Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1047

The Tony Abbott government’s moves to introduce the Healthy Welfare Card – income management on steroids – indicate that it remains committed to a welfare system based on deterrence and punishment. Once again, the government refuses to acknowledge years of negative data about the policy and its consistent failure to benefit those it will be forced upon.

GLW Issue 1046

A report has found that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement would be likely to adversely affect the health of the Australian population.

The TPP is a free trade deal being negotiated by countries on the Pacific rim: the US, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and Japan. These countries represent about 40% of global GDP.

The silence around jobs in the NSW election is deafening.

Newcastle has been losing 200 jobs a year from the sale of state assets and the casualisation and retrenchment of state employees.

Up to 8000 workers in jobs such as fitters, boilermakers, welders, riggers and trades assistants in ship building and rail manufacture are also under threat.

Both major parties are focusing on other issues instead of the Hunter region’s jobs.

Imagine visiting your mum or dad, in an aged care facility, and finding that they had been left to deal with severe pain because there was no registered nurse on duty who could give them morphine.

This is a real prospect facing thousands of families in NSW if the state government changes the law requiring at least one registered nurse (RN) to be employed at nursing homes at all times. It would leave up to 48,500 vulnerable, high-needs nursing home residents, at risk in an already stretched healthcare system.

The Senate has voted down Christopher Pyne’s Higher Education Reform Bill, which would uncap university fees. This is the second time that the legislation has been struck down. It puts Tony Abbott’s government on aan uneasy footing.

The defeat of the bill comes after Pyne spent weeks on a campaign to bully and threaten crossbenchers in parliament. This strategy included threatening to cut $150 million of research funding to the National Collaborative Research and Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) if the bill was not passed.

This NSW election, like the Victorian and Queensland polls before it, hinges on growing public opposition to Tony Abbott’s federal government and the neoliberal policies implemented by Labor and Coalition state governments.

The sell-off of public assets and services, cuts to the public sector, unsustainable development, mining and unprecedented handouts and tax cuts to corporate interests and the super rich are now standard practice, and people have had enough.

Thousands of people rallied in cities and towns around Australia on March 19 in opposition to the planned closure of around 150 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight in September when the federal government — without consultation — announced that it would stop providing funding to these homeland communities from July 1 this year.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent comments on the “lifestyle choice” of Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas are troubling, especially given his self-anointed role of “Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs”.

I have been privileged to work in Aboriginal health, in a rural centre of South Australia, for a number of years. The simplistic notion that people live in remote regions purely due to a lifestyle choice is far from reality.

The power to “play God” with the lives of asylum seekers was granted to Australia’s immigration minister by the passage of the most punitive refugee laws ever seen last December.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison, who held refugee children to ransom to pressure recalcitrant senators to concede their votes, pushed through the laws.

The latest buzzword the government is tossing around to try to scare people into supporting its grossly unfair budget is “intergenerational theft”. It recently released an Intergenerational Report, which looks at the budget over the next 40 years to back up this campaign.

The report says that in the future we will all live much longer and spend more of our lives in retirement. There will be a lower proportion of working people whose taxes pay for pensions and health care, so “we” have to start paying for it now.

Amid so much bad news about so many species of wildlife in danger of extinction, it is encouraging that there are finally some good stories about endangered wild animals.

There has been good news regarding rhinoceros conservation in India. The Indian state of Assam’s environmental ministry recently revealed that the population of Indian one-horned rhinoceros in the state had grown by 27% since 2006, hitting a high of 2544 animals. The Indian government has a goal of 3000 rhinos by 2020. There were only about 200 Indian rhinos in the early 1990s.

My name is Stephanie O’Donnell, but I also go by “the girl from the plane”.

On December 19, my partner and I were at Sydney Airport on our way to Heathrow via Beijing. We had booked the cheapest flight available and were waiting to check in for flight CA174, when a plucky activist approached us.

GLW Issue 1045

To date, Vice-Chancellor of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Attila Brungs has supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's fee deregulation legislation. Last year he said fee deregulation “could have some positive impacts” and result in “teaching quality going up”.

Arguing that it is positive that students finish their course with $100,000 debt is a hard sell, and Brungs felt the heat as students at UTS signed petitions calling on him to oppose it.

I am a political science student, two years into a bachelor degree at the University of Western Sydney. I major in Social and Cultural Analysis.

I am also an activist, I campaign day-to-day on campus and on the streets, talking to students and workers.

I am a young, unemployed, queer woman and activist from a working-class family.

I am not the typical Legislative Council candidate — but that is exactly why I’m standing.

Through my candidacy, I seek to actively challenge the notion that the 1% represents the 99%, or that you should be forced to vote for the “lesser evil”.

The NSW government’s decision to buy back coal seam gas (CSG) licences in the upper Hunter just before a state election raises more questions than it answers.

It increasingly seems these days that we don't have a prime minister, we have an instant Internet meme creator. In fact, I am starting think that Tony Abbott is proving so good at generating outrage and bemused laughter in equal measures that he might actually be a left-wing plant.

How else could he prove so useless at actually pushing the hard-right, pro-rich, anti-poor, socially reactionary agenda he claims to stand for?

This month two reports were released in Canberra.

The first was an important analysis of economic data, the 2014 national accounts issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

What Australia’s national accounts show is an economy in deep trouble. As David Harvey reminds us, to function satisfactorily it is necessary for capitalist economies to achieve a minimum 3% compound growth forever.

Several commentators have pointed out that treasurer Joe Hockey's Intergenerational Report is a partisan document designed to bash Labor over the head.

A couple of weeks ago I was campaigning with Green Left Weekly at our regular Friday afternoon Central station tunnel spot. It’s a pretty frenetic spot as hundreds of people bustle past every minute, eager to catch their trains and get home or out for the night.

In This Changes Everything, author Naomi Klein raises the question of how capitalist societies will “adapt” to the people made homeless and jobless by increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters.

One of the issues she focuses on is the reaction of insurance companies, pointing out that the chief executive officer of Swiss Re America admits that climate change is “what keeps us up at night”.

A month after the Labor landslide electoral victory, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has begun to fine-tune her government’s opposition to the sale of public assets.

The sale of public assets caused the demise of both the previous Labor and Liberal-National Party governments. The Palaszczuk Labor government was elected on a platform of halting the proposed sale of state assets, such as electricity and ports.

Refugees on Nauru have defied government and police attempts to ban protesting, as the United Nations adds to the growing body of evidence that Australia's asylum policy is violating human rights.

The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) said 300 refugees held a peaceful protest on March 11, “just one week after Nauruan police staged mass arrests on the island in a bid to stifle the campaign of non-cooperation being waged by the refugees”.

The stop WestConnex campaign is intensifying heading into the NSW state election.

Apart from the proposed electricity sell-off, it has become one of the top issues, damaging both Liberal and Labor.

The announcement by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of a WestConnex forum at Sydney Town Hall, set for March 16, has ignited campaigners, and will put the unpopular and expensive plan under further scrutiny.

The Literacy for Life Foundation in partnership with the University of New England, hosted a one-day seminar on February 28 to discuss the “Yes I Can” Aboriginal Adult Literacy campaign.

This campaign has achieved notable success in raising adult literacy levels in three western NSW communities, using a model originally developed in Cuba. More than 80 people have already graduated in pilot projects in Wilcannia, Bourke and Enngonia.

It is hard to distill what it is like to live in poverty into a few words, because poverty is so huge and complex, particularly for single mothers.

On my own, it’s easy to feel powerless to do anything about it and as a woman the injustice of poverty makes me so angry.
It makes me angry that in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we have more than 600,000 children living in poverty.

It makes me angry that right now there are women and children living in cars or in unsafe and insecure housing because rents have become impossible to manage.

GLW Issue 1044


The ABS's steam-powered computer systems are too outdated to run a census.

The various agencies of Australian governments have a capacity to access data generated by individuals that is unprecedented — one of the “benefits” of the communications revolution that we are living through.

Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who chaired the Special Task force on Domestic and Family Violence, handed the report Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on February 28.

The task force was established on September 10 last year by the previous LNP government and charged to deliver its findings by February 28. It included several now-former MPs.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2014, also known as the “data retention” bill, if passed, will be the third installment of sweeping powers granted to Australian intelligence agencies.

It will mean that every move you make, every call you take, the government will be watching you.

How does data retention impede the role of investigative journalists, political reporters and whistleblowers?

1: METADATA THEFT

In August last year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott thought it would be a good idea to send 1000 Australian soldiers to Ukraine. Their intended purpose was to guard the crash site of the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down there killing 38 Australian citizens.

The proposal was quietly dropped after military planners advised that, as none of the troops could speak either Ukrainian or Russian, and would not be able to tell the difference between the militias of either country, it was not such a great idea after all.

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott used a March 3 press conference at Parliament House to announce the deployment of 300 more soldiers to Iraq, it was impossible to ignore the political theatre to serve a partisan domestic agenda.

If you missed it in the content of his talk, you couldn't miss the no-less-than eight flags propped up behind him as he spoke.

A combination of relentless attacks on the living standards of ordinary people and Abbott's incompetence has made his government one of the most unpopular in Australian history.