Comment and Analysis

Vegetation creates rain. That is one of the conclusions of a review of more than 150 scientific papers on land-clearing’s impact on rainfall, conducted by Dailan Pugh for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA). The review, Clearing Our Rainfall Away, reveals how land-clearing affects rainfall and its impact on the climate.

Somewhere along the way, many vulnerable children in state care turn to crime. How this happens and what can be done about it are two of the most important crime-prevention questions facing society.

Evidence indicates that, if the care-to-crime pathway is not acknowledged and addressed, today’s vulnerable kids will become tomorrow’s criminals.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison pulled out a lump of coal in parliament on February 9 and launched a rant in which he accused the opposition of “coal-o-phobia” and regurgitated PM Malcolm Turnbull's outrageous National Press Club speech urging more coal-fired power stations be built.

Morrison went wild while behind him other Liberals and Nationals joined in a pantomime by passing the lump of coal to each other.

Here are some surprising facts about humans’ effect on planet Earth. We have made enough concrete to create an exact replica of Earth 2mm thick. We have produced enough plastic to wrap Earth in clingfilm. We are creating "technofossils”, a new term for congealed human-made materials — plastics and concretes — that will be around for tens of millions of years.

Right-wing politicians have blown hard on the anti-renewables dog-whistle since February 8, when extreme temperatures in South Australia were followed by rolling electricity blackouts.

Late that afternoon, power demand in the state spiked to near-record levels. From about 6pm, 100 megawatts — roughly 3% of the state’s total demand — was shed for about half an hour.

1. People choose to be homeless

By “banning” homelessness, Melbourne City Council is implying it is a “choice”. Homelessness is usually the cause of a range of interconnected factors, some of which include poverty, unemployment and family violence. There is also a shortage of affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage.

Western Australia goes to the polls on March 11. Green Left Weekly spoke to Chris Jenkins, who is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the seat of Fremantle about what is at stake.

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What are some of the key issues you want to raise this state election?

In contesting the state election, the Socialist Alliance hopes to start a public discussion about who is genuinely entitled to use the resources we have as a society and the processes by which they are allocated.

President of the University of Sydney branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Kurt Iveson spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Rachel Evans about the university’s “spill and fill” tactic.

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What is happening to science administration staff? Have 110 staff been sacked?

The Occupy movement, which started as a protest against Wall Street, but ballooned across the US and internationally in 2011, adopted the slogan “We are the 99%” to symbolise the struggle for a better world against the greed of “the 1%”. Some people at the time thought it was an exaggeration to talk about the 1% versus the 99%, but according to Oxfam, since 2015, that richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet combined.

Global warming has already increased the risk of major disruptions to Pacific rainfall, according to our research published in Nature Communications. The risk will continue to rise over coming decades, even if global warming during the 21st century is restricted to 2℃elcius.

Last year was by far the hottest year in the observation record, with the global average surface temperature 1.24° Celcuis warmer than the late nineteenth century, according to NASA data. This broke the record set the previous year of 1.12°C, which in turn broke the previous mark set in 2014 of 1.01°C.

Although the El Nino conditions of 2015–16 had some influence — perhaps 0.2°C — it is clear that the warming trend is 1°C or more.

A battle is raging over a 5 kilometre stretch of road known as Roe 8.

The seeds of the current crisis of confidence in the capitalist parties in Australia go back to the 1980s when the Bob Hawke Labor government implemented its version of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal economic policies. The Hawke government also managed to achieve what previous Coalition governments had failed to do — seriously weaken the union movement.

While these reforms did not immediately create right-wing populism, once the reforms started to really bite by the late 1990s, it began to develop around Pauline Hanson.

After a 16-month battle to survive and then recover from a major brain hemorrhage in August 2015, long-time Green Left Weekly journalist and seller Terry Townsend is at last able to move out of the nursing home to live in his own home again.

Now he needs your help to ensure he is not confined there for the rest of his life, can reconnect with comrades and friends, and participate in political activities again.

The dual trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Western Australia has ended with a bilateral agreement signed on February 1 by the WA state and federal governments.

The WA model got the guernsey and will be locally run and administered. Starting in July, it will be rolled out to an estimated 39,000 people over the next three years. WA will pay all the administration and operating costs but governance responsibilities will be shared nationally.

The family of TJ Hickey is still being denied justice, 13 years since the 17-year-old died after being impaled on a fence in Waterloo during a police chase.

The refusal by successive NSW governments to bring the police officers responsible to court — and allow the family some closure — is testimony to the endemic racism First Nations people have to endure.

NSW police refuse to concede their officers were responsible for Thomas James Hickey’s death. They claim it was an accident. 

As economists debate whether this year will be economically better or worse for Australia, one thing is certain: we will all get screwed even more this year.

Last week, BusinessDay Scope economic survey for 2017 issued its survey of 27 leading economists from financial institutions, academia and consultancies.

Conservationists say the Strzelecki Ranges hold “one of the most important koala populations in Australia”, after completing surveys that may suggest a population of several thousand koalas across the region.

Surveys conducted in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges and South Gippsland over 2013–2016 indicate a population of almost 1000 koalas in the 10,500 hectare area surveyed, koala expert Dr Steve Phillips told Green Left Weekly.

At least three of Australia's largest infrastructure investors are queuing up to form consortia to bid for the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway. CP2, IFM and the favourite, Transurban, are involved, with QIC and AMP Capital said to be likely participants.

So the Greens’ electoral support has stalled at about 10% and the leadership of Richard di Natale is being questioned. This “dire” situation, according to Bob Brown and others, is the result of the “wrecking” presence in the Greens’ ranks of leftish Senator Lee Rhiannon and the founding of Left Renewal by radical Young Greens in NSW.

A sharing of culture, food and art that supports refugees and asylum seekers, including those in detention, is at the heart of the Food for Thought project.

Ravi, author of From Hell to Hell, a collection of poems and drawings from his time in Nauru detention centre, or “human dumping ground” as he calls it, first started thinking about Food for Thought the day he got out of detention.

Condemning Donald Trump’s cruel bigotry is easy — well, OK, maybe not for the Australian government, but for actual human beings with functioning consciences.

Then again, our country is so screwed up, our government’s response to the rise of the most extreme racist authoritarian president in US history is to ask him if he’s still ok to take desperate asylum seekers we won’t help, coz we are sick of the expense of torturing them in isolated hellholes.

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report, Principles and Practice — Australian Defence Industry and Exports, in Parliament in December 2015. The report made 19 recommendations about how the Australian government should increase its support of Australian arms exports, which largely reflected the wishes of arms companies.

Sydney may be in the grip of an apartment boom, but the construction of thousands of units across the city has done little to put a lid on rents, according to an analysis of the latest rental data.

Apartment living became more expensive in Sydney in the year to September 2016, after rent increases in all but three of the city's local government areas, according to the NSW Tenants' Union Rent Tracker report.

Tenants' Union advocacy and research officer Leo Patterson Ross said: "Apartment rents are growing faster than house rents at the moment."

The government has not made a mistake with the Centrelink robo-debt notices. It knows it is sending out incorrect notices.

Centrelink staff warned management the notices would be wrong and the new debt recovery system would incorrectly claim overpayments.

The dairy industry is in crisis and dairy sustainability is under attack.

In Victoria — where most dairy farms are — Australia’s largest processor, farmer-owned co-operative Murray Goulburn, allowed outside investors to become members, to get the funds to build more infrastructure to take advantage of export opportunities. Murray Goulburn prioritised paying returns to those investors out of their 2016 $44 million annual profit, rather than to the farmers who supply the product.

People across the world are rising up, angry at the failure of governments to listen to their concerns or prioritize their lives over the profits of big business.

On January 12, Perth joined this movement when more than 1000 “protectors”, as they have dubbed themselves, descended on the Roe 8 construction site to protest the state government’s efforts to build a freeway through the Beeliar Wetlands. Roe 8, which is part of greater freeway known as Perth Freight Link has ignited some of the most sustained community opposition Perth has ever seen.

New Premier Gladys Berejiklian is already on the run, after only a couple of weeks in the job.

Since taking over from disgraced former premier Mike Baird on January 23, Berejiklian has managed to cobble together a new cabinet of misfits, but is already reported to be preparing to dump one of Baird's signature policies — the forced amalgamation of the state's local councils.

The Refugee Council of Australia called for a bipartisan commitment on offshore detention on February 1.

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The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has called on political leaders to urgently bring the people imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru to safety in Australia.

In the six months since the federal election we have seen an acceleration of the ruling class’s neo-liberal agenda. The continuing cuts and privatisations are rationalised by Turnbull’s three-word slogan, “Jobs and Growth”, but the effect seems to be quite the opposite.

There are about 13 million people in the Australian workforce. According to Roy Morgan Research, in October a total of 2.5 million Australians, or 19% of the workforce, were either unemployed (1,188,000) or under-employed (1,266,000). This is up 256,000 from October 2015.

The federal Coalition government has unleashed robots to illegally extort $4.5 billion from poor people. The money for politicians’ perks, tax dodging by the rich and corporate hand-outs — such as the $1 billion dollars given to coal giant Adani — has to come from somewhere.

There can be no doubt about it. Capitalism is eating the future, destroying it with systematic greed and exploitation.

Just one year ago, according to calculations by anti-poverty group Oxfam, the 62 richest people on the planet owned as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population (3.5 billion). This year that number has dropped to eight as inequality spirals out of control.

Eight super rich men have more wealth than half the people in the world and the richest 1% have more than the other 99%. Does anyone believe this is sustainable, let alone conscionable?

Cuts to the age pension, legislated in 2015, have begun. The main change is to the assets test taper rate.

For every additional $1000 in assets, pensioners now lose $78 a year (raised from $39). Previously, a homeowner couple with $1,178,000 in assets would have qualified for a part pension. This upper limit has dropped to $816,000. (These figures do not include the family home.)

Siobhan Kelly, president of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, gave this speech at the 12th Socialist Alliance national conference, held over January 20-22 at the Geelong Trades Hall.

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I’m in the really privileged position of getting to build a militant union from the very beginning. We have unashamedly started a union that has the same coverage as another union with a 100 year history in this country.

I became aware that Centrelink were trying to pin a cooked-up “robo-debt” of $5558 on me through a text message from the aptly named Probe group debt collection agency.

There resources about how to dispute a Centrelink debt letter, including GetUp! which has a page that sends a bunch of letters to key places in one go. 

Most of the arms companies that made submissions to the Inquiry into Government Support for Australian Defence Industry Exports said government assistance in the promotion and facilitation of overseas arms sales should be increased.

So now former Greens parliamentary leader Christine Milne has come out of political retirement to invite — via the pages of Fairfax media — the young lefties in the Greens NSW who have formed "Left Renewal" to leave the building and establish their own party.

Good riddance to former state 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. By the end of last year ose, 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.

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