Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1103

Australia recently gained an unenviable title: perhaps the first country to lose a mammal species to climate change. The Bramble Cay Melomys, a native rodent found on one tiny sand island in the remote northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, reportedly became extinct after rising seas destroyed its habitat.
In the past few weeks #BlackLivesMatter rallies have been organised around Australia and internationally in solidarity with the Black victims of US police violence and to raise awareness of the racism experienced by Australians of African descent and First Nations communities. In Melbourne, a rally on July 17 drew a diverse crowd of more than 3500 people. It was organised by just four young activists and mobilised many communities who have experienced racism, as well as their allies.
The irony in the controversy that has broken out about whether Australia should impose a total ban on Muslim immigration to combat ISIS terror is that if only Iraq had been able to close its borders to Western invaders back in 2003, this whole ISIS shit could have been avoided.
In the discussion about Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate and her recent appearance on ABC's Q&A there have been appeals by some commentators to go easy on her because: "She is just saying what a lot of people are thinking". Well, dopey racist ideas need to be condemned for what they are, regardless of how many people share them. This defence of Hanson is like the completely false idea that the degrading treatment of asylum seekers by Labor and Coalition governments is just responding to what the voters want. This of course puts the cart before the horse.
Murri leader Sam Watson does not have a high opinion of Pauline Hanson's intellect or her lack of substantial policies. However he told Green Left Weekly that “she can't be ignored”. “I was very pleased to see in the last few days when she went to appear on Q&A that there were comrades on the street to challenge her,” he said. He was also pleased when First Nations activist Murrandoo Yanner ordered her out of the building at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. “She is evil and we need to confront that evil and challenge that evil.”
The Australian government released its National Strategy on International Students 2025 in April. At its heart lies a strategy for exploiting international students and increasing the commercialisation of the education sector. It aims at swindling hundreds of thousands of international students as consumers and normalising the neoliberal idea that education, learning and skill development are commodities.
Suicide was unknown to Aboriginal people prior to invasion. There was no word for suicide in the ancient Yolngu language and, up to the 1980s, suicide was rare among Aboriginal people. But now 95% of Aboriginal people have been affected by a suicide and Aboriginal people are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal people. In the Northern Territory, 50% of suicides were by Aboriginal people in 2010, up from just 5% in 1991.
Pauline Hanson came across a racist and incoherent cartoon character on the ABC's Q&A program on July 18. But it would be a mistake to think that Hanson, and the more than half a million people who voted for her in the July 2 federal election, can simply be laughed away. They represent, in a distorted way, the deepening contradictions in our society that have to be addressed at their root. The myth of the egalitarianism of Australia is cracking up after 50 years of Coalition and Labor Party governments helping the super rich get even richer at the expense of the rest.

GLW Issue 1102

Malcolm Turnbull, who has just scraped over the line to claim government, claims he has a mandate to implement all of his unpopular polices. Green Left Weekly asked several community leaders their opinion. Jeannie Rae, National Tertiary Education Union national president First, even in liberal, democratic terms Malcolm Turnbull is on thin ice considering he just slipped in. More importantly, if a policy is wrong whether or not the party that won the election claims they have a mandate to implement it doesn't make it right!
Australia desperately needs high-speed rail, if for no other reason than short-haul aviation is a major source of rising greenhouse emissions. This does not mean, however, that the Consolidated Lands & Rail Australia's (CLARA) proposal to build a high-speed line from Sydney to Melbourne, along with eight new “smart cities” along the route should be welcomed. Any proposal for a privately built, privately operated railway should be suspect. CLARA's proposal is particularly so.
The WA government released its plan for remote Aboriginal communities on July 14. The spin is all about “better living conditions”, “supporting families” and “more opportunities”. However the substance is still entirely about penny pinching and withdrawing resources. Communities will close if it is implemented. When WA premier Colin Barnett first announced that up to 150 communities would be forced to close, people responded with a massive, international protest movement to save the communities.
A joint review by Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance members. This year's Students of Sustainability (SOS) conference, organised by the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN), took place in Musgrave Park, Brisbane on Jagera and Turrbal country July 7-11. SOS started in Canberra in 1991 and is the longest running, annual student conference in Australia.
The killing of two African American men in Minnesota and Louisiana in early July created an uproar across the US and around the world. In Australia there was lots of social media commentary and letters to the press about US racism.
Twenty-five per cent of Australian Rules football players are now women and girls, a figure that has doubled in the past five years. From February next year, eight new women's teams will compete in a national, six-round, AFL competition. Announcing the women's league last month, AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said it would “change the game forever, [… uneasy pause …] for the good”.
Some weeks can bring mixed blessings. For instance, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed a narrow victory for the Coalition in the federal election and on July 12 deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce was assaulted twice by a sheep on his farm.
This election was very tight. I don't think any party can claim a mandate. Malcolm Turnbull barely fell over the line. There is no mandate in that. Turnbull claims to have a mandate — to not tax the rich and keep giving it to Blackfellas. That is his mandate, and it would be the same if Labor had won. Another disappointing factor is that in the lead-up to the election, and in the post mortem, we have heard nothing about First Nations people. We are still dying in great numbers and they are arguing about who got the most votes in what seat.
Malcolm Turnbull's very slim majority is no mandate to re-introduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and other anti-worker legislation that he could not get through the previous Senate. The silence from the government was deafening during the election campaign, even though the ABCC legislation was the trigger. The ABCC was hardly mentioned. It only highlights the fact that Turnbull did not want to give the average worker the opportunity to scrutinise the finer details of his proposals to attack workers' rights.
In May, the ABC's first female managing director Michelle Guthrie was introduced by the ABC Board as bringing “business expertise, international contacts, a record in content-making across an array of platforms, a deep understanding of audience needs and corporate responsibility for promoting issues like diversity”.
There is ample evidence of systematic cruelty and regulatory failure with which to justify the New South Wales government's decision to ban greyhound racing. But this is a single industry in a single state. If we step back and look at the wider picture we see a telling lack of consistency in animal welfare policy and practice around the nation.

GLW Issue 1101

The federal election is now over and the final outcome is still being worked out, but the winners and losers are becoming clearer by the day. The two biggest losers were the major parties. While the Coalition retained enough seats to still be able to govern, it lost its sizable majority in the lower house and is facing an even more hostile Senate. The Labor Party recovered several seats overall, but it still managed to record its second lowest number of votes in a Federal election since World War II.
The 2016 federal election has confirmed the continuing decline of Australia's two-party system. The relative stability that characterised the decades after World War II was shaped by a phase of unprecedented economic growth, record low unemployment and mass home ownership. But that is long gone, in fact it was an aberration. Our system of single member electorates helped paper over the current period of rising economic insecurity, but inevitably politics is catching up.
The Mt Thorley-Warkworth "final void" is too expensive to fill in. Early this month mining giant Rio Tinto sold its mothballed Blair Athol coalmine to a tiny ASX-listed company called TerraCom for $1. Rio Tinto had been trying to sell the mine since it closed in 2012.
Working women have lost their finest advocate. Lynn Beaton was one of the first of her generation to take up the fight for women's rights within the Australian trade union movement. Throughout her life Lynn was an active campaigner for the rights of women at work, as well as a researcher, strategist and historian of the labour movement. Lynn was born in Victoria, but in 1960 the family moved to London. Lynn spent her teenage years in swinging London, returning to Melbourne in 1966.
While the votes are still being counted and the deals brokered, the resurrection of Pauline Hanson's racist party has sparked concern and outrage. Pauline Hanson's One Nation party has won at least one, possibly three Senate seats: Hanson claims it could be as many as six. It polled the fourth highest nationally of all parties contesting the Senate, after Liberal, Labor and the Greens,. The election platform One Nation presented was blatantly racist and anti-Muslim, and poses a threat to civil rights.
Pauline Hanson is back in the Senate after 18 years, riding the wave of anti-Muslim hatred spawned by various confected Wars on Terror™. But liberal commentators are warning we should take her more seriously this time. She and her 10% are “not just racists” they say. And they're right. Since the election, Hanson has made it clear that she has two major priorities this time around: protecting Christian fish'n'chips from Middle Eastern halal fast food, and tender-hearted men from the feminist Family Court.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared that, if re-elected, his government still plans to present the bill reinstating the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to a joint sitting of parliament, even as Resources and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg admitted on the ABC's Q&A program that the bill's prospects are effectively "dead". Turnbull said on July 5 that the reason he had called a double dissolution of parliament was that it was the "only way" to revive the building industry watchdog and crack down on the militant unions.
The hole in the ozone layer was first discovered in 1985 by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, who described how ozone levels above the Antarctic were steadily dropping compared to the previous decade. This was quickly recognised as a severe environmental problem — and the culprit was identified as the unchecked use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
In the same way that women had to organise and struggle to win the vote, equal pay and access to higher education, women have also had to fight for their reproductive rights, including access to contraception and access to safe medical and surgical abortion. The impact of pregnancy and childbirth on a woman is so great that no matter what other political, social or economic rights women have, if they do not have control over whether or when to have children, it is meaningless to speak about women controlling their own lives.
The Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War has prompted calls for a similar inquiry into the Coalition government, then led by John Howard, taking Australia into war in 2003. Andrew Wilkie, the only intelligence official from the US, Britain or Australia to dispute the official explanation for the Iraq War, said on July 7 there should be an investigation into the Howard government's decision to go to war.
Armed with the findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill is pressing ahead with plans to import as much as a third of the world's high-level nuclear reactor waste and store it in the state's outback. There are compelling reasons to reject it. The project, it now emerges, could go ahead only over resistance from Indigenous traditional landowners, some of whom took part in the Lizard Bites Back convergence in early July.