Australian News

The fight to defend public education is shaping up to be a key campaign against the cutback agenda of the Colin Barnett government in Western Australia. Thousands of teachers and education assistants rallied outside state parliament on September 3 in two separate mobilisations and further industrial action is planned.

The government claimed it has not cut education funding. However, the central issue is not about overall funding but the cuts to staffing levels. In August, the government announced they were planning to cut 500 education assistants and other support workers.

The Socialist Alliance ran seven lower house candidates and a Senate team in NSW in the recent federal elections. Through letterboxing, campaign stalls, public forums and polling day, it engaged people who wanted to be involved in activism and politics in a meaningful way.

September 11 marked 40 years since a brutal military coup brought down the left-wing government of President Salvador Allende in Chile.

The "Other September 11" represented the state terrorist actions of the US government and the CIA in subverting and overthrowing a democratically elected progressive government — one of many such right-wing coups sponsored by the US in Latin America over the past century.

Are you sick of elections that primarily involve a choice between two pro-capitalist parties?

Well, here's your chance to experience an election involving a mass mobilisation of revolutionary-minded people determined to bring about socialism of the 21st century in their country.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) will host its 14th solidarity brigade to Venezuela over December 4-13. The registration closing date has now been extended to October 1.

The NSW firefighters union has slammed the Barry O’Farrell state government for recent budget cuts that left five fire stations closed as more than 60 bushfires raged across the state on September 10.

The West Papua Freedom Flotilla released this statement on September 12.

***

Evading the Indonesian navy, two tiny boats met near the Australia-Indonesia border to ceremonially reconnect the indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua. The ceremony was the pinnacle of a 5000 kilometre journey beginning in Lake Eyre, in which sacred water and ashes were carried and presented to West Papuan leaders.

Supporters of the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua, including the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy, gathered outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Brisbane on September 2.

They were protesting against the arrest of four supporters of the Freedom Flotilla in the West Papuan city of Sorong on August 28 and who are now facing charges of treason for raising the West Papuan Morning Star flag.

Pro-choice activists fear that a new bill, soon to go to NSW parliament, will pose a threat to women’s reproductive rights. “Zoe’s law” will create a new offence that recognises crime or harm against a foetus.

The Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 No. 2 was introduced by Liberal MP Chris Spence. It is named after the stillborn daughter of Brodie Donegan, who was 32-weeks pregnant when she was hit by a car on Christmas day in 2009 near Ourimbah on the central coast. Donegan suffered severe injuries and an emergency caesarean was too late to save the foetus.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary John Parker is standing as an independent candidate in the seat of MacMillan. Green Left Weekly’s Susan Price spoke to Parker about his campaign.

***

What prompted you to stand as a candidate?

Stop CSG Illawarra released this statement on August 26.

***

NSW Labor has adopted a policy to ban coal seam gas (CSG) development in the Sydney drinking water catchment. This is the first commitment from a major party to support exclusion zones to protect our water.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said: "This is a welcome announcement and a win for the campaign. We set out to have policies from all parties reflect a safe approach to CSG, and we congratulate NSW Labor on this decision.

About 50 people joined a rally at Sydney University on August 28 to show solidarity with academics Jake Lynch and Stuart Rees, who have been threatened with legal action over their strong backing for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel.

Lynch, Rees and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at Sydney university are facing a legal suit by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli Law Centre.

Future Fund CEO Mark Burgess was met by protesters when he spoke in Sydney on August 20. Members of Uranium Free NSW dressed as nuclear missiles to highlight the fund's investment in nuclear weapons manufacturing.

The Future Fund, an Australian government investment fund established in 2006, has $227 million invested in 16 nuclear weapons companies. These companies make nuclear weapons and related infrastructure for France, Britain, the United States, India and Israel.

About 500 people rallied at City Square against coal seam gas (CSG) extraction in Seaspray on August 17. Many at the rally were cattle farmers in the Gippsland area.

Protesters expressed concern that CSG mining would destroy farmland, contaminate water, threaten the health of their rural community and create seismic activity.

Some farmers expressed their dilemma over whether to stay and fight the CSG companies, or sell their properties before CSG becomes established in the area.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions emailed 90,000 union members on August 21, urging them to “go hard against Abbott” in the last two-and-a-half weeks of the election campaign.

They will have to in South Australia if the Newspoll released on the same day is accurate.

A breakdown of voting intentions by state showed a 7.2 percentage point swing against Labor in South Australia compared with the 2010 election result.

About 50 people rallied outside minister for climate change Mark Butler's office in Adelaide on August 24 to make climate an election issue.

Organised by the Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN), the rally called on the government to: build solar thermal in Port Augusta; end all fossil fuel subsidies; increase the Renewable Energy Target to 100%; put electricity supply under community control; and refit the SA car industry to build solar thermal components and public transport infrastructure.

The Victorian Blind Workers Union and United Voice Queensland have stepped up the fight to save the jobs of 73 vision-impaired workers. The workers are due to be sacked within three months by Vision Australia Enterprises in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

Not-for-profit organisation Vision Australia plans to cease its supported employment program due to financial problems.

Seven Iranian families — comprising 14 adults and 12 children — were sent to Nauru’s detention camp on August 21. Immigration minister Tony Burke said the children were aged between five and 15. He said more families would be sent to the island and “before long” unaccompanied minors would also face possible removal from Australia to Nauru.

The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on August 21.

***

The Refugee Action Coalition has condemned the Labor government’s transfer of asylum seeker families to Nauru.

The US army whistleblower formerly known as Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks.

In a statement after the sentencing, Manning announced her decision to transition to life as a woman and requested to be called Chelsea.

The Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released this statement on August 22.

***

Hundreds of people campaigning against coal seam gas (CSG) mining delivered a petition, signed by more than 13,000 people, to NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell on August 21.

The NSW-wide petition, initiated by Stop CSG Illawarra, calls on the government to: "Ban all coal seam gas prospecting and mining in New South Wales drinking water catchment areas".

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said at the rally: "We want the land in NSW that supplies our drinking water protected.

The Freedom Flotilla to West Papua departed on August 17, a week after the arrival of its supporters who had travelled in a land convoy from Lake Eyre. Aboriginal elders, West Papuan refugees, filmmakers, musicians and artists will sail the flotilla’s two boats to West Papuan waters, via Cooktown, Thursday Island and Daru, in Papua New Guinea.

About 30 people rallied outside NSW state parliament on August 15 to protest plans by the Liberal state government to change regulations to allow native forest biomass to be burned to generate electricity.

Environment groups are worried the change will lead to wholesale destruction of native forests and woodlands to feed the power generators.

Protests were also held in Bega and Bellingen on the same day. The rallies were sponsored by an alliance of environment conservation organisations.

More than 500 people, mainly from the Egyptian community, rallied at Sydney's Town Hall Square and marched through city streets to the Egyptian consulate on August 18, in opposition to the military crackdown over recent days in Egypt.

Speakers condemned the massacres committed by the military regime in Egypt against peaceful supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Chants during the march included, "Free, free Egypt!", "Egypt will soon be free!", and "General al-Sisi, assassin!'

About 160 people attended the Sydney premiere of Nuclear Nation on August 9, also known as Nagasaki Day.

This new documentary by Atsushi Funahashi explores the lives of refugees from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

About 260 people gathered at a mass meeting in Tecoma on August 11 and vowed to continue to fight against a McDonald’s Restaurant in their town.

Demolition of the site began on August 8 but the meeting reaffirmed their determination to maintain a protest on the site.

Support for the protest continues to grow. The Victorian branch of the Australian Service Union released a statement on August 10.

About 350 paramedics surrounded Victorian Health Minister David Davis's Melbourne office on August 12 to protest in support of their year-long campaign for better wages.

Victoria has Australia's most highly trained and lowest paid paramedics. Supporters came from as far away as Gippsland and Shepparton.

“Ambulance Victoria is in serious trouble unless they can become competitive with other states,” said Ambulance Employees Australia organiser Danny Hill.

A fire ripped through Nauru's main hospital on August 14, destroying the pharmacy, medical stores and x-ray facilities.

Joanna Olsson from the Nauru government's information office told the ABC that the fire ruined a quarter of the building and could entail a “medical emergency” for Nauru.

The cause was believed to be electrical. Like many services on the island, Nauru's hospital is rundown and relies on Australian aid for maintenance and repair.

Energy use in buildings accounts for about 20% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. A new report says Australia’s existing building stock could be made emissions-free in 10 years, while saving about $40 billion in energy bills over 30 years.

About 200 people attended a lunch at Geelong Trades Hall on August 11 to raise money for the hundreds of refugees who have arrived in the community.

Many refugees are not allowed to work as a condition of their visa and are forced to live on less than the unemployment benefit.

This has left some families lacking basic necessities such as adequate clothing and food. A great deal of pressure has been placed on charities to take up the slack.

Kep Enderby, former attorney-general in the last year of the Whitlam Labor government, has declared publicly that he's decided not to vote for the Labor Party because of the ALP government's terrible treatment of asylum seekers.

He declared this in a short letter published in The Australian on August 2, repeated it to Linda Mottram on ABC Sydney Radio 702 and confirmed this directly to Green Left Weekly.

“I've decided not to vote Labor even though I've voted Labor all my life and I was a member of the Whitlam government,” he told GLW.

Locked-out Yallourn power station workers were joined by hundreds of people at a rally outside the offices of their employer, Energy Australia, in Melbourne on August 16.

The company, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based China Light and Power, locked out all 75 shift operators, members of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), on June 21.

The workers had been limiting power output as part of a campaign of protected industrial action in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement.

About 40 people gathered at Reg Hillier House in Darwin’s rural area on August 15 to discuss threats posed by petroleum companies wanting to explore for oil and gas.

Applications for exploration under the Petroleum Act, which could include oil or gas, have reached the outer rural areas including the entire Cox Peninsula, parts of Humpty Doo and Howard Springs, the Dundee area and Litchfield National Park. Exploration may involve using the controversial method of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) if shale gas is found.

The Queensland government has approved a $6.4 billion coalmine to be owned by Clive Palmer.

The huge mining project, located in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, is expected to produce about 40 million tonnes of coal a year for 30 years, much of which will be shipped to booming industrial centres in China.

On top of that, hundreds of kilometres of railway will be laid to the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen, one of the many ports along the Queensland coast that is used to ship coal overseas.

This statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on August 16.

***

Kevin Rudd says he is now in favour of equal marriage rights, but Labor’s policy allows its politicians a "conscience vote". This is simply unacceptable, and lets homophobic MPs off the hook.

Why does Labor have a "conscience vote" on equal marriage? It doesn't have a conscience vote on other issues, such as sending asylum seekers to PNG or cutting sole-parent pensions — even though Labor's policies on these issues violate the conscience of any decent human being.

It took a federal magistrate five minutes to dismiss charges against veteran unionist Bob Carnegie in a Brisbane courtroom on August 16.

Carnegie faced 18 charges related to contempt of court, which were pushed by anti-union building firm Abigroup.

Abigroup had accused Carnegie of defying court orders to avoid the site of a community picket that was campaigning for safety and conditions on behalf of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and its workers.

A public meeting held in the Tasmanian town of Oatlands on August 2 discussed the application by PetroGas, an offshoot of Petratherm, to explore for shale gas and oil in more than 3000 square kilometres of southern Tasmania.

About 80 residents attended the meeting. Tim Kirkwood, general manager of Southern Midlands council, said it was the best-attended public meeting ever held in Oatlands.

The process of “fracking” for gas requires millions of litres of water and a major concern for many of the farmers present was the question of where the water would come from.

While Australia’s mining sector shows signs of resilience, there is one mineral whose outlook may be terminal. 

There are five significant events that have occurred recently that send a clear message about the future of the uranium sector and the wider nuclear industry.

The uranium price dropped to US$34.50 a pound Energy Resources of Australia, the operator of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu, announced a $54 million loss.

Asylum seekers are welcome on Aboriginal lands in Australia despite the inhumane approach of both major political parties, the Aboriginal Provisional Government said on July 29.

Secretary Michael Mansell said: “As people who know what it’s like to be invaded by boat people we are in a better position to judge how the current boat people should be treated. Where the original boat people who took over our country were armed to the teeth and bent on conquest, asylum seekers in 2013 are unarmed and seeking sanctuary.

Nauru's terrible poverty, stagnant economy and unstable administration has paved the way for its main aid-provider, the Australian government, to sign it up for a similar refugee “deal” as Papua New Guinea.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that refugees who arrived in Australia by boat could be sent for processing and then would “settle and reside” on Nauru.

About sixty people attended a meeting on “America’s Pacific Push” on July 25.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, spoke about the growing US military presence in the Pacific.

Examples included the expansion of a missile test range in Hawaii, the building of a naval base on South Korea’s Jeju Island despite strong resistance from local people, and the plan to station 2500 US troops in Darwin.

Gagnon said that US bases in Australia play a crucial role in US military strategy.

A protest to defend welfare rights and public housing was held in Coburg on August 3. The rally called for a rise in all welfare payments to a liveable income, the restoration of the sole parents pension, an end to welfare quarantining and public housing for all who need it.

Moreland city councillor and Socialist Alliance member Sue Bolton told the rally: "The single parent payment is important because it allows women to leave violent relationships and gives parents the right to decide  to be at home with their children."

Pages