Australian News

In a victory for the people-powered campaign against the Adani Carmichael coalmine, Westpac ruled out lending its funds to the corporation on April 28.

In a face-saving letter to Westpac employees, CEO Brian Hartzer talked up the company’s commitment to a net zero emissions economy and said its Third Climate Change Action Plan would help do this.

Two asylum seekers who had been detained in Australia's offshore detention camps spoke at a forum organised by Refugee Action Collective Victoria on April 22.

Ravi, a Tamil asylum seeker from Sri Lanka now living in Australia, told the forum how he spent two years on Nauru after surviving a 22-day boat journey. He said he had left one "hell", as a former political prisoner in Sri Lanka, only to be sent to another "hell" on Nauru.

Koalas on the NSW North Coast are threatened with extinction by proposed increases in logging intensity and imminent extensions of timber contracts, according to the North East Forest Alliance.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said: “In order to meet current wood supply contracts, the NSW Government plans to zone most of the coastal state forests for intensive logging and clearfelling, and to remove the already inadequate protection for core koala habitat.

Residents from across NSW’s Southern Highlands packed the Exeter Hall on April 26, concerned about a proposed new coal mine — the first new mine in Sydney water catchment in more than 30 years. The meeting was organised by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to discuss the environmental impact statement (EIS).

Dozens of residents and supporters protested on April 26 and 27 in Euston Road, Alexandria, against the destruction of more than 70 trees as part of road widening works for the controversial WestConnex St Peters Interchange.

The destruction is part of work to widen Euston Road from four lanes to seven. The plan would bring about 70,000 cars and trucks a day to within 180cm of more than 90 apartments and townhouses.

A group of West Papuans living in Australia and their supporters are walking 73 kilometres from Geelong to Melbourne over April 26 to 30 to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses experienced by indigenous West Papuans who have lived under Indonesian occupation since 1963 and to raise awareness of the campaign for a free West Papua.

The distance of 73 kilometres was chosen to signify the distance between Australian territory (Deliverance Island) and West Papua.

The federal government has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation to a nine-year-old girl who was detained on Christmas Island for almost a year, after arriving in Australia with her parents by boat in 2013.

She was part of a class action launched in 2014 that initially aimed to secure compensation for thousands of asylum seekers.

Her lawyers argued she had developed post-traumatic stress disorder, a dental infection, a stammer and separation anxiety in detention and still needs ongoing medical treatment.

Hunter Valley farmer wins environmental prize

Hunter Valley dairy farmer Wendy Bowman, 83, who has battled for community rights against coal mining since the 1980s, has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. The prize is the world's pre-eminent environmental award for grassroots conservation, supporting individuals taking extraordinary actions to win victories against the odds.

The Erskine Park community hall was packed on April 13 as hundreds of local residents expressed their opposition to The Next Generation’s controversial plan to build a waste-to-energy incinerator.

The incinerator would be located only 800 metres from homes and 1.8 kilometres from three local schools. Prospect Reservoir forms part of Sydney's drinking water and is only 5 kilometres from the proposed site: this would put the drinking water of 4.5 million people under threat of contamination from toxic particulates.

Palestinian cook and writer Laila El-Haddad recently completed a successful Australian tour. Weaving stories of Palestinian life through her demonstrations of a cuisine that is unfamiliar to many Australians, Laila showed curious foodies how food, culture, resistance and occupation intersect and what it is like to live through such a heady mix.

On April 19, the first anniversary of the tragic death of Josh Park-Fing at his Work for the Dole site in Toowoomba, the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union held rallies in Sydney and Melbourne to demand Justice For Josh and that the dangerous, discriminatory and exploitative Work for the Dole and Community Development Program be shut down. 

The total cost of building the controversial WestConnex tollway, plus necessary connecting roads, could reach $45 billion, according to an analysis by the Sydney City Council. The council's analysis adds the estimated $29 billion cost of building and widening new and existing roads to support traffic flows from the 33-kilometre project, to the $17 billion cost of WestConnex itself.

Multinational timber industry giant Carter Holt Harvey has indefinitely locked out about 150 workers who are members of the Electrical Trades Union; Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union; and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union at the company's Myrtleford plyboard manufacturing site.

The lock out began at 2.30am on April 19.

It follows a breakdown in enterprise agreement negotiations between the company and unions.

Union members are seeking improved income protection insurance coverage and a significantly better wage rise than the company is offering.

The NSW Coalition government’s decision to lease the 150-year-old Land Titles Registry to a private consortium of Hastings Funds Management and First State Super is "a recipe for disaster" for millions of property owners across the state, the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) said on April 12.

First State is a $59 billion superannuation fund, which developed from a NSW public sector fund. Hastings is owned by Westpac Bank.

Workers at Fletcher Insulation in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs have been on indefinite strike since February 17 after being offered an Enterprise Agreement (EA) that would slash conditions, raise serious safety concerns and offer no pay rise.

Fletcher Insulation produces heat, fire and sound insulation for residential and business properties. New Zealand-owned Fletcher took over the Dandenong factory from ACI Glass several years ago.

About 150 people joined an emergency protest in Melbourne on April 17 telling the government to bring the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia.

The protest came after sailors from the Papua New Guinea navy fired shots into the detention centre and locals attacked refugees.

The South Australian Racing Minister Leon Bignell has called on the state’s horseracing authority to ban jumps racing after five-year-old Wheeler Fortune was euthanised on April 15 after falling during the Somerled Hurdle race in Oakbank.

Bignell called on Thoroughbred Racing SA to act, labelling jumps racing “cruel and “barbaric”. But the controlling body said jumps racing was an “integral part” of the sport and would continue.

The federal government announced on April 13 the Emissions Reduction Fund had spent another $133 million on carbon emissions abatement.

This included about $100 million on planting trees to save the equivalent of 8.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

At the same time the states permit land clearing and deforestation that emits millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and is responsible for 8% of Australia’s emissions.

An emergency protest organised by Sydney Stop the War Coalition, held as the US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Sydney on April 21, drew a range of networks concerned about old and new — possibly — nuclear wars.

Staff at stationery chain Kikki.K will be the first employees covered by an enterprise agreement to directly face cuts as a result of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut weekend penalty rates.

The 550 Kikki.K workers are covered by a new enterprise agreement approved last month.

It has a clause that allows it to cut public holiday and Sunday penalty rates without any opportunity to renegotiate when the FWC's cuts to the retail award come into effect.

The deal was struck without the involvement of any union or employee bargaining representatives.

Trawling to be banned in Tasmanian waters

Legislation was introduced into Tasmanian Parliament on April 6 to permanently ban trawling in the state’s waters. The amendment to the Living Marine Resource Management Act 1995 will ban trawlers of any size, including supertrawlers, and will also ban practices such as double trawl netting in Tasmanian waters.

Refugees and asylum seekers in Manus Island detention centre were attacked on April 14, including being fired at with live ammunition. People inside have described it as being "like a war".

Papua New Guinea (PNG) locals began attacking the centre on the evening of April 14. Police may be involved as well as the PNG Navy.

Pictures obtained by activists show bullet holes in Fox Compound, where refugees were taking refuge.

MUA Warns Historic Peace on the Docks Under Threat within Patrick’s Terminal Posted by Mua communications on April 09, 2017

The Maritime Union of Australia warns Qube Logistics is threatening the newly-struck national peace on the docks by opening a small, effectively non-unionised container yard within Patrick’s Port Botany Terminal.

For years, women have had to endure attempts by a small numbers of religious extremists trying to humiliate and shame them outside abortion clinics.

Two states and both territories have passed laws banning this harassment. Now, New South Wales could be doing the same, as two bills are about to be bought before the state parliament.

A packed audience listened as young Aboriginal women spoke about the rise of the Aboriginal rights movement and the struggle for Treaty at the Redfern Community Centre on March 22. Chaired by Jeff McMullen, the discussion was held as the federal government organises an Indigenous-led Referendum Council meeting to be held in Uluru in May.

Lynda-June Coe from Fighting in Solidarity Toward Treaties (FISTT) opened the forum by saying Treaty was the way forward and land rights were key.

Opponents of the $16.8bn WestConnex tollway project held a lively protest outside NSW Parliament on April 6 built around two demands: Not another cent for WestConnex; and No new tolls. 

The rally was called by a broad coalition of local groups opposed to WestConnex and to the new tolls that will soon be imposed on the M4 to help pay for Stage 3 of this disastrous motorway project. It featured speakers from Labor, the Greens, the Clover Moore Team in Sydney City Council and Unions NSW.

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory released its interim report on March 31. Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White are now due to deliver their final report on August 1.

Thousands of people turned out to packed out and sold out #StopAdani roadshow meetings in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne between March 28-31. The enthusiastic response is a tangible demonstration that the Adani Carmichael coalmine project can be defeated.

The controversial Adani Carmichael coalmine was granted an unlimited 60-year water licence by the Queensland government on March 29. Environmentalists fear the mine will drain huge amounts of water from the Great Artesian Basin and say it is yet another example of governments giving the mine special treatment.

The office of Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad was occupied for 11 hours on April 4 by Galilee Blockade grandparent activists. As Infrastructure Minister, Trad has the power to veto the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan funding to Adani (or Aurizon) for the development of rail links, which are essential for the coalmine to go ahead. 

President Ashraf Ghani’s first visit to Australia prompted a sizable protest on April 3 among the Australian Hazara community amid claims of institutional discrimination against Hazaras in Afghanistan.

Numbering thousands, peaceful protesters gathered from across the country and demanded from the Afghan President equality, fair distribution of resources, and an end to governmental discrimination.

Independent Member for Cairns Rob Pyne has called on the Queensland state government to establish a state-owned insurance office to ease the increasingly unaffordable home insurance premiums in Queensland.

"As students, penalty rates can be your main sources of income,” Susie Elliott, a member of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), told a "Save our penalty rates: Hands off our pay," rally in Pitt Street Mall on April 2.

“Often, you can't work during the week because of classes, and you'd rather be doing something else on a Sunday, but you need the money to buy food. That's why we need penalty rates. This system should be working for the people, not the big corporations."

An analysis of the latest data published on the MySchool website for the Australian Education Union, shows that between 2009 and 2015, education spending by Commonwealth and state governments increased nearly three times as much to the independent sector and twice as much to Catholic schools as to public schools.

The analysis showed that between 2009 and 2015, combined state and federal funding rose by 38.7% for independent schools, 35.6% for Catholic schools and only 17.6% for public schools.

A new Amnesty International report Treasure I$land: How companies are profiting from Australia’s abuse of refugees on Nauru, has warned companies considering taking over Australia’s offshore detention centres when Broadspectrum’s contract expires in October that they would be participating in a deliberately abusive regime and would be complicit in “torture”.

Peter Cundall turns 90

Peter Cundall’s 90th birthday on April 1 was celebrated in Hobart with “Pete’s Picnic”, a public picnic in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.

Born in Manchester to a poverty-stricken family in 1927, Cundall migrated to Tasmania in 1956.

He became a household name as the host of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia but his love of nature also led him to become an environmental activist.

He was involved with protests against the Franklin Dam in the 1970s and ’80s.

Victorian teachers, education support staff, academics, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will take action over the first week of May to support refugees who have been detained by the Australian government.

The “Bring them Here” action will involve four groups of unionists wearing T-shirts to work and elsewhere. The four unions will also hold a rally in the CBD.

The action was initiated by Teachers for Refugees (TFR), a rank-and-file group within the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU).

About 50 Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members and supporters occupied the foyer of the Brisbane offices of Rio Tinto on March 28.

Rio Tinto has reneged on its agreement with the MUA to have 70–80% Australian crew on its coastal fleet. Instead it is using exploited foreign workers who are paid $3–4 per hour. This is despite posting a $6 billion profit last year.

Supporters of abortion rights gathered outside St Mary’s Cathedral on March 26 to declare their support for choice.

The action was organised to counter the annual anti-choice “Day of the Unborn Child” event, described as “a peaceful march to protect preborn babies”. In reality, it is designed to perpetrate myths and shame anyone thinking of, or who has had, an abortion.

Environmentalists are outraged that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has called for a review of the protection status of Victoria’s faunal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, so new logging zones in Victoria’s central highlands can be opened.

Joyce wrote to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on March 26, criticising the decision to reduce the logging quota offered to Gippsland’s Heyfield mill operators Australian Sustainable Hardwood (ASH) from 155,000 cubic metres a year to 80,000 cubic metres in 2017–18 and 60,000 cubic metres in the next two years.

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