Australian News

The battle over the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project through the inner-western suburbs is heating up.

The Sydney Motorway Corporation has been granted conditional approval by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to commence work in Sydney Park, meaning dozens of trees are set for removal.

Refugee activists attended a meeting on October 3 to discuss strategy for the refugee rights movement.

The meeting was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) in response to an article written by Robert Manne, Tim Costello, Frank Brennan and John Menadue calling for a "compromise" solution to "our refugee crisis".

RAC invited Manne to speak at the forum. Chris Breen spoke on behalf of RAC.

It has been 17 weeks since Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) terminated, through a contract arrangement, its entire maintenance staff and informed them they could come back to work under non-union terms and with a 65% wage cut.

It is expected that on October 10 CUB will be bought by AB InBev, the largest brewer in the world. It is hoped the new owners will overhaul the management framework and reinstate the sacked workers on their previous wages and conditions.

Refugee supporters rallied in Sydney on October 5 in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru who held their 200th consecutive day of protest against their illegal detention that day.

Speakers included Danielle Austin, a former nurse on Christmas Island and convener of Mums for Refugees; Dr Barri Phatarfod, a convener of Doctors4Refugees; and Judith Reen, a former teacher on Nauru.

The Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham announced on October 5 that the federal government will shut down the failed VET FEE-HELP scheme.

The scheme, which has been comprehensively rorted by private for-profit providers, will be replaced with a new more tightly regulated and capped loans scheme.

The government will prohibit the use of brokers to recruit students and place greater emphasis on students actually completing courses.

On September 28 police in the central New South Wales town of Cowra shot Dennis “DJ” Doolan in the lower back or buttocks after a “confrontation” on a suburban street. Doolan remains in an induced coma at Orange Base Hospital.

Then, on October 3, an Indigenous man was shot by West Australian police in Broome. Police media alleged the 66-year-old man from the remote Indigenous community of Balgo had “threatened police officers with a knife” before he was shot.

On October 6 NSW Supreme Court Judge Natalie Adams reserved her decision on Kurdish journalist Renas Lelikan’s bail appeal until 14 October. Lelikan, who is charged with membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been remanded in custody since July 20.

Originally held in Sydney’s Silverwater Prison, he was transferred to isolation in the Goulburn “Supermax” jail following death threats against him by ISIS sympathisers.

Three hundred workers assembled at the entry of the Geelong oil refinery on October 7 to start a community protest against unsafe conditions at the refinery.

The 60-year-old refinery, previously operated by Shell has been operated by Viva Energy Australia since August 2014, with $150 million immediate pledges for maintenance work.

Refugees and asylum and seekers in Nauru detention have been holding daily protests since March 20. Refugees activists in Sydney held a protest in solidarity with them on 5 October, 200 days since the first protest. It included a phone link up with the Nauru protest, happening simultaneously.

Photos by Zebedee Parkes

Staff and Students at the University of Sydney on 30 September held a protest against fromer prime minister and war criminal John Howard on campus as the university awarded him an honorary doctorate. Aborigianal rights, refugee rights and the invasion of Iraq were among the issues raised.

Photos and video by Zebedee Parkes

 

Early on September 29 peace activists blockaded the Raytheon facility in Alice Springs. Four activists locked onto the gates of the facility preventing employees from entering.

This action is one in a series of protests against the military-industrial complex that supplies the joint US-Australian military base at Pine Gap.

AGL CEO Andrew Vesey likes to paint himself as a sort of “greenie” who is shifting the company in the right direction in these “carbon constrained” times.

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government sent a letter to asylum seekers in Manus Island detention centre on September 27 saying the centre will be closed and outlining the next steps.

The letter states: “The purpose of this centre is for refugee status processing. All processing will end soon.”

The letter can be seen as moves by the Australian and PNG governments to close Manus Island detention centre.

In a unanimous decision on September 27, the Queensland Court of Appeal rejected the challenge by environment group Coast and Country to the proposed GVK Hancock Alpha coalmine.

The appeal was lodged in October last year. Hancock Coal Pty Ltd and the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage, were respondents at the hearing on June 7.

About 70 people attended a forum on September 27 in Melbourne on Making Melbourne a Hanson free zone. The forum was hosted by the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

Guardian Australia columnist Jeff Sparrow spoke at the forum. He said: "Billions of dollars have been spent on fighting Islam by the Government so recent polls on racism are no surprise. There is a real danger that Hanson could become the new normal, a right wing version of the Greens."

Council workers at the City of Melbourne went on strike for two hours from 3.30 pm on September 27 and rallied outside Melbourne Town Hall. The rally was followed by a protest march along Swanson Street from Bourke to Flinders streets.
  
The workers are demanding a new agreement with better pay and conditions. City of Melbourne is the richest capital city in Australia.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) said its members will continue with work bans across the City of Melbourne as management refuse to meet to agree upon a fair Enterprise Agreement for its staff.

About 200 people protested #DirtyAGL outside its AGM in Sydney on September 28.

AGL claims to be "green" but it is Australia's Number 1 fossil fuel polluter, owning three of Australia's most polluting coal fired power stations. It also runs NSW's major unconventional gas plant in Camden, south west Sydney.

Three “Quaker Grannies for Peace” set up breakfast on the road to Pine Gap on September 26 and invited military personnel arriving for work at the base to sit down with them.

The action is one of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the secret US military facility at Pine Gap, by groups advocating for the base’s closure.

At 5pm on September 23 anti-racism activist Jafri was attacked, pepper sprayed and detained without provocation by Victoria police while holding up his "Stop Racism Now" sign — as he has done for years at Flinders St Station. During the arrest Jafri was not given access to legal or medical support. 

In a show of support, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Flinders St intersection on September 24, demanding accountability from Victoria Police and protesting police violence.

Former Brisbane high school student and Iranian refugee Mojgan Shamsalipoor was released from detention on a temporary three-month bridging visa on September 21.

Mojgan came to Australia aged 18 in 2012 from Iran, fleeing sexual assault and an arranged marriage to a 60-year-old man.

She was released from Christmas Island into community detention on a temporary visa while her refugee claim was being assessed. She went to high school and later met and married her husband.

“Tell him to write a will” was the reaction of the Australian government when doctors requested an emergency transfer to an Australian hospital for a seriously ill Afghan asylum seeker.

He has written a will, requesting that if he dies, the Australian government care for his children and provide them with an education.

Doctors have expressed extreme concern for “Abdullah”, a single father of two teenagers trapped on Nauru with an urgent heart condition requiring airlift to Australia. His case has not been classed as an emergency. 

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Western Sydney University (WSU) student elections are just around the corner and Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance members Philip Craig, Omar Ismaeel, and Ian Escandor have put their hands up as Bankstown campus student representatives and student editors for the student newspaper W’SUP.

Police dragged local residents out of a Sydney Park protest camp at 3am on September 20 so WestConnex contractors working for the private Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) could set up a construction site and begin work destroying thousands of trees in the park.

WestCONnex Action Group spokesperson Colin Hesse said: “The police had assured us numerous times that we were camping lawfully on public land, therefore they wouldn’t be taking any action to remove us from the site.

Some of Australia’s most respected investigative journalists have signed an open letter to the federal government urging it not to privatise the corporate registry held by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). They have urged the government to make access to the database free, as it is in New Zealand and Britain.

More than two-thirds of voters oppose the federal government’s decision to give public funding to the “Yes” and “No” campaigns in a plebiscite on equal marriage, according to an Essential poll published on September 20.

Only 22% approved the government’s decision, while 68% disapproved.

More than 60% said they would vote yes to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” and 30% said they would vote no.

The NSW Land and Environment Court found government-appointed delegates who recommended mergers for Mosman and North Sydney with Willoughby City Council and Burwood and Canada Bay with Strathfield Council had not followed the Local Government Act. The court found there was "no proper statutory foundation" for either of the proposed amalgamations, given the flaws in the delegates’ recommendations, and set the mergers aside.

About 20 National Gallery of Australia staff were told on Friday September 16 their jobs would not exist on Monday.

The gallery's deputy director, Kirsten Paisley, told staff they would be transferred to other areas of the gallery or offered voluntary redundancies.

The job cuts represent about 8% of the gallery workforce, including some senior positions. 

Hobart City Council has joined eight other Australian councils in pledging to end its involvement with any company profiting from abusive practices towards people seeking asylum.

The pledge states that the council will no longer do business with companies, such as Wilson Security and Ferrovial’s Broadspectrum, that take up contracts in Australia’s immigration detention camps.

Connect Settlement Services, the company that provides welfare services for refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, has told the federal government it will not re-apply when its contract lapses in December.

The company, which has about 100 staff on the island, provides health and education services and helps refugees look for work in the Nauru community.

Both professional and volunteer firefighters have spoken against the federal government's proposed new law aimed at blocking the implementation of the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement.

More than 1000 people marched through Circular Quay to The Rocks on September 17 to protest plans by the NSW state government to demolish the iconic Sirius public housing building. The march coincided with the declaration of a Green Ban by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU).

CFMEU state secretary Brad Parker announced that the union was "officially imposing an interim Green Ban here today" on the site. The ban on any redevelopment of the Sirius means no unionised workforce will be allowed on the site, and pickets will be introduced when any work commences.

Several hundred members of the NSW Public Service Association (PSA), the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), and other unions rallied outside state parliament on September 21 to “Stop the Secret Sell-Off” of five NSW public hospitals and other services by the Mike Baird state government. The rally followed the revelation on September 15 of plans by the Coalition government to call for private tenders to build and run upgraded regional hospitals at Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn and Shellharbour, and carry out hospital improvements at Bowral.

One-tenth of the Earth's wilderness has disappeared since the 1990s, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.

Over the past 20 years, wilderness areas equal to half the size of Australia have been lost. Researchers say the loss highlights the need for global agreements to protect remaining areas unaffected by human activities.

Community and union supporters joined sacked Carleton & United Breweries (CUB) workers and "Scabby the Rat" for a lunchtime protest outside Wallan Engineering in Campbellfield, in Melbourne's northern suburbs on September 15.

Wallan has been supplying most of the scabs to replace the CUB maintenance workforce, who were sacked, only to be offered the same work with a 65% wage cut, under an external labour hire company enterprise bargaining agreement.

Campaigners against the inappropriate Absoe development in Brisbane's West End scored a small but important victory on September 14. The state government “called in” the approval that had previously been granted by the Brisbane City Council. This means the state government will reassess the development approval.

This decision comes on the back of a concerted community campaign supported by Greens councillor Jonathan Sri.

The campaign to Save Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) has forced the Dean of the College to resign. It was a major demand of the fight to retain Sydney University’s unique, studio-based arts college in the heart of Callan Park — the jewel of Sydney's inner west.

Colin Rhodes announced his resignation on September 13. He will be replaced by SCA teacher Margaret Harris. 

The announcement came as the student occupation of SCA's administration building entered its third week — the longest occupation against management dictates, in USYD history. 

Conservationists who gathered outside the Land and Environment Court on September 13 were extremely disappointed by the court decision to allow the continued discharge of polluted mine water into Sydney's drinking water supplies. They chanted "Wild rivers, not waste water" and "Clean water, not coal water" after the ruling.

Colong Foundation for Wilderness Director Keith Muir said: "4nature has failed to overturn the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) decision that allows Centennial Coal to discharge polluted water from the Springvale mine into the Coxs River.

On the 43rd anniversary of the coup that ousted the elected government of President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, a forum “Crisis in Venezuela: An Eyewitness Report” drew parallels with the current situation in Venezuela. 

The forum was hosted by the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) Brisbane and Australian Solidarity with Latin America (ASLA).

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) across the country walked off the job for 24 hours on September 9 in protest at the federal government's refusal to make reasonable offers on pay and conditions in agency bargaining throughout the federal public service.

The strike involves staff in key agencies, including Human Services, Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support, the Tax Office, Defence, the Bureau of Meteorology, Agriculture and Water Resources and Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Aboriginal candidate Yingiya Mark Guyula has won an upset in the seat of Nhulunbuy, toppling sitting member and deputy-chief-minister-to-be Lynne Walker by only eight votes after preferences and recounts on September 9.

Guyula delivered the NT Labor Party its only defeat in the August 28 election — it now holds a whopping 18 seats in the 25-seat parliament. The seat was previously seen a safe one for the popular Walker.

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