Australian News

Several prominent people have signed a letter to the Australian government calling for Jock Palfreeman, a young Australian in prison in Bulgaria, to be brought back to Australia.

Supporters of the call to bring Palfreeman home include author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger, Julian Burnside QC, former NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale, author Antony Loewenstein, Moreland City Councillor Sue Bolton, Vivienne Porzsolt from Jews against the Occupation, Green Left Weekly editors Mel Barnes and Stuart Munckton and Professor Wendy Bacon.

About 200 people attended a community forum on March 19 to discuss the future of policing at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. It was organised in response to community outrage over violent arrests at this year's parade.

The forum was called by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the AIDS Council of NSW, Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Inner City Legal Centre, NSW Police and independent MLC Alex Greenwich.

Late one night in 2007, in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia, 21-year-old Australian man Jock Palfreeman was walking home after a night out with friends.

He saw a group of about 15 men attacking two others.

The two men were Roma, an ethnic minority who are often the targets of racist attacks by neo-Nazi gangs.

Outraged, Palfreeman intervened to prevent the attack, but instead the crowd turned their violence on him, hurling concrete blocks. Palfreeman pulled a knife to protect himself and during the subsequent fight, one man was stabbed and later died.

Socialist Alliance WA co-convener Alex Bainbridge has hit out at legal threats issued by lawyers acting on behalf of Recall management. Recall is a document storage company whose workers have entered their fourth week on strike for an agreement that recognises union rights.

“Yesterday we received a letter indicating that Recall's lawyers are seeking to subpoena documents from the Socialist Alliance regarding the dispute,” Bainbridge told Green Left Weekly.

Our eldest child just started secondary school. Not long ago the school didn’t have a uniform, but nowadays you can’t attract the “aspiring” families if you’re not serious about modelling the corporate world.

Parents seeking “good” careers for their children are increasingly aware of the importance of correct procedures and work ethic. “Good schools” encourage hours of homework every night and are driven by “disciplined structures” and “excellence”.

A feminist performing group was initiated in Cairns in late 2011, in response to a range of issues, including male violence against women and the retention of abortion in the criminal code in Queensland.

The members of this group are diverse — in age, background and previous performing experience — but all have a commitment to improving the status and rights of women in far-north Queensland.

Hundreds of people rallied outside parliament house in Canberra on March 13 to demand action for the war crimes of Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The rally was organised by Campaign for Tamil Justice, who are calling for an independent investigation into allegations by a UN panel of Sri Lankan military war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Campaign spokesperson Trevor Grant said: “The UN Human Rights Commission is meeting right now on Sri Lanka and the word is that there will be another insipid resolution issued, with support from Australia.

Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on March 15.

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This week, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that coal seam gas (CSG) projects that could affect water resources will now trigger federal approval.

The bill — detailing the proposed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) — was tabled [last] week.

Stop CSG spokesperson Jess Moore said: "This trigger does not live up to the hype from Burke.

About 100 people attended a forum and concert titled, "Remembering Fukushima, Two years on: Time to end the nuclear chain," at the Teachers Federation on March 10.

The forum was addressed by Japanese farmer and anti-nuclear campaigner Kenichi Hasegawa; Peace Boat International member Akira Kawasaki, South Australian Indigenous elder and co-chair of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) Peter Watts, Illawarra Aboriginal community and ANFA member Dootch Kennedy, Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon, and Uranium Free NSW spokesperson Nat Wasley.

The Moreland municipality has the second-highest rate of family violence in Victoria. Most violent crime in Moreland is family violence.

“This means that there is an epidemic of family violence in Moreland,” said the Socialist Alliance’s Moreland councillor Sue Bolton.

At its March 13 council meeting, Moreland council passed a community safety motion to start an immediate expansion of CCTV cameras.

The Moreland council was offered funding by the state government that could be spent only on CCTV cameras.

In the WA election the Socialist Alliance ran in the seats of Perth, Fremantle and Willagee and won 0.9%, 1.2% and 2% of the vote respectively.

Willagee candidate Sam Wainwright said: "While small votes in absolute terms, for us they represent a modest increase and contain some important indicators."

Wainwright, a City of Fremantle councillor representing the Hilton ward, said that this was the first time the Socialist Alliance had run in Willagee, most of which has a more working-class character and more state housing tenants than Fremantle.

Aboriginal banners decorated an angry rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park on March 14.

The families of Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux rallied with others from Bowraville, west of Nambucca Heads, and Sydney residents, calling for a Royal Commission into the Bowraville children murders.

Twenty-three years ago, four-year-old Evelyn Greenup and 16-year-olds Colleen Walker and Clinton Speedy-Duroux were killed in a five-month period on a street near the Bowraville mission.

A rally was held in Sydney on March 13 to demand a Royal Commission into the deaths of three Aboriginal children in Bowraville whose killer has never been brought to justice.

Photos: Rachel Evans

International Women's Day rally on March 8 in Perth - the day before the WA state election - included speeches by Sanna Andrew, Tessa Coleman and Anita Creasey.

The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on March 13. The day before, ABC Online said five asylum seekers had escaped the centre, but were returned quickly.

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The Nauru Director of the Department of Immigration has told a meeting of asylum seekers in the Nauru detention camp that their refugee assessments will begin “in about 10 days” [on March 18].

The initial refugee assessments are expected to be finalised in about six months.

About 100 people attended a gathering at the Plaza Latinamericana in central Sydney to farewell Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5 in Caracas.

The gathering, called at short notice by members of the Latin American community in Sydney, heard several speakers hail the life and achievements of Venezuela's revolutionary leader.

Venezuelan Ambassador to Australia Nelson Davila addressed the crowd by phone from Canberra.

This statement was released by Lock the Gate on March 7

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The Lock the Gate Alliance launched its federal election campaign today by taking demands for national law reform on coal and gas mining to federal parliamentarians across Australia.

The “Call to Country” incorporates a passionate plea for protecting Australians and the environment from the current onslaught of irresponsible mining as well as a program of legislative reform to address this issue.

About 40 people attended public forum titled "Agent Orange campaign — experiences from Vietnam and Australia," on March 4.

The forum was organised by Agent Orange Justice and heard from a delegation of speakers from the Vietnam Association for the Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), and representatives from several Australia-based groups carrying out support work for Vietnamese victims of US chemical warfare during the Vietnam war.

Hundreds of students and staff joined the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) picket lines at the Sydney University on March 7.

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), the Finance Sector Union, the Maritime Union of Australia, and the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union supported and attended the picket.

The picket was followed by a 300-strong rally. The NTEU has voted to stop work again for 48 hours if management does not cooperate during bargaining.

Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans spoke to several participants.

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DARWIN — Coca-Cola has forced the Northern Territory government to scrap its 10c deposit recycling scheme.

The scheme was introduced in January last year, but Coca-Cola, Schweppes Australia and Lion Pty Ltd took the NT government to the federal court.

The federal court ruled on March 4 in favour of the beverage companies, which challenged the recycling scheme on the basis that it was “costly and ineffective” and added 10 cents to the retail price.

Coca-Cola said "Australian families do not deserve to be slugged with yet another cost of living increase”.

Prison officers across Western Australia took strike action in an effort to force the state Liberal government to make similar promises to advance wages and working conditions as it did on February 25 to WA nurses.

The WA Prison Officer Union (WAPOU) is demanding a 14% wage rise over three years and measures to alleviate the chronic overcrowding and understaffing in WA prisons.

Still Wild, Still Threatened released this statement on March 7.

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Miranda Gibson has today reluctantly left her perch high up in the Observer Tree, after 457 days, as a bushfire burned to within a kilometre and it became clear that predicted hot weather early next week could precipitate an emergency situation in the remote forest.

The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on February 28 to promote an anti-racism rally planned for March 21. Details are at the end of the article.

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The Northern Territory intervention has been a disaster — but the government is set to expand “income management” to cover even more people from July this year, including in Bankstown.

Mallacoota — love it. If you’ve been there, you do. It’s remote, in the heart of the Croajingolong National Park in East Gippsland. People come and they return, to enjoy unspoilt wilderness and peace, to walk, swim, surf, fish, paddle a canoe.

It’s a place to breathe and see how it used to be. This haven of forest, lakes, birds and native animals, ocean and miles of pure unsullied beaches, dolphins and whales passing by, hasn’t been privatised or resort-ised. It does have the biggest, publicly owned, affordable camping park, which is adjacent to the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

About 1500 people took part in a short-notice march to oppose police violence against two young men after the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

Video footage showing a tall policeman throwing a handcuffed youth to the ground with shocking force and putting his boot on his head. This ignited angry memories of police violence at Sydney’s first-ever Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978.

Photos by Peter Boyle.

Green Left TV captured the heartfelt messages of sorrow and solidarity in the wake of the tragic death of Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias at a rally in Sydney on March 6.

The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released this statement on March 4.

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On March 2, the Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition (SAWC) entered their 100-people walking float in Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade. Supporters came from all over Australia to help raise awareness of the plights of Bradley Manning's and Julian Assange.

Participants in the first section of the float held up an image of Bradley and chanted “Free Bradley Manning”, whilst carrying banners displaying the website bradleymanning.org.

Dozens of people gathered in Sydney on March 6 to remember the life of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and express solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

People used the opportunity to speak about the progress the Venezuelan revolution has made in providing healthcare, education and employment for millions of people in that country, as well as using the country's natural resources to raise the living standards of people internationally.

About 1500 people rallied in Sydney on March 8 in protest against the alleged police violence at this year’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Bryn Hutchinson, a former co-convener of Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), alleges that five police officers slammed him to the ground, kicked him, shackled him and beat him when he tried to cross Oxford St after the parade had finished.

Hutchinson was then taken to Surry Hills police station and charged with “assaulting a police officer”. Hutchinson says he was handcuffed during the alleged attack by the officers.

Students supported teachers and staff in their one-day strike at the University of Sydney on March 7.

Read a statement by the National Tertiary Education Union explaining the reason for the strike.

Photos: Peter Boyle.

Lock the Gate have launched a new campaign our Call to Country that calls for national reforms on coal and gas ahead of the 2013 federal election. As part of the launch on March 7, members will be visiting every electorate office in the country.

Our Call to Country

Together, we share this one continent that holds us safe. An island home as vast as it is diverse, as wild as it is beautiful, from its red heart to its golden beaches. Our place of endless summers and easy laughter, of hard work and happy chances.

The National Tertiary Education Union released this statement on March 7.

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University of Sydney staff are on strike today — for the first time in a decade.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is taking action over stalled enterprise agreement negotiations.

“We’d rather not take industrial action in the first week of semester but management’s contemptuous approach to staff claims has left us with no alternative,” said NTEU Branch President Michael Thomson.

“The Stain” is the name of a photo exhibition by Turkish artist A. Suderin Murat, which looks at the issue of violence against women.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the exhibition will be open to the public from March 4-10 at the Auburn Town Hall Exhibition Gallery.

For many years, Murat has campaigned against all kinds of discrimination. She considers art to be “the most effective and peaceful tool” for helping society.

More than 200 people from Melbourne’s Hazara community held a three-hour protest in Federation Square on February 25 to draw attention to the rising violence against the Hazara community in Pakistan.

About 100 Hazara people were killed in the latest bomb massacre in the city of Quetta in Balochistan province on February 16.

The campaign against the gas hub at Walmadan (James Price Point) in the Kimberley received a huge boost when about 20,000 people marched through the streets of Fremantle and attended a vibrant and political “Concert for the Kimberley” on February 24.

In Western Australia, mental illness is the second-highest cause of disease for women and the fourth-highest cause for men.

Premier Colin Barnett has responded by publishing a green paper for public discussion for a new Mental Health Act. The proposed act contains provisions that would improve the rights of people subjected to a Compulsory Treatment Order (CTO). But it negates those same provisions by allowing the treating psychiatrist to simply ignore them.

The National Tertiary Education Union released the statement below on March 1.

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National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of Sydney will strike for 24 hours on March 7 over enterprise bargaining.

“This is the first strike in a decade and shows just how riled our members are at management's arrogance and its lack of commitment to the enterprise bargaining process,” said branch president Michael Thomson.

“We logged our enterprise bargaining claims on August 7 last year.

The Indigenous Social Justice Association released this statement on February 25.

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The Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), is organising a rally outside the office of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) in Sydney as part of a national day of action for Justice for Rex Bellotti Jnr.

We will send the message to all Australian police forces that all forms of police brutality must end.

About 10,000 nurses and midwives across Western Australia were threatened with disciplinary action and deregistration by the state’s director general if they went ahead with a 24-hour strike on February 25.

The evening before the planned action, WA premier Colin Barnett intervened to offer the nurses a 14% pay rise over three years.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) members accepted the offer after voting at a mass meeting on February 25.

The Northern Territory government passed new mandatory sentencing laws on February 14 that will increase the minimum time offenders spend in prison and restrict judges’ right to suspend sentences for certain crimes.

NT justice minister John Elferink told AAP on February 14: "These new mandatory minimum sentences correct the failed attempt by the former Labor government to be tough on crime."

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