Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1099

At the Perth Vigil for Orlando on June 15, our community stood in unity and mourned the lives lost. By candlelight we stood together in the Perth Cultural Centre and listened to heart-warming speeches from our queer siblings, as well as from the Socialist Alliance, the Greens and the Labor Party, before observing two minutes of silence to remember the 49 lives lost.

MaryBeth Gundrum is a candidate for the Senate in Queensland for the Renewable Energy Party. She spoke to Angela Walker in Cairns.

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We know you here as a Knitting Nanna active in the campaign against coal seam gas fracking. How did you become involved in the Renewable Energy Party (REP)?

[Below is the platform that Socialist Alliance is taking to the federal elections.]

We need a radically different future: one that provides for human development, meets community need, protects our environment and guarantees a safe climate; one where our economy operates to ensure social and ecological need; one where participatory democracy means people make the decisions in society; one that promotes cooperation, solidarity and justice for all — an ecosocialist future.

"The NSW state budget brought down by the Mike Baird government on June 21, which was trumpeted by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian as 'the strongest in the country,' is a scam, based on stamp duty from overpriced housing sales and the sell-off of the state's electricity assets," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the federal election, said on June 23.

In the week that brought to light television personality Eddie McGuire's “banter” about sports journalist Caroline Wilson, the voters of Leichhardt, covering an area stretching from Cairns to Cape York and the Torres Strait, have been treated to campaign signs depicting a witch.

Pork-barrel politics and scare tactics have dominated the final weeks of the “longest election campaign ever”. Voters in marginal seats have been warned to “vote carefully”, to not “waste your vote” or “risk a protest vote” which might result in — shock horror “the chaos of a hung parliament”.

We have had “tradies” in political ads trying to convince workers that the Liberal National Party (LNP) is their party, and Labor trying to convince the public that they have “rediscovered” labor values.

On July 2 Australian voters head to the polls — although by that date up to 40% of voters will have voted at early polling centres across the country.

Despite a number of minor parties and progressive independents running in lower house seats and the Senate, we know that come July 3 we will be looking at three more years of evil bastards or the lesser of two evils.

This election campaign. Eight weeks. Eight long, drawn out weeks of two gangs of rich white bastards in suits battling over who gets the honour of overseeing the next three years of irreversible ecological catastrophe, with extra Barnaby Joyce. It must violate articles in the Geneva Conventions banning torture.

Tanya Plibersek, the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party and MP for Sydney, made a speech on June 15 where she tried to fend off the political pressure Labor is facing from the Greens and other smaller parties to the left.

Her basic argument was that Labor still remained loyal to its “light on the hill” and she urged younger people in particular to be more patient and allow her party to slowly make progressive change.

WestConnex is a $17 billion, 33 kilometre toll road proposed by the New South Wales government and backed by the federal government. Its tunnels, multi-layered interchanges and four to six lane highways will cut a swathe through the inner west of Sydney.

Pauline Lockie is a spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group, one of the groups opposing the project. This is an edited version of a speech she gave at the Rally for Fair Fares in Sydney on June 21.

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About 80 people attended a fiery, standing-room only, public forum on unemployment, hosted by Anti-Poverty Network SA on June 18 in Adelaide's northern suburbs.

In a twist to the standard election fare, candidates were required to spend the first half of the event listening to the honest, insightful testimony and views of jobseekers, sole parents, aged and disability pensioners, and others with direct, lived experience of being out of work and being poor, before participating in a Q&A.

This election campaign has seen the Coalition blustering that its harsh policies are stopping the people smugglers and deaths at sea, Labor trying to ignore the issue, and the Daily Telegraph running front page headlines such as “The boats are back”.

But standing in defiance for more than 100 days is a group of refugees and asylum seekers protesting inside the Nauru detention centre.

Through low-resolution photos and shaky video footage, images of the protesters have reached the world, despite intimidation from guards and new fences built to keep cameras out.

GLW Issue 1098

The Labor Party announced a series of “savings” measures on June 10, including $1 billion worth of Abbott/Turnbull cuts that had previously been blocked in the Senate.

It has tried to make the attacks appear palatable by claiming they are directed at higher income families. However the truth is they reaffirm that a future Labor government's direction will be more about cutting government spending than raising revenue from the big end of town.

Further, they will have bigger impacts on ordinary workers than appears evident at first glance.

I moved to Perth in June last year from a small, rural town in central Pennsylvania. There I witnessed first-hand the impact of the “fracking” boom — the rapid exploitation of the unconventional gas resources in the Marcellus shale play.

It hit rural Pennsylvania particularly hard because it is economically depressed, struggling to make ends meet by farming and what's left of manufacturing that has not been outsourced to China, Mexico, and other exploitable labour pools.

There's a war going on — the class war. Funnily enough, the only time you hear politicians using that term is as an epithet, not as a descriptor for the daily life of the overwhelming majority of society.

An example: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of declaring war on business and waging a “class war” for making the modest suggestion that the rich should pay a fairer share of tax.

LGBTI communities everywhere are reeling from the loss of the 49 people gunned down in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. In addition, 53 were injured.

Some of them no doubt are deeply missed by their families. Even worse, as is true in many LGBTI communities, some of them would have lost their family ties years ago. The other patrons at the Pulse nightclub may have been the only family they had.

About 20 protesters demonstrated in front of the Melbourne Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) on June 6 over allegations of asylum seeker mistreatment. Police presence was described by observers as extremely heavy, ranging from two dozen to fifty officers.

Teaching is one of the lowest-paid professions and casual relief teachers (CRTs) are among the most marginalised and exploited workers in Victoria.

Our daily pay rate is $293. Think that sounds good? Well, there are about 200 teaching days a year. If we were to work every one of those days, we would still earn less than $60,000 a year — that is the maximum pay we can expect, after a minimum of four years at university.

But we are emergency teachers; we can expect to work, at most, about 100 days. That is less than $30,000 a year.

Earlier this month, Department of Employment figures about the government's remote Work for the Dole scheme proved what critics have known for some time: the policy is failing. In Arnhem Land, people are buying less food since tough Work for the Dole penalties were introduced.

Where were you in May when the New South Wales state government announced it will scrap the free rides the Opal card currently gives you after having paid for eight trips in one week?

I was not gazing out the window of a train daydreaming that I was on a catbus — the magical type of public transport in Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 anime classic, My Neighbour Totoro.

When I heard that Omid Masoumali had set fire to himself on Nauru on April 27, had to wait 26 hours to be airlifted out, during which time he had no pain relief, and then died in Brisbane, it was too much. Suddenly the activism we were engaging in seemed very inadequate.

It took more than 100 years of struggle to ensure the poorest workers in Australia received reasonable wages and conditions. But today inequality and poverty are growing rapidly. The living standards of the majority continue to drop, while at the same time there is a huge expansion of the wealth of a tiny minority.

I caught a taxi this morning. Muslim taxi driver. We listened to the radio silently, side by side all the way, ABC News. Almost all of it, relentlessly, consisted of quotes about the evils of Islam, from lengthy Trump and Clinton quotes to a rationalised discussion about indefinite imprisonment for those with radical views in our own country.

We sat, rigid with embarrassment, with nothing to say. All I could think was that this was 10 minutes out of my day, but it was going to be repeated over and over again for him. And still I had nothing to say.

GLW Issue 1097

When I began full-time work in the late 1980s, the working day began and ended at the same time every day. Any change to the routine meant overtime, paid at time-and-a-half or more. Even a delay in the regular lunch break meant overtime paid until the work stopped.

Now, for many, overtime payments are a thing of the past and Patricia Forsyth and the Sydney Chamber of Commerce want to make the working day even more “flexible” — but at whose expense?

“Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” the lady from California enthusiastically chanted down the phone. Some 12,000 kilometres away on a couch in Sydney, I started to chant too. It was infectious.

Mathis, in the middle of his own phone call, grinned from across the room. So did Marcus and Alannah. I would soon learn this sort of thing happened quite a bit when calling US voters on behalf of Bernie Sanders.

In May 1939 the St Louis, carried 935 Jews seeking asylum from Nazi Germany. Many countries refused to let them in, including the US, which used coast guard ships to stop the St Louis from docking. Eventually they were forced to return to Europe, and most of the passengers died in the Holocaust they were fleeing.

Sitting safely inside the head of a pale, grey telebot, slowly gyrating in an attempt to be innocuous; it turned to face the audience, introducing itself as Edward Snowden — the Worlds Most Wanted Man.

Is there anything more wretched and dishonest than the suggestion by pro-capitalist media commentators that any attempt by working people to claw back a fraction of the wealth they create every day represents the "politics of envy"?

It is even more poisonous when coupled with an effort to breed resentment towards fellow workers who have managed to fight for and win better wages and conditions that others. An example is the crass attempt to whip up outrage about Victorian construction workers winning a 15% wage rise over three years.

When donations to political parties from property developers in NSW were prohibited by then-NSW Labor premier Nathan Rees in November 2009 the decision was not well received by significant groupings in the state Labor and Liberal parties.

The ban followed an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into Wollongong City Council which, in 2008, found that local developers had received favourable treatment from elected councillors and staff.

This banker-premier's salesman's smile has well and truly worn thin. The Mike Baird Coalition government of New South Wales is on the nose.

The mood of the thousands of people who marched on NSW Parliament House on May 29 recalled the mounting public rejection of former prime minister Tony Abbott expressed by the March In March movement in 2014. Abbott dismissed March In March as insignificant but by September the following year he was history.