Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1066

New polls show that had an election been held in mid-August, Tony Abbott's federal Coalition would have suffered a 7.5% swing against it. The Prime Minister’s prevarication on marriage equality and the scandal over entitlements are fueling the dissent.

The IPSOS-Fairfax and Essential Research polls revealed that the Coalition would have lost between 36 and 44 seats — with Labor and the Greens being the main beneficiaries.

Today, thanks to the power of social media, I have come across this despicable act. I am so angry about it that I feel compelled to write something in the 20 minutes I have remaining in my lunch break.

The accompanying photo is of the so-called “Uluru bark petition”. It was presented to the federal government, much to the gleeful hand-rubbing of the Liberal Party and particularly anti-marriage equality campaigner Senator Eric Abetz.

Why was John Dyson Heydon QC liberal prime minister Tony Abbott’s “captain's pick” to run the royal commission into the trade unions?

It could be from the shared solidarity that you’d expect of Rhodes scholars. Or perhaps it was just innocent association from the time former Prime Minister John Howard appointed Dyson Heydon to the High Court in 2003, a position he retired from under the compulsory age rule of 70 in 2013.

Rallies calling for marriage equality were held in major cities across Australia over the past few weekends. The turnout was large, with numbers reaching the thousands. The overwhelming presence of youth was particularly noticeable.

In many areas of the LGBTI struggle today, youth are helping lead the charge. Opinion polls conducted by Australian Marriage Equality found that 80% of those under 24 support equal marriage, the highest percentage for any demographic group.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new idea. But it is an idea whose time has come. It is one of the simplest, most obvious pieces of social policy imaginable: every member of a society, with no exceptions, is entitled to enough money to live on.

Eligibility is not conditional on age or employment status, or education or criminal record like the poorly-built social welfare programs of modern Australia that have deep, but invisible, cracks for the most vulnerable to fall into.

After an eleven-year fight, the Australian government has recently come under intensified pressure to let LGBTI couples marry.

The success of marriage equality in Ireland and then the United States has made Australia more isolated. It seems clear that the marriage equality campaign is going to win. Nevertheless, the government is still trying to stall marriage equality.

Many blame the Liberal Party. It is true that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s desperate measures to suppress the conscience vote show just how homophobic the party is. But the Labor Party should not be let off the hook.

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.

GLW Issue 1065

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.

GLW Issue 1064

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.

GLW Issue 1063

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.

GLW Issue

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.