Comment and Analysis

Wind and solar may be leading the way in Australia’s renewable energy race, but there’s another contender lurking in the nation’s oceans.

A personal carer is so seriously injured that two surgical operations fail to correct a hand injury. The surgeon's post-operation report says: “The worker requires significant time off and work cover”.

On October 12, police cars descended at high speed on a laneway in the western Sydney suburb of Bankstown to arrest to two 16-year-olds. For the next few days the media uncritically reported police claims that they had foiled an imminent terrorist attack.

The trigger for the arrests was that the youths had just purchased M9 hunting knives at a local gun shop. This type of knife is not illegal in NSW.

As October comes to a close, the feminist “Reclaim the Night” marches, also known as “Take back the night”, draw near.

Reclaim the Night is an annual global protest against gendered violence and inequality traditionally held on the last Friday in October.

As is the case with much of women’s history, the origins of Reclaim the Night are poorly documented and little known.

CFMEU members and police

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and Registered Organisations bills passed in the House of Representatives on October 18. These bills, first introduced by the Tony Abbott government in 2013, were twice rejected by the Senate, triggering the double dissolution election earlier this year. 

This is the latest attempt to extend the John Howard era’s union busting agenda. The ABCC was first established by the Howard government in 2005, targeting the militant unions that covered workers in the construction industry. It was opposed by the union movement.

Doctors and health professionals, with community support, have won a significant victory against the government’s agenda of suppression, fear and secrecy. Health professionals have been made exempt from the secrecy and disclosure provisions of the Border Force Act.

Group of women holding pro-choice placards

Unlike the other states and territories, abortion is a criminal offence in New South Wales and Queensland, except under certain circumstances.

The doctor who provides the termination, anyone assisting and the woman herself could all be prosecuted under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) or the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld).

In NSW and Queensland, bills have been developed that, if successful, will lead to the decriminalisation of abortion in both states.

This is what things have come to.

The Greatest Democracy In the World™ is subjecting its people, and the world, to an election campaign to determine who gets to order new crimes against humanity, in which one candidate is a far-right, racist, woman-hating, tax-avoiding failed property mogul, reality TV star and serial sex offender, and the other is, by all available evidence, a robot built by Goldman Sachs.

Workers at the Geelong oil refinery, with the support of community members, maintained a 24-hour picket from October 5 to 11 at four refinery access gates over serious safety concerns at the site. The refinery, previously owned by Shell, has been managed by Viva Energy for the past two years.

It is now less than one week until the Moreland City Council election.

Campaigning for Sue Bolton at the early polling centre in the suburb of Fawkner, you can sense the level of community recognition for the socialist councillor. When a group of school kids and their teacher were looking for a public toilet at the playground adjacent to the polling centre, one of them suggested I “get Sue Bolton onto it”.

It is amazing how radical believing in the simple notion of welcoming refugees in Australia has become. ABC’s Q&A program on alternatives to detention on October 10 gave some insight into how convoluted the debate on refugees has become.

A number of “compromise solutions” are being put forward but none of them address the worldwide refugee crisis or end Australia’s cruel detention system.

Jafri Alexandra X has been conducting a one-person crusade against racism in Melbourne for almost two years. He is well known as the person who holds a “stop” sign with “Stop Racism Now” on it every Friday afternoon outside Flinders Street Station.

This interview with Jafri and Dilman Ramadan was broadcast on 3CR's Solidarity Breakfast show on October 1. 

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Low-income people, activists, community workers and others will gather in Adelaide on October 21 and 22 for “Power to the Poor — Silent No More”, a two-day Anti-Poverty Week conference.

The event — organised by Anti-Poverty Network SA, a grassroots group composed of welfare recipients struggling with poverty and joblessness — promises to be one of the largest Anti-Poverty Week events in the country.

The Queensland government once again demonstrated its commitment to progressing Adani’s mega coal mine project in the Galilee basin on October 9.

State development minister Anthony Lynham announced that the government had invoked special powers to ensure the controversial Carmichael coal and rail project starts next year.

The combined mine, rail and associated water infrastructure have all been declared critical infrastructure. Lynham says the decision will mean less red tape for the proposed $21.7 billion Adani venture.

Activists from all over Australia converged at Pine Gap, the US spy base, 50 years since it was first established for a series of protests. Robyn Marshall reports.

“Don’t go around acting holier-than-thou about this like you’ve never heard anyone say anything like that before,” said Tomi Lahren, 24-year-old Trump-supporting commentator for right-wing US media network The Blaze, over Donald Trump’s leaked comments boasting about sexual assault. “Give me a break.”

A 19-year-old Aboriginal man, charged with sexually assaulting two children and who later had the charges dropped, is still living under a conditional release order. Green Left Weekly's Janet Parker spoke to the CEO of Developmental Disability WA Taryn Harvey about how the law is failing people with disabilities and how it can be changed.

I have no doubt that the plebiscite would have been won: it would have been a huge opening to build a mass movement for marriage equality and demolish the opposition. But I shared fears that the “No” campaign would have hurt our youth.

The NSW government has announced plans to privatise hospitals in Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn, Shellharbour and Bowral. It is a symptom of a disease: our public services are threatened by politicians who want to privatise them so companies can run them for profit.

Australia's Big Four banks — the Commonwealth, NAB, ANZ and Westpac — are the most concentrated and profitable set of banks in the world. These mega-banks are cutting their workforces, while paying their executives huge salaries and bonuses. They should be placed in public hands.

Just as in the 21 countries where marriage equality has been won, we will have to win this democratic right on the streets here too. This is the resounding conclusion supporters of equality must draw if we are to push back an emerging tide of conservatism unleashed by this latest round of major party politicking over the plebiscite.

[Ross Garnaut is a Professor of Economics at the Australian National University. In 2007 he was appointed to examine the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy and recommend medium to long-term policies and policy frameworks to improve the prospects for sustainable prosperity. The Garnaut Climate Change Review was finalised on September 30, 2008, with an update released on May 31, 2011. This is a speech given by Garnaut to the renewable energy summit hosted by the South Australian government on October 6.]

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Beginning on September 26, International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, hundreds of peace activists converged on the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility, less than 20 kilometres from Alice Springs, to expose its role in war, surveillance and nuclear targeting.

Yes, climate change was right there in the picture when a massive storm cut off power supplies throughout South Australia on September 28, forcing electricity workers to carry out a first-ever “black start” to get the state’s grid operating again. Estimated as a one-in-50-years occurrence, the storm left high-voltage transmission pylons bent like paper-clips.

When then-Minister for the Environment and Water Tony Burke signed over more than 1500 hectares of native vegetation, including endangered woodlands, to Whitehaven Coal in 2013, he did so amid contention and uncertainty. It would not go unchallenged.

Today, a parapet of accumulated earth protrudes from the Leard State Forest. The Maules Creek open-cut coalmine is now fully operational. But when exploitation ceases, the crater left in the mine's place will not be filled for centuries.

The federal government's much-vaunted parliamentary inquiry into the banking system was correctly called "a farce" by Labor MP Pat Conroy on October 4, the first day of a three-day hearing in Canberra. Conroy said: "I have two days of questions here" but no time to ask them.

The inquiry was an attempt by the government to deflect growing calls for a royal commission into the banking system.

Today, there are 55 workers still camping outside Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Melbourne, 16 weeks after they were sacked when their employer lost the maintenance contract for the brewery.

Most of these workers were directly employed by CUB until their jobs were outsourced in 2009. There was a hard fought campaign to keep the positions permanent but, in the end, the workers were forced to settle for contracts with no loss of income or conditions. Supposedly it was a “win/win”.

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett survived a leadership challenge on September 20, easily seeing off his former Transport minister Dean Nalder. Another minister also resigned from cabinet in solidarity with Nalder in the lead up to the contest, which has been brewing since the start of the year.

Efforts to halt plans for nuclear waste dumping in South Australia have made important advances in recent weeks, with environmental, trade union, indigenous and other bodies pushing for a joint opposition campaign.

At a September 16 meeting called by the peak labour movement body, SA Unions, and the Maritime Union of Australia, members of at least 14 organisations resolved to work toward forming a coordinating committee “around the common objective of preventing nuclear waste dumps being established in South Australia”.

Arguably, the University of Sydney’s decision to give former Prime Minister John Howard an honorary doctorate on September 30 has backfired badly. 

Academics and students spoke eloquently against the award before and during the ceremony, prompting some students who had just been given their degree to join in.

The university had cited Howard’s “world-leading gun law reform, leadership in East Timor and contribution to Australia’s economic reform” as reasons for the award. While many would question these, the elephant in the room was Iraq.

Socialist Alliance member, Sue Bolton, is standing for re-election as a councillor in the City of Moreland. Polling day is October 22.

AGL CEO Andrew Vesey likes to paint himself as a sort of “greenie” who is shifting the company in the right direction in these “carbon constrained” times.

Politicians such as Nationals leader Barnarby Joyce, independent Senator Nick Xenephon and, predictably, One Nation's climate denying Senator Malcolm Roberts have sought to pin the blame for South Australia's power outage on September 28 on the state's reliance on renewable energy, especially wind power. Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined the attacks, with

Power is gradually returning to South Australia after wild storms blew across the state last night, but some areas could be offline for days. The storm — associated with heavy rain, lightning, and severe winds — damaged transmission lines that carry electricity from power generators to people, causing a state-wide blackout.

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill told ABC radio “the system operated as it was meant to operate”.

Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison died on September 24 in Sisters' Creek, Tasmania.

A few people are born who are world class heroes to those who know them and unknown to the great majority, until one day their inescapable influence floats to the surface and is generally recognised for the cream it is. In hindsight such leaders go on to become household names.

The Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO), on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), lodged an appeal on September 19 against the Federal Court’s finding in August that then-environment minister Greg Hunt’s approval of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine was lawful.

The appeal challenges the lawfulness of the court’s finding that the minister was entitled to find the impact on global warming and the Great Barrier Reef from the Carmichael mine’s 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions was “speculative”.

Just-released modelling from BP has revealed that an oil spill from an uncontained blowout on its proposed Stromlo-1 well is guaranteed to impact the South Australian coast. It is possible that anywhere across the southern Australian coast could be impacted, from Western Australia across to Tasmania and NSW.

In light of this, the Wilderness Society has called on Australia’s offshore oil and gas authority, National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), to reject BP’s application to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has used speeches to the UN General Assembly and US President Barack Obama’s leaders’ summit on refugees to push Australia’s “compassionate humanitarian” solutions to the worldwide refugee crisis.

Yes, the country strongly criticised in numerous UNHCR and Amnesty International reports is using the UN General Assembly to proclaim itself a leader in “compassionate” refugee solutions.

Turnbull is using this “solution” as the cornerstone of a bid for Australia to sit on the UN Human Rights Council.

A poll of 1000 people by Essential Research has found 49% of respondents supported a blanket ban on Muslim immigration to Australia, 40% opposed the ban and 11% were not sure.

Young people aged 18–24 were the most likely to oppose a ban on Muslim immigration. Fifty-eight per cent of young people opposed a ban, compared with 28% who supported it.

I was dismayed to discover that Australia’s Minister for Social Services is turning to New Zealand for inspiration in his latest approach to welfare.

On September 20 Christian Porter announced the ‘Australian Priority Investment Approach’. This draws on work New Zealand’s right-wing National government has done since 2011 on using actuarial estimates of fiscal liability to underpin an extensive program of punitive and pauperising reforms.