Australian News

Caltex workers on picketline

Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) at Caltex’s site in Lytton, Queensland commenced indefinite industrial action on October 25.

The site manufactures lubricants and motor oils. Its key clients are mining companies. It is the only Caltex lubricant manufacturing plant in the country.

After a successful morning's picket that saw trucks backed up to the motorway, NUW members at Caltex lubricants in Brisbane have voted to repeat the blockade tomorrow morning from 5am.

The University of Sydney has acknowledged many times that students have the right to peacefully protest. For 65 days that is exactly what students and supporters of the university’s Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) did — until dawn on October 25 when 15 police and 20 guards forcibly ended their protest.

The students had been protesting since the university informed students and staff on June 21 of its plan to merge SCA with the University of NSW’s Art & Design Student Centre and the National Art School in Darlinghurst.

The dispute involving 55 unfairly sacked Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) maintenance workers is achieving media fame and causing a widespread boycott of CUB products.

The community protest that began 19 weeks ago has recently exploded on social media and now includes #BoycottCUB merchandise, giant city billboards and anti-CUB parties.

Protesters outside residents being evicted

Contractors for the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project dismantled their Sydney Park construction compound on Euston Road, St Peters, on October 14, following a major community campaign to stop the works.

Residents had mounted a 24-hour-a-day camp beside the site from September 19 after receiving notification that construction, including destruction of trees, would start that day.

The Productivity Commission’s main remit seems to be giving advice on cost savings, which is at odds with its annual budget. The upkeep and functioning of the commission costs taxpayers about $33 million a year.

Clinton Pryor left Matagarup (Heirisson Island) on September 1. It was the start of his long walk to Kalgoorlie, then on to Uluru, south to Adelaide, then Melbourne and Sydney. He plans to finally arrive in Canberra in the second week of January, 2017.

Clinton is a young committed Aboriginal warrior for justice and is a supporter of Green Left Weekly.

“The thing I cherish most in my life was living in community out on country with my mother and my people. My mum was a very happy and lovely lady. She was a person who believed in happiness," he told GLW.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) approved the right-wing Australia First Party’s use of the Eureka flag as its logo on October 13, despite 11 written submissions opposing its use.

The AEC said the objectors provided “insufficient evidence” the application should be refused. It said it had no discretion to consider “historical and cultural claims” surrounding the Eureka flag. 

Ballarat Trades Hall Council secretary Brett Edgington said the decision by the AEC marked a “sad day for Australia”. 

On October 18, students delivered an open letter to Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean signed by 401 RMIT academics and staff calling on the university to dump its fossil fuel investments.

The NSW government is preparing to sell off the NSW land titles registry, the Land and Property Information (LPI) office, in a move dubbed by one economics commentator as “another dumb privatisation”.

Local and overseas banks, insurance companies and superannuation funds are said to be among potential buyers of the registry, which is expected to fetch more than $700 million.

Up to 500 people joined a protest on October 19 near NSW Parliament against the Coalition government’s plans to weaken land clearing laws.

The Coalition came to power promising famers more rights to undertake mass land clearing. Opposition has been wide-ranging.

In a backdown by the federal government on one of the most contentious elements of the Australian Border Force Act, health professionals have been removed from the definition of “immigration and border protection workers”. This leaves them free to speak out about conditions and medical treatment in Australia’s immigration detention system.

University of Sydney professor Rick Shine has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his work in teaching Australia’s native animals to give cane toads a wide berth.

Sue Bolton, a long-term socialist activist running for re-election to the Moreland City Council, is being targeted by cowardly racists. But that has helped galvanise a huge amount of community support for her work and principled stands.

Larrakia welcome to country and smoking ceremony

Two hundred people rallied outside Parliament House in Darwin on October 18, demanding the new Labor government keep its pre-election promise for a broad scientific inquiry into the unconventional gas industry and a moratorium on shale gas fracking.

Thousands protest proposed nuclear waste dump

About 3000 people rallied on the steps of Parliament House on October 16 to protest against the state and federal governments’ plans to create nuclear waste dumps in South Australia.

This year the state government held the expensive — and some would say biased — Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, which found South Australia was the perfect place to store the world's high-grade nuclear waste. It has just initiated a public consultation into the general idea of storing nuclear waste, which will continue into next year.

On October 10, 90% of poultry workers at Golden Farms processing plant in Geelong voted in favour of a protected action ballot and to reject the company's offer on a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

The National Union of Workers (NUW) has been having regular meetings with delegates, as well as mass members’ meetings, over the past few weeks to canvass members’ opinions on the conditions that are most important to them and to plan a campaign to put pressure on the company.

The Department of Education said more than 150 private schools across Australia received funding above their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), which measures a school’s entitlement to public funding, while needy public schools remain significantly underfunded.

Federal and state governments would have more than $215 million extra a year to distribute to needy schools if they stopped funding others above their entitlement.

Over-funded schools received more than $1 billion in federal government funding.

Protesters from Fossil Free Melbourne University staged a mock oil spill outside the university’s administration building on October 10.

They were protesting against the university's investment in 21 of Australia’s most polluting fossil fuel companies.

Dressed in HazMat suits, they pretended to clean up an “oil spill” of black plastic, with blackened toy animals and oil barrels placed around the scene.  

More than 100 people rallied at Todd Mall, Alice Springs, against youth incarceration and torture on October 11. The national day of protest included actions in Darwin, Newcastle, Adelaide and Sydney and coincided with the first day of the Royal Commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory.

Stephen Jolly has been a socialist councillor on Yarra City Council since 2004. In the October 22 election he is standing as part of a team of seven socialist activists across all three wards in Yarra.

It has been 125 days since the Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) plant in Abbotsford sacked 55 electricians and fitters, who have a combined history of 906 years of service at CUB, and a protest was begun at the brewery gates.

Since then, the ownership and labour contractor of CUB have changed and thousands of Australians have joined a boycott of CUB products.

The Senate voted on October 10 to pass legislation aimed at blocking the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement.

Those voting for the law were the Coalition, Pauline Hanson's One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team and right-wing independents David Leyonhjelm and Derryn Hinch. Labor, the Greens and independent Jacqui Lambie opposed the bill.

It was standing room only on October 8 for the launch of the Walyalup (Fremantle) activist centre.

The centre, which serves as the local Socialist Alliance branch office and bookshop, will also be available as a meeting and outreach space for local grassroots community groups.

Already the Fremantle Refugee Rights Action Network meets there fortnightly. Soon the office will feature a Nyoongar advocacy service run by local custodian Corina Abraham.

The campaign to save Sydney University’s Sydney College of the Arts is celebrating another victory in its long battle with management.

Seven weeks after students occupied SCA administration offices in protest at the university’s determination to close the school, deputy vice-chancellor Stephen Garton has declared a six-month reprieve.

In an email to students late last month, Garton said SCA would remain at its Callan Park campus next year: “I can advise it is very unlikely teaching of any SCA subjects will take place on Camperdown campus in the first semester 2017.”

A Kurdish journalist charged with being a member of a proscribed terrorist group — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — was granted bail in the NSW Supreme Court on October 14. He was released on strict conditions, including a surety of $1.5 million.

Sydney-based Renas Lelikan was charged after he returned to Australia in July from northern Iraq, where the PKK is fighting Islamic State (IS).

Pauline Pantsdown was the highlight act of the Green Left Weekly Sydney Comedy Night at the Leichhardt Town Hall on October 8.

More than 300 people packed into the hall to see her perform her famous songs Backdoor Man and I Don’t Like it to huge applause.

Other comedians who delighted the crowd included: Kirsty Mac, Suren Jayemanne, Carlo Sands and Peter Green. The night, with the theme of “Halal Certified Comedy: Please Explain?” was MCed by Helchild.

Greens Senator Nick McKim speaking at the rally in Hobart.

Every day, people’s human rights are violated. In detention centres like those on Nauru and Manus Island, such violations are not just allowed but enforced by the Australian government. However, last month people stood together for nine hours to tell the Australian government that they would not accept it any longer. 

The vigil was held in the Hobart CBD from 10am to 7pm. People took turns reading to onlookers from the Nauru case files that were recently leaked by the Guardian. Others held placards and banners with messages of solidarity for the people in detention centres at Manus and Nauru. 

The Geelong refinery dispute may not hold the record for the longest campaign for workers’ rights, but the dispute over safety nevertheless won due to a concerted campaign.

Hundreds of Australian Services Union members marched through the streets of Melbourne on October 12 as part of a long running campaign against an unfair enterprise agreement at the City of Melbourne.

BP announced on October 11 that it has abandoned plans for a $1.4 billion program to explore for oil in the Great Australian Bight, off South Australia.

The British petroleum giant said the decision, which delighted environmental groups, was made because the project was not economically viable. It said it would instead focus on projects it could exploit in the short-to-medium term.

On October 10, a protest was held outside the Philippines Consulate in Sydney by the NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) as part of a global week of action by the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) against recently elected Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign of extrajudicial executions of real and alleged drug users and dealers. More than 3500 such extrajudicial executions have taken place since Duterte assumed office on June 30. The statement below was released by INPUD.

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Thousands of people gathered in Melbourne as part of a national day of action for equal marriage on October 8. The vibrant rally's clear demand no to a plebiscite and to put the bill, pass the bill for marriage equality.

Photos by Alison Eldridge

About 50 people rallied on October 2 in a show of solidarity with the peoples of West Papua, and to protest the ongoing genocide and dispossession that has been carried out by a rapacious Indonesian state against the Indigenous population since the 1960s.

After some spirited speeches, including by members of the small local West Papuan community in exile, the rally set off for a short march from Town Hall to the New South Wales Parliament.

The rally also expressed its support for:

Three hundred workers assembled at the entry of the Geelong oil refinery on October 7 for a community protest against unsafe conditions at the refinery.

The 60-year-old refinery, previously operated by Shell, was bought by Viva Energy Australia in August 2014, and it immediately pledged $150 million for maintenance work.

The battle over the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project through the inner-western suburbs is heating up.

The Sydney Motorway Corporation has been granted conditional approval by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to commence work in Sydney Park, meaning dozens of trees are set for removal.

Refugee activists attended a meeting on October 3 to discuss strategy for the refugee rights movement.

The meeting was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) in response to an article written by Robert Manne, Tim Costello, Frank Brennan and John Menadue calling for a "compromise" solution to "our refugee crisis".

RAC invited Manne to speak at the forum. Chris Breen spoke on behalf of RAC.

It has been 17 weeks since Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) terminated, through a contract arrangement, its entire maintenance staff and informed them they could come back to work under non-union terms and with a 65% wage cut.

It is expected that on October 10 CUB will be bought by AB InBev, the largest brewer in the world. It is hoped the new owners will overhaul the management framework and reinstate the sacked workers on their previous wages and conditions.

Refugee supporters rallied in Sydney on October 5 in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru who held their 200th consecutive day of protest against their illegal detention that day.

Speakers included Danielle Austin, a former nurse on Christmas Island and convener of Mums for Refugees; Dr Barri Phatarfod, a convener of Doctors4Refugees; and Judith Reen, a former teacher on Nauru.

The Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham announced on October 5 that the federal government will shut down the failed VET FEE-HELP scheme.

The scheme, which has been comprehensively rorted by private for-profit providers, will be replaced with a new more tightly regulated and capped loans scheme.

The government will prohibit the use of brokers to recruit students and place greater emphasis on students actually completing courses.

On September 28 police in the central New South Wales town of Cowra shot Dennis “DJ” Doolan in the lower back or buttocks after a “confrontation” on a suburban street. Doolan remains in an induced coma at Orange Base Hospital.

Then, on October 3, an Indigenous man was shot by West Australian police in Broome. Police media alleged the 66-year-old man from the remote Indigenous community of Balgo had “threatened police officers with a knife” before he was shot.