Australian News

More than 500 people attended a rally called by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) on September 9 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar (Burma).

Rally chair Adel Salman, the vice-president of the ICV, said genocidal policies against the Rohingya have been carried out for decades. The Rohingya were citizens of Burma when it became independent in 1948, but were deprived of citizenship after a military coup in 1962.

In a major embarrassment for the federal government, the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Nigel Hadgkiss was forced to resign on September 13 after admitting he breached workplace laws.

Hadgkiss came under pressure to resign from his $426,000 a year job after he admitted to breaching s.503 of the Fair Work Act by publishing downloadable posters and fact sheets on the ABCC’s website that misrepresented the rights of union officials to enter premises to meet workers.

A protest by maintenance workers outside Esso’s Longford gas plant in Victoria has entered its 12th week.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has announced his state will ban single-use plastic bags from July 1 next year, the same day Queensland begins its ban. South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and ACT have already implemented a ban.

The Conservation Council of WA welcomed the decision. Director Piers Verstegen said: “Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem because plastics remain in the environment, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces which contaminate soil and water and affect the health of wildlife.

Lawless Logging, a new report by Friends of the Earth, Fauna and Flora Research Collective and Goongerah Environment Centre, has documented 27 unlawful native forest logging operations by Victoria's state-owned logging company VicForests in protected threatened species habitat and rainforest in East Gippsland and the Central Highlands.

"Northern Syria’s Feminist Revolution" is the title of a one-day seminar to be held at Victoria University on November 4.

It is being jointly organised by the Kurdish Democratic Community Centre of Victoria, the Kurdish Women’s League of Victoria and the Australians for Kurdistan solidarity group. It is also sponsored by Victoria University’s Community, Identity and Displacement Research Network.

The National Union of Workers (NUW) joined with Melbourne’s Rohingya community on September 7 to protest the genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar. The NUW has formed a strong bond with the Rohingya community through its work organising Rohingya and other heavily exploited migrant farm workers to win better wages and working conditions.

Many members of the Rohingya community in Melbourne have family members who have been killed in the current genocidal attacks on Rohingya in Myanmar.

On September 13, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members took strike action against Sydney University management’s refusal to negotiate a pay rise, shift casual staff to full-time or guarantee jobs in an amalgamation ‘Strategic Plan’ push, which has seen the destruction of Sydney College of the Arts.

Members of Sydney's Iranian community and their supporters marked the 29th anniversary of the massacre of political prisoners in Iran with an exhibition and gathering in Sydney's Martin Place on September 3. The display included an 8-metre-long list containing the names of more than 4700 victims.

During the summer of 1988, thousands of Iranian political prisoners were executed across the country. These prisoners had survived the mass executions of the early years of repression which followed the crushing of the 1979 revolution and were serving long sentences.

More than 200 people participated in a rally and march for refugee rights on September 2. A similar rally was also held in Sydney.

The demonstration was organised at short notice by the Refugee Action Collective in response to the federal government's decision to end the $100 a week income support for people who were brought to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment and evict them from the houses they are living in. This will initially affect 100 people, but may eventually affect many more.

The Resources Regulator Lee Shearer revealed in a Budget Estimates hearing on September 1 that it is investigating whether Korean mining company KEPCO is fit and proper to hold a mining licence in New South Wales, after serious international fraud and corruption allegations against the company were made.

KEPCO is proposing to develop two open-cut coalmines in the beautiful Bylong Valley, about 55 km north-east of Mudgee in north-western NSW. The mine is expected to produce up to 6.5 million tonnes of coal a year for 25 years, commencing early next year.

A rally in support of equal marriage has drawn the biggest LGBTI rights rally in Canberra's history and the biggest crowd Canberra has seen since the rally against the decision to send Australian troops to Iraq in 2003.

More than 3000 supporters of marriage equality filled Garema Place on September 2, before marching through Civic to demand immediate action on marriage equality.

The rally was organised by marriage equality group Equal Love, which organised the Melbourne protest on August 26 that saw more than 20,000 people demand equal marriage rights.

Less than a week after federal education minister Simon Birmingham urged universities to follow the example of Murdoch University in West Australia in terminating its enterprise agreement (EA), vice chancellors at another two universities launched actions designed to undermine staff unions and collective bargaining.

Life could become harder for some of Australia's lowest paid workers.

The Australian Industry Group, on behalf of Hair and Beauty Australia, has asked the Fair Work Commission to slash Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in the hairdressing industry.

They want to reduce Sunday penalty rates for hairdressers from 200% to 150% and public holiday rates from 250% to 225%.

The Australian Workers Union said the cut would mean a qualified hairdresser could lose $85 a week for an eight-hour Sunday shift and almost $4500 a year.

In another example of wage theft, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has revealed that employers have failed to pay superannuation for their staff by an average of $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015: a total of $17 billion.

The worst offenders were small and medium businesses in the construction, retail, food and accommodation sectors.

The ATO has been investigating "the superannuation guarantee gap" — the difference between the 9.5% superannuation guarantee payment required by law and the contributions employers actually make.

Adani lobbyist and former Queensland Labor Party state secretary Cameron Milner, who played a key role in the 2015 election win of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, has returned to Labor headquarters.

Not only is the controversial WestConnex system of motorways and tunnels a social and environmental disaster, the tolls set to be charged by the NSW Coalition government will rip off ordinary motorists on behalf of the giant private roadway companies.

The latest revelation is that the M5 motorway could be tolled for 40 years after 2026, when the existing toll was due to end.

When Australia began forcibly moving people out of Manus Island detention centre to East Lorengau and Port Moresby in August, peaceful protests were launched in the detention centre.

When Australia cut off the power and water, people continued to defiantly protest.

When a detainee, Hamed, was found dead, his body beaten and hung from a tree near the East Lorengau transit centre, a vigil was held for him and the protests continued.

About 100 people attended a community celebration in Port Augusta on September 2 to mark a huge win for the local community: the state government’s support for Australia’s first solar thermal power plant with storage in Port Augusta.

This was the culmination of a seven-year campaign and it will have a far-reaching impact on the future of renewable energy in this country. US company SolarReserve will begin construction of the 150MW plant in 2018. It is expected to be completed in 2020.

September 5 was a big day for Victoria’s extreme Right.

In the morning, three fascists, United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell, the Party for Freedom’s Neil Erikson and supporter Christopher Shortis, were all found guilty of inciting serious contempt of Muslims.

In the evening, nine protesters from Party of Freedom, armed with megaphones and clutching signs reading "Love it or leave it", stormed the Yarra Council meeting to oppose its decision to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day and to cease holding any citizenship ceremonies on that day.

More than 350 activists participated in the Sydney Stop Adani Summit on September 2.

Participants came from a range of organisations. Some were part of the Stop Adani Alliance, which includes the Bob Brown Foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation, 350.org, GetUp!, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Sea Shepherd and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Early childhood educators, from Cairns to Hobart and from Perth to Townsville; from big cities like Sydney to the smallest like Launceston, walked off the job on September 7 to demand equal pay.

Around Australia, 90 child care centres and more than 3000 educators, parents, children and supporters from other unions and community groups joined the largest early childhood walk-off in Australia’s history.

In a move reminiscent of Australia’s infamous military ties to Indonesia’s murderous Suharto dictatorship, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on September 1 that Australia would send special forces to the Philippines.

The descendants of Gurindji workers who participated in the historic walk-off at Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory have used its 51st anniversary celebration to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart and call for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice in parliament.

Federal immigration minister Peter Dutton has come up with a new act of cruelty against asylum seekers: he is trying to force people now in Australia back to danger in Nauru and Manus Island.

Dutton has invented a new class of visa — the final departure bridging E-visa — which cuts income support from asylum seekers already living in the community. They have been given six months to arrange to either go back to their home countries or be sent back to offshore detention.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said the Fair Work Commission’s decision on August 29 to agree to terminate Murdoch University’s enterprise agreement (EA), which covers more than 3000 staff, is extremely disappointing but not unexpected.

The test for terminating an agreement is very low. The agreement must be past its expiry date, negotiations for a replacement agreement must have been unsuccessful, termination must not be against the public interest and it must be considered “appropriate” to do so.

Newcastle’s bus drivers have been repeatedly underpaid since the city’s public transport system was privatised on July 1.

About 70 workers have been underpaid between $200 and $600 since then.

The NSW government awarded Keolis Downer a 10-year contract to operate Newcastle’s public transport system of buses, ferries and the new light rail last year.

It was the first time in Australia that one company was awarded a contract to operate a city’s entire transport system.

Federal government departments have been ordered to keep their "average staffing levels" in line with those from 2006–07, the final year of the Howard government.

The Senate was told on August 28 that labour hire firms are reaping big profits from this by supplying temporary workers who cost the government more than if they were directly employed but who earn about 3% less money.

Community and Public Sector Union deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said it was "an utterly ludicrous situation engineered entirely by the short-sighted policies of the Turnbull government”.

Community outrage over the NSW Coalition government's decision to shift the iconic Powerhouse Museum from its central city location in Ultimo to a flood-prone site on the Parramatta River is growing, fuelled by the excessive secrecy surrounding the cost of the move.

At a NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the plan, museum experts claimed the transfer could cost at least $1.5 billion, and risked destroying irreplaceable artefacts crucial to the collection.

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) announced on August 30, it would withdraw as a service provider from the 1800RESPECT Trauma Counselling Service, the federal government-funded hotline.

The announcement punctuates a struggle waged by RDVSA workers to maintain the hotline as a non-profit specialist counselling service in the face of a push by the managing company Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) towards privatisation. After MHS’s subcontract with RDVSA expired in June, MHS put the contract out to tender with new contract provisions.

Sixty residents of Fawkner, a northern suburb of Melbourne, attended a meeting on August 27 to hear an update on the campaign against the proposed redevelopment of the site of the former Nufarm chemical factory.

One of the chemicals made in the factory was Agent Orange, which was used by the United States during the Vietnam War. Local resident Sally Beattie told the meeting Agent Orange is still causing birth defects in Vietnam today.

Mining company Rio Tinto has been fined only $50,000 over the collapse of a dam wall at its Mount Thorley Warkworth mine last year.

It is estimated that up to 4 megalitres of sediment-laden rainwater flowed into the Wallaby Scrub Road reserve from the dam. The company blamed the collapse on several days of continuous rain, which softened the dam’s earth wall. However the court found the event was not a major storm but "merely what is regarded as a one-in-two-year rain event". 

An open letter from eight former agronomists and soil scientists, including five who worked for the Department of Primary Industries, has urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to halt Shenhua’s Watermark coalmine and protect the Liverpool Plains from mining.

The letter said the agreement the government reached last month with Shenhua to renew its coal exploration licence, paving the way for the mine to proceed, puts at risk “the future of one of the major contributors to food and fibre security”.

“Don’t let our community be destroyed” was the message of the Gronn Place community meeting organised by Friends of Public Housing and Socialist Alliance on August 30.

About 50 public housing tenants and supporters of public housing gathered to discuss their rights. This was the second meeting on the estate. The first meeting was held on July 15.

The belated decision by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to set up a public inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is aimed at heading off the growing calls for a royal commission into the entire scandal-ridden banking sector.

The August 27 announcement by APRA of an “independent” probe into the country's biggest bank followed a series of scandals that have rocked the financial world.

More than 250 people gathered on August 26 for the Frack Free People's Rally organised by Lock the Gate Alliance and Frack Free WA outside the Western Australia State Labor Conference.

Townsville pizza delivery driver Casey Salt and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) are taking Domino's to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in the latest challenge to unfair agreements struck between big retail and fast food employers and the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA).

Salt will ask the FWC to terminate an exploitative agreement her employer made with the SDA that has left workers underpaid tens of millions of dollars

The federal government’s war on militant unions has escalated with the introduction of a bill that would give it the power to deregister unions, disqualify officials and block unions from merging.

The bill, which was introduced on August 16, goes further than the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. It could scuttle mergers that have been approved by an overwhelming majority of union members, based on opposition from business.

Cancer Council Australia, unions and public health advocates have expressed alarm over proposed federal government changes to industrial chemical regulations.

The changes mean more than 99% of new industrial chemicals will not be officially assessed for threats to public health and the environment before being introduced to the public.

The federal government’s vulnerable workers legislation, which it says is to crack down on franchisee underpayments, would give the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) coercive powers to investigate unions and compulsorily obtain information from workers over suspected unlawful industrial action.

Employment Minister Senator Michaelia Cash said on August 16 the new law would mean the FWO could obtain evidence of "discrimination, coercion, conduct relating to false records, unprotected industrial action, accessorial liability, unfair dismissal [and] bullying claims".

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