Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 952

This is surely a country that could use a bit of good news. It has been a tough few weeks with raging bushfires, severe flooding and, just when it seemed it couldn't get worse, the heartbreaking news we will be subjected to the longest election campaign in Australian history.

GLW Issue 951

As often happens at this time of year, in the lead-up to January 26, commentators and activists raised the suggestion that Australia’s national day be moved to a different date.

Writing in the January 21 Sydney Morning Herald, Aboriginal MLA in the ACT legislative assembly Chris Bourke said: “Which nation celebrates its national day on the date it was invaded by a foreign power? … The answer, of course, is Australia.”

Cuts to the Victorian health budget are having a significant impact on Victorian hospitals.

More than 300 beds have been closed, elective surgeries have been delayed, and jobs are being lost as hospitals attempt to implement a funding cut of $107 million by June this year.

Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan hit the headlines after he distributed a fake media release in the name of ANZ bank on January 7. It claimed that the bank was withdrawing a $1.2 billion loan that would finance the proposed Maules Creek coalmine owned by Whitehaven Coal, due to its corporate responsibility policy.

It read: “We want our customers to be assured that we will not be investing in coal projects that cause significant dislocation of farmers, unacceptable damage to the environment, or social conflict.”

Green Left Weekly's Patrick Harrison spoke to Sahema Saweri, president, and Shoaib Doostizadah, public officer, of the Australian Hazara Students Group, at the January 15 vigil in Melbourne for the victims of the Quetta bomb blasts.

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Can you tell me what these vigils have been about?

Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) has responded to the homophobic bullying of queer youth at Parramatta’s Rediscover the River festival on January 17.

During the festival, Twenty10, an organisation that provides counseling for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) youth, were asked to remove an “offensive” banner.

The banner read: “Support service for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, their families and community. ‘A place to be me, with the support I need.’”

The NSW Barry O’Farrell government has been criticised for having close links to mining companies after it made two controversial decisions in December last year.

The Coalition government announced it would appoint a former mining company executive to the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) and confirmed it would axe funding to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).

Earthworker is a new manufacturing cooperative that aims to build renewable energy products in Australia. It is worker-owned and controlled, and committed to supporting local jobs at the same time as providing a way to reduce carbon emissions.

Beginning with solar hot water systems, the aim is to eventually expand to include a full range of green technologies.

The Only Democracy In the Middle East (TM) held elections on January 22, which is what all good democracies do — even if not all those actually governed by the Israeli Knesset got to vote.

Those in Gaza, which depends on the Israeli government elected in the poll to decide such things as which basic goods are let in to the besieged territory and whether or not they will be bombed on any given day, didn't get to cast a ballot. But in the West Bank, you'll be pleased to hear it is more mixed.

The ninth National Conference of the Socialist Alliance was held in Geelong over January 18-20. More than 150 people took part in the conference, including Hashim bin Rashid representing the newly formed united party of the left in Pakistan, the Awami Workers Party.

Rashid attended the conference as a special guest, and gave presentations on racism, refugees and the war on terror, as well as the continuing struggles of the poor, the dispossessed and oppressed communities in Pakistan today.

I left the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in July last year after working there for 22 years. I was given a redundancy package.

My job had not been abolished, but a clause in the ATO enterprise agreement says: “An employee whose services can no longer be effectively used in their current job because of changes in technology or work methods or changes in the nature, extent of organisation of the ATO [can be given a package].” This is popularly called the “not coping with change” clause.

Tamil refugee Ranjini and her two sons made headlines last May when they were taken without warning to Sydney's Villawood detention centre and locked up after Ranjini was labelled an ASIO “security risk”.

The very next day, 33-year-old Ranjini learned she was pregnant.

She gave birth to Paartheepan (Paari) on January 15. The newborn boy has the right to live outside detention with his father, Ganesh, who married Ranjini a year before she was detained and lives nearby in Sydney.

Indian socialist feminist Kavita Krishnan spoke to Green Left TV's Pip Hinman about the new movement against gender violence in India. Kavita is Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and has been a leading activists in the campaign that has swept India (and beyond) since the brutal gang rape of a woman student in Delhi in a public bus. The woman, badly injured in the attack, died two weeks later despite being flown to Singapore for treatment. Her male companion, who was also severely assaulted, survived. Six suspects are being tried.

GLW Issue 950

The Ninth National Conference of the Socialist Alliance will be held in Geelong (Victoria), from January 18-20, 2013. It is open to all Socialist Alliance members and invited guests.

For nine long years Gail Hickey and her family have indefatigably campaigned for justice over the death of their son, TJ Hickey, an Aboriginal man who was 17 years old. He died as a consequence of a pursuit by Redfern police that ended with his death the following day.

For nine long years Gail, the family and their supporters have been telling and re-telling the history. His bike was rammed by a police car, he was thrown in the air with great force, and landed on a spiked fence line with great force.

Hashim bin Rashid, 25, the general secretary of the Lahore branch of the Awami Workers Party — recently formed out of the merger of three left parties in Pakistan — will be the international guest speaker at the Socialist Alliance ninth national conference to be held in Geelong Trades Hall, over January 18-20.

He replaces Alia Amirali who was not given a visa by Australian authorities in time to travel to the conference.

While Australia and Sri Lanka battled it out at the Sydney Cricket Ground early this month, a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker on a bridging visa living in Hamilton Hill, a victim of torture, died in Fremantle Hospital after attempting suicide last Thursday.

The tragic event played out as momentum grows for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket, lead by former cricket writer for The Age Trevor Grant.

Australia became one of the first countries in the world to introduce a single mothers’ benefit in 1973. This was extended to single fathers in 1977.

The single mothers’ benefit was an important reform, helping many women escape from difficult or violent relationships and reducing poverty among children.

It is nearly that time again, the time to celebrate all that is great about this nation on the date that commemorates its founding by Europeans who discovered what they considered an empty continent.

We have made a lot of progress since then. For instance in 1967 we agreed in a landmark national vote that Aboriginal people were people, and not fauna.

In Port Pirie, an industrial centre 220 kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia, more than half of two-year-olds suffer from lead poisoning at a level consistent with later behavioural problems and loss of learning ability. The problem is more than twice as bad as anywhere else in Australia, including such lead-polluted cities as Mt Isa and Broken Hill.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement in solidarity with the international movement against violence against women on January 4.

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The Socialist Alliance stands in solidarity with the growing movement in India fighting violence against women. Progressive forces in that country have braved police brutality and repression, mobilising massive turnouts at protests against gender violence.

The wave of protests was sparked by the horrific rape on December 15, and the consequent death, of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi.

Photos taken by refugees of their living conditions in the Australian detention camp on Manus Island have led to a new round of “systematic assault on asylum seekers’ basic rights”, according to Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Nick Riemer.

A “dome of heat” has settled over Australia, causing a heatwave in every state and territory and widespread bushfires. Tasmania has been the worst hit with 150 homes damaged or destroyed.

As this century progresses, the record high temperatures experienced across Australia in the past few months will no longer be dangerous departures from the norm, but a regular feature of Australian summers. This is one of the conclusions reached in a draft of the fifth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was leaked and published online last month.

Recent moves by the Greens leadership to moderate some of their policies have opened up an important debate within the party regarding its future. Below is one contribution to the debate from a group of Greens members which points to "a worrying trend" emerging from within the Greens leadership. They argue “now is the time for members and sympathisers to confront these issues head on".

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GLW Issue 949

The members and supporters of Socialist Alliance join progressive minded people across Australia and around the world in mourning the heart wrenching and tragically unexpected loss of Gavin Mooney and Del Weston.

Del and Gavin were as kind and loving in their personal dealings with everyone they met as they were committed to the liberation and freedom of all humanity. They were strong supporters of Green Left Weekly; making regular donations, hosting fund-raisers and recently making a significant contribution to the new Green Left TV project.

Beyond Zero Emissions released this statement on December 17.

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“Fracking” to tap unconventional gas resources could destroy the much-hyped “clean coal” carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Australian gas company Santos have recently commenced commercial drilling for shale gas in the Cooper Basin in Moomba, South Australia. Like coal seam gas, shale gas is a form of unconventional gas that requires "fracking" to release it.

The Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN) held a protest on December 14 in front of Christmas shoppers in Adelaide's Rundle Mall, before marching to Santos HQ. Their message to the SA state government was: "No to unconventional gas - Yes to renewables".

The text below is a speech given at the protest by CLEAN activist Gemma Weedall.

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Mick Armstrong, a national leader of Socialist Alternative, has written the response below to Socialist Alliance national co-convenor Peter Boyle's article What politics to unite Australia's left?. The two organisations are holding discussions over the possibility of greater unity, and released a joint statement on Socialist Alliance andorsing and taking part in Marxism 2013.

The recent visit of the NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard and his departmental bureaucrats to Lismore was always going to be a fiery one.

There’s an important context in Lismore. This city voted 87% against coal seam gas (CSG) mining in September 2012, and three days later the NSW government renewed expired licences and gave one of the first approvals for CSG production to gas company Metgasco, that operates exclusively in the Northern Rivers region.