Comment and Analysis

Good riddance to NSW Liberal Premier Mike 'Bad' Baird who announced on January 19 that he was resigning from his position.   A year ago, Mike Baird was the most popular politician in the country. Now he is on the nose, suffering one of the biggest falls in opinion polls in Australian political history.  

As the people on Manus Island prepared to see in the New Year, drunken immigration officials and police beat up asylum seekers who were then taken into police custody and denied food and medical treatment. PNG politician Ronny Knight responded by tweeting “They deserved what they got”.

Barely a week earlier Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a Somali asylum seeker in Manus Island detention centre, died on Christmas Eve after months of being denied adequate medical treatment.

When Fremantle councillors voted in August last year to end the Australia Day fireworks display that it had been running for the past eight years, I fully expected a conservative backlash. But even I was surprised to see the decision featured in news bulletins for months on end.

On one level the whole thing is bizarre. Local governments are not obliged to do anything special on January 26 and most of them don't.

What drove the conservative media and Coalition politicians into a frenzy was the council's reason for doing dropping the fireworks display.

Throughout last year, devastating conflicts raged in Iraq and Syria. The Afghan War entered its 16th year with a record number of civilians deaths, while in Yemen, a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition continued to bomb civilian targets using British and American-made weapons.

The Federal Court ruled on December 16 that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

Early last year, an academic debate over Invasion Day erupted at the University of NSW. Apparently, some well credentialed people are offended that the term “invasion” is used to describe January 26.

I would be quite happy not to have to use that term. Stop and think for a few minutes: that would mean altering history or going back in time and ensuring the invasion of this country, now called Australia, never happened. 

Job agencies are the government-funded organisations tasked with helping unemployed people find work.

There is growing evidence suggesting this “help” consists of the following:

To most South Australians, Labor Premier Jay Weatherill’s plan for a vast outback dump to host imported high-level nuclear waste is dead, needing only a decent send-off.

Nevertheless, the Premier keeps trying to resurrect the scheme. Why?

It would surprise the federal Coalition government — that assumes we dislike welfare recipients as much as it does — that one of its biggest problems at the start of the year is the Centrelink debt fiasco.

Over the past six months, 170,000 people received debt notices from Centrelink, with the number gradually rising to 20,000 a week.

By comparison, only 20,000 debt notices were issued for the whole of 2015.

On December 16, the Federal Court ruled that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

Socialist Alliance’s Dave Holmes gave this speech at a Melbourne rally in honour of Fidel Castro on December 4.

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Fidel Castro was a towering figure in world politics for almost six decades. Now, with his passing the hacks of the capitalist media have been gloating over the death of the “dictator”. Of course, he was nothing of the sort. As he truthfully told director Oliver Stone in the movie Commandante: “I am a slave to the people”. His life is a monument of conscience and loyalty to principle.

The existence of drug markets — and the struggles around them — raise a number of important sociopolitical and structural issues for analysis.

The expansion of markets for psychoactive substances was a strategic initiative by European companies in the development of capitalism, slavery and imperialism. Initially there were no illicit markets but the licit industries included the critical sugar (and rum) industry in Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia and other countries and the tobacco industry in the US South.

Irene Bolger was branch secretary of the Victorian branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (RANF) when 20,000 nurses went on strike for 50 days in 1986. It was one of the longest strikes in Australian history and it was led by women.

Now, flipping through a stack of trade union and history books, Bolger says: “Lengthy on an international scale, it was 50 days of rage. But still I can't seem to find any reference to one of the most significant strikes in Australian history. The sexism continues."

The Zika virus, borne by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 18 to no longer be a global emergency, to the dismay of many health workers around the world. This decision will minimise the amount of research and public vigilance against Zika infection.

Fast food workers, many of whom are young, have been left without a union fighting for decent wages and conditions.

On November 21, a new union — the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) — announced its formation. It is a rival in more ways than one to the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA).

The SDA, long led by Labor Party officials, has been at the centre of a national wages scandal in which 250,000 people are being paid less than the award by major employers including Coles, Woolworths, Hungry Jack’s, KFC and McDonalds

NSW Premier Mike Baird’s vision of “NSW Inc” is under increasing fire as the year ends. Dubbed the “Smiling Assassin”, “Mike the Vandal”, and “Robert Askin with a smiling face”, Baird’s approval ratings have plummeted as a number of his pet projects face rising opposition.

The former Liberal NSW Premier Askin was notoriously corrupt, renowned for his dodgy dealings with developers and his demand that his driver “run over the bastards” during an anti-Vietnam War protest in 1966 against visiting US President Lyndon Johnson.

Hundreds of days of protests by refugees on Nauru, landmark court decisions, the Nauru Files, politicians’ offices occupied, parliament interrupted, suicides in detention, damning international reports and many more people becoming active in the campaign for refugee justice is the story of the refugee campaign this year.

The significant growth of campaign groups and the development of new ones means we are in a better position to end the indefinite and cruel mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees.

Refugee rights protesters in Parliament on November 30.

The date November 30, 2016 will surely go down in infamy through all history — or at least until the developing ecoholocaust being worsened by Australian government policies destroys the basis for human civilisation and renders meaningless the concept of history. So until about 2030, at least.

On that day, in Canberra, a terrible assault on democracy took place. It pains me to write this, but Parliamentary Question Time — that institution all freedom loving people throughout the world hold so dear — was delayed for 40 minutes by chanting protesters in the public gallery.

When it is suddenly announced that an eight-lane toll road is about to be tunnelled underneath a neighbourhood, it is no surprise that the community springs into action.

This is exactly what has happened over the past month in my neighbourhood of Newtown, one of the oldest suburbs of Sydney.

A cloud hangs over the annual picnic day for workers in the construction industry and their families, due to the passage of the bill to revive the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Former Prime Minister John Howard’s Building Industry Taskforce was established in 2002 — a child of the Cole Royal Commission. The ABCC was established by the Howard government in 2005, once it had achieved a majority in the Senate. 

On November 23, a 13-year-old student of Aspley State High School in Brisbane took his own life after experiencing severe bullying, including physical assault, over his sexuality.

Tyrone Unsworth had suffered from homophobic bullying for years and was hospitalised a month earlier with severe injuries after he was violently assaulted with a fence paling.

The Age on November 26 contained a two-page spread on “Melbourne’s Trump-land”, which is apparently located in Narre Warren North.

“Despite the fact that Australia’s on the verge of becoming the world’s largest exporter of LNG [Liquified Natural Gas], there’ll be no new revenues from the primary tax on oil and gas for the next two decades and perhaps even longer,” Tax Justice Network (TJN) researcher Jason Ward said on October 10.

The TJN is a coalition of churches, welfare groups, unions and other civil society organisations.

This primary tax is the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax (PRRT), initiated by Bob Hawke’s Labor government in the 1980s.

One outcome of last year's inquiry into the Morwell Mine fire in Victoria's Latrobe Valley was the discovery that the default plan for “rehabilitating” the mine would be to let it fill with water naturally, perhaps to become a recreational lake. The hitch: it would take more than a hundred years to fill naturally and the water quality would be terrible due to pollution from coal seams.

The influence of president-elect Donald Trump’s attack on “elites” is taking hold in the Australian parliament, with the Coalition attacking “latte-sipping” opponents of coal mining and joining enthusiastically in a debate questioning climate science in the Senate.

Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has taken the unusual step of personally telling Senator Malcolm Roberts he was "mistaken" in his claim that the agency had falsified key data to exaggerate warming in the Arctic. He expressed surprise that Roberts had actually been elected as a Senator.

"You appear to hold a number of misconceptions which I am happy to clarify at this time," Schmidt wrote to Roberts. "The claim that GISS has 'removed the 1940s warmth' in the Arctic is not correct."

In a continuation of the rancid rape culture spewing from Australian university and high school campuses, a national grouping of young men identified with the Facebook page “Yeah the Boys”, which boasts half a million likes, is spitting chunks onto social media.

The page is receiving attention now because members of the group scheduled a “male-only” meet-up at Sydney's Coogee Beach. While the anonymous ‘Yeah the Boys’ page admins sought to distance themselves from the event, within hours thousands of the page’s followers had jumped behind it.

The Kensington Legal Centre (KLC) is running a police accountability program to try to raise awareness about racial profiling and police harassment after numerous young people have been harassed by Victoria Police.

This program, which has been running for some time, began when a group of young teenagers approached KLC after being harassed by Victoria Police.

The young men report being stopped while doing everyday things.

Dickensian children in factories and coal mines; Karl Marx debunks Capitalism; revolutions and war grip Europe; and inequality casts a gloomy smog over Europe. Ships depart with slaves, convicts and political dissidents bound for the New Worlds, of which Australia is one.

It is the 19th century, the century of capital — a time that will dialectically reverberate shockwaves towards the greatest revolutions, the greatest economic collapse and the greatest bombs.

It is an old trick in the neoliberal capitalist handbook for selling austerity to try to gain public support for another cutback by claiming to address “intergenerational inequity”.

First, young people were told they should not think that they are entitled to rights, such as free education, permanent jobs, unemployment benefits and even pensions when they are too ill or old to work.

Just as the big 4 banks will be promoting how important they are to the community, Green Left Weekly will be there to fight them and argue for putting them under our democratic control for the benefit of society and the planet. But we need your support to do this...

ENGIE, the French company that owns two of Victoria's coal power stations, announced on November 2 it will close the oldest, Hazelwood, by March, and is selling the other, Loy Yang B. The power stations are in the Latrobe Valley, east of Melbourne.

Usually, when people mention dying in a ditch, they are discussing something they would much rather avoid. But for the South Australian state Labor government of Premier Jay Weatherill, dying in a ditch seems a positive ambition.

For Weatherill and his cabinet, the “ditch” is the government’s plan to host up to a third of the world’s high-level nuclear waste in a giant dump in the state’s remote north. The dump scheme was rejected decisively on November 6 by a government-organised “Citizens’ Jury”.

Asbestos is a thriving industry and asbestos lobbyists have set their sights on south-east Asia as the next frontier for new trade markets in the Third World. This was outlined at the recent annual South East Asian Ban Asbestos Conference, held in Jakarta in November.

Mardi Gras — now the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, (LGBTQI) pride march in the world — started in June 1978 when New South Wales police viciously assaulted queer people dancing through Oxford Street. 

As a close blood relative of former minister for the environment Greg Hunt, I am deeply ashamed that he did not do one simple thing: protect Lawler’s Well.

There were 11 sites sacred to the Gomeroi people in the part of the Leard State Forest in north-western NSW that is being cleared for Whitehaven Coal’s controversial Maules Creek Mine. Ten have already been destroyed or irrevocably damaged. The last of these Gomeroi heritage sites is Lawler’s Well.

As part of Anti-Poverty Week, on October 21 and 22, Anti-Poverty Network South Australia hosted Power To The Poor — Silent No More, a two-day conference devoted to the attacks faced by welfare recipients in Australia — sole parents, unemployed people, age and disability pensioners, carers, and others — and opportunities for pushing back.

WENDY, a job-seeker in her late 50s, spoke about her experiences as an older unemployed person. Below she was interviewed by PAS FORGIONE from Anti-Poverty Network SA.

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The offshore detention hellholes of Nauru and Manus Island are becoming increasingly unviable as more damning reports are published, court cases in Papua New Guinea continue, private service providers under the pressure of boycott campaigns decline to reapply for contracts and protests grow in Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s latest plan — third country resettlement in the United States — is a reaction to this pressure, while also maintaining the policy of boat turnbacks, border security rhetoric and denying asylum seekers the right to be resettled in Australia.

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein accepted the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize on November 11, delivering a searing speech that reflected on Donald Trump's presidential victory in the United States and the factors that allowed it to happen.

Life has existed on Earth for roughly 3.7 billion years. During that time we know of five mass extinction events — dramatic episodes when many, if not most, life forms vanished in a geological heartbeat.

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