Australian News

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.

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.

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