Australian News

The neo-Nazi True Blue Crew held their second "Australian Pride" rally in Melbourne on June 25 and were met with an "anti-racist/anti-fascist" counter protest by No Room For Racism and Campaign Against Racism and Fascism.

There were about 150–200 fascists and about 200–300 anti-racists. Several hundred police, including from the Public Order Response Team, kept the two sides apart.

Five people were treated by Ambulance Victoria after police pepper-sprayed the anti-racists in Russell St after the main rally had broken up.

More than 200 people packed into the Pitt Street Uniting Church on June 28 to protest the state government’s plans to privatise public bus services in the city's inner west.

The community assembly, organised by UnionsNSW and the Sydney Alliance, drew bus drivers and other workers, unionists and concerned members of the public to join the growing campaign to stop the sell-off of public transport.

The Australia Institute has warned that continued coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef could lead to plummet in international visitors to the region by more than a million a year. The massive drop in visitors would result in the loss of $1 billion in tourism income and up to 10,000 jobs.

The institute surveyed 3000 Chinese, US and British visitors. The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s top tourist attraction, but more than one-third of Americans, 55% of Chinese and 27% of British visitors surveyed said they would holiday elsewhere if the reef died completely.

The Socialist Alliance has announced three candidates for the Inner West Council elections to be held on September 9.

Pip Hinman will run in Stanmore, Susan Price will run in Ashfield and Blair Vidakovich in Leichhardt.

Twenty-five abortion rights protesters picketed in central Brisbane on June 28 to demand decriminalisation of abortion. In peak-hour traffic, they walked into a pedestrian intersection, chanting and waving placards and urging motorists to honk their horns in support of abortion rights.

Christians, Jews, Baha'is, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas and Quakers were among the religious groups represented at multi-faith gathering for climate action in Brisbane on June 27.

Anglican Dean Peter Catt spoke first arguing that Earth is part of God's creation and needs to be protected for its own sake, not simply for utilitarian reasons. This opened up a theme developed by other speakers about religious motivations for taking environmental action.

Justice Peter Applegarth of the Supreme Court rejected on June 23 the application by New Acland Coal (NAC) for judicial review of the Queensland Land Court’s decision, which recommended rejecting the Stage 3 expansion of the New Hope Mine. He said he was not satisfied irreparable harm would be caused to New Acland Coal and other third parties if a stay was not ordered.

Senate to investigate SDA deals

The giant Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) will be subject to a parliamentary inquiry over wage deals that have cost workers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Senate inquiry, initiated by Nick Xenophon and backed by the Greens, will examine claims that workers at retailers such as McDonald's, KFC and Coles are paid penalty rates under their SDA-negotiated enterprise agreements that are lower than the industry award.

The V8 supercars race due to run through Newcastle streets in November places “private profit over the common good and social justice” according to the Newcastle East Residents Group (NERG).

In a recent leaflet NERG points out that residents continue to be sidelined by Newcastle City Council, Destinations NSW (a government tourism body) and Supercars Australia Pty Ltd.

The race deal was worked out in a private briefing and closed council meetings without community involvement last year.

A proposed law restructuring Victoria's fire services has been referred to a parliamentary select committee, and will not be put to a vote until parliament resumes in August. This follows the expression of "concerns" about the law by conservative crossbenchers in the upper house.

The proposed law would end the antiquated situation where regional cities and a large part of the Melbourne metropolitan area are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA), and receive an inferior service. 

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has called on workers to start demanding pay rises.

Lowe said on June 19 Australia’s economy is suffering a “crisis” in wage growth and the relatively low unemployment rate means workers should start asking for a larger share of the nation’s economic pie.

His call comes as data shows the share of national income going to workers has fallen to a 50 year low and the underemployment rate, where workers want to work more hours, rose to 8.8%.

Underemployment has now risen for the past six consecutive quarters.

Representatives at the annual meeting of the Australian Local Government Association voted on June 20 to back a motion by Hobart city council to push for the federal government to change the date of Australia Day.

Hobart city council voted in April to sponsor changing Australia Day from January 26, a date many Indigenous people regard as Invasion Day.

This year, the City of Fremantle moved some Australia Day events to January 28, after local Aboriginal elders said January 26 was not a day to celebrate.

People living in and around Gloucester have barely drawn breath since successfully defeating AGL’s plans to turn the Gloucester Basin into a coal seam gas field. Now, they are fighting to stop a massive coal mine, the Rocky Hill Coal project.

Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL) first proposed an open-cut coalmine, 900 metres from homes on productive agricultural land in 2012. The project included major pieces of infrastructure including a coal handling and preparation plant and a rail load-out facility and operating four open-cut pits 24 hours a day.

The WA state Labor government announced on June 20 that it will not obstruct the construction of the four uranium mines in the state that have already received environmental approval. But it says it will block future proposals.

Toro Energy's Wiluna project, Vimy Resources' Mulga Rock project, and Cameco's Kintyre and Yeelirrie projects were all approved before Labor won the March election. Environmental approval for Yeelirrie was initially denied amid fears several species of subterranean fauna would be made extinct, but it eventually got the nod anyway.

Stop Adani groups are rapidly springing up in cities and towns across northern Queensland, intent on helping the movement against the company’s Carmichael coalmine.

Campaign roadshows have been springboards, including in Townsville and Port Douglas, with others proposed for Gordonvale and the Atherton Tablelands.

The federal government and its offshore detention contractors will pay more than $70 million in compensation to 1905 refugees and asylum seekers for illegally detaining them in dangerous and damaging conditions on Manus Island.

In what may be Australia's largest ever human rights-related settlement, on June 14 the government settled out of court before the class action, brought on behalf of the refugees and asylum seekers detained on the island, began.

The following article is excerpted from a speech Rachel Evans gave at a vigil in Sydney to commemorate the first anniversary of the Orlando massacre in the US.

* * *

I look into the crowd and see our diverse community. I see that we are creative, expressive people. I see that we are loved and that we love. I see our LGBTIQA community and I see our straight allies. I see that we are not white, that we are non-gender binary. I see our sadness, feel our loss.

Environmental approval for the expansion of Adani’s coal port at Abbot Point was ruled lawful in the Queensland Supreme Court on June 15.

Local group Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) had challenged the legality of the Queensland government’s decision to approve the controversial Abbot Point coal terminal expansion in Queensland’s Supreme Court on October 7.

Proposed new logging rules for NSW public land will convert much of the north coast's public forests into “quasi-plantations”, reduce buffers on vital headwater streams and remove protections from most threatened animals and plants.

The proposed changes remove the need to look for and protect most threatened plants and animals. Only 14 animal species and populations are to retain their current protection, 23 will have their protection removed and 26 will have their protection significantly reduced.

There were chants and clicking knitting needles on June 9 as the Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG) and Wollongong Climate Action Network (WCAN) joined concerned community members for a large, loud and long lunchtime rally outside the Commonwealth Bank in Wollongong.

They were there to tell the bank: “Don't wreck the Reef, don't wreck the climate and don't fund Adani”.

Production and maintenance workers at the Carter Holt Harvey Myrtleford site, who have been locked out by management for more than seven weeks, voted on June 8 and 9 to reject the company’s proposal for a new Enterprise Agreement covering the site.

The result of the secret ballot demonstrates that the company’s proposals are totally unacceptable to the workers.

Compensation paid to 7-Eleven workers by 7-Eleven's head office has so far reached $110 million — an average of $39,000 for each of the 2832 claims by workers who were underpaid by franchisees.

The payout is much greater than fines that could be imposed under existing laws, raising questions about whether the federal government's proposed law to protect vulnerable workers will go far enough in holding similar conduct to account.

VicForests' new Timber Utilisation Plan 2017 for western Victoria shows logging will target areas known to contain high numbers of threatened species, including the iconic red-tailed black cockatoo, and large areas of endangered, vulnerable or depleted native vegetation types.

Much of the timber to be harvested is for low-value uses including commercial firewood, poles, posts and some sawlogs.

In a statement to the Senate on June 13, the federal government confirmed it will sell uranium to Ukraine despite significant safety and security concerns raised by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT).

In February a JSCOT investigation found that existing safeguards were “not sufficient” and there was a risk Australian nuclear material would disappear in Ukraine.

Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has taken over two exploration permits from BP and plans to begin drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight by late next year.

Statoil and BP have signed a swap agreement covering four offshore petroleum titles. Under the deal Statoil transferred its 30% equity in two of its permits to BP and exited the licences. In return, BP has given its 70% equity in two other permits to Statoil and relinquished those licences.

The NSW Department of Planning & Environment admitted on June 7 that it had been inundated with more than 23,000 mostly oppositional submissions to corporate giant Santos’ plan for a gas field in the Pilliga region in north-western NSW.

The department has now totalled the figures: more than 18,000 “form submissions” were sent in — meaning that many people took advantage of anti-fracking groups’ efforts to broaden the anti-gas campaign, by signing a form and adding their personal view to a statement of concern.

Health services in Australia are resource intensive and a leading producer of waste and greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change.

The Victorian public healthcare system contributes 1% of Victoria’s total emissions and is estimated to be 2.8% of Victoria’s total ecological footprint.

The City of Sydney has put forward an alternative proposal for the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway project.

Based on the original design for the motorway project, the alternative proposal offers a more direct motorway route to Port Botany and Sydney Airport for traffic from the west of the city.

The City of Sydney claims this alternative model will reduce congestion and remove the need for expensive tolls, while saving the NSW taxpayers billions of dollars.

Residents’ groups from Sydney's west and inner-west came together in a protest outside NSW Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres’ electorate office in Penrith on June 5. New tolls are about to be introduced on the M4 motorway as part of the giant tollway and tunnel scam that is WestConnex.

Commuters from western Sydney will be charged $2000 a year in the new M4 tolls, according to a letter from Penrith Valley Community Unions NSW (PVCU) that was delivered to Ayres' office.

Vigil protests were held on May 25, in Hobart and Melbourne, to mark 100 days of peaceful occupation of the wildlife-rich forests of Tasmania’s Tarkine. The vigil, organised by the Bob Brown Foundation and Save the Tarkine, urged members of the Legislative Council to reject the Hodgman government's proposed destructive forests legislation and to provide National Park protection for the Tarkine.

The proposed sale by Australia Post of Sydney's historic GPO building to private business is "scandalous" and puts the complex at risk of neglect, according to the head of the National Trust NSW (NTNSW).

Architect and NTNSW branch president Clive Lucas, who specialises in restoring historic buildings, said the GPO was one of, if not the most, important colonial post offices in the country.

Minimum wages rises $22 a week

Australia's lowest-paid workers will get a $22 a week pay rise after the Fair Work Commission lifted the national minimum wage to $694.90 from July 1.

FWC lifted the wage by 3.3% or 59 cents an hour to $18.29 an hour. Inflation for the year to the end of March was 2.1%. Minimum rates in modern awards will also rise by 3.3%.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the rise would not make up for penalty rate cuts affecting 700,000 workers.

The decision will affect up to 2.3 million people reliant on minimum rates of pay.

 

On July 20 last year Wonnarua Elders Kevin Taggart and Patricia Hansson were part of a small group of Bulga residents protesting plans by Rio Tinto to close Wallaby Scrub Road as part of its expansion of the Warkworth mine.

Police arrived and arrested the only two Aboriginal people present.

The Northern Territory government issued a declaration on May 30 under the Petroleum Act reserving the entire Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park from the grant of a mineral and petroleum exploration permit or license.

The Traditional Owners, the Watarrka Park Land Trust, had been campaigning for such a declaration since they were notified of a proposed grant of two Exploration Permit Applications over the entire park in 2012.

The Adani company claims that a final decision to invest in the Carmichael coal mine has been made. However, campaigners have dismissed this announcement as a stunt and vowed the mine will never come into production.

Blair Palese of 350 Australia wrote to supporters on June 6: "We want to tell [Adani] that we are more committed than ever to STOP this project and ensure that sanity prevails by making sure this climate bomb never sees the light of day."

Local farmers and community members joined representatives of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance and their legal team from the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) outside the Queensland Land Court on May 31.

They were celebrating a resounding victory in their case against the expansion of the New Acland coalmine in the rich farmlands of the Darling Downs.

Residents across south-west Western Australia reacted angrily to a state government admission that unconventional gas exploration and mining could still go ahead despite an election promise to ban fracking in the state.

The Fair Go For Pensioners coalition organised a rally on May 24 in response to the federal budget’s significant new restrictions for those on Centrelink payments, including older Australians.

Their main concerns are with the change to the pensioner assets test, attacks on Medicare, the threat to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and a reduction on the right to overseas travel. The rally also addressed issues faced by the unemployed on Newstart, those on disability support and single parents.

The Victorian Labor government has announced its plans for restructuring Victoria's fire services.

Currently, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade covers only part of the Melbourne metropolitan area, while the Country Fire Authority (CFA) covers not only rural areas but also regional cities and many of Melbourne's suburbs.

The proposed law would create a new body, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), which would cover the whole Melbourne metropolitan area and regional cities.

Big steps campaign to escalate

United Voice, the union covering early childhood educators, announced on May 27 the result of a ballot of more than 3000 educators on whether to escalate their equal pay campaign.

The union said 95% of educators voted to take action on equal pay with sector-wide walk-offs later this year.

The move follows similar action on International Women's Day, when about 1000 workers walked off the job across Australia.

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