Australian News

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.

“This has to be the last death”, Nioka Chatfield, the mother of a 22-year-old Aboriginal man who recently died in custody told a rally in Sydney on September 29.

“I nominate myself. I want to be the last Aboriginal mother crying for my child,” she told the protest that was called on the first anniversary of Wayne Fella Morrison's death in custody and the 34th anniversary of the death of John Pat in Western Australia, which sparked the Stop Black Deaths in Custody movement.

Members of the family of Ms Dhu, the 22-year-old Yamatji woman who died in custody at the South Hedland watch house in 2014, have received an apology and $1.1 million from the Western Australian government.

The WA Attorney-General said the payment does not prevent the family from pursuing further legal action against the government over Ms Dhu's death in custody.

The ACT government has declared a Reconciliation Day public holiday on the first Monday on or after the 1967 Referendum anniversary date of May 27, which marks the start of Reconciliation Week.

It is the first time in Australia an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-focused public holiday has been created.

Professor Tom Calma of Reconciliation Australia said he hoped it signalled a shift to celebrating multiculturalism, rather than the proclamation of Australia on January 26.

About 20 people attended a “Straight Lives Matter” rally organised by the far-right Party for Freedom in a Sydney park on September 23.

By contrast, about 10,000 people took part in Brisbane’s Pride march on the same day and 30,000 attended Sydney’s “Say Yes” rally on September 9.

A stage had been set up for Nick Folkes to address the anticipated throng, but the crowd was sparse, massively outnumbered by the 60 police assigned to keep order.

Consistent work by residents of Melbourne's northern suburb of Fawkner has resulted in a unanimous decision by Moreland Council to reject a development application on a site heavily contaminated with dioxin.

Dioxin is a byproduct of Agent Orange and is one of the world’s deadliest chemicals.

Moreland Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, who has been supporting residents in their campaign, told Green Left Weekly that without the community campaign such a decision would not have been possible.

"The result was a real example of people power,” she said.

TThe NSW state government is attempting to carry out the privatisation of its controversial $16.8 billion Westconnex tollway project in relative secret under pressure from the growing calls for it to be stopped.

A submission by the Sydney City Council (SCC) claims the government is planning to separate construction of road tunnels for the third stage of WestConnex from the proposed underground spaghetti road junction at Rozelle in an attempt to “de-risk the project” ahead of its sale to private investors.

Thousands of activists will converge on a range of sites around the country on October 7 to send a message to politicians to say No to Adani No to funding Adani from taxpayer’s money.

In local community events from Port Douglas to Hobart, people will gather on beaches and parks to spell out these messages in the form of human signs. 

Activists from all over Australia travelled to be part of the week of frontline action against Adani coalmine. Green Left Weekly spoke to some of them to get their thoughts on the protest.

The Australian Public Service (APS) cut more than 3600 jobs in the past year, the latest report on the sector says. Many of the jobs lost appear to be from the APS contract workforce.

The APS employed some 15,000 temporary staff in June, or 9.8% of employees. A year earlier it had some 18,000 non-ongoing staff, which was about 11.55% of the workforce.

Unions representing hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers have challenged the Fair Work Commission's decision to cut Sunday penalty rates in the Federal Court.

A full court of five judges heard the appeal over three days from September 26 against the Fair Work Commission’s decision that cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in the fast food, hospitality, retail and pharmacy sectors from July 1.

Hundreds of Streets ice-cream workers have been told they risk disciplinary action if they protest on social media about the company’s threats to cut their pay and conditions.

Streets owner Unilever has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the enterprise agreement at its Minto plant in south-western Sydney, a move that sparked the AMWU social media campaign against the company.

During the 2015 Queensland election campaign, the then-Labor opposition promised to prohibit trans-shipping operations within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as part of its commitment to protect the Reef.

Esso Longford workers have revealed the latest mascot in the fight for jobs at the company’s Gippsland gas plant. With Scabby the Rat banned by a Federal Court order, Greedy the Pig has stepped in to continue the struggle.

The workers have been on strike since June over a new enterprise agreement agreed to by three contractors in Western Australia, which then applied nationally. The workers were told to accept 15-30% wage cuts on two-week fly-in, fly-out rosters or lose their jobs.

A 22-year-old Aboriginal man has died in custody after being found unconscious in his cell at the Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 20. He was taken to hospital and died two days later.

Even before an investigation has been undertaken, the police and some media have said his death is not “suspicious” — a deliberate attempt to pass judgement that his death was a suicide.

But his family, who rallied outside Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 24 say he had no reason to self-harm.

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