Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1011

The demand of tens of thousands of people who marched through the streets in cities around Australia on May 18 was clear. They want the federal government’s killer budget blocked.

They want Labor, the Greens and independents to band together in the Senate to block the major bills implementing the attacks on Medicare, education and welfare.

They want the supply/appropriation bills (the three bills that authorise the funds from treasury required by the government to carry on its day-to-day business) to be blocked, thereby forcing the government to go to a new election.

If you were to take Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Coalition on face value, they appear to be against debt.

All the pain imposed on the poorest in society by the federal budget and all the cuts to education, health and welfare are justified as being necessary “medicine” to solve a horrendous debt problem left to them by previous Labor governments. Yes, we've heard that line over and over again.

Never mind the fact that the government's debt as a proportion of gross domestic product is one of the lowest among the developed countries and lower than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

While attacking pensioners, the unemployed, single parents and the marginalised, the Coalition government has stepped up its attack on the organised.

There are two inquiries aimed at unions underway — a Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act and the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Both are designed to emasculate an already legislatively constrained union movement.

For good measure, Attorney-General George Brandis has now added a third.

Memo to concern trolls Annabel Crabb and Howard-era minister Amanda Vanstone: take your own advice and stop being selfish thugs and bullies. And if Fairfax journalist Crabb is going to criticise student protests for being “outdated”, she should drop the 1950s style housewife persona.

In a May 23 Sydney Morning Herald article, Crabb said she was “concerned” that thousands of students taking part in a recent national day of action against increased university fees were going about things the wrong way. Take notice students of Australia. Activism, you’re doing it wrong.

The Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was set up in January last year, after decades of campaigning by victims.

Led by Justice Peter McClellan, the first public hearings began in April last year and apply only to children sexually abused up to the age of 18. It does not include physical or emotional abuse.

Doug Jordan, a long-time socialist and union militant, who transformed himself in later life into an innovative labour historian, died on May 19 in Melbourne at the age of 63. Doug passed away after a hard struggle with cancer.

In recent years, Doug was a community activist, especially with the campaign to defend public housing, and co-presented the 3CR program City Limits on Wednesday mornings for 14 years.

The Australian government’s review of the February violence on Manus Island leaves critical questions unanswered and does not call for the detention camp to be closed.

Robert Cornall’s 107-page administrative review, released on May 26, includes a detailed account of 23-year-old Reza Berati’s death and identifies a Salvation Army employee as instigating the attack.

GLW Issue 1010

The federal government’s budget is a huge economic, social and ideological attack on women. At its heart are government spending cuts aimed directly at depriving working-class women of the means for economic independence.

A report released last week by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) said low-income households headed by women will bear the heaviest burden under the changes proposed in the budget.

The turnout and energy at the March in May rallies on May 18 proved that people are not going to take this budget lying down.

Numbers were up in several cities compared with March in March. In Melbourne, Hobart and Brisbane there were sizeable anti budget rallies on the day, even though March Australia groups had decided not to organise protests.

Student rallies against the cuts to education on May 21 were bigger than any seen for a decade.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey are bare-faced liars. They sold their budget on the idea that we all had to share in the pain to pay for an unsustainable national debt.

But it has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt that we are not all sharing the pain and that the government's debt is not unsustainable.

Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance released this statement on May 22.

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The struggle against education cuts has exploded onto the national stage in the lead up to and following the budget announcement by the federal Coalition government, a budget set to massively increase student debt.

With a series of political stunts and protests against individual Liberal Party politicians, there has been a serious political response to these fee increases and cuts, not just by students, but by all young people.

Gemma Weedall gave this speech at the March in May rally in Adelaide on May 18. She is a member of the Climate Emergency Action Network and the Socialist Alliance.

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This week I heard some news that really scared and shook me. Believe it or not, I’m not talking about the budget – although that did too.

Love Makes A Way is a movement of Christians seeking an end to Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker policies through prayer and non-violent action. The group organised a sit-in protest in Tony Abbott’s office on May 19, leading to seven arrests. Below, Karl Hand explains why he took part in the protest.

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A forum titled “An Aboriginal Perspective on Inequality, The Intervention, Racism and Struggle” was held on May 6 in Adelaide. Hosted by the South Australia Aboriginal Coalition for Social Justice, the Socialist Alliance and SIMpla, the forum heard from an all-Aboriginal panel including Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy member Boe Spearim and Northern Territory-based activist Amelia Kunoth-Monks.

After the brutal budget comes the ceaseless round of insulting lies and justifications from the government.

GLW Issue 1009

I had a heart attack when I was just 55. It was a surprise and a shock. I'd never smoked, was not a big drinker and wasn't carrying too much weight. It was probably a genetic predisposition to heart disease. That was six years ago.

Last week I went through the annual tests and consultation with the cardiologist and was told I'm “doing very well” thanks to exercise, a supportive family and the public, universal healthcare system we have in Australia.

The NSW government's suspension of Metgasco's licence at Bentley in the Northern Rivers of NSW has lifted spirits across Australia.

For years, communities have been battling the bipartisan support for the unconventional gas industry's advance into prime agricultural land in NSW.

The licence has been only suspended, not cancelled.

Yet the decision is a vindication that people power — sustained mass community campaigning — can be a powerful force.

Curiously, NSW energy minister Anthony Roberts said the licence suspension was because Metgasgo had failed to consult the community.

Many people are looking for effective ways to fight and get rid of the conservative governments in power in Australia.

Some have chosen the tactic of a marginal seats campaign. This involves intensive campaigning in the individual electorates where a politician holds the seat by a very small majority and is therefore insecure.

Joyce Stevens was born on January 6, 1928 and was 87 when she died on May 6.

She was the third child in a family of four children, with two older brothers and a younger sister, Lorna, who survives her. Her father was a railway fettler and her mother had been a nurse.

The family lived in country NSW and Joyce enjoyed some of the pleasures and freedoms of country children. She moved to Sydney with her mother and two of her siblings when she was 14.

For years the federal budget has been brutal on refugees and asylum seekers. Each year for the past two decades, visa places have been cut or made more difficult to gain, and services and rights to appeal are cut. The rights of people seeking protection in Australia are slowly eroded while detention centres get bigger and bigger budgets.

Now, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have revealed a budget that takes the war on refugees to new heights — with a newly merged border control agency, more patrol boats and the axing of independent oversight of refugee processing.

There is a lot of hype about so-called pain in this budget, and sure, not everyone comes out a winner. But, basically, as long as you are not a young person or an old person, you should be fine.

Or a middle-aged person who plans on getting old. Or a public servant. Or a farmer. Or someone who wants to study at university, or who owes money from past study.

In recent weeks, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has managed to add a number of prominent Liberal Party politicians and apparatchiks to those of the Labor Party who are accused of complicity in corrupt practices.

The commission is set to suspend its current inquiry on May 16 and resume again in August. This will allow ICAC officers to conduct further investigations into the affairs of the former Liberal police minister Mike Gallacher, who resigned in early May in the wake of ICAC allegations against him.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on May 16.

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The federal parliament's joint committee on electoral matters is recommending changes to the federal electoral laws supposedly to address the problem of some small parties "gaming" preference direction through above-the-line voting for the Senate.

However, the joint committee has also proposed raising the number of members required for federal electoral party registration from 500 to 1500. 

And so it begins — an offensive, on behalf of the Australian ruling class and corporate interests, to steal the future from the majority of Australians, to dismantle what remains of our social welfare system, in order to carry out, in the words of Treasurer Joe Hockey, "the government's solemn duty ... to build a stronger Australia".

GLW Issue 1008

I have recently celebrated my 69th birthday. I have three adult sons, six grand children and one great grandchild, all of whom I love dearly. Last December marked 51 years since I was married and next month will be 30 years since I finally left the marriage.

Despite the research I have done, together with almost five years of counselling, I still suffer from the impact of 20 years of domestic violence. I have been diagnosed as suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is amazing, really, what with money being so tight these days, that there are people who seem to think we should be entitled to access a government minister for free!

It is a wonder anyone is upset that Treasurer Joe Hockey has been revealed selling meetings to businesses when he has made it perfectly clear time and time again: the age of entitlement is over!

Well, here we are at the halfway mark. It’s been about eight weeks since Alcoa announced it was shutting up shop in Geelong and there’s a little over eight weeks before workers are tossed out the gate for good.

But where are the announcements from the state and federal governments or Alcoa about how they will address the economic black hole and job losses in Geelong?

New documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activists who took part in Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford writes about Wollongong's transition from making steel to looking after the environment.

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It is utterly galling to hear the leader of the federal Labor opposition criticising the government for proposing a “new tax” in the form of a modest and temporary “deficit levy” on taxpayers in the highest income bracket.

“Tony Abbott, Australians do not want your tax increases full stop,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said at a May 7 press conference.

The federal Commission of Audit's proposal to cut the minimum wage would create an underclass of US-style "working poor" in this country, the Australian Council of Trade Unions says.

The ACTU said on May 5: "The plan to aggressively drive down the minimum wage would see its real value fall to its 1998 level of $12 an hour.”