Comment and Analysis

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.

In Australia, the National Electricity Market is rapidly becoming dysfunctional, with power shortages, blackouts and soaring prices making headlines.

Private companies are refusing to invest in new fossil fuel generators to replace those that have closed. This “investment strike” is due partly to uncertainty about carbon pricing and partly to increasingly volatile spot prices received by generators.

Opposition groups in Venezuela are currently engaged in a campaign to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Portrayed by the media as a peaceful, democratic movement, it is clear that what Venezuela is experiencing is a right-wing destabilisation campaign that not only seeks to remove Maduro but to roll back the important gains of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says inequality in Australia is falling, and accuses Labor of pursuing a dishonest campaign based on the "politics of envy". Morrison claims Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's statement that inequality has reached a 75-year high is a "lie".

Shakespeare reckoned that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Old Will is right of course, because whether you call it rhubarb, a rhododendron or a rocking horse, a rose is a rose.

Sometimes though, if enough people use the new name of an old thing often enough, they can convince themselves and others that it is in fact a different thing. Then, having transformed the thing semantically, we can consider it a new thing, and treat it as a new thing. This is nothing new. It is marketing and corporate branding 101 and it does not matter most of the time.

There have been numerous instances of human rights abuses since the Nauru detention centre was reopened in 2013 and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that no refugee who arrived by boat would ever be settled in Australia.

The Guardian’s Nauru Files gave detailed accounts of children being assaulted, women sexually abused by guards and suicide attempts being laughed at.

On July 19, 2013, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood beside Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and said in a classical Rudd pretentious drone: “You won’t be settled in Australia. You’ll be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for reprocessing and resettlement.”

Effective immediately, everyone who came by boat seeking asylum would never be given protection in Australia.

“Socialism is back. Unmentioned and unused, a dead concept and suddenly there was Corbynism.” That’s how Guy Rundle announced the resurrection in “The Death of Neoliberalism” in the July 15 issue of The Saturday Paper.

As students commence semester two on August 1, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will release a report entitled The University Sexual Assault and Harassment Project, the culmination of year-long research into the nature, prevalence and reporting of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in university communities. 

A toll road spiderweb is spreading across Sydney, with the cost of vehicle journeys set to rise substantially in coming years.

The status quo in this country is ... interesting. Take the man who deliberately chased down 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in a four wheel drive, killing the Aboriginal teenager in Kalgoorlie, yet was acquitted of manslaughter by a jury without any Aboriginal people on it.

But don’t worry, he was found guilty of “dangerous driving”, which makes me wonder if the judge gave him a stern lecture about taking more care on the roads or next time he might kill someone whose life matters.

South Australian Yankunytjatjara elder and activist Yami Lester, who was blinded as a teenager by dust from the Maralinga nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s, died on July 21 in Alice Springs, aged 75.

His family said his death "leaves an incredible legacy of better global understanding of the devastation of nuclear bombs and for the ongoing battle for recognition of the consequences of them".

The largest ever Australia-US joint military exercises have just finished. Talisman Sabre 2017, the seventh of these expensive biennial war games, wound up in Brisbane on July 26 on the USS Ronald Reagan — a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with capacity for 5000 troops and 200 fighter jets.

Imagine a workplace where you could be put on a secret register for forgetting to say a word from a call centre script because it would be a breach of company policy. Then, if you left that company and tried to get a new job, your prospective employer would not hire you simply because you were on that register.

You would never know whether you were on that register; you would have no right of appeal; nor would your name ever be removed from it, regardless of whether you were eventually found not guilty of the allegation.

On July 21, a Western Australian Supreme Court jury found the man accused of chasing and killing Aboriginal teen Elijah Doughty with his car was not guilty of manslaughter.

It is the latest demonstration that the legal system is failing Aboriginal people and exposes the depths of a racism that remains the bedrock of mainstream Australian culture.

In launching the report Not so super, for women: Superannuation and women’s retirement outcomes” by David Hetherington and Warwick Smith on July 20, Australian Services Union (ASU) national secretary David Smith said: “Australia’s compulsory superannuation system is failing women. According to the latest figures, women are retiring with around half as much superannuation (53%) as men.”

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US has led many to ask where is our Corbyn or our Sanders and to question whether conditions in Australia are ripe for a similar break to the left.

Because Australia was buffered from the worst of the GFC, due mainly to the mining boom, some argue that conditions here may need to get a lot worse before people are prepared to get behind a left platform.

Let’s look at some social indicators in Australia today.

The Sydney Morning Herald published audio on July 19 from a Liberal Party function in Sydney at which former Western Australian state MP Michael Sutherland described anti-fracking campaigners and refugee rights activists as "a bunch of cockroaches".

Federal government hospital spending rose by 80% in the decade to 2014, from $23 billion to $42 billion. This has led to a renewed push by conservatives for a new state income tax to fund health costs.

A hallmark of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was responding to falling opinion polls by holding press conferences full of totalitarian imagery, announcing moves to weaken civil liberties or intensify persecution of refugees in the name of keeping Australians safe from the apparent existential threat of terrorism. His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to out-do him.

I’ve often heard it asked, “Is Australia a racist country?” only for the question to be railroaded by a series of semantics: “What does that even mean?”; “How can a country have a collective mindset?”; and “You can’t confer a universal attitude onto a population of 24 million, surely?”

Politicians and commentators tell us there are such things as Australian values. The same quibbling arguments about whether Australia is collectively racist apply to so-called national values.

If there is one thing to be wished for, it is “humanity”, the most vital and forgotten word.

Humanity had already died before the time of the Crusades. Humanity had already died before the Thirty Years’ War. Humanity had already died before Hitler proclaimed: “Winners are not judged. Nobody ever checks whether they lied or not”.

I can understand Brian Boyd’s frustration concerning the Superannuation Guarantee Scheme (SGS) in “Superannuation: A Generation Betrayed” (Green Left Weekly #1144 and #1145).  The original promise was short on delivery.

He is right to point out the inequity that existed in providing superannuation for workers prior to 1992.

There is no genuine reason why Australia cannot have 100% renewable electricity in less than a decade, at sharply reduced prices.

In May a vice-president of Sempra Energy, one of the largest utility firms in the US, caused a stir by stating flatly that there was no longer any technical obstacle to powering California with 100% renewables.

If South Australia were a country, its citizens since July 1 would have been paying the highest residential electricity prices of any nation in the world, edging out Denmark.

Throughout most of Australia, the new financial year brought spiralling energy charges. For an average Canberra household without rooftop solar, the combined cost of electricity and gas over 2017–18 will rise by $580.

Infamous right-wing ideologue Andrew Bolt penned a "column of shame" about Venezuela in the Murdoch media on July 13. The column is a clear example of what might be dubbed "Bolt's Law": anything he writes is the opposite of the truth unless proved otherwise.

The shock resignations from parliament of Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters highlight one of the many undemocratic features in the Australian Constitution.

Much has happened in the four years since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement that no one who sought asylum by boat would ever be given protection in Australia.

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July 19, 2013: Rudd's offshore resettlement announcement

Many councils across Australia have local laws that restrict free speech. Most people are unaware of these laws, until there is an issue that engages them enough to want to exercise their right to free speech and set up a stall, hand out leaflets, get petitions signed and maybe organise a protest rally.

Only when a council officer tells them they have to pack up and leave, do they realise there are undemocratic laws on the books.

Countless abuses have occurred in the four years since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement in 2013 that no asylum seeker who arrived by boat will ever be resettled in Australia. Here are six key reasons to join the calls to evacuate all those detained on Manus Island and Nauru now and bring them to Australia.

A conference on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian justice will be held at the University of Sydney over July 28–29.

Free and open to the public, the conference will be the largest ever held on BDS in Australia, with three keynote lectures, four discussion panels and more than 30 separate talks on a wide array of topics.

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