Australian News

Tens of thousands marched against Abbott government in six cities around Australia on May 18. The march in Sydney was bigger than the March In March demonstration. Peter Boyle, who took the photos below, estimates it was about 15,000-strong. He said: "It stretched more than two and half times the distance between Central Station and Victoria Park (where it ended). The recent horror budget angered many and the crowd overwhelmingly demanded that the opposition parties block the budget in the Senate -- where they have the numbers until July."

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has launched a petition as part of a campaign to save library services at the University of Sydney.

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The university library management has announced a major restructure that will have serious implications for library users and staff, including the potential loss of up to 130 staff.  

The Wilderness Society released the statement below on May 5.

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An Environmental Protection Authority report says gas company Santos can’t fully clean up the uranium contamination of an aquifer in the Pilliga Forest in north-west NSW, saying that attempts to recover the polluted water were “impractical”.

Protesters were more imaginative than usual with slogans for the Children's March for the Animals to Melbourne Zoo on May 4.

They were protesting against the $8 billion road project known as the East West Link because of the impact it would have on animals that live at the zoo.

Placards read: “Tollway noise — I can't BEAR it”, “East-West Tunnel? Don't be GALAH!” and “The toll road is enough to make a ZEBRA cross!”. Children dressed in animal costumes or carried a stuffed toy of their favourite animal.

The NSW government has suspended Metgasco’s licence to drill for gas at Bentley, near Lismore.

Energy minister Anthony Roberts said on May 15: “The Office of Coal Seam Gas made the suspension on the grounds that Metgasco did not fulfil a condition of its exploration licence, namely to undertake genuine and effective consultation with the community as required.”

Protest the Tony Abbott government's killer budget at marches on Sunday May 18:

Brisbane: 1pm, Queens Park, City

Sydney: 1pm, Belmore Park, City (next to Central Station)

Melbourne: 2pm, State Library of Victoria, City

Hobart: 1pm, Parliament Lawns, City

Adelaide: 11.30am, Victoria Square, City

Perth: 12 noon, Russell Square Park, Northbridge

Read Green Left's coveragge of the federal budget

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which began on May 12, opened with allegations against former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard.

The commission's first day receiving evidence confirmed it is a political show trial.

The first person in the witness box was former Australian Workers Union (AWU) official Ralph Blewitt. The “explosive allegation” he made was that Gillard was at home when he paid a builder $7000 for renovations at her Melbourne home from a slush fund.

Public housing tenants and nearby residents gathered at Debney's Park in Melbourne's inner-west to protest the impact of the East West Link on public housing flats, Debney's Park and the Flemington Community Centre.

The protest was organised by local Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Yasseen Musa, a leader of the local African community living in the flats, told the protesters: “It took 15 years to get a sports ground, then another 10 years to get two soccer pitches and a pavilion. Now we have a soccer team for the African community.

Radical changes to university and TAFE education were announced in the federal budget on May 13.

These changes include removing the cap on university fees and changes to welfare payments. People under 25 are no longer eligible for the Newstart allowance.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said the theme of the budget was "contribution and building" and "sharing the pain", but it will make it even tougher for struggling families.

Unions have slammed many aspects of the Coalition budget, released on May 13. Below, leaders of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Community and Public Sector Union respond.

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GED KEARNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL OF TRADE UNIONS

"The Abbott government's assault on welfare, Medicare, education and the public sector represents the end of the fair go and the biggest attack on the social wage this country has ever seen.

"The Abbott government's proposed $7 co-payment for visits to the doctor, and for other medical services, will effectively destroy Medicare as a universal, bulk-billed health service for the community," Erima Dall, spokesperson for the Sydney Save Medicare Committee said on May 14.

"The government is also opening the way for the states to charge an up-front fee for previously free treatment at public hospitals, in the expectation that people will be forced to turn to the emergency departments because of the GP co-payment. 

A three-day photo exhibition at Fremantle's Victoria Hall brought the human rights crisis gripping Sri Lanka to a wider audience.

"Sri Lankan Genocide 2009" exhibits images taken by various photographers documenting the months before and after the massacre of more than 40,000 Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan Army in May 2009.

Hundreds gathered on May 6 to fill Adelaide's Tandanya National Indigenous Cultural Institute for the forum “An Aboriginal Perspective on Inequality, the Intervention, Racism and Struggle”.

It was jointly organised by the South Australian Aboriginal Coalition for Social Justice, SIMPLA (Stop Income Management in Playford) and the Socialist Alliance. It explored a cross-section of the most pressing issues facing Aboriginal people in Australia, such as racism, the Northern Territory intervention, inequality, the need for struggle and youth activism.

"Understanding the history of the CPA [Communist Party of Australia], and labour history more generally, is vital for activists here and now who want to change the world,” Sarah Gregson, labour historian and unionist from the University of NSW, told a book launch at the Resistance Centre on May 6.

“We generally face similar issues now as then.”

Front Line Action on Coal released this statement on May 10.

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Fifteen protesters from the Maules Creek coalmine blockade have taken their campaign to the other end of the coal chain, stopping a coal train in Newcastle on May 10.

Protesters approached the stopped train as it entered the Kooragang Island coal terminals from where Whitehaven Coal intend to ship coal mined at Maules Creek.

A protester suspended herself from the railway bridge, blocking access for the train.

About thirty scientists, engineers, mathematicians, PhD students and science advocates took to the steps of Sydney Town Hall on May 3 in defence of Australia’s research sector.

The “Rally for Research” was organised by the Future Party to oppose the Coalition government’s plans to reduce the Australian Research Council’s funding by $133 million as well as cut up to 700 jobs from the CSIRO and 100 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The rally also called for the government to reinstate the position of science minister.

Large numbers of police officers are expected to try to break up a blockade site in Bentley, near Lismore, where the community is opposing gas drilling by Metgasco in NSW's Northern Rivers. It is possible police will begin to move protesters as early as May 19.

Hundreds of people are camping at the site to prevent trucks carrying drilling equipment from gaining access to the site. They warn that up to 7000 people will gather to defend the campsite from police.

About 10,000 workers walked off building sites in Brisbane on May 5 and rallied outside Parliament House. They were protesting against the Campbell Newman government’s changes to industrial legislation affecting workplace health and safety.

They also called for the return of the Labour day public holiday to May. The Monday after May 1 had previously been a public holiday celebrating workers' rights, but one of Newman’s first acts after being elected was to move the holiday to October.

The Coalition government plans to speed up the push to privatise remaining federal and state public assets in a massive program to help fund new infrastructure projects — mainly road developments — media sources reveal.

ABC radio's AM reported on May 8 that "an infrastructure package worth about $10 billion will be at the centre of the Abbott government's first budget.

Community anger at a proposal to cut the minimum wage from $16 to $12 an hour has fuelled large Labour Day turnouts across Queensland on May 4 and 5.

About 30,000 marchers from dozens of unions packed Brisbane streets, joining thousands of others in activities in Queensland cities and towns.

Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said this week’s federal Commission of Audit recommendation to cut the minimum wage by 25% was a disgraceful attack on working people.

Eliza June, one of the students who took part in the Education Action Group protest during the ABC’s political panel show Q&A on May 5, is pumped by the response to the action. The protest targetted education minster Christopher Pyne, a guest on the panel, over the Coalition government's plans to slash education funding.

“Education cuts have been largely hidden from the mainstream media," she told Green Left Weekly. "So it’s great that our action has made it to front-page news.

More than 100 people attended a forum on the federal government’s proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. The meeting, called by the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council, was held in Northcote Town Hall on April 24.

Attorney-general George Brandis was invited to attend, but did not show up.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus told the meeting the government’s planned changes amount to scrapping the existing law against racial vilification. He said this would give a “green light for racism”.

A national gathering of Aboriginal people is planned to coincide with the G20 in Brisbane later this year. The overall purpose of this gathering will be to reignite the push for self-determination and decolonisation.

Leaders of the world’s most powerful nations, from [US president] Barack Obama to [Russian president] Vladimir Putin, will converge on the Queensland state capital in November. The summit will take place from November 15-16 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Bank.

A new book exposing the reality of the Nauru detention centre was launched in Melbourne of April 28.

The Undesirables, written by former Salvation Army worker Mark Isaacs, details what he witnessed while stationed at the camp.

Isaacs said: “When we first went to the camp … it was purposely disorganised, supposedly to meet these men’s needs. When the government sent several hundreds of people to Nauru, we expected it to be ready.”

The Wilderness Society released this statement on April 19.

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BP, the company responsible for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, plan to start deep sea drilling for oil and gas in waters in the Great Australian Bight off South Australia as early as 2015.

The Wilderness Society Campaigner Kathryn Warhurst said: “BP wants to drill in waters off South Australia that are far rougher, and far more remote than the Gulf of Mexico. That disaster was in 1.5 kilometres of water, here BP could be drilling in waters far deeper.

About 2000 people rallied in Tasmania’s Upper Florentine Valley on April 27 to defend World Heritage listed forests.

The rally was organised by the Bob Brown Foundation to oppose the proposed removal of the Upper Florentine from the World Heritage Area by the federal government.

Organisers say the proposal will exclude some of the world’s most intact temperate forests and some of the tallest hardwood forests on Earth and would allow them to be opened up to environmentally destructive practices such as logging.

Long-time Socialist Alliance member Zoltan Torrey — a gentle, thoughtful, uplifting and inspiring man — died suddenly at home on January 16.

He wrote two extraordinary books. Out of Darkness is his memoir. He describes his youth in Hungary when it was occupied by Nazi Germany, and his arrival in Australia post World War II.

Doctors for the Environment Australia released the statement below on May 2.

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Doctors and medical students are calling climate change a “public health emergency” and will join hundreds of Australians for the National Day of Divestment, organised by 350.org and Market Forces, on May 3.

Across Australia, doctors and medical students will deliver letters to their banks calling on them to divest from fossil fuels, while others will close their accounts.

The defection by three Aboriginal members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to the Palmer United Party (PUP) has the potential to topple the Country Liberal Party government.

The three rebel MLAs — Larisa Lee, Alison Anderson and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu — left the CLP on March 27, saying it was failing to deliver outcomes for Aboriginal people in the NT.

The three were part of the “bush bloc” that brought the CLP to power in the 2012 election, taking the necessary seats from the incumbent ALP to form government.

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released this statement on April 16.

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An outbreak of dengue fever has hit Nauru, raising concerns for the short-term and long-term heath and welfare of asylum seekers being held on the island.

At least three people (staff and detainees) have been confirmed suffering dengue fever. Another 12 cases are presently confirmed in the Nauruan population by a spokesperson for the Nauru general hospital.

The workers at a Super A-Mart warehousing and distribution centre in Somerton, Victoria, have scored a victory over company management nearly six weeks after they were locked out of their workplace.

The workers have won a 10% wage rise over the next three years, improved redundancy conditions, permanency conversions after six months, an Occupational Health and Safety committee on site, as well as a $750 sign-on bonus.

Their victory was in partly due to the overwhelming success of the “Low Wage Bus Tour”, which left Melbourne on April 9 with the slogan “Raise the Wage”.

More than 1100 people, including a large number of young activists, attended Marxism 2014: Ideas to change the system, hosted in Melbourne by Socialist Alternative over April 17-20.

The event continues to be an important public conference in Australia. This year there was an impressive Indigenous history and struggle stream, including activists such as Lex Wotton, who was jailed following the community response to Mulrunji Doomadgee's murder in custody by police on Palm Island, veteran activist Gary Foley; Marjorie Thorpe; Vicky Roach and former Tracker editor Chris Graham.

The Richmond Valley Council has asked a large protest camp in Bentley, near Lismore in NSW, to dismantle. The camp was set up to protect the local area from gas drilling by Metgasco. Several hundred people in the camp have maintained an ongoing blockade to prevent access to the site where test drilling is due to begin.

Organisers of the camp, which is set up on private land, have refused the request.

More than 1000 people gathered in Sunshine in Melbourne’s west on April 22, to pay their respects to Fiona Warzywoda, a mother of four who was murdered in public after she attended a court hearing in relation to family violence matters.

Local resident Sophie Dutertre organised a silent candlelight vigil to show support. Dutertre did nott know the victim but wanted to take a public stand against yet another domestic violence-related murder and also demonstrate that Sunshine has a strong and caring community.

A motion to dismiss the vice president of the University of Sydney Union (USU), Tom Raue, failed to pass at a board meeting on April 17.

Raue's supporters erupted with delight when the motion, moved by the USU president, did not get the required two thirds majority.

"Money speaks” is the message we should be taking from the resignation of NSW premier Barry O'Farrell, after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) revealed he accepted a vintage bottle of wine valued at almost $3000 from the head of Australian Water Holdings (AWH), Nick Di Girolamo, who was lobbying for a lucrative state government contract.

AWH is accused of inappropriately billing Sydney Water and using the money for political donations while lobbying for an public/private partnership with state-owned Sydney water to roll out Sydney’s water infrastructure.

For the first time in Australian history, construction workers are facing government moves to seize houses and cars in relation to an industrial dispute.

The 33 workers affected took part in an eight-day strike in north-west WA in 2008. Mick Buchan of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) told the ABC that the dispute between workers and the company was resolved at the time.

“It was some time later that the ABCC [Australian Building Construction Commission] intervened and brought charges against individuals”, he said.

About 500 workers took to the streets of Geelong on April 7 demanding support for manufacturing jobs.

Many workers were from Ford and Alcoa, which have recently announced closures. Workers from other related industries also attended along with firefighters, nurses and teachers showing solidarity on the march.

Not all workers and unions were from blue-collar backgrounds. Clerical workers, technical staff and support services are also affected by the closures.

The Friends of the Earth “Radioactive Exposure Tour” is taking place from April 12 to 27. Forty people will travel from Melbourne and Adelaide through to Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

The tour will take people to the heart of the Australian nuclear industry, exposing the realities of “radioactive racism” and the environmental impacts of uranium mining.

Public housing residents from the historic inner-suburb of Millers Point rallied at Sydney Town Hall on April 7 to oppose state government plans to sell off nearly 400 public housing properties.

City of Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster moved a motion in support of the state government's move to evict the tenants and sell the properties. But the council voted overwhelmingly against the sale plan and instead allocated funds and resources to help the residents' campaign.

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