Comment and Analysis

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott stating its complete opposition to the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities.

In November 2011, US president Barack Obama announced that the military focus of the US was “pivoting” to the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, as part of this “pivot”, he announced that US marines were to be stationed in Darwin.

Following those announcements, a ripple of discontent spread around the nation. Numerous peace groups, academics, faith-based groups and unions began talking to one another about this “pivot” and the threat it represents.

Legislation allowing the 99-year lease — effectively privatisation — of the majority of the NSW electricity network passed through state parliament on June 3. The bill was passed through the Legislative Council, after more than 60 amendments were debated, with the support of Rev Fred Nile's Christian Democrats.

Labor and the Greens opposed the bill. Labor leader in the Legislative Council Adam Searle said on June 3 that the outcome showed a debasing of parliamentary process:

For young people today, the international situation can seem hopeless. The world seems increasingly filled with chaos and crisis, as austerity and war impoverish and immiserate increasing numbers of people around the globe.

The situation facing young people today, in Australia and around the world, is difficult to say the least, and it is important to confront such a situation seriously and with determination.

The campaign against racism and the far right needs a clear understanding of racism and fascism and how to fight these threats.

Racism is not inherent in human beings. It is a product of capitalism. Racist scapegoating is used by the corporate rich because it undermines solidarity among workers, opening the way for conservative policies such as privatisation and cuts to social spending.

Reports of physical and sexual violence, including against children, continue to emerge from Australian refugee detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Allegations have also emerged that Australian authorities had paid people smugglers to take a boat of asylum seekers away from Australian waters.

But the government has continued to respond with secrecy, vilification of critics and increasingly draconian government measures to prevent information coming out.

In a David and Goliath struggle that became known as the “Jobs for Women” campaign, 34 mostly migrant, unemployed, working-class women took on Australia’s largest company, Broken Hill Propriety Limited (BHP).

In a landmark legal and industrial struggle, they sued BHP’s subsidiary, Australian Iron and Steel (AIS) in Port Kembla for sex discrimination because they refused to employ women. After a long, hard struggle over 14 years, the campaign eventually won damages estimated at up to $9 million for more than 700 women who had applied to work at the steelworks.

I am not sure federal Treasurer Joe Hockey really thought through his “get a good job that pays well” solution to the Sydney housing crisis. After all, as our treasurer teaches us in his Book of Joe, the poor don't drive, so how are they going to get to the job interviews?

We are experiencing a crisis of domestic violence in Australia, but not in the sense that it has unexpectedly arrived. In fact, there has always been a domestic violence crisis in Australia.

It is a preventable epidemic that has been allowed to flourish in our communities through silence, neglect, a culture that promotes male power and violence and a failure by those in power to act.

So a member of the Coalition government said something tone-deaf and out of touch again. It must have been on a day ending with “y”.

When asked last week about housing affordability, federal Treasurer Joe Hockey came out with this cracker: "The starting point for a first homebuyer is to get a good job that pays good money." Oh, of course, Joe! Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?

Rachel Evans gave this speech to a rally for marriage equality in Sydney on May 31. She is a member of Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) and the Socialist Alliance.

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We are on the cusp of a victory.

A victory of ordinary people against prejudice and bigotry.

We are on the edge of winning this battle for marriage equality — when the likes of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and conservative journalists Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt coming out positively for our love rights, we know we are close.

This speech was given by high-school student Lawson Tanner at a rally for marriage equality in Sydney on May 31.

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The long road of changing public opinion and constant campaigning, which has brought us to now, a time where many believe this could be it.

The Greens have recently introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Marriage Act to remove restrictions on marriage being between a man and a woman, and Labor have also put in a similar bill.

There was a time when an Australian Council of Trade Union congress would be covered by a media pack the size of the parliamentary press gallery. But with private sector union membership languishing at just 12% of the workforce, these days are long gone. Events during the recently held May triennial congress highlighted some of the reasons for organised labour’s demise.

During a week in which the issue of gay marriage was being canvassed in the national parliament, the congress was silent on the matter, largely due to the opposition of ACTU senior vice-president Joe de Bruyn.

Hundreds of environmental activists blocked a port terminal in Seattle on May 16 to protest against Royal Dutch Shell’s proposed drilling in the Arctic. Shell is set to carry out more environmentally irresponsible deep-water drilling as a result of their planned $US74 billion takeover of rival company BG.

BG is a British multinational with several deep-water drilling projects around the globe. In 2008, it paid $US3.4 billion for Curtis LNG in Queensland and now exports coal seam gas (CSG) to Asia from Gladstone.

A new enterprise bargaining agreement reached by the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) is set to leave thousands of low-paid workers worse off, according to detailed analysis conducted by union official Josh Cullinan, the May 24 Sydney Morning Herald said.

“Cullinan, who works for the National Tertiary Education Union, did the analysis in a personal capacity, estimated Coles could be saving more than $20 million a year in wages by underpaying its staff.

The township of Camberwell in the Hunter Valley and Camberwell coalmine in the background.

Early this month, Beyond Zero Emissions published a report called Fossil Economy, which highlighted the potential economic risks to Australia because of its heavy dependence on fossil fuel exports.

The Baird Coalition government is rushing its legislation for the privatisation of NSW power assets through the Legislative Assembly, without waiting for the report of the Legislative Council’s inquiry into the sell-off, due on June 2.

The move to fast track the bill before the inquiry, chaired by Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile, releases its report, exposes the inquiry as a sham, according to Greens NSW MLC John Kaye. Premier Mike Baird has ridden roughshod over the process and denied the public a proper investigation into the long-term impacts of the sale.

Australian lawmakers are set to begin debating marriage equality, and the anti-equality brigade is not happy at all.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director Lyle Shelton is the public face of the campaign against marriage equality in Australia.

I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but I do agree with his motto, which can be aptly summarised by Helen Lovejoy’s catchphrase, “won’t somebody please think of the children.” But for once in my life I should make a minor confession: I mostly agree out of pure narcissism.

This is my open letter to Shelton.

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Socialist Alliance’s Sue Bolton spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne.

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with Bolton. You can find the whole interview at links.org.au.

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The federal government wants to allow burning native forest waste to qualify for renewable energy subsidies under the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

They reached a compromise with Labor early this month for a renewable energy target of 33 gigawatt hours (GWh).

However, negotiations have since broken down due to the federal government’s fine print inclusion of burning native forest biomass in furnaces and the retention of two-yearly reviews of the RET.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has turned playing the national security card into a cliche in his desperate attempt to reverse his unpopularity by promising to protect Australians' lives from a serious threat of terrorism.

On May 26, he again gave a press conference in front of half a dozen Australian flags, arguing that stopping Australians from being harmed by terrorists was his government's overriding priority and foreshadowing announcements in the coming parliamentary sitting week of a new round of legislation attacking fundamental civil liberties.

On May 19, the federal government’s Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption released a 116-page discussion paper recommending a swathe of new attacks on union rights.

The proposals give the clearest indication so far of the likely outcome of the expensive inquisition into the union movement when the commission releases its findings in December.

The document presents little more than a sweeping wish list of restrictions on the rights of union officials and the ability of unions to carry out their work to benefit members.

Marriage Equality has come to Ireland through a popular referendum. The result was hailed by the May 23 New York Times as placing Ireland “at the vanguard of social change”.

This will be surprising to many, considering Ireland is a country in which transgender status is not recognised by the state, abortion is illegal, gay couples are denied access to surrogacy, unmarried couples cannot adopt, and homosexuality was decriminalised as recently as 1994.

In 1939, as Europe stood on the verge of all-out war, Nazi Germany, true to their promise, had issued and implemented 400 different decrees for the regulation of the public and private lives of Jews. Their properties were confiscated, and their businesses and synagogues were burned down. These laws effectively purged Jews from schools, academia, business and public life, and declared them “undesirables”. Many Jews were forced to seek asylum in other Western countries.

A 59-year-old Aboriginal man died in Darwin on May 21 while being held under controversial new “paperless arrest laws”. These laws give police the powers to arrest people for summary offences — such as “obscenity”, undue noise, offensive language — and hold them for up to four hours at a time.

In NSW, a program that has been proved to prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody has lost funding under the federal government’s ironically named Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

If you listen to most Western politicians you could be forgiven for thinking that refugees are a pesky annoyance, greedy “economic refugees” from the Third World illegitimately trying to break into this wealthy country.

Their now monotonously routine scapegoating of refugees for the pain and insecurity that more and more people feel, even in the richest countries in the world, translates into plain abuse out there in the public.

The toll of Australia's bipartisan anti-refugee policies in death and suffering is rising. In the past fortnight more than 3000 Rohingya refugees from Arakan state in Burma (Myanmar) have turned up on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, having either swum ashore or been rescued by local fishing boat crews. An estimated 7000 more are trapped on boats that have been described as “floating coffins”.

In January this year, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott drew attention to the “unfolding tragedy” of violence against women and vowed to put the issue of what he misleadingly calls “domestic violence” on the national agenda.

You would not have thought it possible, but Tony Abbott appears to be degenerating — in literacy skills as well as morality. Having campaigned on a simplistic three word slogan, in office, he's decided that's two too many, and has cut “Stop the boats” to “Nope, nope, nope.”

The May 2015 budget was framed by the Abbott government with one issue in mind — winning the next federal election. Although there are some members of the Coalition keen on an early election, it seems unlikely to be called until sometime next year.

In its latest federal budget, the Tony Abbott Liberal-National government announced the setting up of a $5 billion “concessional loan facility” called the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. The proposal has been condemned by environmental and Aboriginal rights groups.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as a local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the third of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton. You can find the whole interview at Links: Online Journal of Socialist Renewal.
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Is there a tension between getting involved in the here-and-now and local issues, and balancing that off with our engagement with national and global issues and vision for a new society?

It took a long time for politicians to accept that human actions were warming the planet. Climate scientists began warning that human actions in burning fossil fuels were changing the climate in the late 1980s.

The difficulty was how to put the scientific data into a simple form that the public and politicians could understand. Their first effort was to describe Earth as if it were covered by something that kept the heat in: the greenhouse effect.

If you want to meet the best Australians, meet Indigenous men and women who understand this extraordinary country and have fought for the rights of the world's oldest culture. Theirs is a struggle more selfless, heroic and enduring than any historical adventure non-Indigenous Australians are required incessantly to celebrate.

I know this to be true, because I have been reporting from and filming in Indigenous communities for most of my life. In 1984, I met one of the best Australians, Kwementyaye Randall.

Following a recent meeting of federal and state ministers with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figures, the federal government announced that it will publish by mid-year the emissions target it will take to the Paris Climate Summit in November.

However, even if all the world's governments agree to limit future emissions to what would cause the global average surface temperature to rise by no more than 2°C from before industrialisation, it will not be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.

I have never really thought about the impact free education has had on me. Where would my life be if I had to pay to get an education? I am from Denmark. I would certainly not be here in Australia; I might not even have gone to high school.

The Abbott government has coped a lot of flak for breaking promises, but this budget bucks the trend. Abbott always promised a “no surprises” approach to government, and with this self-proclaimed “dull” budget, his government has finally delivered.

Few may have predicted some of the weirder moments of Abbott's reign, like knighting Prince Philip, threatening to shirtfront Vladimir Putin or making Bronwyn Bishop speaker of the House, but who could honestly say they were surprised by more proposals to hurt the poor and help the rich.

New mothers will be pushed to return to work sooner and non-working families will be punished by having childcare subsidies reduced in the government’s latest budget.

Treasurer Joe Hockey chose Mother's Day on May 10 to announce that almost 80,000 women will have their existing paid parental leave slashed, saving $1 billion.

At the moment the government provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage of $600 a week.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the second of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton. You can find the whole interview at Links: Online Journal of Socialist Renewal.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Particularly when it comes to responsible reporting of Aboriginal poverty.

Last week, Four Corners pointed its lens into a few Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and produced a beautiful piece of promotion for the WA government and its plans for a catastrophic assault on Aboriginal homelands.

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