Australian News

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) has reported a huge disparity in the superannuation that women retire on compared with men.

Last year, the mean superannuation balance for women across all age groups – from workers just starting out to retirees – was $68,000, compared with $112,000 for men.

Women who retired in 2016 had an average super balance of $157,000, while men had an average balance of $271,000.

Staff at Victoria University (VU) are bearing the brunt of the latest attack in what is an industry-wide push by university managements to wind back conditions in the sector.

Hundreds of refugee activists gave a voice to the men in the abandoned Manus Island detention centre at a rally in Perth on November 5 organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network WA.

The 600 men remaining on Manus Island have been deprived food, water and medical aid since the centre’s closure on October 30.

They read out messages from six of the men using a ‘human microphone’, when one person reads a sentence and the crowd repeats it. Below are the messages they read out.

Members of the family of David Dungay, who was killed by prison officers in Long Bay jail almost two years ago, gathered outside the Coroners Court on November 8 to demand justice and that action be taken against those officers involved in his death.

Speaking to the media, David's mother Leetona said: "After two years, this process has taken too long. We are going to fight this to the end. My son has been cruelly taken away from us, and I am demanding that justice is finally done for him."

The results of the 2017 City of Greater Geelong Council elections have been declared, with Greens candidate Sarah Mansfield being elected in Brownbill Ward.

Mansfield won more than 17% of the primary vote. Her election was aided by a strong preference flow from residents who voted for Socialist Alliance (SA) candidates Sue Bull and Sarah Hathway.

If there is one thing I have learnt from being involved in this campaign over the past decade, it is that seeing people protesting, known that someone cares about you and is watching, has always made a difference to people suffering in detention.

Angered by the latest round of cuts, staff at Victoria University (VU) held a protest outside a university council meeting on November 2.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) national president Jeannie Rea told protesters she had worked at VU for 20 years. She said that more than 100 people have lost their jobs at VU this year, with another round of redundancies still to come.

The first LGBTQI rights march in Parramatta since 1983 was held on October 29.

It attracted more than 200 people to Centennial Square outside the Parramatta Town Hall before marching to the annual Parramatta Pride Picnic on the River Foreshore.

In some sort of sick joke, residents of the inner west suburbs of St Peters and Haberfield have been sent earplugs by WestConnex after complaints to it about the incessant and loud noise caused by the construction of this controversial $17 billion tollway.

After a concerted campaign by staff, trade unions and the community, the NSW government announced on October 27 that Shellharbour Hospital in the Illawarra will remain in public hands.

The campaign forced the government to cancel its proposed public-private partnership (PPP) plan and instead proceed with a $251 million redevelopment of the hospital on its current site.

Victoria is set to trial a safe injecting room, where users will be able to inject their drug of choice in a medically supervised safe space. The trial will run for at least two years, followed by a review.

It will be the first injecting room in Victoria and the second in Australia, after an injecting room was established in Kings Cross, Sydney, in 2001.

Victoria became the first state to have a Renewable Energy Target (RET) written into law on October 20. The Victorian RET has been set at 25% renewable energy by 2020, and 40% by 2025.

A concerted campaign to stop Gloucester Resources Limited’s open-cut coalmine on agricultural land in Gloucester has been rewarded. The NSW Department of Planning and the Environment recommended on October 23 that GRL’s Rocky Hill mine not be given approval. 

Feminist NGO Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) is urgently seeking funds to keep the phones switched on at the NSW Rape Crisis Centre (RCC).

The NSW RCC is the last remaining public 24 hour, 7 days a week sexual assault counselling service in the state.

The Geelong Women Unionists Network, with the support of Geelong Trades Hall Council (GTHC), is holding a conference, Working Women Get Organised, on November 11 which is open to everyone.

“This place is like a war zone,” wrote Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist locked up in the Manus Island detention centre, as he exhaustedly began to describe the situation on November 2 – day 2 of the “Manus Island siege”.

Since October 31, 600 desperate men, suffering in more ways than most people can comprehend after more than four years of torture in detention, have barricaded themselves in the centre.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s enthusiastic embrace of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is reprehensible, the Tamil Refugee Council said on November 2.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) launched its national boycott campaign against Streets ice cream products on October 29, urging people to “stand up for fairness and commit to a Streets-Free Summer”.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said the workers had no choice but to call for a boycott after Streets “hit the nuclear option”.

A potential new battlefield has opened up in the fight against Adani’s proposed mega coalmine for the Galilee Basin in Queensland. To date, the campaign against the coalmine has successfully pressured several companies – including Australia’s Big Four banks – to rule out financing the project.

However, as the board of directors of procurement contractor Downer EDI Mining – which is in the box seat to construct the Adani mine infrastructure – prepared to face shareholders at its November 2 Annual General Meeting, news broke that the company and Adani were in negotiations with Chinese state-owned enterprise China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) over its possible involvement in financing the project.

From the time of Adani’s initial application for a mining license for the Carmichael Mine project in October 2010, local farmers and graziers have had concerns about the project’s impact on ground water and the Great Artesian Basin.

This was translated into legal challenges to the Carmichael, Kevin’s Corner and Alpha mines in the Galilee Basin. The controversial Adani project, while still financially dubious, has one legal barrier to overcome. The High Court is set to bring down a decision in March on the appeal by the Traditional Owners, the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called on federal MPs and senators to reject new legislation tabled by federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, which is aimed at further undermining the independence and integrity of the national broadcasters ABC and SBS.

Progressive students have staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory in Sydney University’s Student Representative Council (SRC) elections, with Imogen Grant elected SRC president.

Grant headed Switch, a ticket of Greens, socialists and independents. She edged out Liberal candidate Brendan Ma, following a string of controversial decisions made during the course of the campaign.

Grant’s victory came on the back of another defeat of the federal coalition government’s attempt to further impoverish students with its changes to higher education.

Refugee advocates occupied Melbourne’s Spring St on October 25 in solidarity with the asylum seekers of Manus Island, who have been abandoned by the Australian government.

The action was organised by Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), Disrupt 2017 and Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

In November 2015, the NSW government sold the old, coal-fired Vales Point Power Station for $1 million, about the price of an average Sydney home.

Then-NSW treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said it would save the taxpayer from "ongoing losses" and "significant liabilities, such as costs associated with decommissioning, estimated to be in the tens of millions".

Fast forward two years.

Winners of the 2017 Whitsundays Tourism awards, held last month at Hamilton Island, have rejected the prize and threatened to quit the organisation because it was sponsored by the mining giant Adani.

Bindjareb Traditional Owners have begun a campaign to rename the Peel region in Western Australia, named after Thomas Peel, a settler who was instrumental in the Pinjarra massacre in which dozens of Aboriginal people, including children, were killed on October 28, 1834.

More than 200 people attended the first rally organised by the Public Housing Defence Network in Debney Park, Flemington on October 15.

The network was established to fight the Daniel Andrews Labor government’s plan to privatise 11 public housing estates across Melbourne. The government wants to sell the current walk-up blocks of flats to private developers who will replace them with some social housing and high rise private developments.

Communities in south-west Western Australia are angry the state government has granted Bunbury Energy a new gas exploration permit, covering the shires of Capel, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup and parts of Bunbury and Busselton.

Co-convenor of the Gasfield Free South West Alliance, Boyanup landholder Kathy Thomson said the permit was a kick in the guts to the people of the south west.

“The government promised us a fracking ban before to the state election. We understood the promise meant we would be protected from encroachment by the invasive onshore gas industry.

Hundreds of people gathered for the Don't Mess With the West rally outside the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith on October 20, before marching to the electoral office of local member and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres, chanting "community health, not incinerator wealth" and "don't mess with the West”.

They were protesting against the controversial WestConnex road project and associated tolls on the M4 Motorway and elsewhere; the highly polluting waste disposal incinerator proposed for Eastern Creek; and the planned new airport at Badgerys Creek.

The federal government has awarded a lucrative contract running refugee facilities on Nauru to a Queensland-based engineering firm, despite the company having no experience in providing refugee services.

Canstruct International Pty Ltd has won the $8 million contract to run “garrison and welfare services” from November 1.

The move has been slammed by human rights groups.

Amnesty International accused Canstruct of taking up a “toxic contract” that profits from the abuse of asylum seekers.

The Hobart City Council has officially joined the campaign to change the date of Australia Day.

It will also provide support for the annual Invasion Day march, organised by the Indigenous community, and back councillors who take part.

On October 23, the council passed a four-point motion seven votes to two.

It also called on other local governments to lobby the federal government to move Australia Day from January 26.

But it will not stop holding its citizenship ceremonies and celebrations on Australia Day.

A voluntary euthanasia law has passed in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly after a marathon four-day sitting. The bill passed 47 votes to 37.

The proposed law will now head to the Legislative Council. If it passes there, the bill will allow terminally ill Victorians with less than 12 months to live and who are suffering unbearable pain to access lethal medication to end their lives.

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.

* * *

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.

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