Australian News

While polls are giving the Yes vote for marriage equality a substantial lead, campaigners for equality do not want to leave any vote to chance. 

They have and are organising across the country until November 7 — the final deadline to return postal survey forms to the Australian Electoral Commission.

The iconic Bondi Pavilion on the foreshore of Bondi Beach has been saved from privatisation, and discussions have commenced about plans for its future as a cultural centre and creative hub.

The big swing against the Liberal Party in recent council elections resulted in former Liberal mayor of Waverley Council Sally Betts, who was pushing hard for the commercialisation of the pavilion, being replaced as mayor.

The October 17 edition of The Age has a front page story about bullying and sexual harassment in the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

The article said: "Women working for the CFA have been sexually assaulted and harassed amid a culture of fear, bullying and impunity, according to a leaked internal report whose existence has been a tightly held secret until now."

Martin Rorke gave this speech at a speakout for marriage equality at Sydney University on October 11.

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I am a member of staff here at the University of Sydney and I support same sex marriage. I am also a member of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and I'm proud that my union is fully behind the Yes campaign. 

More than 200 staff and students rallied outside the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) after staff took protected strike action on October 19.

Vince Caughley, UTS Branch President of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) told Green Left Weekly: “The major aim of our industrial action was to send a message to UTS management to respond to our claims. The NTEU has been bargaining for six months and as yet no senior management figures have come to negotiate with us.

Protests are continuing in Manus Island detention centre as refugees resist the Australian government's plans to move them to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre. Two refugees have died since August and numerous others have been attacked by locals in East Lorengau.

Traditional Owners from the Gulf Country in the Northern Territory showed their opposition to fracking  for shale gas outside Origin Energy’s AGM on October 18. The protest was organised by SEED — the Indigenous Youth Climate Network.

Traditional Owner Nancy Hoosan said: “I’m not just talking for myself and my people, I’m talking for everyone. No matter what colour you are or what language you speak, we drink the same water.

“Australian government, listen to us. We don’t want fracking in our country.”

The Victorian Government’s announcement on October 18 that it will ban single-use plastic shopping bags is a welcome step towards reducing plastic pollution.

Victoria will join South Australia, ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania, which already have similar bans in place. Queensland and WA will follow in 2018, leaving NSW as the only state to allow the bags.

A single-use plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes on average, but can take up to 1000 years to break down.

A new report by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), The Living Forests, has highlighted Australia as the only developed country in the top 10 deforestation hotspots.

WWF predicted up to 6 million hectares would be cleared in Eastern Australia by 2030, ranking it with the Amazon, Vietnam, Borneo and the Congo.

The NSW bus drivers’ union has warned the public that services in the Ryde area could be next in line for privatisation, as the campaign against the sell-off of inner-western Sydney bus operations continues.

In May, the state Coalition government put services from four bus depots — Tempe, Kingsgrove, Burwood and Leichhardt — out to private tender, provoking widespread outrage from workers and the community.

The Coalition Against WestConnex (CAW) hand-delivered more than 10,000 written submissions and community objections to the WestConnex M4-M5 Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the Planning Department’s head office on October 16.

Spokesperson for WestConnex Action Group and No WestConnex: Public Transport Anne Picot said: “This unprecedented number of objections to the Stage 3 EIS represents the strength of opposition to WestConnex, and the traffic inducing M4-M5 Link. We are confident that thousands more objections have been lodged on-line.

The walls of the National Gallery of Victoria ran red on October 14 as activist group the Artists’ Committee, an informal association of artists and arts workers opposed to the detention of asylum seekers, continued its project to pressure the National Gallery of Victoria to immediately end its contract with Wilson Security.

Wilson Security provides security services to both the gallery and Australia’s offshore detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru and is known to have committed human rights abuses against asylum seekers and refugees.

Chevron has become the second big oil company to abandon plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight off the South Australian coast, a year after BP cancelled its plans to drill.

Oil companies say the Bight has similar potential to the Gulf of Mexico, site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, which was the largest marine oil spill in history and killed 11 people.

Every year, the Sydney Peace Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation partnered with the University of Sydney, presents the Sydney Peace Prize to activists fighting for positive social or environmental change.

The prize, which includes a $500,000 award, provides a platform for the activists to increase their reach and spread awareness for their causes. It has been presented annually since 1998 and is a valuable form of recognition of non-violent, influential activism. Last year’s award recipient was author and environmental activist, Naomi Klein. 

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has condemned the federal Coalition government for allowing multinational company Serco to operate a Centrelink call centre, saying the move will put thousands of vulnerable people at risk.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has announced Serco subsidiary Serco Citizen Services will begin operating a Centrelink call centre in Melbourne within weeks, with 250 full-time equivalent staff.

Major corporations and multinational companies are dodging up to $3.5 billion in company tax every year, according to new figures released by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on October 11. After audit checks by the ATO, this figure could be reduced to $2.5 billion.

Delegates to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National Council, the union’s annual conference, condemned Murdoch University and Victoria University managements’ anti-union attacks and called for enterprise agreements to be terminated only where workers and unions agree.

The Federal Court has dismissed a legal challenge by United Voice and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) to the Fair Work Commission's (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates for pharmacy, hospitality, retail and fast food workers.

The court found on October 11 that the commission met its legal obligations when it decided in February to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for full- and part-time workers.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is prosecuting a case under the Horticultural Award, which could have wide implications for piece rates — where a worker is paid for the units produced or actions performed rather than an hourly rate.

The case centres on the alleged underpayment of more than 400 mushroom pickers at a farm south of Brisbane in 2014.

FWO said under the Horticulture Award 2010 a piece rate should allow a worker to earn at least the minimum hourly rate plus 15%.

Electricians working on the Sydney Opera House renovation scored a win on October 9 after they stopped work over asbestos on site. SafeWork NSW issued a Prohibition Notice to builder Laing O'Rourke banning work on ceilings where friable asbestos was identified.

It ordered the main contractor Downer to conduct an independent inspection of the site.

This meets the demands raised by Electrical Trades Union (ETU) members who walked off the job on October 6.

ETU organiser Stewart Edward said the victory came because of strong collective action by union members.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by Greens MP Jamie Parker over her 2012 decision to grant a 20-year lease extension on government-owned land in Leichhardt without going to public tender.

Anti-motorway community group Leichhardt Against WestConnex (LAW) has demanded that negotiations to buy the contentious Dan Murphy’s bottleshop site in Darley Road for use as a mid-tunnel dive site for the WestConnex M4-M5 Link must stop until details of its lease to a private company are independently examined.

The Queensland parliament has given its stamp of approval to another corporatisation measure for universities on October 10. A new law reduces staff and student representation on university councils or senates and changes other parts of the seven universities’ power structures in favour of management.

University managements, headed by their vice-chancellors, have been pushing for years for their governing bodies to have less staff and student representation. These are the elected members of the councils.

An individual risks a $44,000 fine for unauthorised access to Sydney’s water catchments. But the NSW Coalition government has just rammed through a new law allowing Centennial Coal to continue to pollute one of the main waterways in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment, which supplies water to 4 million people in western Sydney.

After more than four years of systemic torture, six deaths and the Papua New Guinea Supreme court ruling its presence unconstitutional, Manus Island detention centre and the fate of the several hundred men in it, is coming to a head.

The Australian government is ramping up its efforts to close the centre by the end of October, demolishing the centre around the several hundred men it is leaving stranded on Manus Island.

Thousands of people converged on more than 40 sites around Australia on October 7 to make human signs spelling out “Stop Adani”.

The National Day of Action was called by the Stop Adani Alliance, a national grouping of large environmental NGOs. But what made it happen on the ground were the many grassroots groups that had been organising in their local communities to build the mass movement needed to combat climate change.

New polling released on October 7 shows most Australians oppose Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine and an even bigger majority are against the company receiving a $1 billion federal loan through the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility.

Aboriginal activist Dylan Voller could be charged with breaching his parole for taking part in a peaceful demonstration. On September 29, police in Alice Springs arrested Dylan and his mother Joanne Voller, among others, at a peaceful demonstration calling for youth prisons to be shut and justice for victims of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

A powerful gathering of Indigenous leaders and community members from across the Northern Territory marched together in the remote town of Elliott on October 7.

The gathering — Kudij Karrilyi: Stand Strong for Country — pledged to ensure the region’s land, water and culture are kept strong and healthy for future generations to enjoy.

They were there to highlight the underground and surface water connections in the Beetaloo gas basin, an area spanning about one-third of the Northern Territory, which has been targeted for hydraulic fracturing gasfield development.

The several hundred men on Manus Island, still detained after more than four years, scattered red petals over pictures of Rajeev Rajendran on the evening of October 2.

A hand-drawn banner, illuminated by flickering candles, spelled out the mood of the memorial.

Below a picture of Rajendran the men wrote: “R.I.P. We are all in the queue. How many more you want to kill?”

Socialist Alliance candidates for Brownbill Ward in the Geelong Council election, Sue Bull and Sarah Hathway, who were among the first women candidates to nominate, have released their preferences, with the top seven positions going to progressive female candidates.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) warned that the Queensland government’s September 29 proposal to significantly expand the Port of Townsville, will further damage the ailing Great Barrier Reef.

An extraordinary Inner West Council meeting called by Greens councillors on October 3 to discuss supporting residents’ groups’ campaign against the WestConnex tollway project resulted in very little.

The Labor Mayor Darcy Byrne dominated the five-hour meeting, filibustering to prevent four motions from being discussed. Byrne, who regularly proclaims that “democracy has been restored to council”, insisted that his motions in the form of two “Mayoral minutes”, which had not been circulated, take centre stage.

Members of several trade unions rallied outside NSW government offices in Farrer Place on October 4 as part of a national day of action to demand 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all workers.

Workers at the Streets ice-cream factory in Minto are planning a boycott of Streets products — including the iconic Paddle Pop — if Unilever continues its efforts in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to end their enterprise agreement.

Kone lift workers have won a 16% pay rise after a six-week campaign.

About 200 Kone employees voted to accept in principle the much-improved company offer.

The breakthrough came after ETU and AMWU members took five four-day and one six-day stoppages over six weeks.

Workers will soon receive a 5% increase in pay backdated to March, with instalments of 4.5%, 4.5% and 2% to follow annually.

About 800 aged care nurses and carers in 26 Victorian Bupa nursing homes are set to take protected industrial action.

The first stage will include wearing campaign t-shirts, handing out campaign materials, bans on certain paperwork and speaking to the media.

The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has been negotiating with Bupa management for improved staffing levels, skill mix, wages and working conditions for the past 14 months.

In echoes of the case of Ms Dhu, a Noongar mother-of-five called police for help during a family violence incident, but they instead ran a background check on her. They found an outstanding warrant for $3900 in unpaid fines, relating to an unregistered dog in 2012. She was jailed for 14 days in lieu of payment.

Former Sydney Swans player, anti-racism campaigner and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney on September 30. The Adnyamathanha and Narungga man was named a Doctor of Health Sciences (honoris causa) for his work in supporting the Indigenous community, his charity work, his community leadership and his sporting exploits.

Polls released in the first week of October have shown a surge in support for marriage equality, the result of new Australian Electoral Commission enrolments by young people, women and inner-city residents who are more likely to vote Yes.

About a dozen neo-Nazis stormed the Moreland Council meeting on September 27 following the council's decision at their last meeting not to celebrate Australia Day on January 26.

Councillor Sue Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly she "didn't feel threatened" by the protesters, who "looked like buffoons", but that their actions indicate how provocative and confident they have become.

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