Australian News

GLW Issue 842

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (Western AAustralia) spokesperson, Marc Newhouse today announced a series of protest actions to be held following the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision not to lay criminal charges against any of the parties responsible for the death in custody of Mr Ward in 2008. Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder, died while being transported hundreds of kilometres across the WA Goldfields in a privately-operated prison van with faulty air conditioning.
Location: 'I have a dream' mural, King Street, Newtown When: Friday July 2, 4.30-6pm Representatives of local community organisations and political parties will take part in a community speak-out against racism on Friday July 2 in Newtown. They will assemble under the “I have a dream” mural – featuring the legendary anti-racist Black American campaigner Martin Luther King. Speakers participating include:
A national gathering of Aboriginal community leaders will expose what they describe as the “treachery inherent in government policies targeting the civil and political rights” of their communities. The New Way Aboriginal Summit, being held in Melbourne from July 1 – 4 to coincide with NAIDOC Week, will host a press conference at 12.40 pm this Friday 2nd July at Trades Hall Council, the main summit venue.
Following the New Way Summit on Aboriginal rights in Canberra in January, a second summit will be held in Melbourne over July 1-4. Convenor of the Victorian New Way Aboriginal Summit, Socialist Alliance member Sharon Firebrace, told Green Left Weekly: “We expect a lot of people will attend to learn that the New Way grassroots movement is a true opposition to what the federal government is dishing up to us in their shameful charade of establishing the First Nation Congress of Australia.”
On June 5, New South Wales Teachers Federation state council voted to initiate a “Stop the Privatisation” forum to organise against the state government’s privatisation plans for the public sector. The forum will invite participation from the Public Sector Association (PSA), Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) and other public sector unions. After the forum, the federation will initiate a public sector delegates meeting to discuss and organise a public sector-wide response to the privatisation agenda.
Australia’s leading conservation groups said in a joint statement on June 21 that concern about lack of action to provide safeguards against large-scale oil spills in Australia will be a high-profile issue in the next federal election. Thirty-two environment groups — including the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia and Pew Environment Group — have called on all political parties to commit to a network of large marine sanctuaries this coming election to provide safeguards for Australia’s unique marine life.
A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week swept across the country in the past week. On June 20, people rallied in Melbourne, coming from across the city and regional areas. Given the rain, organisers were happy with the turnout of 2000 people. It was the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years. Tamil refugee Arun Mylvaganam described his experiences escaping Sri Lanka and traveling to Australia, where he spent three months in detention. He was only 13 at the time and had no family members with him.
On June 25, federal trade minister Simon Crean signed a deal to export up to 20 million tonnes of dried brown coal to Vietnam. The deal was signed with ironically-named Victorian company Environmental Clean Technologies (ECT). Fifty people protested outside the venue in Southbank where the deal was signed, despite the rain and only a few hours notice of the event.
Sand mining on Stradbroke Island, offshore from Brisbane, will be phased out by 2027, under a new plan announced by the Queensland state government on June 20. Most of the island will become national park and development of ecotourism will be the main industry.
On June 20, a 100-strong rally against the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the “NT intervention”) was held, protesting its third anniversary. On June 21 the Senate passed legislation allowing one of the most oppressive aspects of the intervention — welfare quarantining — to be extended to all welfare recipients (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) in the NT, and then to targeted communities throughout Australia.
Despite a promise before the last election, the Brumby state Labor government has introduced legislation to extend the urban growth boundary for Melbourne. Planning Amendment VC 67 expands Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate the 284,000 houses the government expects will be needed if Melbourne’s population reaches 5 million before 2030. About 70 people from the Green Wedge Coalition, Protectors of Public Lands and Planning Backlash protested against these plans on June 22.
On March 10 Veronnica Baxter, a 34-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Cunnamulla country, south-west Queensland, was arrested by Redfern police and held on remand. She dressed, appeared, and had identified as a woman for 15 years and was known by family and friends as a woman. Yet she was placed at the all-male NSW Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre. Six days later, after a 14-hour break between checking her cell, she was found dead, hanging in her single cell.
On June 22, Queensland unions won a court victory with the ruling that Queensland Rail had broken the law by not consulting workers over privatisation plans. “Queensland Rail has been slapped with a $600,000 fine after it failed to consult its workers over plans to privatise part of the company”, the June 23 Courier-Mail reported. “A Federal Court ruling earlier this month found QR breached 20 of its enterprise bargaining agreements by not consulting workers about the planned sell-off before it was announced.”
As climate change compels us to reduce carbon emissions, urban gardens that provide locally produced food are becoming an increasingly important model. The African Food Project is an urban, organic farm that grows traditional African vegetables for the African community around the outer western suburb of Blacktown.
Queer rights groups are initiating a high school referendum against homophobia and for same-sex marriage rights over August 2-6. Planned to help build the August 14 National Day of Action for equal marriage rights, the referendum will be a chance for students to discuss homophobia and how to combat it in their school. There are high levels of homophobia and prejudice in high schools. In Australia, 68% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and inter-sex (LGBTI) people experience homophobia in school.

GLW Issue 841

A press conference was held on June 23 behind NSW Parliament House calling for an inquiry into 34-year-old Veronica Baxter’s death in custody. Activists presented 500 signatures to NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale who undertook to present them to the New South Wales Parliament. On March 10, 2009, three days after Mardi Gras,Veronica Baxter was arrested by Redfern police and held on remand at the all-male NSW Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre. Six days later, after a 14-hour break between checking her cell, she was found dead, hanging in her single cell.
Stop wasting lives - get our troops out now! Socialist Alliance statement June 22, 2010 The Socialist Alliance today renewed its call on the Rudd government to withdraw all Australian troops from Afghanistan in wake of more Australian troop casualties and a poll showing that a majority of Australians support such a withdrawal.
On June 15, around a 1500 people, representing nearly every union, gathered outside Adelaide Magistrate's court for the first day of a week of rallies supporting construction worker, Ark Tribe, in his battle to defend himself against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week has begun to sweep across Australia. On Sunday June 20, people came from all over Melbourne as well as Ballarat, Geelong and other regional areas for the rally, indicating that refugee rights networks are being re-established. Given the rain, organisers were happy with the size of the rally, between 1000-2000. This has been the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years. Rallies also took place in Canberra, Perth (200) and Brisbane (300) over the weekend.
55 people attended a June 11 forum with Peter Inverway, a Gurindji worker from Kalkaringi, who said Gurindji people are being forced to work up to 30 hours a week for Centrelink entitlements. Inverway said: "I was working on [a] construction site. Working hard for up to 30 hours per week and maybe just getting $4 an hour on Basics Card. But just like working for ration like our people done in the past. If we don't work then they'll cut our Centrelink."
100 people picketed the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on June 18 to protest the third anniversary of the Northern Territory intervention. Kevin Bracken from the Maritime Union of Austrlalia said “The intervention has turned the clock back 50 years to when people were working for rations.” The rally also heard from Alistair Nicholson, former Chief Justice of the Family Court, the Greens, the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and local indigenous activists Richard Kennedy, Sharon Firebrace and Robbie Thorpe.
On June 16, the Queensland Nurses' Union (QNU) condemned the new computerised payroll system that has caused ongoing problems with wage and allowance payments to staff in the public health system. In a statement the QNU said: "This week will mark the seventh pay run under Queensland Health's new payroll system. It is a debacle of monumental proportions.”
A new Sydney group, Fairness and Justice for Overseas Students, held protests on May 1 and June 12 against changes to the skilled migration program. The changes will affect thousands of Asian vocational students studying in Australia. Immigration minister Chris Evans announced the changes on February 8. Among the changes was a new list of skills and occupations that would qualify overseas workers for the program.
A single mother from Melbourne’s northern suburbs has begun a campaign against the sale of racist dolls. Helen Said was shocked to see golliwog dolls on display when she walked past a gift shop in Epping Plaza in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Said told Green Left Weekly golliwog dolls had disappeared from sale for many years because they were widely regarded as racist. “It’s a shock to see them brought back”, she said. “I think they're racist'.” Golliwog dolls first appeared in the 1800s. They were made to send up black people, particularly African American slaves.
Green Left Weekly has won a victory in its free speech struggle at Brunswick’s Barkly Square shopping centre. Management stopped our stalls in late November and offered us a completely unacceptable deal. We began our defence campaign in late February and over the next three months it developed considerable momentum. The response from shoppers was warm and extremely heartening. About 1000 people signed our petition. People were clearly outraged at the ban and concerned at the ongoing privatisation of public space.
On June 15, climate sceptics held a forum at the Brisbane Irish Club. This forum was the subject of a protest by climate change activists. Ewan Saunders is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Brisbane who helped organise the protest. His speech is reprinted below. *** Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, Peter Ridd: these are the real climate fraudsters, never mind the so-called scandals around a few emails last year.
The Socialist Ideas Conference, organised by the Socialist Alliance in Perth, is shaping up to be the biggest and most interesting socialist event in Perth for some time. Alongside international guests such as Malaysian socialist parliamentarian Jeyakumar Devaraj and Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau journalist Kiraz Janicke, a number of respected speakers have confirmed their attendance in recent weeks.
May Day in Caracas, Venezuela, was “deeply inspiring”, Adrian Evans, deputy state secretary of the WA Maritime Union of Australia, told a meeting of 40 people in Fremantle on June 16. Evans travelled to Venezuela as part of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s 2010 May Day brigade. “I love May Day in Fremantle”, he said. “But, I can tell you, being with one-and-a-half million workers was incredible.”
Tens of thousands rallied around Australia on June 10 in support of the Australian Services Union’s (ASU) pay equity test case for community sector workers. The ASU has opened a test case with Fair Work Australia under the equal remuneration power of the Fair Work Act. The ASU claim is for pay rises of about 25% for community sector workers. It follows a successful application in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission last year.
Thousands rallied around Australia in support of Ark Tribe, a construction worker facing jail for simply failing to attend an interrogation by the construction industry police — the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Workers held an overnight vigil outside the ABCC offices in Melbourne, 500 rallied and marched in Sydney and up to 1500 rallied outside the Adelaide Magistrate's court where Tribe is on trial. Trade unionists from around the country travelled to Adelaide to show their solidarity.