Australian News

Speakers at a 100-strong rally supporting the November 17 national day of action for Indigenous rights condemned the Howard Coalition government’s “emergency” intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities and expressed disappointment with the ALP for its “me-too” approach

On November 21, up to 10,000 Victorian teachers went on strike, travelling from around the state to fill the Vodafone Arena in Melbourne. Around 150 schools were closed as a result of the industrial action. The teachers are calling for a 10% per annum pay rise over the next three years.

A struggle to reignite, restore and respect Aboriginal community control is being waged in Fitzroy, a place of historical significance to the contemporary Indigenous rights movement.

Members of grassroots climate change action group Rising Tide chained themselves to a coal train on November 19 to stop the train reaching the port of Newcastle, the world’s largest coal export port, with a record 80.8 million tonnes being shipped in the 2006-07 financial year.

The Wilderness Society (TWS) has lost its Federal Court appeal, in which it argued that then-federal environment minister Malcolm Turnbull’s assessment of the Tamar Valley pulp mill was inadequate. The appeal was dismissed by three judges on November 22, but TWS spokesperson Greg Ogle said the it would not give up campaigning. “The pulp mill is no closer to being built today than it was yesterday”, he said.

Three members of Iraq’s Olympic soccer team and one of the team’s assistant coaches announced their intention to apply for asylum in Australia after an international game in Gosford on November 17. They are currently on three-month temporary visas as athletes, and as such are not being sought by the immigration department.

At a 100-strong October 26 Your Rights at Work election forum, Sue Cory, Greens candidate for the federal seat of Leichhardt, spelt out her party’s policies supporting the rights of workers to organise and take industrial action, in contrast to those of the ALP, which would maintain the existing anti-worker laws introduced by the Howard government.

Supporters of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) gathered in Brisbane Square on November 16 to provide information to passers-by about December’s constitutional referendum in Venezuela, and to demand, “US hands of Venezuela!”

Speakers at a meeting of 100 people at the Fitzroy Town Hall on November 15 slammed the “anti-terror” laws.

Brewery workers at the Foster’s Yatala plant, near Beenleigh south of Brisbane, are continuing their campaign for a union collective agreement. The workers — members of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union — are holding pickets outside the brewery gates from 1-5pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as some night-time pickets.

On November 17, thousands of people, including five busloads of people who came down from Launceston, rallied in Hobart’s Franklin Square against Gunns Ltd’s proposed $1.8 billion pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.

After an 18-month ordeal, workers at Tristar — a Marrickville-based car parts manufacturer — claimed victory on November 15 after the company agreed to pay redundancy packages to all its remaining Sydney workers. The last of 32 manufacturing workers will leave the company on November 30.

“These are the worst days in Pakistan’s history”, Ali Khan, a student from Pakistan, told a rally in Burke Street Mall on November 15. The rally was called by Australia Asia Worker Links and the Socialist Alliance to protest the state of emergency imposed by Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff and president, Pervez Musharraf.

Community concern over the Victorian state government’s plan for a $3.1 billion desalination plant at Wonthaggi is growing following reports that the Labor government is forcibly acquiring properties around the proposed site. The local community and environmentalists have opposed the proposal as being environmentally damaging and the wrong solution to tackle water shortages.

Stuart Baanstra, a Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) activist, is going to court over refusing to sign the 2006 Census. His first hearing on November 6 resulted in a rescheduling of the hearing until November 27.

Twenty-year-old Lismore resident Ben Cooper was awarded a “Kids in Community” award in June, for his work as a queer activist in the community. Cooper organised two equality rallies in Lismore for the same-sex marriage National Days of Action and is the founder of Lismore Activists for Same Sex Equality (LASSE). LASSE has recently been involved in a campaign against Regeneration, a Lismore Baptist church group that aims to “convert” young gays to heterosexuality.

The housing affordability crisis is serious enough for both Labor and the Coalition to promise home-buyers financial support in the present election. According to official statistics it has never been harder for first home buyers to acquire a home.

Workers at the Foster’s Yatala brewery, south of Brisbane, have voted down two non-union agreements put forward by Carlton and United Brewery (CUB) management, and are engaged in industrial action to win a union collective agreement. The brewery workers — 85% of whom are pro-union — come from the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

Figures released by the Howard government’s Workplace Authority on November 9 showed that almost half of the industrial agreements so far vetted by the authority since the government introduced its “fairness test” in May have been rejected by the authority.

“People before profits” was the message coming from the “rally for rights” organised by the Socialist Alliance in Newtown on November 9. The rally was addressed by Catholic priest Peter Maher, Your Rights At Work campaigner Michael Haines, three representatives from Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) and Greens candidate for Grayndler, Saeed Kahn.

More than 500 students in Launceston walked out of class on November 8 to protest against the planned pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. This followed a similar protest of 600 students in Hobart the previous week.

The Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) hosted a function in support of Palm Island man Lex Wotton on October 7. Wotton is being targeted by state authorities for his role in protesting the death of Aboriginal man Mulrunji at the hands of police in November 2004.

About 260 employees at hearing implant manufacturer Cochlear’s the Lane Cove factory in north Sydney are being pressured by the company to accept Australian Workplace Agreements (individual employment contracts) despite having twice voted in favour of having a union-negotiated collective agreement.

On October 31, residents of Wonthaggi — the South Gippsland town that is near the proposed site of the Victorian Labor government’s proposed $3 billion desalination plant — joined environmentalists from Melbourne in a 100-strong protest on the steps of state parliament.

@9point non = SYDNEY — The November 2 Reclaim the Night rally, attended by 50 people, in Hyde Park demanded that the federal government increase funding to women’s refuge services by 40% and provide funding to assist women and children to stay in their homes once the violent offender is removed.

On October 27, the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) state council unanimously voted to “call upon Unions NSW to organise a Day of Union and Community Action to repeal all of Work Choices” for May 1 next year and to make it “the first of an ongoing series of actions to force the incoming federal government to repeal the anti-worker legislation in its entirety”.

On November 1, 50 people rallied in Hyde Park to protest the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) role in training the Burmese police force. The rally was called by the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma.

A divided Sydney City Council on October 29 renewed News Corps’ contentious newspaper distribution license with the Lord Mayor Clover Moore's Community Independent Team split down the middle.

On October 31, some 70 Wollongong TAFE teachers stopped work in support of students facing massive fee increases. The stopwork meeting condemned both federal and state governments for under-funding TAFE and shifting the cost of quality vocational education onto students. The teachers also expressed disgust at the Howard government for finding a “lazy” $2 billion to support the duplication of TAFE with the new Australian Technical Colleges (ATCs).

On October 30, a Federal Court judge fined the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) $30,000. The fine was for discriminating against union members when it advised Australian Public Service agencies to refuse leave to employees who planned to take part in the November 2005 Australian Council of Trade Unions national protest against Work Choices.

PM John Howard is running low on stocks for a fear campaign to propel him back into office for a fifth time. In 1998, Howard gave just enough support to Pauline Hanson’s racist fear campaign against Asian migrants and Aboriginal people to to get him over the line in spite of promising to bring in the unpopular GST. In 2001, the fear campaign was generated by the Tampa refugees, with Howard defiantly claiming, “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”. In 2004, it was the threat of rising interest rates under Labor — oops, can’t use that one again Johnnie!

Organisers of the Footscray Racism No Festival have joined forces with the March for Multiculturalism to stage a “Big Day Out Against Racism” on November 17. The day will start with a street march beginning at 1pm at the State Library and participants will then be asked to make their way to the festival in Footscray, starting at 4pm at the Footscray Primary School.

A report in the October 29 Brisbane Courier Mail signalled that the Queensland state Labor government may finally legislate to decriminalise abortion. But not immediately — perhaps in 18 months time, well after the federal elections are over. Labor MP for Aspley, Bonny Barry, has been reported as preparing a private member’s bill to remove abortion from the criminal code. Premier Anna Bligh has said she will support it, but has no intention of introducing a bill.

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has conducted mass meetings around Tasmania to vote on whether to accept the state Labor government’s offer of a 3.5% annual pay rise over the next three years or step-up industrial action.

On September 21 about 200 people attended a forum on Sri Lanka organised by People for Human Rights and Racial Equality, a group comprising Sri Lankans of different ethnic groups living in Australia.

The movement to oppose genetically modified crops and foods in Australia received international support for its campaign with the October tour of the Consumers’ Union of Japan (CUJ).

On October 15, on a vote of five to three, a Sydney City Council planning committee voted to send the development applications (DAs) for the distribution of mX, City Weekly and 9 to 5 to the next council meeting for approval.

Assistant state secretary of the Western Australian branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Joe McDonald, was expelled from the Australian Labor Party on October 26, on the recommendation of Labor leader Kevin Rudd. Earlier this year Rudd had failed to have the militant unionist expelled, and the ALP had stated that it would await the outcome of McDonald’s six charges for “trespass” on Perth building sites before making a decision.

Twenty-one years ago Jackie Kriz, an Australian Nurses Federation job representative, took part in Victoria’s landmark nurses’ dispute of 1986. As a young Geelong nurse she remembers the long campaign where nurses went from being professionals who would never strike to industrial campaigners.

5000 state sector nurses crammed into Melbourne’s Festival Hall and voted unanimously to end their industrial action and accept a four year enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) at an Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) mass meeting on October 25.