Australian News

Unionists at the Woolworths warehouse in Barnawartha, northern Victoria, have won an 8.3% wage rise and other benefits after an eight-day strike that ended on November 1.

The 350 members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) went on strike on October 25 due to pay rates much lower than Melbourne employees doing the same job. A NUW statement said management had offered a raise of 74¢ per hour for Barnawartha workers, compared to $1.04 for Melbourne employees.

Members at the Barnawartha warehouse already earned $203 a week less than workers in Melbourne.

WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was officially re-elected on November 4 after an historic recount of WA Senate votes from the September federal election. He and the Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich won over the ALP's Louise Pratt and Dio Wang from the Palmer United Party.

Before the recount, a 14 vote difference between the Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers Party led to a preference flow that supported Pratt. After the recount, a 12 vote margin favoured Ludlam.

The Victorian government has released the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS). Public comment has been sought until December 12. The consultation process ends in July next year.

The proposed East West Link is an 18-kilometre road project, including a multilane tunnel, which would extend from Hoddle St to the Western Ring Road at Sunshine East. The CIS covers the eastern section of the proposed road, extending from Clifton Hill through Parkville to the Port of Melbourne precinct.

About 50 people attended a Latin American forum and cultural night at the Spanish Centre in Brisbane on November 2 to hear a panel of speakers discuss various aspects of Latin American politics and history. The forum was co-sponsored by Australian Solidarity with Latin America in Brisbane and the Sydney-based Latin American Social Forum.

Talks focused on issues in five countries of the continent: El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. Links to Australia were also highlighted in some presentations.


Photo: Alex Bainbridge

A large gathering of people from the Vietnamese and Catholic communities - alongside supporters of refugee rights - gathered at the St Mary's Cathedral in Perth on November 8 to highlight the situation of Vietnamese refugees in the Yongah Hill Detention Centre.

About 700 Vietnamese refugees have arrived in Australia in recent years complaining about religious persecution in Vietnam.

Controversial private member’s bill “Zoe’s law”, which aims to give legal rights to foetuses, was again set aside in the NSW Legislative Assembly on October 31. Only a few MPs turned up to the third second-reading debate; four spoke against and three spoke for it.

Those against were: Andrew McDonald (ALP Macquarie Fields); Leslie Williams (Nationals Port Macquarie); Jamie Parker (Greens Balmain) and John Williams (Nationals Murray Darling).

Tasmanian Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell said he was grateful for the thoughts behind his Australia Day award nomination but that he “would be a hypocrite to accept it”.

Mansell has been outspoken about the offensiveness of Australia’s national day celebrating the invasion and dispossession of Australia’s Aboriginal people. He has participated in Invasion Day rallies held by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for many years.

Emergency service workers rallied on October 29 to oppose attempts by the Victorian government to introduce sweeping changes to the Transport Accident Act, which would take away emergency workers’ common law right to seek injury compensation for psychological injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Peter Marshall, Victorian Secretary of the United Firefighter Union, told the rally: “63% of firefighters have moderate post-traumatic stress levels, 17% have full blown post-traumatic stress levels, and that is on the increase.

McDonald’s Australia has ceased legal action against eight community protesters — dubbed the “Tecoma 8” — who were being sued for damages over delays to construction of a McDonald’s restaurant in Tecoma, in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne.

"We are here today,” Professor Stuart Rees told a media conference at Queens Square on October 30, “to express our outrage that a so-called independent law centre from Israel could attempt to stamp out freedom of speech in Australia.”

"We call on the mainstream media to take an objective stand on the issue of Palestinian human rights.”

The gathering concerned the move by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli-based law centre, to file a case in the Federal Court against Professor Jake Lynch of the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

Father Rod Bower has been the rector at the Gosford Anglican Church for 14 years. His cheeky and very direct signs on the church board have received up to 50,000 views and thousands of shares on Facebook. He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Niko Leka about joining the convergence for refugee rights in Canberra on November 18.

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What sort of responses have you had to your messages of support for asylum seekers?

Representatives from the Nyoongar tent embassy gave a presentation forum on Nyoongar native title at Murdoch University on October 15, hosted by the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre.

The focus of the forum was the ongoing negotiations between the Western Australian state government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) to extinguish native title in the Nyoongar territories of WA (roughly the region south of Geraldton and east to Esperance) in exchange for a $1.3 billion cash and land package.

When Neville Cunningham died, the world lost a great fighter for peace, justice and equality. I first met Neville Cunningham through fellow communist, band mate and cellmate Harry Anderson in the 1960s.

The NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) is campaigning to reverse cuts to the state fire services budget by the Liberal state government.

Under the theme, "Stop Fire Station Cuts and Closures," the FBEU is circulating an open letter to NSW Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell stating: "As NSW faces devastating bushfires — the worst since 1968 — your closures and cuts to fire stations puts lives at risk when we most need protection.

Cairns police arrested two people under Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's new anti-association laws on October 18. A search was carried out on their clubhouse and the two men, Peter Johnston and Mark Filtness, have been charged with being in a criminal organisation and entering a prescribed place. They were both granted bail.

The Liberal-National Party used their majority to rush the new laws through parliament on October 17. The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill, Tattoo Parlours Bill and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill target bikies specifically.

NSW MPs supporting a Liberal MP's private members bill to recognise crime or harm against a foetus — dubbed “Zoe’s law” — have tried to avoid any connection between it and their reactionary anti-choice backers.

But on October 24, Katrina Hodginson, National MP for Burrinjuck, publicly thanked Margaret Tighe, national president of Right to Life Australia, for her encouragement. After declaring her support for the bill, Hodginson said she believed that there was a need for more laws “from the victim’s perspective”.

Members of the Chilean community and other Latin American supporters rallied outside NSW parliament on October 23 to protest against Liberal Upper House whip Peter Phelps, who has praised Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a "hero."

Protesters are demanding an apology from Phelps and disciplinary action against him from Premier Barry O'Farrell.

Phelps made a speech to parliament on September 11, the 40th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. Phelps described Pinochet as a "morally courageous man”.

Women and men took to the street in Brunswick for Melbourne's Reclaim the Night rally and march on October 19, to demand an end to victim blaming and violence against women.

Speakers included Yorta Yorta woman Monica Morgan, chairperson of Elizabeth Hoffman House, Poppy Jacob from Hollaback Melbourne, an organisation dedicated to ending the street harassment of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals, Rose Ljubicic from the Council of Single Mothers and their Children, and Jane Green, a sex worker activist from the Vixen Collective.

About 500 people rallied in Perth on October 19 to protest against a new forest management plan approved by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in July, which could destroy 2000 square kilometres of native forest over the next 10 years. 

The rally was organised by campaign group Forest Legacy, and indicates the re-emergence of the movement to protect forests in WA, important at a time of increased attacks from state and federal Liberal governments. 

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of Western Sydney, Parramatta South campus, staged a half-day strike and picket at the university on October 23.

Staff picketed the main entrance to the campus and persuaded many vehicles trying to enter the university to turn away, despite harassment by security guards.

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

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Australian immigration officials have refused to grant a visa to a Bangladeshi union activist on the basis that he is too poor.

The activist's trip was to be sponsored by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) as part of its contribution to Anti-Poverty Week, which draws attention to issues of poverty and social exclusion.

Australian Unions has initiated a petition against NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell's cuts to the NSW fire service. Text is below, sign it here.

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Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor Sam Wainwright was re-elected to the Fremantle council on October 19. In the other wards, progressive councillors defeated conservative opponents, and Mayor Brad Pettitt was also returned.

Wainwright won 58% of the vote in his ward compared to 33% at the 2009 poll. Wainwright's absolute vote also increased from 438 votes to 602 this year.

The Victorian treasurer has recently announced a budget surplus, but Melbourne taxi drivers have been forced to protest outside of parliament this week due to the Coalition's austerity-driven taxi reforms.

The Denis Napthine government wants to deregulate taxi licensing and claims that taxi standards have been compromised due to a lack of "competition" in the industry.

Taxi drivers and stakeholders know this is a lie.

Refugee advocates in Australia reported that 15 pregnant women would be sent to the Nauru detention camp on October 18, as the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) released alarming information about conditions in the camp.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison had earlier overseen the transfer to Nauru of two pregnant women — one seven months pregnant with twins. He said Nauru’s hospital had two delivery beds, six post-natal beds and a “special-care baby unit”.

A bill to recognise crime or harm against a foetus was debated a second time in NSW parliament on October 17. About 100 protesters rallied outside before filling the public gallery to witness the debate.

Liberal MP Chris Spence's bill, the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 No. 2, also known as “Zoe's law”, aims to amend the NSW Crimes Act.

It would give rights and personhood to foetuses of more than 20 weeks (or weighing more than 400 grams), which has troubling implications for women’s reproductive control.

International students and supporters rallied on October 17 to oppose international students being exploited, bullied and pushed into poverty in Melbourne’s office cleaning industry.

The rally was called by cleaners’ union United Voice as part of anti-poverty week.

United Voice Victoria secretary Jess Walsh said: "International students are a very important part of our community. A quarter of the international students we surveyed received less than $10 an hour at work, and 60% received less than the minimum wage and many reported experiencing racism and sexual harassment.

A half-day strike by NSW public servants planned for October 22 has been called off after the Barry O’Farrell government agreed to meet with the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) to discuss the union’s concerns about the high number of redundancies being implemented across the public service.

The PSA central council voted on October 14 to put industrial action on hold pending talks with the NSW government about the axing of 15,000 public sector jobs over four years and concerns about the new Government Sector Employment Act.

Hundreds braved rain on October 13 to rally against the construction of the East West link in Melbourne's inner suburbs.

The Socialist Party's Anthony Maine, vilified by the Herald Sun as a “serial pest” spoke at the rally. He said: “The government is making decisions on behalf of the road lobby. We have the potential of mass support on our side of people that want to see more rail [lines] built. Our goal has to be to mobilise these people into action."

The federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane announced early in his term that one of his first priorities was to expand the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in NSW.

This will put him on a collision course with a powerful rural and city alliance – including activists like mother-of-four Melinda Wilson from western Sydney.

Wilson helped form No CSG Blacktown and CSG Free Western Sydney. She is organising a protest outside the East Coast Gas Outlook conference in Sydney on October 22.

PRIVATISE HECS

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is considering a plan to sell off Australia’s $23 billion Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) debt, Yahoo News said on October 16.

The debt, owed by university students, could be privatised and sold to investors.

More than 100 residents of Sydney's inner western suburbs attended a public meeting at Leichhardt Town Hall on October 10 to oppose the NSW Liberal government's plan to build the WestConnex toll road.

The road would link the M4 motorway to Sydney Airport. The $10-15 billion project would involve a 33-kilometre toll road to extend the M4 from Strathfield to Mascot Airport and Port Botany, and duplicate the M5 East and M6 tollways.

A group of Iranians were on hunger strike outside the immigration department in Melbourne on October 19. Local Australian-Iranian man Jahangir Hosseini has been on hunger strike for more than 30 days. Another four women and one man have joined him on hunger strike.

The hunger strikers plan to continue their hunger strike until seven hostages abducted by Iraqi forces are released.

Hosseini called on the Australian government to intervene to secure the immediate release of the seven hostages, six of who are women.

Protesters gathered outside the immigration department CBD offices on October 18 to call on the Australian government to allow seven West Papuan asylum seekers to seek protection in Australia.

The seven West Papuans arrived in Australia’s Torres Strait on September 24. They fled West Papua, fearing reprisal for involvement with a Freedom Flotilla from Australia.

These photographs were taken on October 17 from Sydney's inner-west — many kilometres away from the nearest fires (which were in the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Newcastle) in what has been described as the worst bush fires in the state of NSW in decades.

As “rainbow” high school students we would like to talk about an important issue which relates to us, and that is the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.

This act protects people from being discriminated against based on factors such as age, sex, marital status, religion, sexuality, gender identity as well as many other factors. On the surface, this act is amazing for ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people in particular.

The Brisbane Reclaim the Night Collective released this statement on October 16.

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Reclaim the Night is a global event where women stand up against sexual violence and communities take control and respond to sexual violence against women. The event is held globally on the last Friday of October.

The Reclaim the Night Brisbane event will demand an end to sexual violence against women. The night will consist of a rally and march throughout the streets in Brisbane. The theme this year is “It’s time to end rape culture”.

About 100 members of the Sudanese community rallied in Sydney's Belmore Park on October 3 to protest against the military regime's crackdown on human rights in their home country. Speakers condemned the repression last month by the regime of President Omar Al-Bashir against crowds protesting sharp rises in fuel prices.

The Pacific2013 arms fair and the International Fleet Review in Sydney Darling Harbour on October 7 were met by anti-war protests from locals.

The arms fair was held in the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre while the centenary of Royal Australia Navy’s first visit to Sydney was celebrated in the harbour.

The proposed East-West tunnel being built in Melbourne’s inner-north has been delayed again as residents prevented soil testing by staging rolling protest actions.

But the battle is likely to resume soon.

The East-West tunnel was originally proposed in 2008. After a community campaign, the former Labor state government dropped the proposal, but Premier Denis Napthine’s Coalition government revived the $8 billion plan in 2011.

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