Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1016

A front page article in the Australian on July 11 reported claims that “asylum-seekers are coached and encouraged to attempt self-harm by refugee advocates who then use the incidents as political capital”.

The allegations were made by former director of offshore processing Greg Lake, who said when he worked at what is now the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, “some refugee advocates were clearly urging asylum-seekers to self-harm as a form of protest so they could put out a press release about it”.

Not a week, nor even a day, goes by without a new outrage from the Tony Abbott government. One recent outrage was when Abbott declared that Australia was “unsettled” before the British invasion — taking us back to the days of terra nullius.

This stand, alongside plans to quarantine how young people spend welfare payments while earmarking billions of dollars for unneeded (and technically dubious) fighter jets, indicates the character of the Abbott government.

I must admit I didn’t really want to. I was tired and the footy was on TV at the same time. I had already been at church in the morning — surely I had fulfilled my obligations?

But somehow this day was different. I knew I had to go and march. I had to stand up for the things I believe in, the things that I see this government seeking to take away from those who need it most.

Mostly I had to march because my memories compelled me.

If there is one thing Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not stand for, it is attempts by the powerful to bully the weak.

Reports recently emerged that 10 mothers jailed indefinitely in the Christmas Island detention centre had attempted to take their own lives. With sick children, the women apparently believed the children might have greater chance of better treatment if they were unaccompanied.

More than 45,000 people rallied against the federal budget in cities around the country on July 6, with sizeable crowds in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

The “Bust the Budget” Sydney rally was organised by Unions NSW. Union flags were prominent in the crowd, which reached more than 10,000, making it one of the bigger union mobilisations in recent times.

The Nordic Model is touted as a way to abolish the sex industry without harming or criminalising sex workers. Under the Nordic Model, at least in theory, providing sexual services in exchange for money is not criminalised, but paying for sexual services or living off the earnings of another’s sex work are criminal acts.

The Australian government says there is no need for people to flee Sri Lanka because it is a democratic country. It also claims that, following the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, Sri Lanka is a “society at peace”.

But the end of the war does not mean the country is at peace. It just means that the violence is now one-sided. The Sri Lankan army still commits acts of violence against the Tamil people, but the Tamils can no longer fight back.

The Interim Report of the federal government’s long-awaited and much-feared welfare review, A New System For Better Employment And Social Outcomes, was released on June 29.

Former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McLure, who also chaired the 2000 welfare review for the John Howard government, is chair of the review.

A recent death on the Melbourne waterfront on May 20 was the latest fatality in the stevedoring industry in Australia, and the latest safety issue on a workplace controlled by Toll Holdings.

Statistically, waterside workers are more likely to be killed on the job than any other Australian worker.

GLW Issue 1015

Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer held an unlikely joint press conference on June 25 with former US vice president and climate campaigner Al Gore.

It was one of those mindboggling moments in Australian politics that seem to be a more frequent occurrence in recent times. Palmer used the opportunity to announce his position on some key climate-related policies the incoming Senate will be voting on.

Moreland City Councillor and Socialist Alliance member Sue Bolton delivered the following speech at the Trains Not Tolls rally in Melbourne on June 28. The rally was organised to protest against the new East West Link motorway.

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It’s great seeing people here from all over Melbourne, because this issue affects not just people from the inner city where the East West Link is designed to go, but it affects people from all over Melbourne and all over Victoria.

Sri Lanka has confirmed plans for asylum seekers from its persecuted Tamil ethnic minority to be directly handed over by Australia at sea. Although the Australian government has refused to confirm or deny such plans, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on July 3 that Sri Lanka was “a society at peace” that had made “much progress” on human rights.

That day, the Tamil Refugee Council released a statement explaining the true situation in Sri Lanka that included the ive points below.

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“The Australian government has reached a frightening new low as a human rights’ denier and perpetrator,” the Tamil Refugee Council said on July 3.

The council was responding to “credible media reports” about immigration minister Scott Morrison's “abhorrent act of secretly sending back a boatload of Tamil asylum-seekers to the certainty of a Sri Lankan jail and the probability of rape and torture”.

The Tony Abbott government has recently been at pains to emphasise that it is “protecting” the community from Australian-born “jihadists” returning from participation in conflicts in the Middle East.

Having learned the tools of the terrorist trade in zones of sectarian strife, they argue, these “extremists” might well embark on a campaign of politically-motivated civil slaughter in this country.

Citing this as a motivating factor, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently cancelled several Australian passports.

Welfare groups have expressed anger at changes to welfare for people with disabilities, which the federal government released in a draft report on June 29.

The McClure report proposes far-reaching changes to the welfare system and cuts the number of welfare payments to just four; a working age payment, disability support, child support and the age pension.

There are 830,000 recipients on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Social services minister Kevin Andrews has suggested only people with a permanent disability would be eligible for the DSP.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a recent address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, “all fit young people should be ... expected to persevere for six months to find a job or to choose a further training programme before accessing welfare payments”.

The government’s stubbornness in persisting with the changes to Newstart Allowance for job-seekers under 30 ignores the advice from welfare agencies and other parties that it will lead to poverty or crime, not increased employment.

Clive Palmer is proving to be a more adept and unpredictable populist than many of us gave him credit for. The latest surprise was his decision to back the abolition of the carbon tax while opposing the scrapping of the Renewable Energy Target, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Commission.

For controversial sporting bans for violating “common decency”, forget Luis Suarez and his four-month ban from all football-related activities after the Uruguayan striker decided to taste a little Italian. If you want a really outrageous penalty for a sporting star, it is hard to overlook the sacking of rugby league player Todd Carney.

GLW Issue 1014

A glaring omission from the strategy debate over how to fight the budget has been any solid discussion from most union leaders about how and when to deploy industrial action.

At the packed out mass delegates' meeting in Sydney on June 12, National Tertiary Education Union activist Susan Price moved two amendments to the official motion that, judging from the room, had they been put would have committed Unions NSW to do just that.

In the first two weeks of hearings at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, further claims were made against Labor leader and former national secretary of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Bill Shorten.

Former Health Services Union (HSU) official Marco Belano told the commission that Shorten donated $5000 to his 2009 union election campaign when Shorten was parliamentary secretary for disabilities in the Labor government.

Is it just me, or are the government going out of their way to be such extreme bastards on such a wide array of issues, that it seems a plot to just wear us all out?

Because once you've screamed “AAAAAAAAARRGGHH” for the 17th time in the first half hour after waking up, you've got no voice left with which to register a protest about the 18th insane injustice — inevitably some proposal to force disabled pensioners to sell at least two still-functioning organs or face being put to work as indentured servants for Gina Rinehart.

The government is ducking and weaving in the face of combined resistance to its cruel budget.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing on June 26 that the Productivity Commission's review of the Fair Work Act will now be delayed until the second half of this year.

The media say this is to allow the government to devote its energies into getting its budget measures through, and to avoid an all-out campaign by unions to "revive the spectre of Work Choices".

Breakthrough 2014, National Climate Restoration Forum, held over June 21 to 22 in Melbourne, brought together scientists, economists, engineers, business leaders and climate activists.

In some regards, the forum represented an important step forward for the Australian climate movement. It highlighted the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis and discussed the possibility of restoring a reasonably safe climate in which human civilisation could continue.

At its national conference over June 7-9, the Socialist Alliance adopted an amendment to its Charter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights, which stated that it does not support Constitutional recognition in the current form put forward by the government and the Reconciliation Australia initiative Recognise.

The policy now states that Constitutional recognition must be accompanied by sovereignty, land rights and a treaty.

LIFE FOR MOST AUSTRALIANS IS GETTING HARDER, WHILE POLITICIANS SERVE THE WEALTHY. BUT PUBLIC BACKLASH IS BREWING INTO A MOVEMENT TO CHALLENGE THIS SYSTEM, WRITES SUSAN PRICE.

In handing down its first budget, the Coalition government echoed its National Commission of Audit, warning that a “business as usual” scenario for public spending on welfare, pensions, public services, health and education is “unsustainable”, even “irresponsible” in Australia today.

In 2011, the Maritime Union of Australia invited leaders of the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation (MOJO) in Britain to Australia -- Gerry Conlon, Paddy Joe Hill and John McManus.

GLW Issue 1013

An opinion poll showing that only 24% of Victorians support the government's flagship road project, the East West Link, has sent shockwaves through the Victorian government.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on June 19.

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The US, Australia and other partners-in-crime in the more than a decade-long war on Iraq must not be allowed to use the latest conflicts in that country to increase their military intervention in the region.

The Socialist Alliance adds its voice to others in Australia rejecting Prime Minister Tony Abbott's all-the-way-with-the USA commitment made to US President Barack Obama over Iraq.

Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.

More than half a million Iraqis have been displaced and hundreds killed after the fall of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul to Islamic fundamentalists. But even as the crisis in Iraq dramatically worsens, Australia is refusing to offer any reprieve for the thousands of Iraqi refugees in its care.