Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1044

Health minister Sussan Ley’s announcement that the GP co-payment has been dropped was welcomed by Save Medicare Sydney (SMS). But the group warns: “Medicare is not safe while the rebate remains frozen and the government looks for other ways to dismantle universal health care.”

Jean Parker from SMS said: “Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott and Ley want Medicare bulk-billing to become a safety-net for the ‘vulnerable’.

Despite widespread public opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne are determined to get their higher education deregulation bill through the Senate.

Students, on the other hand, are just as determined to stop it.

Mia Sanders, the UWS Bankstown Student Council Secretary and an education activist, told Green Left Weekly that students would not back down.

If Tony Abbott’s government has its way, new laws further empowering Australia's secret police to greatly expand their mass surveillance powers will be rammed through federal parliament by mid-March.

But it will succeed only if the Australian Labor Party backs the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill.

“The findings of guilty are set aside and dismissed and appellant’s sentence is vacated.”

With this statement on February 18 the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), found David Hicks innocent of a previous guilty plea of providing military support to terrorism.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Hicks said: “I am not jumping up and down for joy. I am very tired by it all. Then there are the government’s and media’s attitude to it all. I am quite fed up with it all.”

The onshore gas industry in south-east Australia is in trouble. Public opposition, low international oil prices and projected supply shortfalls have combined to cast doubt on the profitability of the industry.

The international finance company Credit Suisse has indicated that the LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facilities at Gladstone in Queensland may fall short of meeting their export contracts in coming years, by up to 30%.

Blink and you might have missed it, but February 27 was the “Great Debate” between Luke Foley and Mike Baird.

The media reported that Premier Baird handed Labor’s Foley his election slogan, because Baird has no plan B for infrastructure without the electricity sell-off to fund $20 billion in projects.

GLW Issue 1043

The Redfern Tent Embassy survives, a week after an eviction notice was served demanding that they vacate by February 23. For four long days, locals and supporters have kept watch to protect the Block from an expected hoard of Redfern police coming to enforce the eviction.

About 20 people gathered at the embassy on Monday after the initial 5am call out for supporters, and about 150 people were at the embassy after Mick Mundine, the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), said on NITV that he would “definitely be coming in the afternoon”.

It seems there is no end to the incredible bias facing the poor, beleaguered Tony Abbott government.

If it isn't an ABC journalist daring to ask a government minister a question they don't like, it's the Human Rights Commission releasing a report on the plight of children in immigration detention centres that even the most impartial observer would have to admit shows a distinct and unmistakable bias in favour of respecting human rights.

Workers in Australia are under an unprecedented and multi-fronted attack, designed to strip away hard-fought wages and conditions, including penalty rates and industrial rights. This attack is part of a drive by Australian capital to shore up profits in the context of a global economic slow down.

An alliance of 46 Sovereign First Nations from across the Murray Darling Basin has proposed a new partnership between government and traditional owners to ensure key reforms on Aboriginal ownership and management of water entitlements are fulfilled.

Frack Free Tasmania held a public meeting on February 18 at Sustainable Living Tasmania to warn about possible exploration for shale oil and gas in the island state. The current moratorium on fracking in Tasmania is due to end on March 31.

The government put out an issues paper which received 157 submissions, 90% of which were opposed to fracking being allowed in the state. The government responded to the review on February 26 by extending the moratorium until 2020.

The devastating effects of the coal industry on public health in the NSW Hunter Valley were highlighted in a public forum at Glebe Town Hall on February 23. The forum was organised by the Balmain Defenders of Land, Water, Future and Climate Change, and Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle.

The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released this statement on February 27.

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The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) has called on the government to immediately halt all transfers of asylum seekers to offshore detention centres until the report into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru has been released.

The Moss Inquiry report was provided to the Minister for Immigration and Border protection on February 9, but its findings have not been made public, and there has been no timeframe provided for its release.

“Labor’s public transport policy lacks vision. It’s just more of the same — and follows the Liberals’ privatisation agenda”, John Coleman, Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council said.

“Labor promised $1 billion for a small-scale light rail project to run from Parramatta to Homebush, matching the Liberals’ promise. But while any money spent on public transport rather than roads is money well spent, Labor’s policy doesn’t address the real problems.

Cartoon by Norrie.

Bellicose and racist jingoism is the last refuge of scoundrel Prime Minister Tony Abbott. His February 23 “National Security Statement” was blatant incitement of hatred, bigotry and suspicion against Australia's Muslim minority.

It seems there is no end to the incredible bias facing the poor, beleaguered Tony Abbott government.

If it isn't an ABC journalist daring to ask a government minister a question they don't like, it's the Human Rights Commission releasing a report on the plight of children in immigration detention centres that even the most impartial observer would have to admit shows a distinct and unmistakable bias in favour of respecting human rights.

As the federal government lurches from crisis to crisis, the hand-wringing and finger pointing in the mainstream press continues. A piece by Murdoch mouthpiece Janet Albrechtsen published in the Australian on February 18, blames the Australian public. Titled “We, the people, are the threat to fiscal reform”, Albrechtsen continues the conservative mantra that argues that government budget debt is intergenerational theft.

The impending execution in Indonesia of two Australian drug couriers — Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan – has focused Australian media attention on the horrors of capital punishment. Their lawyers, families and supporters, particularly artist Ben Quilty, have ensured that the two have been humanised.

GLW Issue 1042

This moving letter for Reza Berati from men incarcerated on Manus Island was released on February 18 by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

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Hello dear Reza. How are you? Are you in a good place?

Everyone is here and they are saying hi to you. I'm sure you remember Mustafa! He is saying to you: "Let's play cards!"

Ali is saying: "Do you remember you would always get 6-6 whenever we played backgammon?"

Hussain is saying: "Do you remember whenever we played soccer, you would always be the goal keeper because you were tall?"

When 22-year-old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein murdered two people in Copenhagen on February 15, and was killed in a shoot-out with police, the media and politicians across the world did not hesitate to declare that an act of terrorism had taken place.

US President Barack Obama immediately phoned Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to offer condolences and invited Denmark to take part in a February 18 summit in Washington to counter violent extremism, Reuters reported on February 16.

Other Western leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, responded similarly.

“The ABC is trying to destroy Tony Abbott,” reads the first line of Andrew Bolt's whistle-blowing expose, entitled “Bias against Tony Abbott is truly sickening”, that was published in several Murdoch tabloids on February 19.

And I suppose that's what these overpaid ABC bludgers living off our hard-earned tax dollars have the gall to call a “job”! Destroying Tony Abbott? I've had more taxing naps.

Secretary of the South Coast Labour Council Arthur Rorris has stepped down from his union position to stand as an independent for the seat of Wollongong in the NSW State election on March 28. The seat is held by ALP right-wing factional leader Noreen Hay.

Rorris lives in the electorate and has been a member of a local ALP branch for many years. Yet when he and other long-time local ALP members attended the Wollongong preselection ballot in December, they were not only denied a vote but physically escorted from the premises where the ballot was taking place.

The Fair Work Commission decided on February 11 that two male mine workers at the Crinum mine in the Bowen basin in Queensland were not eligible for paid primary carer’s leave to look after their newborn children.

The case was brought by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CMFEU) as part of the dispute settlement procedure in the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance Enterprise Bargaining Agreement 2012.

A busload of students, Aboriginal activists and musicians embarked on a commemorative trip around regional New South Wales on February 19 to mark 50 years since the first Freedom Ride. Also on the bus were 15 of the original Freedom Riders, filmmaker Rachel Perkins, and musicians Troy Cassar-Daley and Paul Kelly.

The National Union of Students organises national days of action, in which students around the country take part in rallies to fight back against the latest round of attacks against public education. This year, students are continuing to fight the biggest attack on accessible education since HECS was introduced in 1989.

The pledge below was published on the website of the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign, which says: “Let Greece Breathe is a campaign for hope and justice. We aim to show that Greece and the Greek people are not alone in their hour of need.

“A victory for Greece will be a victory for people everywhere -- that is why the battle is so fierce. You can help by endorsing the statement and pledge below.”

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It’s reasonable to expect, that if you visit a relative or friend in a nursing home in NSW, you will find a registered nurse on duty. But that could change this year.

The NSW Public Health Act currently requires all “nursing homes” in the state to have a registered nurse on duty 24/7. However, changes to the federal Aged Care Act in mid-2014 have now undermined this requirement.

With 44 seats (to the LNPs 42) and the support of Independent Peter Wellington, the ALP leader Annastacia Palaszczuk was sworn in as Premier on February 14. The full Cabinet of 14 (including 8 women) was sworn in on February 16.

The ALP minority government represents a number of firsts for Queensland: first cabinet with a majority of women ministers; first female team of Premier and Deputy Premier (Jacki Trad); and first woman indigenous cabinet minister Leeanne Enoch.

It is assumed that the axing of asset sales will be the first item on the new government’s to-do list.

The Refugee Convention and similar international laws exist to protect the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted people. People who flee war zones or are victimised by their governments and communities rely on countries that are signatories to these conventions to recognise their at-risk status and provide safety.

Australia has a poor record on native animal extinctions. We know that native forest is essential habitat for koalas and other wildlife. Yet, knowing how important the preservation of sufficient, suitable habitat is to sustaining endangered wildlife, we still continue to destroy vital native vegetation and old growth forest.

The dire situation for koalas around Ballina, NSW, is in the spotlight again. A critical colony of more than 200 koalas is at risk of extinction in the region if Stage 10 of the Pacific Highway upgrade goes ahead.