Comment and Analysis

This statement was posted on the National Tertiary Education Union website on May 30. The author, Adam Frogley is NTEU National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Coordinator and a Taungurung man from the Kulin Nations.

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The Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN) held its inaugural conference on May 20-21 at the Australian National University in Canberra. It brought together more than 150 activists and representatives of 48 refugee advocacy and activist groups from around the country. 

Participants included a large number of activists from Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) groups. RAR held its own national meeting over the conference, and elected a new leadership. The proposal to form ARAN came out of discussion at last year’s RAR conference.

French economist Thomas Piketty argued in his bestselling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century that capitalism arose from feudalism and is in many ways reverting to it.

On May 30, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was the first of the “coalition of the willing” to declare he would support US President Donald Trump’s request for more occupying troops in Afghanistan. Sydney Stop the War Coalition issued this statement which is abridged below.

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Sydney Stop the War Coalition opposes the Turnbull Coalition government’s decision to take up US President Donald Trump’s request and send more Australian troops to the quagmire in Afghanistan.

A conference on the Rojava Revolution will be held as the struggle in northern Syria enters perhaps its most critical phase.

“The Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria: An experiment in radical democracy, feminism & ecology” will be held in Melbourne on June 30 and July 1. The event aims to inform participants about the revolutionary process, to discuss the problems it faces and to build support for it.

The recent federal budget announced a terrible new policy — drug testing 5000 new recipients of Youth Allowance or Newstart. The drugs tested for will be cannabis, methamphetamine and MDMA.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended the policy as "aimed at stabilising the lives of people with alcohol and drug abuse problems by encouraging them to participate in treatment as part of their Job Plan". At the same time, people with diagnosed substance abuse disorders have been excluded from disability benefits.

Just two weeks ago, four young Muslim women wearing hijabs were assaulted right in front of the University of Technology Sydney at about 1.30pm. They were punched, one after another, by a woman they had not spoken to or interacted with in any way.

One of the women, a young student at UTS, and a recent migrant, was punched in the face and fell to the ground bleeding. A staff member who witnessed the assaults rushed to her assistance and photographed the alleged assailant.

A recent essay by Australian philosopher Clive Hamilton The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it was both moving and frustrating.

Moving because he’s right when he says: “…a calamity is unfolding, that the life systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival.”

Runaway global warming threatens mass species extinction and the collapse of agriculture. It may bring with it the most traumatic and violent phase of human history. It’s truly scary stuff.

Twenty years after the original Bringing Them Home report was released, Aboriginal children are still being taken from their parents — in greater numbers than before.

Commenting on the impact of Bringing Them Home — which documented evidence about the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children — Murri elder Sam Watson told Green Left that “it is beyond dispute that Aboriginal children were removed in significant numbers”.

“Every single [Aboriginal] family was affected,” Watson said and this “dated back to the first years of European invasion”.

As expected, the major banks are preparing to launch a media war against the Turnbull government’s proposed $6.2 billion bank levy, as outlined in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s May 9 federal budget speech.

Australian Bankers’ Association head Anna Bligh was furious. She said a campaign was being considered, claiming the government was playing “fast and loose” with the nation’s financial system.

Veteran environmental campaigner and former Greens senator Bob Brown has previously pointed to Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine as the new Franklin River of environmental protest in Australia. Yet the future of this “climate bomb” hangs in the balance.

Newcastle Students Against Detention (SAD) culture jammed the University of Newcastle’s rebranding launch on May 15, putting pressure on the administration to cut ties with Broadspectrum which runs Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The students were leaked the designs which they parodied to better reflect the University of Newcastle’s (UON) odious business ties, and stuck them over the official ones.

The rebranding focused on the word “New”, so SAD made posters stating: “New Abuses. New Human Rights Violations. Lose Your Ethics at UON.”

For millennia, women have had to contend with the ideology that because of their biology, women’s second class status is part of some “natural order”. This has been perpetuated by the state, the church, the family, and reflected in laws and through education.

But this is bullshit. Throughout many millennia of human history, women occupied a status at least equal to men’s. The problem is that you won’t hear about this reality in school, you won’t see it reflected in the media or in film.

Artist and activist Benny Zable has been wearing a mask at protests throughout Australia for more than 30 years.

His distinctive skull-like gas mask and painted death-bringer costume, atop large black radioactive drums has become an icon of peace, anti-nuclear and environmental movements throughout the country. He is a performance artist who uses his art form to depict a chilling prophesy of nuclear and environmental catastrophe.

It is just as well we are so alert these days to “fake news”, otherwise some might actually believe media claims the federal government has delivered a “left-leaning” budget.

The Victorian Labor government delivered a May 2 budget in which a multi-billion dollar war chest was set aside for “law and order” and new prisons. This is despite Victoria having the lowest crime rate in Australia.

It also continued with its neoliberal privatisation program, including the sell-off of the Land Titles Registry.

Victoria aims to employ one in every 400 people as a police officer or a protective services officer and, with thousands more prison cells available, presumably the state government calculates these people will have jobs.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) has criticised the failure of the federal government's review of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) to recommend a new royalties regime to force the major gas corporations to pay their fair share of tax.

The review by former treasury official Mike Callaghan, instigated by federal Treasurer Scott Morrison last November, recognised problems with the existing PRRT system and recommended some changes for new liquified natural gas (LNG) projects.

Fifty years ago most people, including politicians, championed the idea of equal educational opportunities for all. The politicians may have only done so for their own political advantage, but even this indicates the strength of the notion.

State vice president of the CFMEU’s Victorian Construction and General Division Robert Graauwmans gave this speech at Socialist Alliance’s May Day Dinner in Geelong on May 6. Below is an edited version of his speech.

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I’ve been asked to speak on the topic of “Why we should break bad laws” and while I welcome the invitation and the topic, tonight I will not talk about the whether we need to break bad laws, but rather, why we must defy injustice.

The Big Four banks, ANZ, Commonwealth, National Australia Bank and Westpac, plus Macquarie Bank were hit by a surprise proposal for a $6.2 billion levy over four years in the federal budget on May 9.

Under the new measures, banks with liabilities of more than $100 billion will be taxed 0.06% on those “liabilities”.

Speculation about a new levy on the big banks sparked a run on banking shares, wiping $14 billion from their market value. Shares in the Big Four banks fell by between 2.1% and 3.6%.

Australia’s largest milk processor Murray Goulburn has announced it will close manufacturing plants in three small rural towns: Kiewa and Rochester in northern Victoria and Edith Creek in Tasmania.

Murray Goulburn expects 360 people will lose their jobs. The closures are in areas where there are no other industries.

This will have a huge impact on these three local communities. The 700 residents of Kiewa-Tangambalanga will lose 135 jobs from Murray Goulburn's factory closure.

Australia’s refugee policy over the past 25 years has resulted in a detention process best described as “Hell on Earth”.

Mandatory detention was first introduced in May 1992 by the Labor government with the support of the opposition and has been marked with increasing human rights abuses including deliberate medical negligence, sexual assault by guards, self-immolation and murder.

It suffocates people’s hope, as many people have been in detention for more than four years with no certainty of ever being released.

Toxic sites in Australia are not well known or well managed. One such site is the old Nufarm chemical factory site in Melbourne’s northern suburb, Fawkner.

The factory operated from 1957 to 1974, making a wide range of noxious chemicals including dioxins; DDT; toluline-based emulsifiable concentrate; phenoxyacetic acid herbicide; 2,4-D; 2,4,5-T; esters; dichlorophenol and trichlorophenol and arsenic-based sheep dip.  

The federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham will release a report on May 8 commissioned by the government that will allegedly indicate that universities receive adequate funding for most courses and that their revenues are growing faster than their costs.

This report will be used to justify a proposed $2.8 billion funding cut that will raise the costs of course fees and mean that students will need to repay their HECS debts sooner.

In April the Federal Court ordered the oil and gas multinational Chevron to pay $340 million in tax. For the past few years this company has gotten away with paying no company tax at all by claiming that it did not make a profit.

The truth is it made billions, but the company inflated its expenses by having its Australian operation take a loan from a US subsidiary with an interest rate 25 times higher than the market norm.

Today’s crisis of the established political parties and the rise of far-right political projects are linked to the long-running capitalist crisis in which neoliberalism is immiserating the working class and small producers.

Say what you will about the members of the Coalition government, but they have principles and they stick to them. In particular, the principle of working to destroy this godforsaken Hellhole of a planet as rapidly as humanly possible.

And so when, amid a growing campaign against Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine in Queensland, Westpac ruled out funding the mega-mine project, federal resources minister Matt Canavan did not hold back.

Australia is the most urbanised country on earth. Almost 90% of Australians live in urban areas, while rural Australia, as of 2010–11, had only 134,000 farm businesses employing 307,000 people to manage 52% of Australia — 417.3 million hectares of land, including the 46.3% of Australia that is marginal land.

Burrowing under the metropolis, winding through neighbourhoods and consuming green spaces, kilometres of bleak bitumen motorways provide the superstructure for the outdated combustion engine to travel further.

According to University of Technology Sydney, vehicles are traveling 25% further, which equates to 25% more pollutants and 25% more impact on communities and the environment. “Induced traffic” is the phenomenon that when roads are built people switch from public transport to roads and, in the age of climate change, roads congest, choke and gridlock Australian cities.

BP’s recent decision to pull out of a plan to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight has been dubbed “strategic” by the company’s exploration managing director, Claire Fitzpatrick.

Community campaigners rallied in Port Augusta on April 30 to make a final call for the South Australian government to build a new solar thermal power plant in the town.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that the government would scrap 457 visas left no one happy. The 457 will be replaced with two new Temporary Skilled Shortage Visas (TSSV) — one that lasts for two years and offers no pathway to permanent residency and another which may be issued for up to four years. 216 roles have been removed from the list of occupations for which a visa can be issued.

Green Left Weekly interviewed Ted McAlear, former Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (Illawarra), on April 26.

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May 1 is a significant day for Ted McAlear. Ted, now 88 years of age, was a former member of the Mine Workers Union and later secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation in Port Kembla. (The WWF merged with the Seaman’s Union of Australia in 1993 to become the Maritime Union of Australia.)

US multinational energy corporation Chevron faces an increased tax bill of $340 million after losing an appeal against the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), over a landmark profit-shifting case.

The full Federal Court on April 21 unanimously upheld a previous decision that Chevron engaged in illegitimate transfer pricing by paying a higher rate of interest on a loan from its subsidiary to shift profits from Australia to the US.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. It is also one of the first casualties of maintaining a detention system that seeks to demonise people fleeing persecution and cover up human rights abuses.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton’s comments that refugees leading a five-year-old Papua New Guinean boy into the detention centre caused distress to locals and led to them firing into the air near the centre, is one of these lies.

Recently, I received an email invitation from the University of NSW Young Alumni to attend “networking drinks” with the co-founders of Airtasker.

Today — ANZAC Day — is the climax of the orgy of nationalism and militarism we've been subjected to in recent times, ostensibly to remember the ordinary people who responded to the lies of the government by fighting and dying in an unjust war.

Of course progressive people have sympathy for the soldiers who died as well as the soldiers who didn't die but nevertheless witnessed or experienced terrible things.

“Brexit” and the recent US presidential election are symptoms of the crisis capitalism has wrought. People are hurting and it has become obvious that instead of “trickle down” we have, in Arundhati Roy’s words, “gush up”. Even mainstream media carry articles suggesting neoliberalism has had its day.

Since US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, there has been a spike in commentary about the increasing risk of a war in our region — a war that could involve the US and China. As things stand, it would be impossible for Australia to avoid involvement in such a war. That is a reality we must urgently confront.

We're all familiar with the old maxim: “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer”. It is said as often with resignation as it is as a call to action.

Left unquantified it remains abstract but it is much easier to get worked up when the sheer scale of material inequality is in front of your face. Hence the growing outcry surrounding Oxfam's recent annual reports on global inequality that clearly demonstrate the concentration of world resources in the hands of the 0.1%.

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