Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1005

The former Labor government tried and failed with its ill-conceived "people swap" deal with Malaysia in 2011. Now, the Tony Abbott government has said it may try a resettlement deal with the even poorer nation of Cambodia.

After talks with foreign minister Julie Bishop in February, her counterpart, Hor Namhong, said Cambodia was considering an offer to resettle refugees from Australia. Immigration minister Scott Morrison visited Cambodia again this month, to discuss "regional cooperation to deal with asylum seeker movement".

The Royal Commission into the use of union funds began on April 9. The commission is not an attempt to stamp out corrupt union practices, but a serious political attack on unions by the Tony Abbott government. It is designed to weaken the union movement and break militant union activity.

Comments made by Coalition ministers before the public hearings have started sets up a presumption of guilt in order to prejudice the public mind.

An important legal action by traditional owners opposed to the Muckaty nuclear waste dump proposal will be the basis of a Federal Court trial in June. Natalie Wasley, spokesperson for the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, spoke to Green Left Weekly about the legal action, and the fight to keep Australia radioactive waste-dump free.

How is the court case to keep Muckaty radioactive-free proceeding?

Most people have heard of the rant by Australia's richest billionaire, Gina Rinehart, against welfare and the “entitlement mentality” of Australians — and her call for a strong political leader like Margaret Thatcher. But have you heard about the US$694 million ($740 million) soft loan from US taxpayers?

The Pilliga Forest is at the centre of a large battle over the right for companies to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) on public land.

Coal seam gas company Santos is planning to develop a $2 billion CSG project in the forest and it has already begun operating 40 exploratory gas wells.

The exploration licence was supposed to end on April 3, but Santos has been granted multiple extensions by the NSW government to put in more exploratory drill holes.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford gives some background to the rise of fascism in Europe and the actions of Robert Menzies against wharfies who refused to ship pig iron to Japan.

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Drivers on Sydney’s proposed WestConnex motorway will pay a toll for almost 50 years, according to documents released to state parliament last week. Tolls will also be introduced to existing free motorways and extended on those due to expire.

The government’s plans were revealed when boxes of documents relating plans to build the WestConnex motorway were delivered to New South Wales Parliament House last week at the request of the NSW Greens Roads and Ports spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi.

The preparations for the federal budget, due to be handed down by Treasurer Joe Hockey on May 13, began on October 22 last year. This is the date on which Hockey announced a National Commission of Audit.

The commission is chaired by Tony Shepherd, who just happens to be the President of the Business Council of Australia, the organisation representing Australia’s 100 largest companies. Shepherd’s appointment amounts to an invitation to big business to tell the government how it wants the economy to function in its favour during the Coalition’s term of office.

I am not going to bother following the news any more, I am just going to wake up each morning and drive large rusty nails straight into my eyeballs to save time.

After all, efficiency is our new watchword, according to treasurer Joe Hockey. We must all play our part in doing more with less.

ANZAC Day, we’re told, is Australia's "most important national occasion”.

But beyond the glib cliches about how the ill-fated Anzac “campaign” at Gallipoli Cove in 1915 “shaped Australia's identity”, there is little political and historical reflection on what happened and why.

The Tony Abbott government has moved to crush the right of free speech for federal public servants. In new guidelines issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) on social media policy, employees are threatened with harsh discipline if they are "critical or highly critical of the department, the minister or the prime minister" on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, blogs or elsewhere.

When the NSW Coalition government was elected to office in March 2011, it put all new coal seam gas (CSG) exploration licences on hold pending an internal inquiry.

Sixteen months later, in September 2012, the government announced that the results of this “thorough investigation” found all was in order and the industry could proceed apace.

The NSW government has now announced that all new CSG licence applications would again be frozen, this time for six months. The government said this was necessary to implement a "new regime" for allocating future licences.

I am a Year 11 high school student, and when I heard they were trying to transfer more refugees from Villawood, I couldn’t stand by.

Standing outside the detention centre in the early morning of April 5 while waiting for the buses to move, I saw a Facebook status from one of the protest's spokespeople, Clo Schofield, who had just been interviewed on right-wing radio station 2GB. Schofield encouraged us to ring to air our grievances about Australia's cruel and heartless asylum seeker policy.

GLW Issue 1004

The campaign against Melbourne's East West Tunnel received a boost when about 1500 residents and members of community groups rallied in Brunswick on March 30. The rally sent a strong message to the Denis Napthine government that the project should be scrapped and the money be spent on expanding Melbourne’s public transport system.

The rally was organised by Moreland Community Against the East West Tunnel (MCAT), a grassroots community organisation supported by the council.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced that the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon had gone over 1 million. Half of these are children and most live in dire poverty.

"The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in an April 3 statement.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell implemented a six-month freeze on processing new applications for coal seam gas (CSG) exploration licences on March 26. At the same time, the minister for resources and energy, Anthony Roberts, announced that the licence application fee would increase from $1000, set by the ALP state government in 2002, to $50,000.

Roberts had earlier refused five CSG exploration licence applications sought by Grainger Energy which, covered 43,000 square kilometres of land in the Riverina.

Queensland Racing Minister Steve Dickson has just given the green light to a new greyhound racing track at Cronulla Park in Logan, one of Australia’s fastest-growing urban corridors.

Dickson has confirmed that construction on the $12 million publicly funded track at Cronulla Park will begin in May. The government will spend another $1.2 million a year on appearance fees for greyhound trainers.

Michael Williamson, former national president of the Labor Party and the Health Services Union (HSU), was sentenced in the NSW District Court on March 28 to seven- and-a-half years in jail with a non-parole period of five years for defrauding union members.

The sentencing judge described Williamson’s dishonesty as “a parasitic plundering of union funds for pure greed”.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong in early May, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford gives some background to how the Communist Party of Australia grew quickly during the depression.

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The Great Barrier Reef is almost certainly going to suffer permanent damage due to coral bleaching if countries do not act to reduce carbon emissions, the Fifth Assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on March 31.

A lead author of the report, Chris Field, told the ABC’s 7.30: “Warm water coral reefs are one of the world's ecosystems that's most threatened and especially threatened by the combination of a warming climate and acidification of the ocean waters.”

The first cab off the rank in the federal Coalition government's great privatisation push has now been confirmed: Medibank Private. Finance minister Mathias Cormann announced on March 26 that the government-owned health insurance company would be sold off through an initial public offering in the next financial year.

The announcement came just before a meeting of federal and state treasurers on March 28, which resulted in Commonwealth Treasurer Joe Hockey boasting of a "historic agreement" for the state governments to sell off billions of dollars of public assets.

Nobody told me Game of Thrones was starting early this year.

Wonderful to hear King Abbott pronounce the return of titles, especially after Sir Joseph of the Coffers recently declared the end of entitlement. I guess he was only referring to us common folk.

But we don’t have to worry too much because peasants and workers don’t receive knighthoods. Can you imagine Sir Timothy Francis Gerald Gooden the sixth? No, I thought not.

Titles are designed to put one person higher than another, reinforcing the notion that somehow some people are better than others.

When refugee activists found out about the imminent transfer of at least 83 asylum seekers from Villawood detention centre to a remote detention centre in Curtin in Western Australia, a picket was hastily organised to try to stop the buses leaving.

Even though there was very little time — about 10 hours — activists wanted to show the asylum seekers that there is broad support for them.

Asylum seekers claiming automatic protection after the immigration department accidently leaked their identities online in February are being transferred to the other side of the country before their case returns to court.

Buses were at the gates of Villawood detention centre early on the mornings of April 3 and 5, as refugee rights advocates including Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon held a protest against their removal outside. Asylum seekers held a sit in protest inside the centre and were trying to refuse to board.

GLW Issue 1003

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Australian Aborigine] you're guilty before you're found innocent."

The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

Stop Income Management in Playford released this statement on March 26.

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The number of income management clients in the city of Playford in northern Adelaide increased almost 700% over the second half of last year, according to data from the Department of Social Services.

As of December 27, 495 people were on income management. The May 23 figure for Playford, seven months earlier, was 71 people.

The parade of ALP politicians before the latest NSW corruption inquiry has given way to a cross-party merry-go-round. As the Independent Commission Against Corruption calls the tune, Liberal Party luminaries are now on the carousel.

Liberal Senator and Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, has stood down from his ministerial position after being called to give evidence before the NSW corruption watchdog.

PRIME MINISTER TONY Abbott introduced a “red tape repeal day” on March 26. About 9500 regulations contained in more than 50,000 pages of legislation and related documents got the chop.

One of the “red tape regulations” that will be scrapped is the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, which apply to cleaners employed on government contracts.

The 10th national conference of the Socialist Alliance will be held in Sydney over the long weekend of June 7-9.

This gathering will take place at a time of extreme inequality, intensified conflict and ecological crisis on a global scale. Even in Australia, one of the “richest suburbs” in the world, the political temperature is rising with the 100,000-strong March in March signalling a broad resistance to the attacks from the Tony Abbott government.

The conference will discuss strategies and tactics to advance people's power in this country and around the world.

It is the end of the “age of entitlement”, we have been told by the federal Coalition government. But now they have brought back feudal titles.

Not content with making the poor poorer and the filthy rich even richer, they want to rub our noses in their class privilege. They add insult to injury, just in case we didn't already know who was running the country.