Comment and Analysis

Two thousand people rallied in Federation Square on April 4 to oppose Reclaim Australia freely spreading racism and fascism on the streets of Melbourne.

Anti-racist participants included socialists, anarchists, feminists, refugee rights advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the politically unaligned. All were united in a common cause to stop the spread of racism in Australia.

The Guardian newspaper was first published in Manchester in 1821. It is generally regarded as a centre-left paper that employs some very fine journalists.

Its online edition is one of the most widely read in the world and its combined print and online editions reach some 9 million readers. The paper’s environmental coverage is provided by a team of seven environmental writers and each month four million visitors go to the Guardian for its environmental coverage.

Why would a 54 year-old woman make a decision to lock herself onto the train tracks of the world’s biggest coal port?

Annette Schneider, an artist and farmer from Monaro in NSW, explained to Green Left Weekly that her action on March 31 was a direct result of her fear of catastrophic climate change.

Sydney Staff for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions sent this open letter to University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence on March 25. The letter is in response to Spence’s email of March 19, in which he claimed anti-Semitism was the trigger for the university’s investigation into the student protest at the March 11 lecture by Colonel Richard Kemp and its sequel.

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We are compelled to write to you to register our serious concern about the concerted campaign being conducted against Palestine activists at the University of Sydney.

This speech was given at the Refugee Action Collective protest in Melbourne on April 8.

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We are here to protest against the indefinite detention of a group of refugees who are claimed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to be a security threat.

These are people who have been officially recognised as refugees who were at serious risk of persecution in the countries they fled. Yet they are detained indefinitely because of negative ASIO assessments.

At a G20 meeting last October, Rupert Murdoch surprised some with a speech that criticised world leaders for, as it was described in his Australian newspaper, “their policies [that] have caused a ‘massive shift’ in societies to benefit the super-rich with a legacy of social polarisation”.

In particular, Murdoch criticised youth unemployment: “The unemployment rate for Americans under the age of 25 is 13%, which sounds awful until I remember that in the eurozone that number is 23%, and it is twice as high in places like Spain and Greece, and parts of France and Italy.

Ten years ago, the uranium price was on an upward swing. South Australians were dazzled by the prospect of becoming the 'Saudi Arabia of the South' because of the state's large uranium deposits and the prospect of a global nuclear power renaissance.

Those comparisons didn't stand up to a moment's scrutiny — Australia would need to supply global uranium demand 31 times over to match Saudi oil revenue.

“The swing against the Coalition and vote for three, perhaps four Greens MPs, in the NSW elections represents an important political gain for the left in NSW. This is welcome news for those fighting for community need not corporate greed”, Susan Price told Green Left Weekly.

Price, a long-time unionist and co-convenor of Socialist Alliance, ran for the Socialist Alliance in the inner-west seat of Summer Hill.

It was always a big ask for the NSW Labor Party to follow their counterparts in Victoria and Queensland and win the election on March 29.

The corruption scandals involving former Labor ministers was a big handicap for the ALP at the previous election in 2011. As a result, Labor lost 32 lower house seats and the Coalition won 34 seats. The ALP was reduced to a rump of just 20 lower house members — the worst result for the party in more than 100 years.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has released a report titled Australia’s top 10 climate polluters. It reveals that these 10 polluters — and it’s no surprise that most are electricity suppliers - are responsible for generating nearly one-third of greenhouse gases through their production and use of energy.

Australian NGO Australia for Dolphins (AFD) has launched legal action in Switzerland against the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), based in Geneva.

More than 100 people gathered in a park in Katherine on March 24 to launch the Frack-Free NT Roadshow, a group of pastoralists, traditional owners and environmentalists doing community education and outreach in the Roper and gulf country.

Thirty environmental, scientific and recreation groups have called on the new Victorian government to create the Great Forest National Park.

The proposed park would add 355,000 hectares of protected forests to the existing 170,000 hectares of parks and protected areas in the Central Highlands of Victoria by amalgamating a group of smaller parks. The park would stretch from Healesville to Kinglake in the west, through to Baw-Baw plateau in the east and north to Eildon.

Mesothelioma is a particularly virulent form of lung cancer. From the date of diagnosis the average life expectancy of a person with the disease is just 155 days.

There is only one way a person can contact mesothelioma: by exposure to the fine particles of asbestos dust that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

The latent period from exposure to diagnosis can be many decades. So the first battle for sufferers seeking compensation was overcoming the legal hurdle in Commonwealth and state jurisdictions known as the statute of limitations.

When neoliberal economics was being established as a hegemonic position in Australia in the late 1980s, 1.2 million workers were employed in the manufacturing industry — 15% of the workforce.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) latest employment analysis shows that 25,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing last year, bringing the total employed down to 920,000 — 7.8% of the workforce.

It is a trend that will only continue with the winding-down of the vehicle production industry and its related vehicle components sector.

International Women’s Day (IWD) — originally called International Working Women’s Day — was first proposed in 1910 as an initiative of the socialist women’s movement. The following year, on March 19, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

The Victoria Marine Animal Defenders (VMAD) collective organised a rally at Eastern Beach in Geelong on March 22 to protest the imminent arrival of a super trawler in Australian waters.

While the numbers at the rally were relatively few — about 60 to 70 people — it was a diverse crowd that included recreational fishers, various political parties, independent activists and members of VMAD, which is itself a collective of activists from numerous other groups.

When then-immigration minister Scott Morrison made a video in September last year callously informing refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru that they would never be allowed to settle in Australia, he hoped at least some would ask to be returned to their home country.

But the video failed spectacularly. Not a single refugee or asylum seeker asked to be returned. Instead, angered by the video, they started a series of protests, hunger strikes, attempted suicides and instances of self-harm.

The motto of the University of Wollongong (UOW) promises “Personalised Experiences: World Class Results”. It would do well to tell the public which persons in the institution availed themselves of the experience of authorising political donations of $26,175 in the last four years, and what world class results they expected.

The signature on contribution donations in 2009 was the university’s director of government relations, Canio Fierravanti, brother of Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

Coincidentally, 82% of the donations since late-2010 have gone to the Liberal Party.

The Abbott government's metadata retention bill passed the Senate on March 26 with Labor support — deepening the mass surveillance of the public and further undermining the ability of investigative journalists to do their jobs.

And just to really rub this attack on civil liberties in, the government is headed by an idiot who has less of a clue about the huge technology powers his law grants the state, than the Catholic Church has historically had of “duty of care when working with children”.

Pat Eatock truly deserved the title “elder”. An elder passes on the lessons of the past to the next generation. This was her biggest activist contribution in the last years of her life.

Workers in the South Australian retail sector — particularly young, casual workers — could lose their penalty rates thanks to a deal between retail employers and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA).

The Tony Abbott government’s moves to introduce the Healthy Welfare Card – income management on steroids – indicate that it remains committed to a welfare system based on deterrence and punishment. Once again, the government refuses to acknowledge years of negative data about the policy and its consistent failure to benefit those it will be forced upon.

A report has found that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement would be likely to adversely affect the health of the Australian population.

The TPP is a free trade deal being negotiated by countries on the Pacific rim: the US, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and Japan. These countries represent about 40% of global GDP.

The silence around jobs in the NSW election is deafening.

Newcastle has been losing 200 jobs a year from the sale of state assets and the casualisation and retrenchment of state employees.

Up to 8000 workers in jobs such as fitters, boilermakers, welders, riggers and trades assistants in ship building and rail manufacture are also under threat.

Both major parties are focusing on other issues instead of the Hunter region’s jobs.

Imagine visiting your mum or dad, in an aged care facility, and finding that they had been left to deal with severe pain because there was no registered nurse on duty who could give them morphine.

This is a real prospect facing thousands of families in NSW if the state government changes the law requiring at least one registered nurse (RN) to be employed at nursing homes at all times. It would leave up to 48,500 vulnerable, high-needs nursing home residents, at risk in an already stretched healthcare system.

The Senate has voted down Christopher Pyne’s Higher Education Reform Bill, which would uncap university fees. This is the second time that the legislation has been struck down. It puts Tony Abbott’s government on aan uneasy footing.

The defeat of the bill comes after Pyne spent weeks on a campaign to bully and threaten crossbenchers in parliament. This strategy included threatening to cut $150 million of research funding to the National Collaborative Research and Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) if the bill was not passed.

This NSW election, like the Victorian and Queensland polls before it, hinges on growing public opposition to Tony Abbott’s federal government and the neoliberal policies implemented by Labor and Coalition state governments.

The sell-off of public assets and services, cuts to the public sector, unsustainable development, mining and unprecedented handouts and tax cuts to corporate interests and the super rich are now standard practice, and people have had enough.

Thousands of people rallied in cities and towns around Australia on March 19 in opposition to the planned closure of around 150 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight in September when the federal government — without consultation — announced that it would stop providing funding to these homeland communities from July 1 this year.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent comments on the “lifestyle choice” of Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas are troubling, especially given his self-anointed role of “Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs”.

I have been privileged to work in Aboriginal health, in a rural centre of South Australia, for a number of years. The simplistic notion that people live in remote regions purely due to a lifestyle choice is far from reality.

The power to “play God” with the lives of asylum seekers was granted to Australia’s immigration minister by the passage of the most punitive refugee laws ever seen last December.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison, who held refugee children to ransom to pressure recalcitrant senators to concede their votes, pushed through the laws.

The latest buzzword the government is tossing around to try to scare people into supporting its grossly unfair budget is “intergenerational theft”. It recently released an Intergenerational Report, which looks at the budget over the next 40 years to back up this campaign.

The report says that in the future we will all live much longer and spend more of our lives in retirement. There will be a lower proportion of working people whose taxes pay for pensions and health care, so “we” have to start paying for it now.

Amid so much bad news about so many species of wildlife in danger of extinction, it is encouraging that there are finally some good stories about endangered wild animals.

There has been good news regarding rhinoceros conservation in India. The Indian state of Assam’s environmental ministry recently revealed that the population of Indian one-horned rhinoceros in the state had grown by 27% since 2006, hitting a high of 2544 animals. The Indian government has a goal of 3000 rhinos by 2020. There were only about 200 Indian rhinos in the early 1990s.

My name is Stephanie O’Donnell, but I also go by “the girl from the plane”.

On December 19, my partner and I were at Sydney Airport on our way to Heathrow via Beijing. We had booked the cheapest flight available and were waiting to check in for flight CA174, when a plucky activist approached us.

To date, Vice-Chancellor of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Attila Brungs has supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's fee deregulation legislation. Last year he said fee deregulation “could have some positive impacts” and result in “teaching quality going up”.

Arguing that it is positive that students finish their course with $100,000 debt is a hard sell, and Brungs felt the heat as students at UTS signed petitions calling on him to oppose it.

I am a political science student, two years into a bachelor degree at the University of Western Sydney. I major in Social and Cultural Analysis.

I am also an activist, I campaign day-to-day on campus and on the streets, talking to students and workers.

I am a young, unemployed, queer woman and activist from a working-class family.

I am not the typical Legislative Council candidate — but that is exactly why I’m standing.

Through my candidacy, I seek to actively challenge the notion that the 1% represents the 99%, or that you should be forced to vote for the “lesser evil”.

The NSW government’s decision to buy back coal seam gas (CSG) licences in the upper Hunter just before a state election raises more questions than it answers.

It increasingly seems these days that we don't have a prime minister, we have an instant Internet meme creator. In fact, I am starting think that Tony Abbott is proving so good at generating outrage and bemused laughter in equal measures that he might actually be a left-wing plant.

How else could he prove so useless at actually pushing the hard-right, pro-rich, anti-poor, socially reactionary agenda he claims to stand for?

This month two reports were released in Canberra.

The first was an important analysis of economic data, the 2014 national accounts issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

What Australia’s national accounts show is an economy in deep trouble. As David Harvey reminds us, to function satisfactorily it is necessary for capitalist economies to achieve a minimum 3% compound growth forever.

Several commentators have pointed out that treasurer Joe Hockey's Intergenerational Report is a partisan document designed to bash Labor over the head.

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