Australian News

"Congratulations once again to Green Left Weekly. As I've often said to people all over the world when they ask what the press is like in Australia, 'Mostly owned by Murdoch and mostly unfree.'

"But I always add quickly, 'There is one newspaper that is independent of powerful interests and that's Green Left Weekly'.

Every day at 5.30am, residents and supporters gather in the Collingwood area around Alexandra Parade to protest against test drilling for the government's proposed East-West Link tollway tunnel.

Keith Fitzgerald stands to lose the house he has lived in for 69 years if the tunnel is built. He told Green Left Weekly the protests are about more than just his home.

“They've got no right to take our heritage, our history, our parks and our clean air away from us. These are the vital things that we're fighting for and will continue to fight for.

Journalists have confirmed that up to five boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia have been turned back to Indonesia since December 10.

As Green Left Weekly approaches its 1000th issue, more than 20 years after it first hit the streets, we will be looking back at some of the campaigns it has covered and its role as an alternative source of news.

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It’s February 1991. Bob Hawke is Prime Minister (though not for much longer).

Average weekly earnings are just under $600, about half the average in 2013, but petrol is 70c a litre and a middy (285mL) of beer is $1.50. Interest rates are about 14.5%.

On March 12 this year the 1000th issue of Green Left Weekly will be published. We will be marking this significant milestone in the pages of the paper and through events in cities across the country. Come along to help make sure that Australia's most-read progressive media project remains in good shape.

About 400 members of the National Union of Workers took a day's strike action on January 17, with a picket line at the Coles/Linfox warehouse facility in Truganina, on the western fringe of Melbourne.

The strike action was in support of the union's demand for a site agreement, something other Coles warehouses have. The workers are asking for a range of improvements in conditions, including an extra paid rest break per shift and a fair pay rise.

NUW delegate Mathew Davies told Green Left that the workers are demanding “fair pay for everyone.”

A lawyer, families, high school and university students, unionists and many long-time activists took part in a joint Christmas visit to the Villawood detention centre in Sydney’s west on December 21.

Visit coordinator Rachel Evans told NewZulu.com that Serco, the private company that operates Villawood, tried to confuse and put off visitors, by insisting that forms be faxed to the office 24 hours before the visit, and even phoning some people who had submitted forms.

About 4000 people gathered at Cottesloe Beach on January 4 to protest against the Western Australian Liberal government's plan to cull sharks. This policy would have Perth’s beaches lined with drum lines and baited hooks a kilometre out from the coast and shark fishermen instructed to kill any tiger, great white or bull sharks spotted in the designated zones.

Lock the Gate released this statement on January 13

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Protesters launched a blockade at the site of Whitehaven’s controversial Maules Creek coal project in North West NSW on January 13, turning back vehicles seeking to clear the forest for construction of rail infrastructure.

Five hundred construction workers walked off the job following the death of a young worker, who fell 30 metres from scaffolding at the Barangaroo construction site in Sydney on January 9.

The NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) said emergency services were called to the site at 8.30am after Lend Lease construction workers reported that a man had plunged about 30 metres to the ground. Workmates on site attempted CPR, but the 26-year-old was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived on site.

Campaigners for equal rights had their first win for 2014 as a Pakistani-born gay man, Ali Choudhry, obtained a temporary deportation reprieve just as nation wide protests began on January 7.

A petition with 120,000 signatures was also handed to the Sydney office of immigration minister Scott Morrison. Later, about 50 protesters staged a "die-in" outside the department of immigration office in Sydney. A protest was also held outside the department of immigration office in Melbourne.

One of the most extraordinary films about Australia is soon to be screed across Australia. This is Utopia, an epic production by the Emmy and Bafta winning film-maker and journalist John Pilger.

Utopia is a vast region in northern Australia and home to the oldest human presence on earth. "This film is a journey into that secret country," says Pilger in Utopia. "It will describe not only the uniqueness of the first Australians, but their trail of tears and betrayal and resistance - from one utopia to another".

The first of a number of rallies organised around Australia to protest a proposal of the Abbott Liberal-National federal government to introduce a $5-$6 "co-payment" for Medicare bulk-billed visits to the doctor was held on January 4 in Sydney. Organised through social media, about 500 attended on short notice.

Rallies will be held in other major cities over the next week. These include:

Perth
3:00 PM, Saturday, January 11, 2014 - Murray St Mall
https://www.facebook.com/events/212272045625191/

Melbourne

More than 4000 people protested against the Barnett government's plan to cull Great White Sharks -- a protected species -- on January 4.

Hundreds of paramedics rallied on December 11 for a better deal from the Victorian government. Poor pay and long hours have adversely affected ambulance response times. Negotiations have been delayed 16 months by the Napthine government.

Refugee activists in Melbourne and Geelong rallied on December 20 to present a new "Code of Conduct" to the Immigration Department for Coalition ministers, after immigration minister Scott Morrison proposed a new "code of conduct" for asylum seekers.

Three hundred firefighters gathered in Treasury Gardens on December 12 and marched to Parliament House to protest against inadequate staffing levels.

United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the former ALP government had promised to employ 342 extra firefighters and had allocated money for this purpose. However, the Coalition government has failed to implement the planned increase.

Marshall said that this puts community safety at risk. He said that the bushfires royal commission showed the need for more firefighters.

Up to 500 people rallied in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy on December 15th to protest against the building of a proposed car tunnel – the so named East/West Link.

The community rally was chaired by comedian Rod Quantock. Speakers included Yvonne Kirk from the Public Transport Users Association, Julianne Bell from the Protectors of Public Lands VIC, City of Yarra councillors Jackie Fristacky, Steve Jolly and Amanda Stone, and Mel Gregson from the group organising a picket to stop building.

The ">Environment Centre NT released this statement on December 7.

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Environment groups have called for an immediate halt to operations at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu following a major contamination leak.

Around one million litres of highly acidic radioactive slurry has escaped from the mine’s containment area following the collapse of a tank in the processing area early in the morning on December 7.

About 200 people gathered outside the Liberal Party headquarters in Melbourne on December 4 to protest against the decision to restrict abortion in Victoria.

The Victorian Liberal Party state conference voted on December 1 to wind back Victoria's abortion laws, which were amended in 2008 to decriminalise the procedure and to require a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer a woman to another doctor without prejudice.

"The war in Colombia has been ongoing for decades, with little public discussion internationally," Oliver Villar, from the University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University, told a Sydney forum on November 30. The forum was organised by the solidarity organisation United for Colombia.

"The roots of the conflict, and why peace is so difficult, lie in the country's history. It is a story of US imperialist domination, and Spanish colonialism before that, which left a semi-feudal system almost intact.

Gelliondale Resources, a subsidiary of Melbourne company Ignite Energy Resources Limited, have applied for a “retention licence” for a project to mine brown coal at Gelliondale, in the South Gippsland region.

The application includes a work program of “field exploration activities such as drilling, sampling, excavation of costeans or pits and surveying,” according to the company website.

After negotiating for 16 months, the Ambulance Employees Australia in Victoria say they are not much closer to securing a contract that gives them the pay levels they are seeking and protects the quality of their service to the public.

On December 4, the union rejected the latest offer from the state government for a 12% pay rise over the next three years.

Not just the hall but the verandah of the Serbian Centre was packed when more than 300 people came to the first public meeting of Aquis Aware, a group formed in response to the proposed Aquis casino in one of the city’s beachside suburbs, Yorkeys Knob.

The mega-resort would have nine hotels and big entertainment and sports venues. An environmental impact statement for the project has not been tabled, so details of the Aquis proposal are murky.

But speakers were able to address many of the concerns of those present, most of who were opposed to or questioned the proposed development.

AID/WATCH, an independent monitor of Australia’s aid and trade, released the statement below on December 4, in response to allegations of AusAID involvement in spying on the East Timorese government.

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AID/WATCH has responded to the allegation that Australian government agencies, including AusAID, were involved in spying on the East Timorese cabinet room during sensitive meetings about oil and gas negotiations.

This statement was released by the Queensland Civil Liberties Network on November 30.

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A packed meeting of more than 70 concerned citizens and representatives from community organisations founded a new campaigning organisation at Brisbane's Electrical Trades Union hall on November 27, responding to what organisers called "an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties in Queensland".

About 2000 people, including at least 1000 motorcyclists, attended a “ride and rally” in Brisbane on December 1. This was part of a series of rallies across the country held to protest against Queensland's anti-democratic laws that target bikers.

Bikers from around Brisbane and nearby regional centres converged on state parliament where they were welcomed by supporters. The rally called for the new laws to be scrapped.

Many recreational riders say they have been unfairly targeted and harassed by police since the laws were introduced.

The Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) released this open letter on November 22
 
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Next year, on February 14, will be the 10th anniversary of the killing of the young Aboriginal man, TJ Hickey, as a consequence of the pursuit by the then Redfern police.

For nine long years, the Hickey family has been campaigning for justice and for the proper legal punishment of those directly responsible for TJ’s death.

Lock the Gate released this statement on November 26.

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The first Santos rig drilling for coal seam gas in the Pilliga is today the site of direct action protest, as grandmother and author Sharyn Munro joins 20 locals in halting Santos’ drilling operations in the area, calling for the Sydney catchment coal seam gas moratorium to be extended to protect Pilliga groundwater.

An important new work of labour history was launched on November 23 at the Melbourne Trades Hall. About 70 people heard author Douglas Jordan and Victoria University historian Phillip Deery mark the publication of Conflict in the Unions: The Communist Party of Australia, Politics and the Trade Union Movement, 1945-60.

Equal marriage rallies were held on November 23 in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
 
About 500 people braved wet weather to march for  marriage equality in Melbourne. Speakers included  United Firefighters national secretary Peter Marshall. He said:  "How does a government have the right to say that your love is  not equal? This leads to less workplace rights than heterosexuals.  Unions do not like discrimination. You are supported, you will win this."

Forty people gathered on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House on November 27 to protest against a new law that would make it an offence to cause serious harm to a pregnant woman. It was defeated by a single vote.
 
Introduced by Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire, the bill seeks to introduce "foetal personhood”, with penalties as severe as life in prison for causing what is termed in the bill “the death of the unborn child”.

A Queensland Civil Liberties Network was formed on November 27 at a packed meeting at the Electrical Trades Union office in Brisbane.

More than 60 people, including officials and activists from a number of trade unions, environmental activists, people involved in organising protests at the G20 meeting next year, members of the Greens, Pirate Party, and the Socialist Alliance, as well as individuals new and experienced in campaigning for civil liberties attended.

Six Malaysian activists from the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly) group have begun a three-day occupation of the entrance to the corporate headquarters of Lynas in Sydney. The Australian company has built an unwanted toxic rare earths refinery in Kuantan , Malaysia.

They have come armed with a petition with signatures from 1.2 million Malaysians who demand that the toxic plant be shut down by June 29, 2014 at the latest.

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Murdoch University have voted to call off industrial action and support a new enterprise agreement with the university.

The agreement was offered as union members were preparing to go on strike on November 20.

Initially, the university had refused a pay rise of more than 4% over the next two years. This would have been well below inflation and effectively a pay cut.

National Union of Workers (NUW) members went on strike at the Sheridan sheet warehouse in Port Adelaide on November 25.

The NUW have been bargaining with the company as part of a new enterprise agreement.

Workers at the Adelaide warehouse are upset they receive $160 a week less than workers in the Victorian sites doing the same job. Workers also want more control over rosters so they can plan to spend time with their families.

A Melbourne woman has taken to living in a treehouse suspended from a tall mountain ash in the Toolangi area north-east of Melbourne, to highlight loss of Victoria's native forest and the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum.

Hannah Patchett told community radio 3CR that she decided to take the action because “a lot of people didn't even know where Toolangi was, let alone that there was clearfell logging happening in Leadbeater habitat.

Rita Hester was found murdered inside her apartment on November 28, 1998. Hester was transgender and also African American, her death highlighting not only the issue of transphobic murder, but also the disproportionate representation of people of colour among its victims.

Her murder is still unsolved but an international day of action known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is marked on November 20 each year.
 
Hester’s murder was preceded and followed by other high profile transphobic murders.

The National Tertiary Education Union released this statement on November 21.

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The Minister for Education Christopher Pyne today introduced the Higher Education Support Amendment (Savings and Other Measures) Bill 2013 into parliament, a bill which in the minister’s own words will be damaging to the university sector. 
 
The bill slashes more than $900 million from university grants over the next four years and will cost students almost $300 million in lost discounts for early repayment of their HECS debts.
 

Macquarie Street, home to NSW Supreme Court and Parliament, reverberated with chants for justice as 150 Aboriginal people and supporters marched to demand justice for the Bowraville three on November 21.
 
In 1991, a triple murder of three Aboriginal youths took place within five months in Bowraville on the New South Wales mid north coast.
 

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