Australian News

Racist and fascist groups have graffitied Sydney University. In mid-April, a pro-Le Pen group — supporters of the far right candidate in the French presidential elections for the virulently anti-Muslim, anti-refugee National Front — graffitied the campus.

About 300 people rallied outside the Queen Victoria Market on April 28 to protest the City of Melbourne’s $250 million plans to “redevelop” the market as an entertainment space and gourmet food precinct.

The council bought a prime piece of land next to the market in 2014 for $76 million. It then sold it to developer PDG for $33 million which plans to build a 200 metre high-rise tower. The council plans to use the cash to fund the redevelopment.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown and Hobart nurse Jessica Hoyt began a landmark High Court challenge to Tasmania's draconian anti-protest laws on May 2. The 2014 legislation allows police to stop protests before they even begin on business premises and access areas.

The two were arrested for peaceably protesting against the logging of the Lapoinya State Forest near Burnie on Tasmania’s north-west coast in January last year. Police dropped the charges against Brown and Hoyt after they began their High Court challenge.

“The Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria: An experiment in radical democracy, feminism and ecology” is the title of a conference to be held here over June 30 and July 1.

A joint project of the Australians for Kurdistan solidarity group and the Kurdish Democratic Community Centre (formerly the Kurdish Association of Victoria), the event aims to spread knowledge about the Rojava Revolution and build support for it.

A new campaign to “Repower NSW with clean energy” was launched on April 19, organised by the NSW Nature Conservation Council (NCC).

Professor Lesley Hughes, from Macquarie University told the crowd that human-induced climate change over the past 50 years meant the “Earth is warming 170 times faster now than in the past 7000 years”.

Australia’s largest energy company, AGL Energy, says Australia’s transition away from a coal-powered national grid to renewables will largely bypass gas, and shift straight to wind and solar.

As politicians and the gas lobby talk about the need to guarantee supply of gas, the company founded 180 years ago as the Australian Gas Light Company, says the combination of wind and solar and battery storage is already cheaper than new gas generators.

The federal government is spending up to $18.9 million to trial the cashless welfare card for 1850 people.

Data published by the Department of Social Services show the government is paying the debit card provider, Indue, at least $7.9 million, while the Social Service Department's administrative costs are $2.6 million. The government is also spending $2.6 million on additional supports, such as drug and alcohol services.

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The Brisbane Labour Day rally was touted as "historic" and one of the largest rallies in recent years with approximately 30,000 unionists marching in Brisbane. Other rallies took place in regional centres around Queensland.

Opposition to penalty rate cuts was strong throughout the rally with most union contingents featuring signs on the issue. Queensland Council of Unions officials also highlighted the issue on the day.

Staff at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have voted to strike for a week following Fairfax Media's announcement that it will cut 125 editorial jobs —a quarter of its journalists — as part of a $30-million restructure.

Staff were informed of the job cuts by email and in a meeting with editorial director Sean Aylmer on May 3. They have been given until May 9 to nominate for a voluntary redundancy.

Twenty-two Canberra school cleaners won a claim for underpayment in the Federal Court on April 21, in a case launched on their behalf by United Voice.

Nineteen of the workers are S’gaw Karen refugees from Myanmar, who spent two decades in refugee camps in Thailand before being resettled in Australia. 

The part-time school cleaners had been pressured into signing contracts they did not understand, paid by different business entities without explanation either to the workers or the ACT government and routinely exposed to unsafe working conditions.

About 5000 people in Sydney, 2000 in Melbourne and 1000 in Brisbane gathered on April 22, heeding an international call by scientists in the US, who were protesting the massive cuts to the 2018 science budget proposed by President Donald Trump.

The cuts would apply to the US National Institute of Health, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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.

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