Australian News

Up to 1000 people gathered outside state Parliament on November 15 to protest against plans by the Western Australian Coalition government to sell the state’s main electricity provider, Western Power.

The protest was organised by the Use your Power Group, headed by the Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union. There was also strong support from the Maritime Union of Australia, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, United Voice, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and State School Teachers Union.

Three Australian unionists, visiting Indonesia as part of a delegation to a South-East Asian asbestos conference, had their passports seized and were deported from Indonesia after visiting a picket line organised by transport workers in Jakarta.

The unionists, including Jackie Kriz, a member of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and President of Geelong Trades and Labour Council, have been barred from re-entering Indonesia for six months. They were told by the Indonesian department of immigration they could apply to have the ban lifted after that time.

The WestCONnex Action Group (WAG), one of the main residents' groups opposing the NSW Coalition government's $17 billion WestConnex tollway, has slammed the government's latest changes to the controversial project.

Under new plans announced on November 10, the tollway's Camperdown interchange will be scrapped, and the M4–M5 Link tunnel widened and moved further west.

“These latest changes show yet again that the Baird government’s so-called ‘planning’ for WestConnex is a complete farce,” said WAG spokesperson Pauline Lockie.

As more than 3000 people rallied in Melbourne’s CBD on November 5 to protest against the federal government’s refugee policies, about 200 people gathered in the far northern suburb of Eltham in support of a group of Syrian refugees who will be resettled in the area in the coming weeks.

A rally was held outside the US Consulate in Sydney on November 10 in solidarity with the Standing Rock protest camp against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Dakota Access oil pipeline is threatening to pollute water and land of the Sioux and other Native American groups. If completed it will move almost half a million barrels of oil a day, worsening climate change and threatening the entire planet's survival.

Victoria Police has evicted homeless people from empty properties in Bendigo Street, Collingwood, that had been acquired by the previous government for the now-cancelled East West Link.

The government said the homeless people had to be evicted so it could give the houses to homeless people.

The Refugee Action Collective organised a public meeting on November 7, addressed by Harry Wicks, who had worked as a carpenter at the Nauru detention centre and Bernard, a Malaysian who has done volunteer work at refugee camps in Malaysia.

Wicks said that Nauru, a small island with a population of 10,000 people, has a 90% unemployment rate.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced on October 25 that last year, thanks to cost reductions and significant policy support in key countries, renewables have surpassed coal to become the largest source of installed power in the world. This has prompted the IEA to significantly boost its five-year forecast for renewable energy growth.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts held a press conference on November 7 to release a 42-page document that claims the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology corrupted climate data and that global warming is an international Jewish banking conspiracy to gain global control through environmentalism.

The list of things renewable energy can be blamed for received a creative contribution from little-known Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly on November 7 when he linked renewable energy with child drownings.

His argument went like this: environmentalists promote renewable energy policies; renewable energy will drive up the cost of electricity; public swimming pools require electricity to filter and heat; higher electricity prices mean pools will have to either cut swimming lessons or charge more for them; fewer children will learn to swim; therefore, more children will drown.

rally for workers comp

About 200 unionists rallied on November 3 to highlight the plight of injured workers in the state. The day marked the beginning of the NSW parliamentary Law and Justice Committee’s review of the 2012 changes to workers' compensation legislation by the Coalition state government.

Speakers included representatives of UnionsNSW and individual unions, state MPs, and workers who had presented testimony to the committee that morning.

In the wake of the horrific burning to death of Brisbane bus driver Manmeet Sharma on October 28, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) held a national day of respect on November 9 to highlight the issue of driver safety across Australia.

In a statement RTBU national president Phil Altieri said: “It was an honour to join sisters and brothers from across the union movement today in honouring Manmeet Sharma (Alisher).

People who work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education have become concerned by recent, unexplained and unadvertised changes to Abstudy eligibility.

The purpose of the Abstudy scheme is to reduce the educational disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to encourage Indigenous students and apprentices to take full advantage of available educational opportunities and improve their employment opportunities.

Monash University plans to remove one-third of its counsellors and replace them with contractor or private practice psychologists.

It says this will improve access to counselling services.

But Monash Student Association spokesperson Kim Stern said: “Students are extremely angry. It’s a known thing at Monash that the services are minimal, to put it nicely.

"It’s very hard at the moment to get a counsellor and it’s a slap in the face that there’s now moves to cut counsellors and limit their role on campus.”

West Australian Senator and co-deputy leader of the Greens Scott Ludlam announced on November 4 he will be taking leave from his parliamentary duties to deal with long-term depression and anxiety.

In a statement on Facebook, Ludlam said he had been dealing with mental health issues for some time.

"I will return to work as soon as I'm able to give the commitment the work demands,” he wrote.

"I am fortunate to be getting the very best of care from my friends and family and my health professionals.”

Ludlam has been granted a pair until the end of the year.

Ken Canning at UTS

The Jumbanna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney has named a meeting room after Aboriginal activist, poet and playwright Ken Canning.

Canning has a long history of political struggle and activism.

His fight for equal rights for Indigenous people led him to education in the 1980s.

In 1988 he became the first Aboriginal graduate at UTS with a BA in Communications.

Malcolm Turnbull's proposed plebiscite on equal marriage was defeated 29-33 in the Senate late on November 7.

Months of speculation and political talk culminated in Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch combining to defeat the proposal.

Chair of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said supporters of same sex marriage should refocus efforts on a direct vote in Parliament to change the Marriage Act.

Hazelwood Power Station, Australia’s dirtiest power generator and many decades past its “use by” date, will finally close on March 31.

Hazelwood’s closure is symbolic because of its size, its history and because it provides 20% of Victoria’s power. But technological advances and environmental concerns have finally caught up with it.

In May, majority owner ENGIE’s CEO Isabelle Kocher said the company was reviewing its remaining coal plants one by one and would close those with the most outdated technology.

Geelong Trades Hall announced on November 2 that Tim Gooden has formally resigned as secretary and treasurer after 11 years at the council’s helm.

Colin Vernon, formerly an Industrial Health and Safety Organiser in Geelong with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Forestry and Furniture Products Division, was endorsed as secretary.

Gooden notified Trades Hall of his decision to vacate the positions in a letter to president Jacqueline Kriz.

Crowd at a forum

Hundreds of people attended the first leg of the 100% Renewables Roadshow in Adelaide on October 31, demonstrating strong community support for renewable energy in South Australia.

Solar Citizens National Director Claire O’Rourke spoke about their Homegrown Power Plan, which maps out a proposal for how Australia can get to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Results in the October 22 Victorian local council elections were mixed.

The Greens won big increases in representation in Melbourne’s inner city councils, the two socialist councillors retained their positions, but racists retained their positions on a couple of councils.

The Greens stood more candidates than in previous council elections. They retained 13 of their 16 council seats and won an extra 16 council seats.

Of the extra 16 seats, four were elected to councils which had never had Greens councillors, including Hobsons Bay, Banyule, Monash and Cardinia Shire.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper has once again vilified the unemployed by publishing an article linking methamphetamine use with being on welfare. Only individuals who had been arrested by police were surveyed in the study mentioned in this piece.

The October 18 front page article read: “70% of ice users arrested by police admit being on welfare, nationwide survey finds”. However, this does not mean 70% of those receiving welfare payments are ice users.

Residents of Yarraville in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs have campaigned for years to ban heavy truck traffic through the suburb.

Despite some victories such as truck curfews at night and during school hours, and the promise of eventual diversion of traffic through a planned bypass, residents now face the prospect of B Double trucks being diverted through the suburb.

On October 28, the 100th anniversary of the first conscription referendum, historian Michael Hamel-Green gave a talk at the Brunswick Library entitled "When Australians said no to war".

Hamel-Green said that in official commemorations of World War I there is "amnesia" about the divisions among the Australian people over the war.

When the initial high level of voluntary recruitment to the army declined, Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes decided to introduce conscription for overseas service — conscription for service within Australia was already legal.

The NSW Coalition government is under fire again after property owners in Sydney's south-west were hit by a "monumental stuff-up" in which at least 140 new buyers were not told they would be in the path of a future motorway before they bought their properties.

The blunder affects properties purchased between June 27 and October 24 this year that are in or near the planned F6 extension corridor in Sydney's south and the Werrington Arterial project. The Labor opposition has linked the error with the privatisation of the agency responsible, Land and Property Information.

Members of Melbourne’s Kurdish community rallied outside the city’s Turkish consulate on October 28 to protest the arrests of the co-mayors of the city of Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey.

The two mayors, Gültan Kişanek and Firat Ali, were arrested on October 25 and accused of links to the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Kişanek is also an elected member of the Turkish Parliament for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party. She is also the city’s first female mayor.

Staff of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have overwhelmingly rejected a proposed enterprise bargaining agreement that would cut workplace rights and conditions, for a pay rise well below inflation. A ballot announced on November 1 revealed that 70% of eligible staff voted against CSIRO management's proposed EBA, dealing a further setback to the Turnbull government's faltering public sector bargaining policy.

The Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG) quizzed candidates in the November 12 Wollongong by-election in a Meet the Candidates knit-in on October 29.

“Right now the Stop CSG fight is neither won nor lost,” said Nanna Annie Marlow. “After passing legislation a year ago on its Strategic Release Framework the Baird government has stalled. One year on there is not a murmur from Parliament House of where they intend to allow coal seam gas mining in NSW and the Nannas are nervous because there is no area in the state that is protected.”

A police action on October 28 evicted occupants of Bendigo Street houses, which had been compulsorily acquired by the former coalition government for the East West Link project that was later scrapped by Labor.

Joel from the Homeless Persons Union of Victoria told Green Left Weekly the eviction was in violation of an agreement with the state government that the houses would be vacated and the keys handed over to assigned occupants of public housing.

The house which was seized was waiting to be occupied by First Nations occupants, he said.

Three activists scaled the roof of immigration minister Peter Dutton’s Brisbane electorate office on November 2 to protest the government’s proposed new immigration law.

Activists Scarlett Squire, Kelly Purnell and Ellen Sargent climbed the roof and unfurled an Australian flag covered in blood.

Under the proposed law, any asylum seeker attempting to enter Australia by boat will be banned from ever entering the country.

Family First Senator Bob Day finally resigned from the Senate on November 1 “effective immediately”, in a major setback for the federal government's plan to revive the controversial, anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Day first announced his intention to resign on October 17, after his housing businesses were placed into liquidation. He then suggested he might stay on until November so he could vote on the ABCC bill and other legislation.

Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne said changes to planning laws about to be introduced mean they could force the developers behind the demolition of Melbourne's Corkman Irish Pub to "replicate the site immediately prior to demolition".

The heritage listed 159-year-old Corkman Irish Pub, previously known as the Carlton Inn, was illegally demolished on October 15.

Its owners had no building or planning permits.

Before the demolition, the developers commissioned an architect to draw plans for a 12-storey tower on the site.

The Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016 came into effect on October 30, allowing people to apply for a licence to cultivate cannabis for their own medical needs, to manufacture cannabis products for sale for medicinal purposes, or to conduct related research.

The Act now gives patients access to a safe, reliable and legal source of cannabis for medicinal use. Previously patients had to import medicinal cannabis products.

Rallies against the systemic violence against Aboriginal people were held in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane on October 22.

The call to action was specifically protesting the murders in custody of Wayne “Fella” Morrison and Miss Dhu, the shooting of Dennis Doolan and the abuse and torture of Dylan Voller in Don Dale prison.

Anti-WestConnex tollway protesters picketed along the street in Salisbury Road, Newtown, on October 28, in opposition to attempts to carry out a test drill at the site. The drilling is part of the geological survey work required for possible future tunnelling under the nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH).

The Federal Court has overturned the federal government’s decision to allow a $180 million deep sea port on Melville Island near Darwin without an environmental assessment.

Approval of the Port Melville oil and gas marine supply base on the banks of the near pristine Apsley Strait was reversed on October 21 after legal action by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) on behalf of Environment Centre NT (ECNT).

The decision means the operation of the base at Port Melville now has no Commonwealth approval and all operations must cease.  

The Rank and File Team has re-won the leadership of the NSW Public Service Association.

Stewart Little, an advocate for the Police Association and part-time disability support worker defeated Anne Gardiner who had been elected general secretary in 2012 on the Progressive PSA ticket.

Gardiner abandoned the Progressives caucus shortly after her election and during her tenure focused on internal union reforms and favoured small target and multimedia campaigns around jobs and defending public services.

Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) at Caltex’s site in Lytton, Queensland voted to start indefinite industrial action on October 25.

NUW members decided to take indefinite action following attempts by the company to effectively cut workers’ wages by 15%. They had been pursuing a modest annual increase in line with the Consumer Price Index, to protect their current conditions.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) has dropped its legal challenge to the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement in Victoria's Supreme Court. This enables the agreement to be put to CFA employees for a vote.

However, this is unlikely to be the end of the dispute. VFBV is likely to try other means of blocking the agreement.

Economist and author of Capital in the 21st Century Thomas Piketty gave a lecture entitled “Is Increasing Inequality Inevitable?” to a full house at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on October 23.

Piketty presented detailed research on growing income inequality compiled by a number of scholars and sourced directly from national taxation and income statistics from primarily advanced capitalist countries, as well as some statistics from a number of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

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