Comment and Analysis

Steve Bannon, the editor of the far-right Breitbart and Donald Trump’s ex-chief strategist, recently compared China to Germany in the 1930s, telling the New York Times: “China right now is Germany in 1930. It’s on the cusp ... The younger generation is so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic.”

1. Legislating marriage equality will impact on rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to practice or implement one’s personal values.

FALSE: Marriage equality and freedom of religion/speech/values are governed by two distinct pieces of legislation. The equality campaign only wants a change in the definition of marriage as determined by the Marriage Act 1961. Religious exemptions are already contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Changing the definition of marriage in one act does not remove religious exemptions in different act.

Since the High Court challenge to the federal government’s marriage equality survey was dismissed and the survey received the green light, streets have been painted all the colours of the rainbow as historically large protests and displays of solidarity sweep the country.

The campaign for marriage equality has been fighting the delaying tactics and homophobic policies of Labor and Liberal governments for the past 13 years.

The former NSW roads minister Duncan Gay has joined the list of recently resigned NSW MPs who have taken lucrative jobs with corporations associated with their former portfolio.

Gay, a former National Party leader, left parliament at the end of July. A parliamentary ethics committee has only just become aware that he is working as an advisor with MU Group — a company bidding for, and winning, NSW government transport contracts.

The electricity industry crisis has reached new heights, with the federal government pressuring giant energy company AGL to keep the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station open for a further five years after 2022, its due date for closure.

Liddell, in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, is a coal-burning dinosaur. The reality is neither the government’s policy of defending Big Coal, nor its reliance on the so-called “energy market”, will solve the problem of skyrocketing electricity prices for consumers or the looming environmental crisis.

For a long time, Australian governments have believed that the private sector should run the electricity sector. Successive governments have used market instruments to incentivise reducing emissions, by supporting renewables, discouraging coal use, or both.

The threat of nuclear annihilation is closer than at any time since the end of the Cold War as two heads of state use nuclear weapons as props in what looks like a fight between two adolescent boys.

On one side is a narcissistic bully, born to inherit great power and with credible reports that his personal life includes indulging in acts of sadism, whose policies in government are driven by a combination of xenophobia, ego and whim and who is threatening nuclear Armageddon if he doesn't get his way.

On the other side is North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

A coordinated, virulent and sustained campaign for "regime change" against the government and people of Venezuela is occurring around the world right now.

Led by the US, the campaign involves a systematic stream of "fake news" in the international media, backed by an unholy alliance of right-wing and "liberal" politicians and commentators, all singing from the same song sheet — that Venezuela is a "socialist dictatorship" with a collapsing economy and the unfortunate people of that country are yearning to be free of that regime.

There is a climate emergency. The massive forest fires in Canada, the Lucifer heatwave engulfing southern Europe and Australia experiencing its warmest July on record have all happened within the past fortnight. Yet, Australia’s carbon emissions continue to rise.

The growing movement to prevent the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as well as fossil fuel divestment campaigns, show we are making headway. But activism is not enough.

I think it was anthropologist Ghassan Hage who once said that Australians are in constant fear of their country being stolen — again. Australia has a history of policy-making based on the fear of the outsider. But of all the acts of government based on that fear the new Home Affairs portfolio of Peter Dutton will rank as one of the most dangerous.

With the High Court ruling that the government’s postal survey on marriage equality is legal, it’s full steam ahead with the much-vaunted respectful debate.

We can expect more No campaign ads like the one where a mother pretends the principal at her son’s school told him he could wear a dress to school if he chose.

New South Wales’ world-class public TAFE system is on its knees. The state government’s savage funding cuts and ongoing neglect has seen enrolments plummet and TAFE campuses, particularly in regional areas, fall into disrepair.

But the Coalition government’s “solution” is to further cut funding and replace practical learning with glorified internet cafes in already isolated regional areas.

The federal government has proposed a drug testing trial for new welfare recipients.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the proposed policy as being “all about love”, saying: “If you’ve got a friend who is on drugs, what do you want to do? You desperately want to get them off it.”

This needs to be examined.

The NSW Coalition government has sold off more than $9 billion in publicly-owned property since it took power six years ago, a state parliamentary inquiry was told on September 4.

"Over the last six years ... approximately $9.14 billion of real property assets have been recycled [sold or leased] by government agencies," the CEO of Property NSW Brett Newman told a Budget Estimates hearing.

Thanks to a passing reference in this column only a week ago about statues and other monuments featuring colonial "founding fathers" that participated in massacres of Aboriginal people and other wrongs, I got lumped into Andrew Bolt's collection of "statue haters".

Others in the corporate media suggested that even having the discussion was like Nazi book burning. Right. And we're the ones disrespecting history!

1. Get onto the streets

The most important thing you can do for marriage equality right now is hit the streets. Add your voice to the thousands of others across the country by marching in one of the upcoming marriage equality rallies. Get a group of your friends together and make homemade signs to bring along.

A diverse and inspiring grassroots movement has completely shifted public opinion on this question, so let's push on to win this vote and more

Sam Wainwright, Councillor at the City of Fremantle, a local government that supports marriage equality

Equality is a very simple and important right. That's why a majority of people support equal marriage rights. The equal marriage campaign has opened the door to many more people supporting the LGBTIQ community on other issues as well

Sue Bolton, Councillor at Moreland City Council

1. We are community activists

We won’t just represent, we will help empower communities by working alongside others against WestConnex, for marriage equality, for sustainability and public housing and by fighting for a local council that is more democratic, transparent and accountable to the community. Socialist councillors in Victoria and West Australia were critical to defeating the East-West Link and Roe 8 motorway projects.

2. Organise to take on corporate greed

It is important to put socialists on council because we have a very different perspective from other political parties. Our “people and planet before profit” philosophy guides our approach and, increasingly, councils are being relied on to lead key political debates — such as recognising Australia’s colonial past.

The August 14 publication of a NSW local court ruling earlier in the year has again shone light on the state’s anti-abortion laws.

A 30-year-old woman was found guilty of attempting abortion and sentenced to a 3-year good behaviour bond. The court record describes the circumstances, but leaves important questions unanswered.

Can you imagine being a bank CEO today? Wouldn’t you be wishing you were leading the bank 10 years ago before the global financial crisis when you could do whatever you wanted without too much fuss?

Fast forward to 2017. Bank CEOs are under intense scrutiny, but still pushing the banks’ profit-driven agenda in the face of scandal after scandal and community anger.

Ever since it was announced, the federal government’s postal survey on marriage equality has been met with responses questioning both the legitimacy of the survey and demonstrating support for marriage equality — responses that have been vital for the confidence and morale of members of the LGBTIQ community.

Despite this, the right, particularly the Christian right, has demonstrated its determination to defeat the push for marriage equality through the mobilisation of homophobic and transphobic hatred and disinformation.

According to an Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) tweet, between August 8 and 22 the electoral roll increased by 54,545.

There were 577,879 total enrolment transactions processed in that time, including checking and updating enrolment details. This data does not include the last two days of the enrolment period, which closed at midnight on August 24, so these numbers are likely to increase.

In an August 9 speech to parliament, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson once again backed the right-wing campaign against Venezuela’s democracy and national sovereignty.

His statements follow a June 21 speech to the Senate, where he spoke out against what he claimed was an “increasingly anti-democratic and corrupted government under President Nicolas Maduro”, while praising the “democratic and peaceful” protests led by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition.

Sentient lobsters boil at 200°C, screaming in pain, just so billionaires can slurp them up. Consider this the lobsters’ revenge on the Victorian Opposition Leader. Matthew "tough on crime” Guy was boiled and cooked red after having a sit-down lobster and donations dinner with mobsters.

Coalition finance minister Mathias Cormann told an admiring audience at the conservative Sydney Institute on August 23 that Labor leader Bill Shorten was “channelling” Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

If only...

What local councils do or don’t do on January 26 has burst into the national political debate, and what a good thing that is. No matter the frantic condemnation from the corporate media or the pompous and arse-about assertion by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that councils were “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”.

These opponents of an honest examination of Australia’s history may want to shut down the conversation but the opposite has happened.

Amir Taghinia is the founder of Manus Alert, an online news agency coming directly from within Australia's immigration prison camp.

Taghinia is fluent in many languages and often finds himself as a negotiator between people who have been incarcerated in the Manus Island camp, local authorities and communities.

He holds a passion for the beautiful lands we live on and in and has read widely on environmental issues.

He acknowledges some editorial assistance from Melody Kemp and Janet Galbraith.

* * *

One hundred years ago this month, the Great Strike of 1917, the biggest strike in Australian history began. It was to last more than two months, from August 2 until the last workers drifted back to work on October 15, but the impact of the strike lasted a lot longer.

After a local community campaign lasting almost a decade, the South Australian government has finally committed to build solar thermal with storage in Port Augusta. It will bring 24-hour solar power to SA, creating hundreds of regional jobs, cutting pollution and putting downward pressure on electricity prices.

In the past fortnight, many of us thought we were right on the edge of FINALLY winning marriage equality in Australia as dissent within the ranks of Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government came to a head.

Liberal MP Dean Smith and others put up the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill and called for a free vote. Even Turnbull, a self-declared supporter of marriage equality even as he called for a plebiscite, said he supported the right of Liberal MPs to cross the floor to vote for the bill.

US President Donald Trump's August 8 statement that any threats from North Korea would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” should have made us all very worried. But it has grown worse since then.

Despite widespread community opposition and the Senate's repeated rejection of a plebiscite the Malcolm Turnbull government is persisting with a non-binding postal survey on the question of removing the current definition of marriage from the Marriage Act and replacing it with an unspecified definition that will provide for marriage equality in some unspecified form.

A new campaign, #HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing, spearheaded by Dr Alex Wodak and GetUp!, has been launched in response to the federal government’s decision to deny income support payments to those who test positive to certain drugs.

So the government is planning a plebiscite on equal marriage by means of post, presumably because it didn’t want to confuse elderly opponents of marriage equality with new-fangled technological developments like the telegram.

The whole project will cost $122 million for a vote that is not even binding, when all polls for years have shown a large majority in favour of marriage equality and the thing could be resolved in a matter of hours by a simple vote in parliament.

Last week was Homelessness Week. It was also the week when the 76 homeless people sleeping in Martin Place were removed by the NSW Coalition government.

Sydney City Council has, at least, defended the “tent city” and taken a more pro-active role in trying to find solutions, compared with the NSW government which simply wants to wash its hands of this enormous problem.

Hamed Shamshiripour, a 31 year old Iranian refugee, died on August 7 as a direct result of Australia’s detention system. He is the sixth man to die on Manus Island since the detention centre was opened in 2012, according to Monash University’s Australian Border Deaths database.

A recent expose by the ABC’s Four Corners has alleged significant illegal extraction of water from the Barwon-Darling river system, one of the major tributaries of the Murray River.

The case for re-nationalising the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is becoming stronger every day. The latest in a string of scandals to hit "Australia's leading bank" is the revelation the CBA is facing allegations that its Intelligent Deposit Machines (IDMs) were used by money launderers and criminal gangs to process millions of dollars in cash.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s surprise decision on July 27 to abandon plans for more local council mergers is a win for communities who strongly protested this undemocratic decision, said the Socialist Alliance candidates standing for the Inner West Council in the September 9 election.

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