Australian News

After more than six months camped outside the Reserve Bank building in Martin Place, and following months of negotiations between the state government and the City of Sydney Council, the homeless occupants of Sydney’s tent city began packing up their belongings on August 11.

The man often called the “Mayor of Martin Place”, Lanz Priestley, said some camp dwellers were moving to “friend’s places” or “friend’s backyards”, but some “don’t have anywhere to go”.

ABC’s Four Corners recent report “Trashed: The dirty truth about your rubbish” highlighted a crisis in Australia’s recycling and waste disposal. The report implicated local councils, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and federal governments in the dodgy but highly profitable illegal dumping industry.

Companies built around the core business of illegal dumping are making millions of dollars in profits while local councils are losing thousands of dollars in waste levies.

Activists have called for an independent inquiry into the Maules Creek coalmine in north-west NSW and its impact on the surrounding farming community after documents obtained by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) revealed a litany of environmental licence breaches over the past six years.

EJA applied to access documents known as annual returns, which detail breaches or "non-compliance with [environmental] licence", through the Government Information (Public Access) Act. But Whitehaven Coal, which owns the Maules Creek mine, fought them all the way.

About 190 Oaky North miners were locked out of their workplace in the Bowen Basin west of Rockhampton on August 4 for a third consecutive eight-day period. It was the fourth time the workers had been locked out since June by Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore, which the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) suspects of trying to replace the permanent workforce with contractors.

More than 300 unionists and local residents protested outside the electorate office of Liberal MP for Drummoyne John Sidoti on August 4.

Chanting “John Sidoti’s got to go!” and waving placards opposing the NSW government’s planned privatisation of public buses in the Inner West, the protest elicited much support from passing motorists and pedestrians. There was no response, however, from Sidoti’s office.

Flags from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Australian Services Union (ASU) were prominent.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has raised strong objections to moves by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to impose severe restrictions on public sector workers' personal use of social media. "It is completely unreasonable for a worker to face disciplinary action over a private email or something as benign as 'liking' a social media post," CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said on August 7.

More than 70 workers at Visy’s Dandenong plant voted on August 7 to maintain a peaceful picket and not return to work after an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) delegate was sacked on August 4 for organising “illegal industrial action”.

The workers, all members of the AMWU, had become increasingly angered by a series of provocative actions taken by Visy management in the weeks before the delegate was sacked.

The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a ruling on July 26 that confirmed an earlier General Court decision removing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from the EU's list of "terrorist organisations".

The LTTE was an armed organisation fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. It was formed in response to decades of discrimination and repression against the Tamil minority by the Sri Lankan government.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk’s 2015 election commitments to transparent decision making, no “secret deals” and that the Adani project must “stand alone on its feet ... on the economics of the project itself” have been challenged by documents released under a Right to Information request.

Gamilaraay elder Auntie Bowie Hickey and daughter Vanessa Hickey expressed their deep gratitude to those protesting outside a gas industry forum on August 3.

The Wilderness Society called the protest to highlight the widespread opposition to Santos’ Narrabri gas project in the Pilliga Forest.

The Socialist Alliance is the first party to nominate women candidates for Geelong's upcoming local council elections.

Sue Bull, a health and safety teacher, committed trade unionist and previous candidate for Socialist Alliance has been pre-selected, along with Sarah Hathway, a Deakin University student and 2014 state election candidate.

Stop Adani activists organised simultaneous protests at two branches of the Commonwealth Bank in Perth’s central business district on July 28, to highlight growing opposition to the CBA’s involvement with the Adani coalmine.

Activists rallied outside the bank’s main branch in the Murray Street mall and also occupied the Hay Street branch a block away.

The rally featured a human coal train chugging through the gathering, pulling carriages emblazoned with “STOP funding dirty coal STOP ADANI”. The bank reacted by locking its doors.

The Refugee Council of Australia has released a report into refugees’ experiences with the government's Jobactive program that found a number of agency staff members were "hostile" and provided little or no support.

The report called for an independent review of the $1.4 billion Jobactive program, saying it is largely failing refugees.

Refugees said they felt disrespected and were routinely being pulled out of English classes to attend compulsory Jobactive meetings that did not result in employment.

Activists rallied outside the Sydney Town Hall on July 29 in solidarity with the people of Venezuela who were voting in their Constituent Assembly elections amid a wave of right-wing terror attacks.

The rally was called by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch. It had the support of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) construction branch and formed part of the nationwide actions supporting the assembly elections in Venezuela.

More than one-third of Centrelink debt recovery cases have been overturned by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

It has set aside 960 Centrelink debt decisions out of 2699 appeals lodged from March last year and a further 132 were “varied”.

The data shows a steady rise in decisions from January when the government’s controversial “robo debt” measures were introduced.

A Centrelink decision can be “set aside” because the debt was incorrectly calculated or if it would cause the Centrelink recipient serious financial hardship.

The iconic Sirius building in the inner-city Rocks area has been temporarily saved from being sold to private developers, after the Land and Environment Court ruled on July 24 that the NSW government’s decision to keep the building off the heritage list was invalid.

The famous brutalist-style Sirius was specially built for public housing tenants, following the successful Builders Labourers Federation Green Bans campaign of the 1970s.

Five state and territory Conservation Councils are calling for a judicial inquiry into water management in the Murray-Darling Basin and the implementation of the Basin Plan in response to revelations by the ABC’s Four Corners on July 24.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to investigate allegations of maladministration and potential corruption raised in the report titled “Pumped — Who is benefitting from the millions spent on the Murray Darling?”.

Activists have called on the NSW government to cancel the exploration licence for the proposed KEPCO coalmine in the Bylong Valley after the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) Review Report slammed the project for putting at risk prime agricultural land, precious water resources, heritage values and the community.

A telephone poll of 700 residents of Gloucester and the Manning Valley conducted by ReachTEL on July 27 showed 73% do not want the NSW government to not approve the Rocky Hill coalmine that GRL wants to build within a kilometre of the town.

There have been numerous instances of human rights abuses since the Nauru detention centre was reopened in 2013 and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that no refugee who arrived by boat would ever be given safety in Australia. The Guardian’s Nauru Files give detailed accounts of children being assaulted, women sexually abused by guards and suicide attempts laughed at.

In March last year people in the Nauru detention centre began a daily protest that lasted for 240 days.

Delegates from several unions met in Sydney on July 28 and voted unanimously to call for a statewide day of action on October 18 in response to attacks on penalty rates, the ABCC, and the war on workers and their unions.

The meeting also voted to hold another combined unions delegates meeting in mid-September, to plan an ongoing campaign.

The motion was moved by Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) delegate Denis McNamara and seconded by Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey.

More than 100 people attended a public meeting called by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) on July 24 to discuss how to break bipartisan support for offshore processing. The discussion focused on ways to change Labor Party policy.

Chairperson Margaret Sinclair read a message from Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus, who said Australia has a "responsibility to take a greater number of refugees than we do". She said the current intake is "shameful".

Hundreds of Electrical Trades Union (ETU) members and other unionists protested outside Crown's casino complex in Southbank on July 25, after marching from the State Library of Victoria.

It was part of what the ETU promises to be an orchestrated campaign against former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett and the Crown Casino over the sacking of 16 gaming technicians.

Bus drivers and supporters rallied outside Burwood Bus Depot on July 20 to oppose plans by the NSW Coalition government to privatise Inner West bus services.

At the rally, petitions containing around 14,000 signatures against the bus privatisation were handed over to Labor and Greens MPs. Petitions with more than 10,000 signatures trigger a debate in state parliament.

The government reportedly announced a call for corporate expressions of interest in the privatisation the same day.

In the 1960s, Joy Cummings, a Labor Party activist, locked onto a row of Moreton Bay figs in Islington Park, Newcastle. The majestic trees, which had been earmarked for the chainsaw to widen the road, were saved and still stand today. Cummings went on to be elected to Newcastle Council and in 1974 became Australia’s first female Lord Mayor.

The family of Ms Dhu, who died in police custody in August 2014, is to launch legal action against the state of Western Australia, the police and the Country Health Service. They plan to lodge a claim of misconduct leading to death and a complaint of racial discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Ms Dhu’s uncle Shaun Harris said the claims were about accountability and instigating change. “We need to enforce change, custodial change and reform, not just in Western Australia but Australia wide. Without accountability there will be no justice for my niece.”

Warrnambool City councillors unanimously voted to support marriage equality on July 3. Councillor David Owen, who instigated the motion, said backing marriage equality would be a “symbolic act, in support of a very important social justice issue” and align it with 48 other councils in Australia.

Some 50 activists played protest games, sang and danced in the Commonwealth Bank’s foyer in Sydney on July 24. Stop Adani Sydney spokesperson Rada Germanos told Green Left Weekly: “We’re playing games in the Commonwealth Bank’s Sussex Street foyer calling on it to stop playing games with our collective future and pull out of funding the Adani Carmichael coal mine [in Queensland].” 

“In solidarity with Elijah’s family, his community and Kalgoorlie, we stand in protest” was the call by the Aboriginal group Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties (FISTT), which organised a rally of about 300 people at the Supreme Court in Sydney on July 24. It was one of a series of protest rallies around the country.

Wiradjuri elder Aunty Jenny Munro asked: “Where is the national outcry for this innocent 14-year-old boy? Where is the justice for the death of an innocent child? There is no justice for a murdered Aboriginal child.

In the face of an escalating international campaign by the right-wing Venezuelan opposition, backed to the hilt by the US, to bring down the left-wing government of President Nicolas Maduro, solidarity activists around the world, including Australia, are stepping up their activities. Supporters of the Venezuelan right-wing opposition are also escalating their efforts aimed at undermining and attacking the solidarity movement.

Since April, the people of Venezuela have been under constant attack from violent protests orchestrated by the right-wing opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

A “Venezuela-Brazil Solidarity” meeting organised by the Latin America Solidarity Network (LASNET) was held on June 8 in Melbourne.

It brought together a wide array of activists, including members of the Socialist Alliance, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and trade unionists.

About 50 people gathered on July 8 at the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) offices in Sydney to celebrate Venezuela’s Independence Day and express support for the Venezuelan people and their government.

It followed a reception of more than 100 guests organised by the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Canberra on July 5, marking the 206th anniversary of Venezuela’s Independence Day.

Message of solidarity from branch secretary Paul McAleer on behalf of the Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch.

Candles were firmly held against the darkness of Australia’s cruel bipartisan refugee policy on July 19.

Initiated by GetUp! and supported by numerous refugee rights organisations, the vigils drew thousands of people to more than 50 locations across Australia from big cities to small country towns.

The vigils marked four years since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that anyone who came seeking asylum in Australia via boat would never be resettled in Australia.

The man who ran over and killed Aboriginal teenager Elijah Doughty in Kalgoorlie last August could walk free from jail in seven months.

He was never charged with murder and was cleared of manslaughter by a Supreme Court jury, which convicted him of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. He was given a three year jail term but  could be released on parole by February.

A rally called by the Campaign for Democracy in Sri Lanka was held in Federation Square on July 16. Protesters are opposed to the creation of a private medical college, the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine. The Government Medical Officers Association has called for SAITM to be nationalised.

Speakers condemned police attacks on students, doctors and others protesting against the privatisation of medical education, including when 96 students were injured during a police attack against a demonstration on June 21.

Sydney rally condemns Aboriginal deaths in custody

Jim McIlroy

Sydney

The July 19 anniversary of the death in custody of Aboriginal woman Rebecca Maher was marked by a march from Hyde Park to Parliament House. The march also protested the recent death of Indigenous man Eric Whittaker, a prisoner in Parklea Prison. The action was organised by the families and the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA).

The rally condemned the continuing killing of Aboriginal people in police and prison custody, with no one ever convicted of these crimes.

Unions NSW: Wage theft the new business model

A Unions NSW report Lighting up the black market: Enforcing minimum wages, released on July 17, found 80% of a sample of online job advertisements in Korean, Chinese and Spanish publications around the country paid below award rates.

Some 150 people gathered at Carriageworks in Redfern on July 17 to launch an exhibition marking the centenary of one of the largest industrial confrontations in Australia’s history.

1917: The Great Strike is a commemorative exhibition featuring archival images, moving footage, oral history excerpts and commissioned artworks depicting this landmark struggle. It is a joint effort by Carriageworks and the City of Sydney, in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) and will run until August 27.

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