Australian News

Former Sydney Swans player, anti-racism campaigner and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney on September 30. The Adnyamathanha and Narungga man was named a Doctor of Health Sciences (honoris causa) for his work in supporting the Indigenous community, his charity work, his community leadership and his sporting exploits.

Polls released in the first week of October have shown a surge in support for marriage equality, the result of new Australian Electoral Commission enrolments by young people, women and inner-city residents who are more likely to vote Yes.

About a dozen neo-Nazis stormed the Moreland Council meeting on September 27 following the council's decision at their last meeting not to celebrate Australia Day on January 26.

Councillor Sue Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly she "didn't feel threatened" by the protesters, who "looked like buffoons", but that their actions indicate how provocative and confident they have become.

“This has to be the last death”, Nioka Chatfield, the mother of a 22-year-old Aboriginal man who recently died in custody told a rally in Sydney on September 29.

“I nominate myself. I want to be the last Aboriginal mother crying for my child,” she told the protest that was called on the first anniversary of Wayne Fella Morrison's death in custody and the 34th anniversary of the death of John Pat in Western Australia, which sparked the Stop Black Deaths in Custody movement.

Members of the family of Ms Dhu, the 22-year-old Yamatji woman who died in custody at the South Hedland watch house in 2014, have received an apology and $1.1 million from the Western Australian government.

The WA Attorney-General said the payment does not prevent the family from pursuing further legal action against the government over Ms Dhu's death in custody.

The ACT government has declared a Reconciliation Day public holiday on the first Monday on or after the 1967 Referendum anniversary date of May 27, which marks the start of Reconciliation Week.

It is the first time in Australia an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-focused public holiday has been created.

Professor Tom Calma of Reconciliation Australia said he hoped it signalled a shift to celebrating multiculturalism, rather than the proclamation of Australia on January 26.

About 20 people attended a “Straight Lives Matter” rally organised by the far-right Party for Freedom in a Sydney park on September 23.

By contrast, about 10,000 people took part in Brisbane’s Pride march on the same day and 30,000 attended Sydney’s “Say Yes” rally on September 9.

A stage had been set up for Nick Folkes to address the anticipated throng, but the crowd was sparse, massively outnumbered by the 60 police assigned to keep order.

Consistent work by residents of Melbourne's northern suburb of Fawkner has resulted in a unanimous decision by Moreland Council to reject a development application on a site heavily contaminated with dioxin.

Dioxin is a byproduct of Agent Orange and is one of the world’s deadliest chemicals.

Moreland Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, who has been supporting residents in their campaign, told Green Left Weekly that without the community campaign such a decision would not have been possible.

"The result was a real example of people power,” she said.

TThe NSW state government is attempting to carry out the privatisation of its controversial $16.8 billion Westconnex tollway project in relative secret under pressure from the growing calls for it to be stopped.

A submission by the Sydney City Council (SCC) claims the government is planning to separate construction of road tunnels for the third stage of WestConnex from the proposed underground spaghetti road junction at Rozelle in an attempt to “de-risk the project” ahead of its sale to private investors.

Thousands of activists will converge on a range of sites around the country on October 7 to send a message to politicians to say No to Adani No to funding Adani from taxpayer’s money.

In local community events from Port Douglas to Hobart, people will gather on beaches and parks to spell out these messages in the form of human signs. 

Activists from all over Australia travelled to be part of the week of frontline action against Adani coalmine. Green Left Weekly spoke to some of them to get their thoughts on the protest.

The Australian Public Service (APS) cut more than 3600 jobs in the past year, the latest report on the sector says. Many of the jobs lost appear to be from the APS contract workforce.

The APS employed some 15,000 temporary staff in June, or 9.8% of employees. A year earlier it had some 18,000 non-ongoing staff, which was about 11.55% of the workforce.

Unions representing hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers have challenged the Fair Work Commission's decision to cut Sunday penalty rates in the Federal Court.

A full court of five judges heard the appeal over three days from September 26 against the Fair Work Commission’s decision that cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in the fast food, hospitality, retail and pharmacy sectors from July 1.

Hundreds of Streets ice-cream workers have been told they risk disciplinary action if they protest on social media about the company’s threats to cut their pay and conditions.

Streets owner Unilever has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the enterprise agreement at its Minto plant in south-western Sydney, a move that sparked the AMWU social media campaign against the company.

During the 2015 Queensland election campaign, the then-Labor opposition promised to prohibit trans-shipping operations within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as part of its commitment to protect the Reef.

Esso Longford workers have revealed the latest mascot in the fight for jobs at the company’s Gippsland gas plant. With Scabby the Rat banned by a Federal Court order, Greedy the Pig has stepped in to continue the struggle.

The workers have been on strike since June over a new enterprise agreement agreed to by three contractors in Western Australia, which then applied nationally. The workers were told to accept 15-30% wage cuts on two-week fly-in, fly-out rosters or lose their jobs.

A 22-year-old Aboriginal man has died in custody after being found unconscious in his cell at the Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 20. He was taken to hospital and died two days later.

Even before an investigation has been undertaken, the police and some media have said his death is not “suspicious” — a deliberate attempt to pass judgement that his death was a suicide.

But his family, who rallied outside Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 24 say he had no reason to self-harm.

Adriana Rivas is a former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) agent living in Sydney. DINA was Chile’s intelligence bureau during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and is known as Pinochet’s Gestapo due to its cruelty and mass assassinations.

The week of frontline action against the Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee basin, which took place from September 16 to 23, is just the beginning.

More than 100 people, many new to campaigning, came to say: “We will stop Adani”.

A new research report from the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has revealed that any move by the Queensland state government to approve the Acland coalmine expansion would represent an unprecedented and radical departure from recent tradition.

In front of a packed public gallery, Labor sided with the Liberals to award the Inner West Council mayorship and deputy mayorship to themselves on September 21.

Labor’s Darcy Byrne received the support of two Liberals and conservative independent Victor Macri for mayor, with Liberal councillor Julie Passas elected as deputy.

Byrne and Passas narrowly defeated anti-WestConnex independent Pauline Lockie and the Greens’ Colin Hesse, who stood for mayor and deputy, respectively, in an 8—7 vote.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) welcomed the resignation on September 13 of the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Nigel Hadgkiss.

The union had called for his resignation after it succeeded in having Hadgkiss confess in the Federal Court to a reckless breach of the industrial laws he oversees.

Hadgkiss admitted to a contravention of s503 of the Fair Work Act in relation to the ABCC's publication of incorrect information about union right of entry rules.

More than 450 University of Sydney staff members belonging to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) attended a mass meeting on September 21 that voted to accept an agreement offer from management, rather than to continue strike action.

The negotiations have taken place in the context of university Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence – renowned for his high pay, which is now at $1.4 million – moving forward with his “Strategic Plan” amalgamation program.

Local residents rallied with activists from around Sydney as part of the "No M4 toll, Stop WestConnex" campaign on September 18 in Penrith. Protesters marched on the local electoral office of New South Wales Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres.

The protesters delivered more than 2000 letters of opposition to the re-imposed tolls on the widened M4 motorway, which is part of the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project.

Members of Armidale Rural Australians for Refugees and the Socialist Alliance New England branch held their third weekly picket in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers at a busy intersection in Armidale, New South Wales, on September 22. It followed a successful action on September 15.

Protest organiser Bea Bleile said: “Manus Island and Nauru are not safe for refugees and asylum seekers. We call on the Australian government to bring all refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia immediately.

The CSIRO Staff Association has slammed the latest proposed cuts to jobs in vital research areas of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s premier public scientific body.

The union warned of job redundancies in minerals research and the Sydney laboratory that helped invent wifi internet technology.

Staff at the Berkeley Living retirement village in Patterson Lakes, Victoria, walked off the job on September 15 after months of not being paid. Some staff returned the next day to look after residents on a voluntary basis.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is also investigating reports that the village operators owe money to former residents.

The daughter of a former resident backed up claims that staff had not been paid properly, but said they were providing the best care they were able to. “They are feeding the patients out of their own pockets,” she told ABC News.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions launched its national “Change the Rules” campaign in Perth on September 21. The campaign seeks to push for pro-worker changes to the Fair Work Act.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said: “We need to change the rules at work so working people can’t be held to ransom by bad employers who will use loopholes to cancel agreements, cut pay and slash conditions.”

Deakin University researcher Ronan Lee believes Australia’s links with the Burmese military must stop in light of its recent campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

Lee, whose research focus is Burma, made these comments at a Darebin Ethnic Communities Council forum on Burma the Rohingya refugee crisis held on September 16.

Lee gave some historical background, noting there is evidence that the Rohingya have lived in what is now Burma’s Rakhine state for hundreds of years.

Up to 800 people rallied in Martin Place against the genocide of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma on September 17. The protest was organised by the Sydney Press and Media Council.

Hundreds and thousands of Rohingya, including women and children, have been displaced from their homeland in Rakhine, Burma and forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The protest highlighted the mass killings of Rohingya community, including women and children, under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ang Sang Suu Kyi and the military regime in Burma.

[This blog is no longer being updated. Here is an initial report that appears with photos in the latest issue of Green Left Weekly.]

Saturday 23 September, 8am

Local activists posted a pledge on the Front Line Action on Coal facebook page:

Staff at James Cook University in northern Queensland — at least half of whom are employed casually, and often infrequently — have rejected a management proposal for an enterprise agreement at the university. Of the 54% of staff who voted, 58% voted against the proposal in the non-union ballot held over September 13–15.

National Tertiary Education Union members mobilised in the brief one-week consultation and balloting period to secure a vote nearly three times their own numbers.

A noisy group of protesters gathered outside the Australian Infrastructure Investors Forum on September 12 to “welcome” its keynote speaker, the CEO of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) Laurie Walker. NAIF Board members are the focus of a campaign by the movement to prevent the massive Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee basin.

About 800 people marched through the streets of Fremantle on September 9 in a colourful demonstration urging a Yes vote in the equal marriage rights national survey. The pavements were left covered with love hearts and messages supporting the Yes campaign.

The march followed a rally in Fremantle’s Pioneer Park, which was welcomed to country by Aunty Corina Abraham. She compared the refusal of marriage rights to LGBTI people to the refusal of marriage rights to Aboriginal people under the control of the 1905 Aborigines Act.

Say Yes Geelong held a local Equality Walk on September 9 to promote the Yes campaign for marriage equality. The crowd of almost 1000 people, who gathered in the centre of Geelong, was very diverse and included a number of families with young children, teachers, religious ministers, unionists, students, local council candidates, local MPs and more.

Speakers included Beth McNiven, a member of Geelong Rainbow Inc, who spoke about feelings of isolation living in a smaller town and the support she has found since moving back to Geelong.

Calling for an end to the demonisation of jobseekers, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) held a rally on September 8 outside Channel Seven's Sunrise studio in Martin Place. They opposed the vilification of Australia's economically disadvantaged in Sunrise programs such as "Australia's worst dole bludging areas named and shamed", in which commentators called for punitive welfare penalties.

Moreland City Council took a big step forward on September 13 when it voted to drop all references to January 26 as Australia Day out of respect for Aboriginal people. But it stopped short of cancelling its official Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

Socialists polled well in the Newcastle council elections on September 9. Steve O’Brien, Samantha Ashby and Gayle Dedman won 891 votes (4.13%) in Ward 1.

Their vote was more than 4% in five of the 13 booths, with the highest being in Newcastle East at 7.5%. O’Brien also won 2.10%, or 1909 votes, for Lord Mayor.

The “Community need not developer greed” platform resonated in a context where Labor boasted it would help developers, ignoring the impact on communities.

There was a 6% swing against the Liberal Party in the Inner West Council (IWC) election in Sydney on September 9.

This was a common pattern, reflected in other local elections also conducted then for councils that were forcibly amalgamated by the NSW Liberal government last year.

IWC is the product of the forced amalgamation of the former Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt Council.

Indigenous students protested at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale on September 12 after UNE management failed to adequately address their concerns and made decisions without consulting them.

Chanting “About us without us — Tell us why do you doubt us”, Indigenous students delivered their demands to UNE’s senior management at the Oorala Aboriginal Centre.

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