Comment and Analysis

This election campaign. Eight weeks. Eight long, drawn out weeks of two gangs of rich white bastards in suits battling over who gets the honour of overseeing the next three years of irreversible ecological catastrophe, with extra Barnaby Joyce. It must violate articles in the Geneva Conventions banning torture.

Tanya Plibersek, the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party and MP for Sydney, made a speech on June 15 where she tried to fend off the political pressure Labor is facing from the Greens and other smaller parties to the left.

Her basic argument was that Labor still remained loyal to its “light on the hill” and she urged younger people in particular to be more patient and allow her party to slowly make progressive change.

WestConnex is a $17 billion, 33 kilometre toll road proposed by the New South Wales government and backed by the federal government. Its tunnels, multi-layered interchanges and four to six lane highways will cut a swathe through the inner west of Sydney.

Pauline Lockie is a spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group, one of the groups opposing the project. This is an edited version of a speech she gave at the Rally for Fair Fares in Sydney on June 21.

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About 80 people attended a fiery, standing-room only, public forum on unemployment, hosted by Anti-Poverty Network SA on June 18 in Adelaide's northern suburbs.

In a twist to the standard election fare, candidates were required to spend the first half of the event listening to the honest, insightful testimony and views of jobseekers, sole parents, aged and disability pensioners, and others with direct, lived experience of being out of work and being poor, before participating in a Q&A.

This election campaign has seen the Coalition blustering that its harsh policies are stopping the people smugglers and deaths at sea, Labor trying to ignore the issue, and the Daily Telegraph running front page headlines such as “The boats are back”.

But standing in defiance for more than 100 days is a group of refugees and asylum seekers protesting inside the Nauru detention centre.

Through low-resolution photos and shaky video footage, images of the protesters have reached the world, despite intimidation from guards and new fences built to keep cameras out.

The Labor Party announced a series of “savings” measures on June 10, including $1 billion worth of Abbott/Turnbull cuts that had previously been blocked in the Senate.

It has tried to make the attacks appear palatable by claiming they are directed at higher income families. However the truth is they reaffirm that a future Labor government's direction will be more about cutting government spending than raising revenue from the big end of town.

Further, they will have bigger impacts on ordinary workers than appears evident at first glance.

I moved to Perth in June last year from a small, rural town in central Pennsylvania. There I witnessed first-hand the impact of the “fracking” boom — the rapid exploitation of the unconventional gas resources in the Marcellus shale play.

It hit rural Pennsylvania particularly hard because it is economically depressed, struggling to make ends meet by farming and what's left of manufacturing that has not been outsourced to China, Mexico, and other exploitable labour pools.

There's a war going on — the class war. Funnily enough, the only time you hear politicians using that term is as an epithet, not as a descriptor for the daily life of the overwhelming majority of society.

An example: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of declaring war on business and waging a “class war” for making the modest suggestion that the rich should pay a fairer share of tax.

LGBTI communities everywhere are reeling from the loss of the 49 people gunned down in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. In addition, 53 were injured.

Some of them no doubt are deeply missed by their families. Even worse, as is true in many LGBTI communities, some of them would have lost their family ties years ago. The other patrons at the Pulse nightclub may have been the only family they had.

About 20 protesters demonstrated in front of the Melbourne Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) on June 6 over allegations of asylum seeker mistreatment. Police presence was described by observers as extremely heavy, ranging from two dozen to fifty officers.

Teaching is one of the lowest-paid professions and casual relief teachers (CRTs) are among the most marginalised and exploited workers in Victoria.

Our daily pay rate is $293. Think that sounds good? Well, there are about 200 teaching days a year. If we were to work every one of those days, we would still earn less than $60,000 a year — that is the maximum pay we can expect, after a minimum of four years at university.

But we are emergency teachers; we can expect to work, at most, about 100 days. That is less than $30,000 a year.

Earlier this month, Department of Employment figures about the government's remote Work for the Dole scheme proved what critics have known for some time: the policy is failing. In Arnhem Land, people are buying less food since tough Work for the Dole penalties were introduced.

Where were you in May when the New South Wales state government announced it will scrap the free rides the Opal card currently gives you after having paid for eight trips in one week?

I was not gazing out the window of a train daydreaming that I was on a catbus — the magical type of public transport in Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 anime classic, My Neighbour Totoro.

When I heard that Omid Masoumali had set fire to himself on Nauru on April 27, had to wait 26 hours to be airlifted out, during which time he had no pain relief, and then died in Brisbane, it was too much. Suddenly the activism we were engaging in seemed very inadequate.

It took more than 100 years of struggle to ensure the poorest workers in Australia received reasonable wages and conditions. But today inequality and poverty are growing rapidly. The living standards of the majority continue to drop, while at the same time there is a huge expansion of the wealth of a tiny minority.

I caught a taxi this morning. Muslim taxi driver. We listened to the radio silently, side by side all the way, ABC News. Almost all of it, relentlessly, consisted of quotes about the evils of Islam, from lengthy Trump and Clinton quotes to a rationalised discussion about indefinite imprisonment for those with radical views in our own country.

We sat, rigid with embarrassment, with nothing to say. All I could think was that this was 10 minutes out of my day, but it was going to be repeated over and over again for him. And still I had nothing to say.

When I began full-time work in the late 1980s, the working day began and ended at the same time every day. Any change to the routine meant overtime, paid at time-and-a-half or more. Even a delay in the regular lunch break meant overtime paid until the work stopped.

Now, for many, overtime payments are a thing of the past and Patricia Forsyth and the Sydney Chamber of Commerce want to make the working day even more “flexible” — but at whose expense?

“Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” the lady from California enthusiastically chanted down the phone. Some 12,000 kilometres away on a couch in Sydney, I started to chant too. It was infectious.

Mathis, in the middle of his own phone call, grinned from across the room. So did Marcus and Alannah. I would soon learn this sort of thing happened quite a bit when calling US voters on behalf of Bernie Sanders.

In May 1939 the St Louis, carried 935 Jews seeking asylum from Nazi Germany. Many countries refused to let them in, including the US, which used coast guard ships to stop the St Louis from docking. Eventually they were forced to return to Europe, and most of the passengers died in the Holocaust they were fleeing.

Sitting safely inside the head of a pale, grey telebot, slowly gyrating in an attempt to be innocuous; it turned to face the audience, introducing itself as Edward Snowden — the Worlds Most Wanted Man.

Is there anything more wretched and dishonest than the suggestion by pro-capitalist media commentators that any attempt by working people to claw back a fraction of the wealth they create every day represents the "politics of envy"?

It is even more poisonous when coupled with an effort to breed resentment towards fellow workers who have managed to fight for and win better wages and conditions that others. An example is the crass attempt to whip up outrage about Victorian construction workers winning a 15% wage rise over three years.

When donations to political parties from property developers in NSW were prohibited by then-NSW Labor premier Nathan Rees in November 2009 the decision was not well received by significant groupings in the state Labor and Liberal parties.

The ban followed an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into Wollongong City Council which, in 2008, found that local developers had received favourable treatment from elected councillors and staff.

This banker-premier's salesman's smile has well and truly worn thin. The Mike Baird Coalition government of New South Wales is on the nose.

The mood of the thousands of people who marched on NSW Parliament House on May 29 recalled the mounting public rejection of former prime minister Tony Abbott expressed by the March In March movement in 2014. Abbott dismissed March In March as insignificant but by September the following year he was history.

Disengagement from mainstream politics is so widespread that when the marginalised and poor start getting engaged the establishment, and its media, hits back.

This explains the corporate media's sexist-tinged blitzkrieg against Sue Bolton and Roz Ward, both Melbourne-based activists. Both women have come to prominence recently for their determination to stand up for the most marginalised and dispossessed sectors of society and involve others in the process.

The “Say NO to Racism in Moreland” rally on May 28 was originally conceived early this year and organising for it started back in February.

We wanted to offer residents and communities an opportunity to take a public stand on the racist policies of the major parties: their Islamophobia, xenophobia and fear mongering. We also wanted to stand in solidarity with First Nations peoples, who are on the receiving end of institutionalised racism.

In the plans of governments in Adelaide and Canberra, South Australia is to become the country’s “nuclear waste dump state”.

Most South Australians remain sceptical. And among the state’s Aboriginal population — on whose ancestral lands the dumps would be located — opposition to the scheme is rock-solid.

“It’s very simple and easy to understand,” Aboriginal activist Regina McKenzie told Green Left Weekly on May 24. “No means no!”

In the plans of governments in Adelaide and Canberra, South Australia is to become the country's “nuclear waste dump state”.

Below is a transcript of a message John Kaye recorded shortly before his death. It was printed in a collection of articles and speeches given out at a memorial in Sydney to celebrate his life on May 27.

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Australian capitalism is still relatively profitable by international standards. But the structural adjustments underway to compensate for the end of the mining boom are already having a dire impact on poor and middle income people.

The Victorian branch of the National Tertiary Education Union released this statement on June 1. It condemned La Trobe University's decision to suspend Roz Ward for a post on her personal Facebook page that said the Australian flag is racist.

Ward has been a key activist in the Safe Schools anti-bullying campaign for school students. Murdoch's The Australian has run a witch hunt against her with the aim of destroying Safe Schools, which teaches respect and understanding for LGBTIQ students.

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The Malcolm Turnbull Coalition government's economic spin is that they are managing a “transition” from “strong resource investment-led growth to broader-based drivers of economic activity”.

This, it claims in the 2016 budget papers, is a transition to more “labour-intensive sectors, such as services”. Hence the Coalition's mantra: “Growth and jobs”. Sounds nice, but what does this mean for the different classes in Australia?

A report released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis on May 19 has said that the $800 million gas pipeline planned for the Northern Territory is economically unviable, to the extent that it is described as the “whitest of white elephants”.

The pipeline, known as the North East Gas Interconnector (NEGI), has been the crown of the NT Country Liberal Party’s economic strategy in the lead-up to the August election. The pipeline is designed to transport the vast shale gas reserves in the NT from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa for sale to the rest of the world.

Feminists and their supporters have campaigned for decades to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act and treat the procedure as a health issue. For decades, they have been told “now is not the right time”.

Finally, NSW MLC Mehreen Faruqi has moved a repeal Bill.

Two weeks into a protracted election campaign, it is looking ever-more likely that climate change is to be placed way down the order of business – at least for the major parties.

The contest over climate change that characterised the previous three federal elections seems to have disappeared off the political radar despite the issue being more urgent than ever.

Students gathered outside the Wesley College gate at the University of Sydney on May 16, with their mouths taped shut, demanding the names of the editors of the 2014 Wesley Journal, which included a page called the “Rackweb”.

The “Rackweb” featured in the journal as a spider diagram of intercollegiate campus “hookups”, complete with the full names of students who had reportedly had sex with other students, and referred to women named in it as “Biggest Pornstar” or “Best Ass”.

Australian farming is in crisis.

Family farmers are being taken over by corporate agribusinesses, their land is being polluted by mining companies and they are powerless to stop and the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths which keeps prices low for consumers by paying producers prices so low they barely cover costs.

At the same time there is increasing speculation in buying water rights. Farming cannot survive without clean water. The most reliable source of water is artesian, which the mining industry can draw from unregulated and pollute at will.

At the start of the election campaign federal environment minister Greg Hunt came here to announce $50 million in new projects to boost water quality, including efforts to keep sediment, fertilisers and pesticides off the Great Barrier Reef. This announcement was partly to allay concerns over research showing 93% of the Reef had been bleached and dire predictions that the Reef will be dead in 25 years.

Eight short months ago, much of the population celebrated Malcolm Turnbull's ascension to power. Small-l liberals were drunk with joy and rumour has it that even some self-styled socialists joined the love-in. Turnbull was the Great White Knight who had slain the Abbott Dragon. He would turn the political rudder to the left, so we were told, and we would all live happily ever after.

Many writers, no doubt, were also sucked in by this master of spin and his chorus of sycophants. Eight months on, the illusions of those spring days pile up like dead leaves.

As South Asia swelters through a record-breaking heatwave — with reports of hundreds of lives lost in India on top of the hundreds of farmer suicides this year owing to crop failures due to drought — a May 20 Reuters report that Pakistanis were digging mass graves in preparation for heatwave-related deaths brings the grim situation we are in into sharp focus.

Sometimes there are things that appear in the media that just make you shake your head in disbelief. Take for example the tale of Duncan Storrar, the man on ABC's Q&A who dared to ask why the budget was looking after higher income earners while ignoring those on the lower end of the scale.

For his trouble, Storrar was mercilessly attacked by sections of the media for everything from his tax record to his criminal history — all because he publicly dared to question the economic orthodoxy of the federal budget.

While everyone's eyes were focused on the federal budget, the NSW government released a very controversial piece of draft legislation that will remove restrictions on land clearance and, despite their claims, threaten biodiversity.

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