Comment and Analysis

Greens leader Richard Di Natale raised the prospect of a “four-day work week or a six-hour day” as part of an address to the National Press Club on March 15.

This is a good discussion to be having in a country where people work among the longest hours in the world and where productivity growth has massively outstripped wage growth in recent decades.

Di Natale also flagged the possibility of a Universal Basic Income — which he described as a “guaranteed adequate income”.

Will the election of former Australian Services Union NSW head Sally McManus as ACTU secretary result in a strategic shift in the trade union movement in this country? Many unionists and activists are hoping so.

The government is tightening the screws on workers and the poor, intent on further attacks on the social wage, privatising health, education and welfare services and attacking refugees. We need to fight back. Strong, fighting unions are essential to building an effective resistance to corporate power and to defending our rights.

The Barnett Liberal government, which had been in power for the past eight years, was definitively trounced in the March 11 WA state election. A defining theme was the government's accumulation of $40 billion of debt despite governing through an unprecedented mining boom.

The big winner was the Labor Party, which on the back of a 9.1% swing has won 42 seats, 12 more than the 30 needed to secure a majority. There was a 15.8% swing against the Liberal Party which lost votes to both Labor and One Nation.

The 2017 state election marked a modest but important advance for Socialist Alliance in Western Australia.

We achieved state party registration, giving us a huge boost. For the first time in a WA election “Socialist Alliance” featured on the ballot paper — previously our candidates were officially listed as independents. Having our name on the ballot paper allows us to reach out beyond recognition of the individual candidate, and makes it clear that we are a collective project that people can support and join.

“I’d rather kill myself than return to Iran — to the hell where I was violently raped by my own stepfather. But unless immigration minister Peter Dutton urgently intervenes by exercising his discretion and allowing me to apply for a partner visa while in Australia, I’ll spend my life in limbo with the never-ending threat of indefinite detention in Australia or forced return to Iran.”

By now you must have heard. The ACTU has been taken over by a terrorist spouting, in Christopher Pyne’s words, “anarchist Marxist clap trap” about destroying the rule of law, and presumably replacing it with a reign of terror in which CFMEU thugs will drag innocent bosses and Liberal politicians to the guillotine.

In public policy, there are many dog’s breakfasts presented as considered initiatives. Rarely, though, are we served up such a self-contradictory, irrational and generally talentless a dish as the new “energy intervention” announced by South Australia’s Labor government on March 14.

Aimed at side-stepping conservative attacks over recent power cuts, the government’s plan makes some provision for storage back-up to underpin wind and solar. But mainly, the $550 million scheme consists of large-scale concessions to fossil fuel interests — in this case, the gas industry.

Trevor Grant passed away on March 6, after a long battle with asbestos-caused mesothelioma.

Trevor was well known as a sports reporter, particularly for his reporting on AFL, for many Melbourne newspapers. While the mainstream media has focused on that aspect of his life, what was not mentioned was the contribution he made to the community via 3CR, a community radio station in Melbourne, and as convenor of the Tamil Refugee Council.

Generating electricity using renewable energy is now cheaper than using fossil fuels, but mining companies, banks and governments in Australia continue to invest significantly more in coal, oil and gas than wind and solar. 

"Former NSW Premier Mike Baird has enthusiastically accepted a job at the National Australia Bank as chief customer officer, in order to spend less time with his family," The Chaser revealed on February 28.

"Baird has reported an exhausting five weeks spending quality time with his children. According to Lucy Baird, his eldest daughter, Baird's return has polled badly among the family, following his controversial policy of putting his children to bed two hours earlier than they were previously used to.

A large commercial beekeeper in Darlington Point in the Riverina, southern NSW, has been forced to pack up and move after hundreds of beehives were devastated by pesticide-drift from nearby cotton farms. It is thought the bees died due to the spraying of neonicotinoid insecticides.

With the passage of the Climate Change Act (CCA) that mandates a target of zero net emissions by 2050, Victoria is formally in the leadership among state and federal governments. 

There’s a new bogey man on the block.

It is credited with the rise of brazenly crude figures such as Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson. It is behind outrageous-sounding propositions like Safe Schools, anti-discrimination laws and gender equality. It is running around Melbourne, putting a tiny skirt on the little figure on traffic lights.

In this increasingly polarised political climate, political correctness has emerged as the new villain.

Jesse Lee* is organising the Sydney leg of the March in March protest on March 25. She lives in Sydney’s west and is the primary carer for one of her children. She has first-hand experience of the welfare cuts and the vagaries of the disability support scheme. 

Lee put her hand up to organise the Sydney march because she strongly believes that protests are important and they work. She also believes that now is not the time to be quiet.

In January, the Socialist Alliance decided to embrace animal rights when it adopted a new animal welfare policy.

The Socialist Alliance has the twin aims of fighting the capitalist system and pursuing freedom from all forms of oppression. The animal welfare policy continues that goal in aiming to better the lives of animals.

The public debate over the problems of electricity supply displays a curious disconnect. On the one hand, there is virtually universal agreement that the system is in crisis. After 25 years, the promised outcomes of reform in the electricity industry — cheaper and more reliable electricity, competitive markets and rational investment decisions — are further away than ever. 

Decriminalisation of abortion will be referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) by the Palaszczuk Labor government after independent MP Rob Pyne withdrew his private member's bills on the issue.

The bills were due to be debated on March 1 but Pyne withdrew them the day before — to the disappointment of many pro-choice activists — when it became clear they faced defeat in the parliament.

The campaign against Roe 8 and the whole Perth Freight Link freeway project has produced an unprecedented outpouring of creativity, community spirit and determination. The past month and a half has produced another phase — the Wetlands Defenders, characterised by their remarkable resilience and courage.

One of our young Socialist Alliance members, just out of high school, is currently locked on up a tree. We know she is well supported by good caring people, the people who have organised this phase of the campaign.

Company profits have skyrocketed, while real wages have fallen. This is the harsh reality of the class war being pursued by Australia’s big-business rulers, as underlined by the latest Bureau of Statistics figures released on February 27.

In the last three months of last year, profits surged by a massive 20%, while wages fell by 0.5%. Over 2016, profits were up 26%, while wages grew by a mere 1%, less than the inflation rate of 1.5% — effectively a wage cut.

The NDIS bilateral agreement signed on February 1 by the Western Australian and federal governments resulted in a separate NDIS being rolled out in WA. In this version, WA will pay all the administration and operating costs but governance responsibilities will be shared with the Commonwealth.

At ANZ’s Annual General Meeting in December last year, chairperson David Gonski asked why any corporation would stay in Australia where they are taxed "so highly" in comparison to other countries?

The response to this is that companies should be made to pay even more tax, and those which pay none should be made to pay. More than one third of large public and private companies paid no tax in 2014-15.

The misnamed Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision on February 23 to cut penalty rates will hit hundreds of thousands of casual and part-time workers. But women will fare worse because the gender pay gap continues.

The employer’s argument, that penalty rates prevent them from hiring and remaining open on Sundays, is disproved by the facts. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that despite the mining boom slow down, the retail and hospitality sectors are booming.

The recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates for weekends and public holidays will deliver a windfall to big retail and hospitality bosses, while slashing the wages of about 700,000 low-paid workers.

Figures released by the ACTU put the average worker in accommodation and food services on only $524 a week and those in retail on just $687. Contrast this with the average pay of $1163 for all Australian workers and you can see just how draconian FWC’s decision is.

International Women’s Day (IWD) in Australia has lost its radical edge. In recent years, it has become more about holding cosy breakfasts and receptions where female bureaucrats and businesswomen can rub shoulders with political leaders and congratulate themselves on their “success”.

These events can make us forget that IWD has a radical socialist history of women determinedly marching for their rights. And once it even helped spark a revolution.

The February 23 ruling by the so-called Fair Work Australia Commission to allow the slashing of weekend penalty rates for those working in the food and retail sector is a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable and underpaid workers in Australia.

Green Left Weekly’s Chris Jenkins spoke to Aaron Beardsell, WA state organiser of the newly formed Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) about the new union and the challenges facing workers in their sector.

* * *

The appointment of former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh as CEO of the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA) is a desperate public relations ploy by the Big Four Australian banks to head off a looming royal commission into their crimes and misdeeds.

It seems unlikely to succeed, given the anger in the community against the Big Four — the Commonwealth, National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ — and their systematic gouging of the general public.

With the decision by the misnamed Fair Work Commission to slash the take home pay of some of the lowest-paid workers, it is worth restating that all wealth in our society is created by workers and not capitalists.

Profits come from the difference between the value of the goods and services created by a worker and what they are paid for their work. Some of this "surplus value" is invested back into production, but the rest is siphoned off as profit.

The Donald Trump regime in the United States is stepping up its attacks on clean energy, and emboldening the Australian federal government to do likewise.

Trump has recently appointed Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. In his first interview, Pruitt announced that he would eliminate the Clean Power Plan, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2015. The Clean Power Plan was aimed at reducing the US’s carbon emissions from power generation by 32% by 2030.

Gas giant Santos’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposal to create a gasfield in the Pilliga Forest was made public on February 21, two weeks after it was lodged with the government for assessment. It will be on public exhibition until just April 24.

The EIS shows that Santos still intends to drill coal seam gas (CSG) production wells despite widespread protests over the trouble-plagued Narrabri Gas Project.

Activist, teacher and mother of two, Petrina Harley, grew up in the suburbs of Perth. She is a fierce advocate for human rights, her main passions being rights for the LGBTI community, illegally detained asylum seekers and stopping the Roe 8 freeway.

She is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the WA state election alongside Sam Wainwright in the South Metropolitan Legislative Council. Harley was interviewed by Green Left Weekly by Chris Jenkins, who is standing in the seat of Fremantle.

Visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged Sri Lankans held in immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to come home. “Come back. All is forgiven,” he said in Canberra on February 15 after talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Even though they had broken the law in trying to flee to Australia he insisted they would not face prosecution if they returned.

It was a packed night at the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-controlled gay bar in downtown New York City on June 28, 1969. Stonewall was the only bar in town where gays could dance together, which meant that despite it being dilapidated — there was no running water behind the bar, no fire exits, the toilets overflowed — there was a heavy door charge and the drinks were overpriced.

Legislation passed in the Queensland parliament on February 14 could mean that Wicked Campers’ vehicles with misogynist slogans that vilify women and promote rape culture are taken off the road from March 31.

The legislation says operators who refuse to remove “inappropriate” words or pictures within 14 days will have their vehicles deregistered. The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) will be responsible for determining if a slogan is inappropriate on receipt of a citizen’s complaint.

The first few weeks of the Donald Trump administration have been extraordinary, and quite frightening — not just because of the incompetence of a president who appears to be little more than a self-obsessed idiot, but also by the actions of the dangerous ideologues at the helm of the world’s biggest economy and military power.

Jews Against the Occupation released this statement on February 21, as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sydney for a four-day visit.

* * *

Jews against the Occupation are strongly opposed to the red carpet welcome being given by the Australian Government and Opposition to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

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.

Pages