Australian News

Newtown firefighters have once again set a fine example of international people-to-people solidarity by posting "Peace be with them" in Farsi on their noticeboard.

They are showing solidarity with 20 or more firefighters in Tehran, Iran, who sacrificed their lives fighting a fire in the 17-story Plasco building on January 20. The high rise was built in the early 1960s and was the tallest building at the time of its construction.

I came across members of the Iranian community who had come to thank Newtown firefighters for their solidarity.

Pro-choice activists in Queensland say the campaign for abortion law reform is entering its “final, most important stage”.

This was the assessment of Kate Marchesi and Olivia King from Young Queenslanders for the Right to Choose about the campaign to support abortion law reform measures introduced by independent state MP for Cairns, Rob Pyne.

The New South Wales state government has released changes to the state’s planning law which, if passed, will grant big mining companies more power and reduce communities and councils’ already limited rights of appeal.

The government says the changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EP&A Act) 1979, released on January 9, are primarily about promoting “confidence” in the state’s planning system.

The Socialist Alliance is fielding four activists in the March 11 Western Australia state election under the slogan “For the billions, not the billionaires!”

All four candidates are involved in the campaign to stop the Roe 8 highway and are passionate about creating a society that puts people and the planet ahead of the big corporations.

Thousands of wetlands protectors participated in a peaceful protest on January 12 at the site of the state government’s Roe 8 highway project, a $450 million extension to Stock Road across the Beeliar Wetlands.

Work on the project was delayed as hundreds toppled the temporary fence surrounding the exclusion zone around the culturally and environmentally significant site. They continued through to encircle an inner compound where a front-end loader for clearing more bush was being kept.

As Invasion Day approaches, Murri leader Sam Watson told Green Left Weekly that January 26 was “only a date when a motley collection of boats made landfall on Gadigal country to establish the colony of NSW”.

“It is important to mobilise and march [on Invasion Day] to remind everyone that an illegal invasion took place on this soil," he said..

“They came here to launch a war of genocide against the 500 sovereign nations of this land.

“They came to invade as a fully-armed military force. They massacred and slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent people.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop was quick to reiterate the Australian government’s firm support for Israel and distance it from the December 24 vote on UN Security Council resolution 2334 reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories.

The resolution was passed by the Security Council, with the United States abstaining rather than vetoing the vote, as it has traditionally done with resolutions that have criticised Israel.

The deadline for submissions to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has been extended by four months.

The royal commission was announced on July 26 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to investigate allegations of abuse of minors in the NT’s child detention system.

It came on the back of a July 25 Four Corners episode that showed youth detainees being stripped, beaten and strapped into a chair in “Guantanamo-style” conditions.

A rally for justice for David Dungay-Hill junior, a Dunghutti man from Kempsey, was organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Assocation last December 29.

Dungay-Hill, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man, was an inmate in Long Bay Prison. A sufferer of chronic diabetes, Dungay-Hill ate a biscuit in his cell to restore his blood sugar levels. For this “crime”, eight officers restrained him while another administered a sedative. Seconds later he cried “I can't breathe” and within a minute he was dead.

The United Nations adopted a historic resolution on December 24 to launch negotiations this year on a treaty to render nuclear weapons illegal.

Australia opposed the resolution. The government said US nuclear weapons are essential for security and their use could be justified in certain circumstances. This position was opposed by Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand which supported the resolution. The General Assembly vote was 113 nations in favour and 35 against, with 13 abstentions.

Speculation is increasing that the federal government will lend mining giant Adani half the $2.2 billion cost of a rail line to take coal from the proposed Carmichael coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal terminal.

The money is likely to come from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. The $5 billion infrastructure fund has granted preliminary approval for the subsidy.

The Court of Disputed Returns has dismissed an application by the Northern Territory Electoral Commission to render void the election of Yingiya Guyula to the Northern Territory seat of Nhulumbuy.

Guyula is a Yolngu leader who ran on a platform of treaty and bicultural education for the Yolngu majority seat in the August 27 NT election. After preferences were distributed, Guyula toppled the sitting Labor member Lynne Walker by eight votes. Walker was the only Labor candidate to lose their seat in that election.

In the early hours of last December 12, 55 Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) workers returned to work to the sound of bagpipes and applause.

Five hundred unionists and community members turned out to congratulate the workers on their successful 180-day campaign.

Federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg has again approved the use of a marine supply base at Port Melville in the Tiwi Islands without an environmental impact assessment and with none of the environmental conditions that were previously imposed.

A spokesperson for Frydenberg said on December 15: “The department has decided the operation of a marine supply base at Port Melville is not likely to have a significant impact on the environment and can proceed without further assessment under national environment law.

On January 11 at 6.30am, tree loppers started felling some of the 500 trees slated for destruction at Sydney Park to make way for WestConnex’s St Peters interchange near the corner of Euston Road and Campbell Street.

Before that, Steffie Leedham had climbed up to a platform connected to three trees. She told Green Left Weekly from the platform that she would stay up there “for as long as it takes to stop WestConnex vandalising Sydney Park”.

Several others tried to stop the felling but were mostly pushed aside by police. At least two were arrested.

The staff who have to adminster Centrelink’s “robo-debt” system are under huge pressure and are demanding an immediate halt to the punitive approach.

A Centrelink worker told Green Left Weekly that the system was implemented without staff being trained and that they were ill equipped to explain the debts.

In the wake of another death on Manus Island, vigils are being held around the country and more than 200 refugees on Manus Island have signed a letter calling for a Royal Commission to fully investigate IHMS (the Manus detention medical provider contracted to the Australian government) and its political control by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

A rally for justice for David Dungay-Hill Jnr, a Dunghutti man from Kempsey, was held in Sydney on December 29.

Dungay-Hill was a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who was an inmate in Long Bay Prison. A sufferer of chronic diabetes, Dungay-Hill ate a biscuit in his cell to restore his blood sugar levels. For this “crime”, eight officers restrained him while another administered a sedative. Seconds later he cried “I can't breathe” and within a minute he was dead.

In a statement at the time, Corrective Services NSW said police were not treating the death as suspicious.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on December 18.

The capture of formerly rebel-held East Aleppo by the forces of the Bashar Assad dictatorship and its foreign allies has been hailed by Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers as a decisive victory over their opponents that will end the war that has devastated the country since Assad used military force against a civilian protest movement in 2011.

In a landmark decision on December 16, the Federal Court found the minister for immigration Peter Dutton unreasonably delayed making decisions on applications for citizenship by refugees.

The court also ruled that Dutton erred in rejecting the applications for citizenship of two Afghan refugees several weeks after they commenced legal proceedings. The pair had been permanent residents of Australia for more than four years.

The federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg has again approved the use of a marine supply base at Port Melville in the Tiwi Islands without an environmental impact assessment and with none of the environmental conditions that were previously imposed.

A spokesperson for Frydenberg said on December 15: “The department has decided the operation of a marine supply base at Port Melville is not likely to have a significant impact on the environment and can proceed without further assessment under national environment law.

The Wuthathi people have been fighting to get back their spectacular ancestral lands on Cape York, from which they were removed in the 1930s, for nearly four decades. That fight was finally over after the title deeds to the land were handed back in a ceremony at Lockhart River on December 15.

Ownership of the entire white sand country, 1180 square kilometres in and around Shelburne Bay, was formally transferred to the Wuthathi people as Aboriginal freehold land.

On December 14, I paid a visit to the Beeliar Wetlands Protectors Camp in Coolbellup and witnessed the arrests of several young protesters for taking non-violent direct action against the Roe 8 highway project which threatens this precious wetlands area and significant Aboriginal sites.

“People from all around the community have assembled here to stop work on the Roe 8 freeway which is going through the Beeliar wetlands and woodlands,” Sam Wainwright, Socialist Alliance's Fremantle City Councillor told Green Left Weekly at the protest camp.

The challenge to the Tasmanian government's anti-protest laws is set to be heard by the full bench of seven High Court judges early in 2017.

On January 25, Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt were arrested in north-west Tasmania while peacefully protesting against logging when they walked into the Lapoinya Forest exclusion zone. They were the first protesters to be arrested under the controversial Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014.

Harness Racing Australia (HRA) announced on December 10 it would ban the use of whips in both racing and training from September 1 next year. This will make Australia the first country in the world to implement a ban on whips.

HRA chairman Geoff Want said the decision was taken for animal welfare reasons. "There is compelling evidence these days that society will not tolerate continued cruelty towards animals," he said.

Want said he believed some in the industry would resist change but "people are going to have to adapt to change".

Balmain Town Hall was packed out on December 8 with residents angry with the Baird Liberal government's WestCONnex tollway monster. Peter Jones, WestConnex project director of Stage 3 M4-M5 Link, addressed the meeting at the start and took several questions from the floor before leaving.

Jone refused to stay while health and transport experts addressed the meeting.

First, he tried to gain sympathy by pleading he had a cold and then he proceeded to patronise the audience.

In the early hours of December 12, 55 Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) workers returned to work to the sound of bagpipes and applause.

Five hundred unionists and community members turned out to congratulate the workers on their successful 180-day campaign.

This week, brave teachers from across the country will bring a message of hope to their class rooms. They will declare that they support refugees — and especially those on Manus Island and Nauru.

The simple act of wearing a T-shirt with the words — “Teachers for refugees” on the front and “Close the camps, Bring them here” on the back — is enough to reinforce to thousands of students that there is an alternative to cruelty.

The Western Australian Division of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) released this statement on December 9.

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In a move unprecedented in the Higher Education sector Murdoch University management have applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the enterprise agreement covering academic and general staff at the University.

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.

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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”. 

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