premier Bruce Baird was confronted by 200 TAFE students, teachers and supporters when he visited Newcastle’s Hamilton TAFE campus on February 16.

His visit was to inaugurate the offices of the Hunter Business Chamber, which have been relocated to Hamilton TAFE.

Significantly, the old TAFE signage out the front of the campus has been replaced with a sign that reads “Australian Business Apprenticeship Centre”.

Pressure is mounting on Australia’s big four banks over their support for the construction of coalmines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Greenpeace launched a public email campaign targeting the executives of ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac, “to publicly rule out financing or advising Adani [Mining] on the Carmichael coal mine and associated infrastructure project in the Great Barrier Reef or Queensland”.

Coles meat workers picketed a new Coles supermarket in Richmond, Victoria on February 18 after a mass meeting of Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union members. Coles is proposing a new enterprise agreement which wipes out most of the conditions for newly employed butchers and meat wrappers. The new butchers can earn $12,000 less in a year and the new meat wrapper can earn $8,000 less for doing the same jobs.

Several hundred residents and supporters of the campaign to stop the NSW government's WestConnex tollway project gathered in Whites Creek Park, Annandale, on February 15. Cait Jones, a representative of the campaign which successfully stopped the similar East-West Link tollroad in Melbourne, said: "In Victoria, we beat the East-West Link. We're here today to stand with you in your fight against WestConnex. Mass transit is what we want and need. Tollroads are a disincentive to public transport.”

For the second time in three days, I was blocked from posting or commenting on Facebook due to a concerted campaign by a right-wing Turkish nationalist Facebook page.

It ran an anti-democratic campaign of vexatious reports against photos I posted on my Facebook page for supposedly “promoting graphic violence”.

About 250 people gathered at the Leard State Forest in northern NSW from February 13 and 18 to stop Whitehaven Coal clearing the forest to make way for its proposed Maules Creek coalmine.

The project has been plagued by protest for more than two years and more than 300 people have been arrested, including farmer Rick Laird and former Wallabies captain David Pocock.

"Let Greece Breathe" was the theme of a rally called by the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign (AGSC) at Sydney Town Hall on February 16.

Several hundred people gathered to express their support for the new SYRIZA-led Greek government and the right of the people of Greece to end austerity and challenge the dictatorship of the European banks and central authority.

Concrete placement workers employed by Boral/De Martin and Gasparini (DMG) have won their battle for a union Agreement, securing better pay and conditions, including restoration of their site allowance.

The workers greeted the news from the negotiating team on February 18 with fists in the air and chants of, "Who are we? We're CFMEU!"

A substandard, non-union agreement was put to the workers by the company before Christmas.

This was overwhelmingly rejected, and workers took protected strike action to secure a union agreement that would improve their pay and conditions.

"Let Greece Breathe" was the theme of a rally called by the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign (AGSC) at Sydney Town Hall here on February 16.

Several hundred people gathered to express their support for the new SYRIZA-led Greek government and the right of the people of Greece to end austerity and challenge the dictatorship of the European banks and central authority.

Protesters marched through Redfern on February 14 to commemorate 11 years since Aboriginal teenager TJ Hickey was killed after being chased on his bike by police.

No police have been charged over Hickey's death and his family are still waiting for justice.

Police were heavy handed in their approach to the march, confiscating any banners or placards that mentioned the police and their role in TJ’s death.

Photos are by Peter Boyle.

GLW Issue 1041

Radical leftist party SYRIZA has swept to power in Greece promising to end austerity and threatening to spark an anti-austerity fightback across Europe.

Green Left Weekly's European correspondent and Socialist Alliance member Dick Nichols, usually based in Barcelona, was in Athens for the historic win. He is speaking across the country about SYRIZA's challenge to austerity and elite rule.

There is obviously volatility in the Australian electorate.

I gained an insight into that new mood last weekend when I went doorknocking in Raymond Terrace as part of the NSW Public Service Association’s (PSA) campaign against privatisation.

The PSA was not advocating a vote for any party except to ask people to put concerns about privatisation up front when they vote in the NSW elections of March 28.

Biologists consider the health of frogs to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole.

Frogs have permeable skin that easily absorbs toxins. They require specific aquatic and terrestrial environments to survive and breed, making them highly susceptible to environmental disturbances. Because of this they are considered accurate indicators of environmental stress.

Frogs have lived on the Earth for 250 million years, surviving ice ages and other climate changes. Yet around the world, populations of amphibians, particularly frogs, are now in drastic decline.

A refugee has won his claim for protection because the High Court ruled that the basis of his arrival, by boat, was not a valid ground to reject him.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison denied the Pakistani man a visa because he arrived by boat, even though the department had found him to be a genuine refugee and Australia was legally obliged to provide protection.

The High Court unanimously ordered the immigration minister, now Peter Dutton, to grant him a permanent protection visa. Dutton said a visa would be issued within seven days.

The Latin American Social Forum held a forum on February 7 in Sydney. About 80 people attended.

We were welcomed by the Ecuadorian indigenous folksinger Manuel with a ceremonial greeting in Quechua to Pachamama and soulful pipe playing. The evening began with a video conference with Pablo Fajardo, representing the 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians fighting against the ecological disaster caused by Chevron-Texaco.

In the lead-up to the first global divestment day on February 14, the University of Sydney announced it will reduce the carbon footprint of its investments by 20% within three years by divesting from heavy polluters.

But it has shied away from divesting from fossil fuels altogether.

The decision follows a sustained student-led campaign, with support from Greenpeace, that has been urging the university to completely divest its investments in fossil fuels.

Around 60 people attended a public forum in Sydney on February 9 to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the re-establishment of the Palestinian People's Party (PPP). The party was retitled from its original name of Palestinian Communist Party, which was founded 96 years ago.

Shamikh Badra outlined the history of the PPP, from its early days in 1920s Palestine, to its re-founding in 1982. He explained the role of the PPP after it joined the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1987 and fought for militant policies within the Palestinian liberation movement.

SCOTLAND AND WALES BAN FRACKING

The National Assembly of Wales banned shale gas fracking in Wales on February 4. It follows an announcement on January 28 that the Scottish government will temporarily ban fracking until a public health assessment is completed.

Early last year British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government was going "all out for shale".

Voices of the Valley released this statement on February 6.

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Latrobe Valley residents’ group Voices of the Valley has released new data and analysis regarding probable deaths resulting from the coalmine fire which began one year ago in the Victorian town of Hazelwood.

Police attacked students with pepper spray during a protest against university fee deregulation in Sydney on February 13.

About 30 students gathered to protest against education minister Christopher Pyne, who was giving the Inaugural Hedley Beare Memorial Lecture at the Sydney Masonic Centre. He planned to “outline the Australian government’s achievements in schools since coming to office”.

Police sprayed students to stop them entering the lecture to take part in an advertised Q&A with Pyne.

Ten student activists from the NSW Education Action Network were trapped in the small elevator at prime minister Tony Abbott's Manly office on February 9 for more than half an hour. They were told by police and firefighters that the elevator had being switched off while they were inside it.

Students were midway through a protest of the Coalition government's attempts to push university fee deregulation through the Senate again.

GLW Issue 1040

In the wake of the Queensland election result the federal government has decided to postpone a decision on whether to allow dredge spoil from a north Queensland port expansion to be dumped on nearby wetlands.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed that he will delay a decision on whether to allow dredge spoil from the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, near Bowen, to be dumped on the Caley Valley wetlands, until he can talk to the new Queensland government.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called national rallies against the federal government on March 4. They released this statement on January 30.

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Our rights at work are again under attack from the Tony Abbott government and employers.

Just last week it became even clearer that the full-scale Productivity Commission inquiry into our rights at work could deliver cuts to penalty rates, the abolition of the minimum wage, bring back unfair individual contracts and swing even more power to the employers.

The time to stand up and fight back is now.

About 3000 people marched through Sydney's inner-west suburbs of Newtown and St Peters on February 1 to show their opposition to the $12 billion WestConnex motorway project.

The project would destroy 80 homes and bulldoze sections of six local parks. Iconic Sydney Park is projected to lose 12,000 square metres of green space.

WestConnex Action Group and Reclaim the Streets organised the rally.

The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on February 5.

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Fifteen Iranian asylum seekers are on their 19th day of hunger strike in Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre.

Meanwhile, Martin, who has been on hunger strike since November last year, is very weak and close to death.

Martin and the 15 are part of a group of about 35 Iranian asylum seekers who are being held indefinitely in detention. The government is unable to remove them to Iran because the Iranian government refuses to accept forced removals from Australia.