Australian News

GLW Issue 769

The Newcastle ALP branch effectively delivered Newcastle Council to the right in the September 13 elections, by preferencing Aaron Buman’s team of “razor gang” independents instead of the Greens.

GLW Issue 768

Union Solidarity activists blockaded the Dandenong mail distribution centre overnight on September 19 in response to Australia Post’s proposed transfer of a union delegate who took strike action three months ago.

My cows can’t swim!”, protested one farmer’s sign, with a marker to indicate just how high the water would rise. “Act now or be dammed!”, advised another, echoing the overall theme of the 500-strong Save the Mary River rally on September 6 at the Traveston Crossing bridge in south-east Queensland.

Friends of Cuba held actions in Perth and Canberra on September 14, kicking off an international campaign to win the release of five Cuban anti-terrorists sentenced to long prison terms in the United States on September 12, 10 years ago.

The five

Supporters of a woman’s right to choose rallied outside Liberal anti-abortion Senator George Brandis’s office on September 16. They were protesting against Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Bennett’s private member’s bill to end Medicare funding for abortions after 14 weeks’ pregnancy. The bill, due for parliamentary debate on September 17, has been referred to a committee.

Workers at Huyck Wagner in Breakwater have been trying to negotiate a new wage agreement for several months. The boss’s offer of a 2% pay rise would mean, given current inflation, a pay cut in real terms.

The trial of 12 Muslim men under the “anti-terror” laws has ended with seven being found guilty of one or more charges, four found not guilty and the jury unable to decide on one.

Fifty ambulance officers and paramedics campaigning for more staff and better conditions bailed up Victorian health minister Daniel Andrews as he visited Geelong on September 19.

A group of international peace activists blacklisted and deported from Israel were the organising force behind the August 23 breaking of the Gaza blockade by two activist boats.

McKesson Asia-Pacific, a subsidiary of US multinational medical services operator McKesson Corporation, landed a $176 million government contract to provide an all-hours national health telephone triage system called Healthdirect Australia. It began taking calls in New South Wales in August.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) Victorian secretary, Ingrid Stitt, told Green Left Weekly that Labor’s new Interim Transitional Employment Agreements are a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The ITEAs were introduced by the Rudd government to replace the notorious Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs <17> individual contracts).

Max Phillips, a newly elected Greens councillor in Marrickville and the Greens’ campaign coordinator for the September 13 NSW local government elections, puts the swing to the Greens down to the state Labor government’s implosion.

The Greens were the major beneficiaries of the swing to the left in many councils across NSW at the September 13 elections, probably taking their representation to more than 70 for the first time. Independents and other progressive tickets, including the Socialist Alliance, also made gains.

The Victorian Abortion Law Reform bill was passed by the parliament’s lower house on September 12 after more than 70 hours of debate. This may finally mean that abortion is removed from the state’s Crimes Act dating back to 1958. Until the bill is passed, abortion remains a crime.

On September 14, the Yungaba Action Group (YAG) protested at the Bligh Labor government’s community cabinet in Carindale as part of the campaign to save the historic migrant cultural centre from being sold off for private development.

People power came to Gunnedah in north-west NSW on September 15 as more than 300 farmers and their supporters rallied outside the Gunnedah Basin Coal Conference. They were protesting against a coalmining project in the agriculturally rich Liverpool Plains that was given state government approval in 2006.

In the lead-up to the release of a report from the federal government’s review into the Northern Territory intervention, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association has blasted the policy. AIDA describes it as discriminatory, damaging to people’s health and completely unable to alter conditions of child abuse or neglect in remote Aboriginal communities.

GLW Issue 767

The Greens and independents appear to be the main beneficiaries of a large swing away from Labor in the September 13 NSW council elections.

A sign-on statement calling on the federal Labor government to abolition the anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission, and extending solidarity to any worker victimised by the ABCC, was initiated last week by Tim Gooden, the secretary of Geelong and Regional Trades and Labour Council.

More than 100 people marched through the streets on September 13 to demand their right to participate in local council elections. The action, organised by Wollongong Against Corruption, was addressed by Vicki Curran, Paul Matters and Graham Larcombe from WAC, Peter Moran from the Greens, Jess Moore from the Socialist Alliance, plus others.

“There needs to be action in this country. People like yourselves can make it happen”, Palm Island Aboriginal leader Lex Wotton, who is facing a jail sentence of 10 years, told a public meeting at the Queensland University of Technology on September 10.

Women seeking a termination of their pregnancy during the second trimester, and beyond, may be denied access to Medicare funding if Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett is successful in his bid to axe funding for abortions after the 14th week of pregnancy. Currently, women seeking an abortion are covered under the Medicare scheme up until 26 weeks of pregnancy.

The dumping or resignation of half a dozen ministers from the NSW Labor government over the last fortnight — brought on by internal warfare over the cabinet’s refusal to scrap its electricity privatisation plan — has still not convinced the new premier and ALP power-brokers to drop the plan altogether.

On September 4, the federal Labor government introduced a bill in parliament to partially end discrimination against same-sex couples.

The United States administration has stepped up pressure to ban Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar (The Beacon) in Australia and Indonesia.

“We knew we had to have the support of migrant women, of the union, and of the community or we couldn’t win”, Robynne Murphy, from the Jobs for Women campaign (JFWC), told a September 11 forum organised by Green Left Weekly and the Socialist Alliance.

Thirty people gathered at the Governor of Hindmarsh Hotel for the second Politics in the Pub hosted by the Socialist Alliance on September 11. The topic — “Can we solve the water crisis?” — was addressed by Peter Laffan, chair of the Save our Gulf Coalition, and Bernie Laidlaw of the Socialist Alliance.

While “Blue Glue” may sound like a new party drug, it’s in fact much more sinister and less fun. According to the company of the same name, Blue Glue is a marvel of innovation, “helping clients create secure environments, manage information and deploy global solutions”, says the Defence Materiel Organisation’s website.

Ross Garnaut’s long-anticipated “Targets and Trajectories” report into Australia’s carbon emissions future signals a wholesale surrender to the corporations desperate to change as little as possible and preserve their profits at any cost. It is a refusal to take the steps necessary to avert the very real dangers that climate change poses to life on the planet.

Eight hundred unionists and supporters protested outside the Geelong Magistrates’ Court on September 12, as Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) official Noel Washington appeared, charged with refusing to cooperate with the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC).