Australian News

Events were held around the country on March 11 to mark three years since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami laid waste to the north-east coast of Japan. The earthquake and tsunami disasters killed 18,600 people and about 2700 bodies have never been recovered.

The disaster damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, whose cooling systems failed, leading to a series of explosions and catastrophic meltdowns in three reactor cores. More than 150,000 people who were forced to evacuate the area are still unable to return to their homes in the Fukushima region.

Green Left Weekly is liveblogging March in March rallies happening this weekend. There are 31 events being held across the country.

For full details of the rallies, visit the March in March Facebook page.

Check back to this page for photos and news about the rallies as they happen.

Photos sent by Green Left supporters are being uploaded to the gallery here.

The ex-Labor Party federal president and former national president of the Health Services Union (HSU), Michael Williamson, is now in jail after pleading guilty in October last year to defrauding union members of $5 million.

When he was granted bail after his conviction he immediately filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy documents declared he had almost no assets to his name. This is despite his annual salary at the union ranging from $290,000 to more than $500,000.

Three Australian unionists recently returned from Bangladesh gave a reportback to a forum in Melbourne on March 5 on the conditions experienced by its clothing and textile workers.

The meeting was organised by Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL).

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) is a secret trade deal being negotiated by the governments of 12 countries, which could have serious implications for the citizens of the nations that sign.

A public forum in Sydney on March 11 hosted a panel of speakers who analysed leaked aspects of the agreement.

This behind-the-scenes look at Green Left Weekly was produced by Green Left TV to celebrate 1000 issues of the paper.

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Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Macquarie University held a strike and picket on March 11 as part of their campaign to win a fair enterprise agreement and a quick resolution to bargaining.

Union members picketed the main entrances to the university and distributed leaflets to students and staff explaining the reasons for the strike.

Beyond Nuclear Initiative released this statement on March 11.

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On the third anniversary of the continuing Fukushima nuclear crisis, environment groups have called on New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell and his government to shelve plans for uranium exploration and mining in the state.

ACF nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney said: “It was confirmed to the federal parliament in October 2011 that Australian uranium directly fuelled Fukushima.

The EarthWorker Cooperative is off to a good start this year, as it begins to distribute its renewable energy products.

The EarthWorker project has been the result of a 16-year development between trade unions and green movements across the country, also involving small-scale businesses that have been financially damaged by the neoliberal policies of the state and federal governments for the past two decades.

Pro-choice activists are concerned that a bill that aims to give foetuses legal rights for the first time was not debated in the NSW Legislative Council on March 6. They wanted it to be tabled and voted on because they were confident it would be defeated.

The bill known as Zoe’s Law was listed for debate but Liberal MP Marie Ficarra did not table it. Later, it was rumoured that the bill’s supporters could only count on 10 votes. Last November, the bill passed through the NSW Legislative Assembly, 63 to 26.

About a thousand people took part in the 2014 International Women's Day march in Sydney on March 8. The rights of women workers, single parents, migrant and refugee women and threats to the right to abortion were among the issues highlighted.

The organising committee raised as two central demands: "Stop Zoe's Law!" and "Equal pay now!"

""We are facing the biggest attack on our reproductive rights that this country has seen in recent history with the introduction of a foetal personhood law (titled "Zoe's Law") in NSW Parliament.

"Chavismo represents the entry of the ordinary people of Venezuela onto the political stage," former Caracas-based journalist Federico Fuentes told a forum in Sydney on March 4.

The forum, “Venezuela: Revolution under attack: The people fight back”, was part of a month of activities to commemorate the death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on March 5 last year.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at a Perth university has been forced to the brink of industrial action.

University of Western Australia (UWA) management has spent over a year dragging its feet in enterprise bargaining negotiations, but has refused to budge on key issues of pay, workload limits and parking fees.

The Coaliton for Justice and Peace in Palestine released this statement on March 7.

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Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, has been taken to the Federal Court of Australia in a legal action brought by Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Centre, alleging racial discrimination due to his support of the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel.

In late January, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decided not to assess a proposal for fracking in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Buru Energy plans to conduct 34 fracks in the region starting this year.

It intends to conduct most of these fracks at four existing wells: two at Yulleroo, 90 kilometres east of Broome, and two at Valhalla/Asgard, 320 kilometres east of Broome.

About 1000 Latrobe Valley residents gathered at Kernot Hall in Morwell on March 2 to protest against government and corporate mishandling of the fire in the Hazelwood coalmine.

Residents directed their anger at government inaction and misinformation, and corporate negligence by GDF Suez, the multinational operator of the mine and power station.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley explained to the meeting the efforts and risks being taken by the firefighters.

The Climate Change Authority, the body responsible for setting Australia’s carbon emissions, has recommended that the target for emissions be increased from 5% to 19% below 2000 levels.

It also said that in the decade after 2020 the emissions reductions target should be between 40% and 60% below 2000 levels by 2030.

Aboriginal footballer and Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, has given high praise to John Pilger’s new film Utopia at the same time as condemning the mainstream media for their silence in reviewing the film or mentioning the large crowds that have come out to watch free screenings.

In an http://www.theage.com.au/comment/hostility-to-john-pilgers-film-a-denial...

The Socialist Alliance Victoria released this statement on March 2.

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The mine fire that has been burning since February 9 is an immediate and serious threat to the health of residents in Morwell and other towns near the Hazelwood mine.

Immediate health threats include: elevated levels of carbon monoxide, a toxic gas; fine particulate pollution in the PM2.5 and PM10 size range; ash fallout over the area, potentially containing many toxic compounds; carcinogenic compounds in ash and particulates.

World Autism Awareness Day will be held on April 2 and members of the autistic self-advocacy movement are campaigning for basic services and social acceptance.

Autistic activists from groups like the Geneva-based Autistic Minority International, Wrong Planet and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network are organising to be heard as a community rather than being primarily represented by experts and professionals in the field.

One of the most important initiatives that can be taken to revitalise manufacturing in NSW is to implement policies that will encourage the rapid development of renewable energy products. The one thing we should not be doing is developing new coalmines.

Several prominent forest advocacy groups, including the Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened, released this joint statement on March 5.

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Australia’s forest advocacy groups have responded to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attack on forests and praise for the industry that destroys them. Many of Australia’s forest conservation groups have been working to have the remaining forests and the wildlife within them protected over the decades.

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) on University of Western Sydney campuses took action on February 28 to highlight management's refusal to agree to a fair enterprise agreement. They have been without an agreement for more than a year.

On the Bankstown campus of UWS, a number of unionists and students gathered to hear from union activists.

They said that after 12 months of meetings with management they felt that little progress had been made. In the meantime, they were having to deal with increased workloads and increases in the cost of living.

Qantas is just the latest big company to announce it is about to destroy thousands of jobs. CEO Alan Joyce says jobs have to go to save the company’s profit line.

We've heard the same sob story from Ford, Holden, Coca-Cola, Toyota and Alcoa all over a relative short period of time. Can we really believe these corporations, with their “creative” accounting and webs of subsidiaries and business partners?

All these companies have received large amounts of public subsidies and Qantas, privatised two decades ago, was built with public funds.

Members of the Socialist Alliance have taken part in O-week stalls, which is not only resulting in a boost for Green Left Weekly sales and subscriptions in the lead up to its 1000th issue, but also a boost for the Socialist Alliance and Resistance.

Police have not responded to a petition Taser victim Sheila Oakley handed to them a week ago. In response, a community assembly was held outside Logan police station on February 22.

Oakley was in hospital and could not attend the rally. Paul Butterworth, an Aboriginal elder who had called the assembly, told the crowd: “We will keep coming back until something’s done about this.”

He also said harassment of the local community continued, including children in Oakley’s family. Oakley’s brother expressed his thanks for the support they were receiving.

A historic motion for Ballarat was put forth to affirm support for a “No to Homophobia” campaign at a City of Ballarat council meeting on Febraury 12. The motion was carried unanimously.

Greens councillor Belinda Coates put the motion. She said after the meeting: “It was fantastic to get unanimous support for this motion to affirm support for the 'No to Homophobia' campaign and their 'Promise' campaign.

The Tarkine wilderness in north-west Tasmania is under threat from iron ore mining.

The National Tarkine Coalition took Perth-based exploration firm Venture Minerals and the Tasmanian state government to the federal court last month to challenge a proposed iron ore mine at Riley Creek in the Tarkine.

Terry Barnes, a former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is credited with coming up with the bright idea of introducing a $6 payment when people visit their GP.

After Barnes left the prime minister’s employ, he wrote a submission to the government’s Commission of Audit on behalf of the Australian Centre for Health Research, a right-wing think-tank set up by a private health insurer, proposing the extra charge for GP visits. He claimed that it would save $750 million over four years.

A byelection was held in the Queensland state seat of Redcliffe on February 22, following the resignation of the sitting Liberal National Party member, Scott Driscoll, over fraud allegations.

The result was a 17% swing to Labor, and the election of the Labor candidate Yvette D’Ath. The Greens were also hurt by this swing; they failed to reach the 4% threshold to get electoral funding.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is living up to his new nickname, “Naptime”, as the Hazelwood coalmine fire continues its terrible impact on the town of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.

The edge of the town is only a few hundred metres from where the fire has been burning since February 9. The plume of toxic smoke and ash from the fire has been blanketing the town.

About 140 people attended Manningham City Council’s forum on February 20 to hear speakers discuss the case for a railway line to Doncaster, Victoria.

Doncaster Rail has been promised since the late 1890s and Manningham City, comprising 10 suburbs and only 12 kilometres from the CBD, is the only Melbourne municipality without a railway line even though it is a rapidly growing area.

At the 2011 Census, Manningham had a population of 111,300.

Activists have held solidarity actions against right-wing violence in Venezuela in several Australian cities, as part of an international campaign of solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution.

About 20 people rallied outside Sydney Town Hall on February 19. Holding banners and placards expressing support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution, the protesters handed out leaflets explaining to passersby the need to defend the people of Venezuela and their government against extreme right attacks, backed by the US government.

When refugees are being killed and injured by thugs hired by the Australian government to run its offshore refugee detention camp in Manus Island, PNG; when Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop pressures Cambodia (one of the poorest countries in the world) to take asylum seekers off Australia (one of the world's richest countries) surely it is time to say: NOT IN OUR NAME!

And this is what thousands of people did over the weekend of February 22-23 in more than 750 vigils, called by internet campaigning network GetUp.

On February 21, around 2000 rallied in Melbourne against the government's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers follows the death of one asylum seeker and several injuries in violence in an Australian offshore immigration detention camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Speakers included Greens MP Adam Brandt; Mohammad Baqiri, a refugee detained on Nauru under John Howard; State Secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union, Michele O’Neil and Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

All around the country this week there have been angry snap protests against Abbott Liberal-National Coalition government's cruel policies towards asylum seekers. This follows the death of one asylum seeker and several injuries in violence in an Australian offshore immigration detention camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

About 700 people attended a public forum called “We are one, but we are many: Working towards a humane refugee policy” hosted by the Combined Refugee Action Group (CRAG) in Geelong on February 18.

Taking place on the same day that news broke of the appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and the death of one person after the compound had been attacked, the mood among the crowd was of anger and disbelief.

Murdoch Universiity administration has acted to close down student club stalls in the academic orientation week prior to classes beginning and the clubs and societies "O-day".

Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance was one club that set up a small stall on February 17. Campus security were called to remove the stall from campus.

Resistance members complied with the request and packed up the stall, settling to hand out leaflets promoting events on campus. Murdoch University then demanded the leafleting stop.

The Wilderness Society releases this statement on February 20.

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More than 100 people protested against Whitehaven’s proposed Maules Creek coalmine outside the company’s Sydney office on February 20.

About 50 people protested outside Whitehaven’s Brisbane office while Greenpeace’s threatened species protection unit entered the Leard State Forest in north-west NSW to document endangered species at the proposed site for the coalmine.

The Northern Territory's environment minister Peter Chandler has called for a government inquiry into the use of “fracking” in the oil and gas industry. Currently 90% of the NT is targeted for shale gas exploration.

An anti-fracking group says an independent inquiry into fracking in the NT is needed, but must be accompanied by an immediate moratorium on the controversial practice.

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