Comment and Analysis

The financial scandal in the Health Services Union (HSU) involving its national president Michael Williamson and former national secretary Craig Thompson ended in the courts when both of them were convicted for fraud and theft offences.

It became the trigger for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce on February 10 last year that he was setting up a Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption headed by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon.

The NSW Coalition blocked a Greens’ motion in the upper house on August 12 calling for long-term funding for violence prevention and specialist services.

Funding for women’s refuges across NSW has been cut and the services tendered out to charities, including religious ones.

The motion acknowledged that:
· domestic and family violence is the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45;
· this year, violence against women at the hands of someone they were involved with or knew, has claimed the lives of 34 women across Australia;

One in three women is a victim of domestic violence. I am one of those.

The violence did not happen until I was pregnant and, as a result, vulnerable. I did not report it to the police as I was too scared: it was carried out in the privacy of our flat; there was no obvious injury and he was very contrite afterwards.

I vividly remember him buying me breakfast at a cafe the next morning, an unusual event, while I sat too traumatised and depressed to say anything. Before that, I had never suffered a physical assault from anyone.

The great power of Vincent Lingiariʼs story is that it teaches us how this land sings to us all, how it holds us and nurtures us. This is the common ground that we share.

When the Gurindji leader and his people walked off Wave Hill Station, camping by the Victoria River and then eventually by Wattie Creek at Dagaragu almost half a century ago, they understood that the land was their birthright and their destiny.

Tony Abbott is a man of principle, so long as that principle is resisting the 21st century, says Carlo Sands.

Tony Abbott’s government has managed, yet again, to delay making a decision about equal marriage.

Opinion poll after opinion poll shows an overwhelming majority of Australians supporting equal marriage — more than 70% support for marriage equality in the last poll conducted by Liberal Party pollsters Crosby Textor — but Tony Abbott continues to drag his feet.

It is now more difficult for unemployed people to find a job than it has been for 20 years. Official youth unemployment is 12% and the official national jobless rate has risen to a 13-year high of 6.3%.

The last time employment prospects were so depressed was in the 1990s when the national unemployment rate was 8%. In South Australia, the official unemployment rate is now 7.9%, with employment growth a negligible 0.3%.

World famous climate scientist James Hansen, known as the “father of global warming” for being the first to see the threat of catastrophic climate change in 1988, has issued a new warning. Sea level changes are likely to be much higher, less stable and happen much sooner than previous predictions.

The official unemployment rate in Broadmeadows is 23.5% but the real unemployment and underemployment rates are far higher. Youth unemployment is higher than the overall rate. We are very close to the 30% unemployment rate of the Great Depression.

Woolworths has now announced that it intends to close its Hume Distribution Centre and shift it across town to the outer south-eastern suburbs. This would throw about 680 people out of work.

Seventy years ago this month, the US committed two of the worst terrorist attacks in human history. The incineration of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs represented the bloody climax of World War II. The nation that committed this heinous crime soon itself came to be the only remaining capitalist superpower.

Recent scandals have placed a spotlight on Australia’s electoral system. However, the discussion about possible electoral reforms has largely failed to go beyond touch-ups to an increasingly obsolete set-up.

Moreover, some changes would ultimately help tighten the grip that the two major pro-corporate parties have on power — precisely at a time when more Australians are turning their backs on them.

Recent revelations have demonstrated what many of us already know: both the Liberals and Labor are backed by big business.

The federal government has been widely criticised for its weak carbon emission reduction target announced on August 11. The new target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 will replace the previous target of a 5% emissions reduction on 2000 levels.

These targets are nowhere near enough to stay under a 1.5°C rise in global temperature, needed to prevent going over climate tipping points.

When Tony Abbott’s government asked the Productivity Commission to review Australia’s “workplace relations framework” it was for the sole purpose of providing it with cover for more attacks on workers’ pay and conditions.

One of its terms of reference was to examine the ability that employers had to “flexibly” manage and engage with their employees.

Flexibility is a word that once commonly conveyed a positive sense of resourcefulness and adaptability. But the notion of flexibility that the Productivity Commission refers to is one shaped by employers.

Public disgust at Bronwyn Bishop's $5000 helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong is entirely justified. However, Tony Abbott's “root and branch” review of politicians' “entitlements” is designed to whitewash, not solve, the problem.

After all, it is not as if we haven't had “root and branch” inquiries into politicians' entitlements before.

For a long time, superannuation was available only to permanent public sector workers and managerial employees in the private sector. So-called “blue collar” workers were not so privileged. In the mid-1980s, only about a quarter of these workers had access to superannuation, more often than not following union-led campaigns in targeted industries.

Activists are hoping that a bill to tighten the rules governing unconventional gas exploration and production in New South Wales will pass the Legislative Council on August 13.

Such is the groundswell of opposition to this part of the fossil fuel industry, a Greens Bill has support from NSW Labor and a couple of small right-wing parties.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham told Green Left Weekly that he expects the Bill to pass, with amendments proposed by Labor.

The conservative right has launched a last ditch campaign to swing public opinion away from support for marriage equality.

The Marriage Alliance, a new organisation dedicated to opposing what it sees as a threat to “family values”, was launched on August 2. Backed by wealthy businesspeople, the campaign hopes to scare people away from marriage equality by raising vague but menacing threats about damage to children and loss of “rights and freedoms”.

Victoria Police announced on August 6 they had arrested and charged a 38-year-old man in connection with death threats made against Socialist Party councillor Steve Jolly, from Yarra Council in Melbourne’s inner north. The threats referred to Jolly’s prominent role in mobilisations countering the far right Islamophobic groups Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front (UPF).

What do working people in a country like Australia need with trade unions or legal protections when employers in this country are so thoughtful as to email their workers at midnight to tell them they were sacked, as Hutchison Ports kindly did on August 6 to nearly 100 port workers in Sydney and Brisbane?

Jamie Williams, a 28-year-old Melbourne man, was remanded in custody on July 27 after being charged by the Melbourne Joint Counter Terrorism Team for attempting to leave Australia on December 28 to travel to northern Iraq and fight with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State and Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Green Left Weekly’s Zane Alcorn spoke to Rob Stary, who has been representing Williams in this case, about the anti-terror laws and the Kurdish liberation struggle.

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Mining giant Adani’s plan for a mega coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin was dealt a near death blow on August 5 when the Federal Court set aside approval for the Carmichael licence.

The mine, if built, would be Australia’s largest, exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from the Great Barrier Reef coast every year. The federal environment minister gave the $16.5 billion mine and rail project approval in July last year. The current and former Queensland governments have been gung-ho in their support for the mine.

Has a not-for-profit or charity (an NGO) contacted you to suggest switching electricity retailer? Are you convinced this helps them promote their causes while also addressing climate change?

Several NGOs are now promoting an electricity retailer Powershop to their supporters. Australian activist group GetUp! pioneered such marketing. Others forming partnerships with Powershop include anti-poverty charity Oxfam, and environmental NGOs.

The Australian Labor Party’s 47th National Conference was held in Melbourne from July 24 to 26. It is its highest decision-making forum and the largest political gathering in the country. The conference decides the policies that Labor will take to the next federal election and potentially implement in government.

A few days before the conference began, Labor leader Bill Shorten announced a policy of turning back asylum seeker boats, essentially agreeing with the Coalition government’s policy.

After the victories in Ireland and the US, activists are reflecting that Australia too is on the cusp of a victory on marriage equality.

This framed the discussion at a lively forum in Sydney on July 28, entitled "Marriage equality and beyond: Taking the struggle forward".

However, as the speakers noted, the struggle is by no means won, and there are still many challenges facing the LGBTI community. The forum discussed the history and future of the fight for equal marriage rights and the rainbow struggle generally.

We thought marriage equality was in the bag after Prime Minister Tony Abbott hinted he’d support a cross-party bill and conscience vote in the Liberal Party room in June.

We thought we were closer when opposition leader Bill Shorten put forward a marriage equality bill. Victories overseas — Ireland and the US — in May and June propelled momentum here.

But both Abbott and Shorten are now backtracking.

Buru Energy is an oil and gas exploration and production company that plans to explore and develop the gas resources of the Canning Basin, in the south-west Kimberley region in Western Australia.

The company wants to use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to test for tight gas flows in four wells — the Asgard well in Noonkanbah, two Yulleroo wells on Yawuru country, and Valhalla in an unclaimed area.

Buru has refused to provide details of their chemical risk assessment to traditional owners.

The Wilderness Society released this statement on July 30.

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Scientists have warned that if humanity is to avoid catastrophic climate change — which means limiting a rise in average global temperature to 2°C above that of pre-industrial times — most known fossil fuels reserves have to stay in the ground.

The science is lost on the Tony Abbott government, which argues that Australia’s vast fossil fuel reserves will ensure the country’s energy remains “cheap”.

The fight for marriage equality in Australia has been long ongoing, and its success long, long overdue. Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), for instance, is just one of the groups which have fought for equal legal rights. Founded in 1999, it has been campaigning tirelessly for well over a decade. This activism has already changed Australia, helping create majority support for marriage equality.

The Wilderness Society has obtained documents under freedom of information that show that the Tasmanian government is driving the endangered Swift Parrot to extinction.

Last year the Tasmanian government quietly changed its rules to allow the parrot’s breeding habitat to be destroyed by logging. They also withdrew from the Swift Parrot Recovery Team, the national multi-agency expert group tasked with saving the species. The documents also show that federal environment minister Greg Hunt has repeatedly refused to act to protect one of Australia’s most endangered animals.

Forest conservation groups have demanded that the New South Wales government immediately halt logging operations in state forest areas known to be koala habitat. They fear that proposals by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to allow clear felling of large areas of forests on the NSW north coast could be the catalyst that tips the area's koalas onto the path to extinction.

When Gough Whitlam’s Labor government abolished university fees in January 1974, student enrolments had already been increasing at double the population growth for two decades.

In 1985, three years before Bob Hawke’s Labor government abolished free tertiary education and brought in the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), it had decided to develop the full-fee international marketing of education as an export industry.

Seventy years ago, two split second explosions changed the course of history. The blinding light and fireballs that scorched Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the start of the atomic age. More than 200,000 people died either instantly or within a couple of months. Thousands more have died in the years since due to the radiological impacts of the bombs.

There has been a wave of support for famous Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes in the face of the racist torrent that has been directed at him.

At the same time as people are expressing their solidarity with Goodes, right-wing commentators such as Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones are doing their best to stoke the racism, by denying that Goodes has been subjected to racist booing.

The results of the recent Australian Labor Party (ALP) conference vote on boat turnbacks shows why building a progressive alternative to the left of the ALP in Australia today is urgently needed.

Thank god the age of entitlement is over and the days of the lifters carrying the leaners is finished. Otherwise, just imagine what sort of absurd things politicians like Bronwyn Bishop might claim.

Instead of a $5000 helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong for a Liberal Party fundraiser, the Speaker might have taken a taxpayer-funded gold-plated spaceship via Pluto, stocked with black truffle mushrooms and caviar.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society released this statement on July 21.

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The Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australian environmental movement is in mourning over the sudden and unexpected loss of Felicity “Flic” Wishart who passed away in her sleep on July 19 aged 49.

Flic was one of Australia’s leading conservationists and was a great and inspiring champion for the planet, the cause she dedicated her life to.


Clearfelling old growth forest in Tasmania. Previously destroyed for woodchips, native forests are now in danger of being burned to create electricity.

Reports that the owner of Victoria’s Hazelwood coal power station, GDF Suez, has been considering plans to convert it into a co-firing facility, allowing it to burn native forest waste as well as brown coal, have been slammed by environmentalists.


Tropical storms are increasing in frequency and strength. City of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines, after Super Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest tropical storm to make landfall in history, struck in November 2013. Photo: Partido Lakas ng Masa.

Opposition to Shenhua Watermark’s unpopular $1.2 billion open-cut coal mine, proposed for the Liverpool Plains in the north-west of NSW, is growing. The Coalition cabinet is split, as are NSW and federal National Party MPs.

Federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, who is fighting to hold his New England seat, opposes the mine. His cabinet colleague, federal environment minister Greg Hunt, signed the mine’s approval on July 4.

The neoliberal agenda for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Sydney on July 23 was set by NSW Premier Mike Baird, who proposed increasing the GST from its present 10% to 15%.

Baird wants the extra funds to be primarily used to fund health services, which account for almost 30% of state budgets, including spending on hospitals of about 20%. What he neglected to say was that under his mate Tony Abbott’s federal government, spending has been drastically reduced on health along with education. The total reduction across both areas is about $80 billion.

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