Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1004

The campaign against Melbourne's East West Tunnel received a boost when about 1500 residents and members of community groups rallied in Brunswick on March 30. The rally sent a strong message to the Denis Napthine government that the project should be scrapped and the money be spent on expanding Melbourne’s public transport system.

The rally was organised by Moreland Community Against the East West Tunnel (MCAT), a grassroots community organisation supported by the council.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced that the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon had gone over 1 million. Half of these are children and most live in dire poverty.

"The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in an April 3 statement.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell implemented a six-month freeze on processing new applications for coal seam gas (CSG) exploration licences on March 26. At the same time, the minister for resources and energy, Anthony Roberts, announced that the licence application fee would increase from $1000, set by the ALP state government in 2002, to $50,000.

Roberts had earlier refused five CSG exploration licence applications sought by Grainger Energy which, covered 43,000 square kilometres of land in the Riverina.

Queensland Racing Minister Steve Dickson has just given the green light to a new greyhound racing track at Cronulla Park in Logan, one of Australia’s fastest-growing urban corridors.

Dickson has confirmed that construction on the $12 million publicly funded track at Cronulla Park will begin in May. The government will spend another $1.2 million a year on appearance fees for greyhound trainers.

Michael Williamson, former national president of the Labor Party and the Health Services Union (HSU), was sentenced in the NSW District Court on March 28 to seven- and-a-half years in jail with a non-parole period of five years for defrauding union members.

The sentencing judge described Williamson’s dishonesty as “a parasitic plundering of union funds for pure greed”.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong in early May, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford gives some background to how the Communist Party of Australia grew quickly during the depression.

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The Great Barrier Reef is almost certainly going to suffer permanent damage due to coral bleaching if countries do not act to reduce carbon emissions, the Fifth Assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on March 31.

A lead author of the report, Chris Field, told the ABC’s 7.30: “Warm water coral reefs are one of the world's ecosystems that's most threatened and especially threatened by the combination of a warming climate and acidification of the ocean waters.”

The first cab off the rank in the federal Coalition government's great privatisation push has now been confirmed: Medibank Private. Finance minister Mathias Cormann announced on March 26 that the government-owned health insurance company would be sold off through an initial public offering in the next financial year.

The announcement came just before a meeting of federal and state treasurers on March 28, which resulted in Commonwealth Treasurer Joe Hockey boasting of a "historic agreement" for the state governments to sell off billions of dollars of public assets.

Nobody told me Game of Thrones was starting early this year.

Wonderful to hear King Abbott pronounce the return of titles, especially after Sir Joseph of the Coffers recently declared the end of entitlement. I guess he was only referring to us common folk.

But we don’t have to worry too much because peasants and workers don’t receive knighthoods. Can you imagine Sir Timothy Francis Gerald Gooden the sixth? No, I thought not.

Titles are designed to put one person higher than another, reinforcing the notion that somehow some people are better than others.

When refugee activists found out about the imminent transfer of at least 83 asylum seekers from Villawood detention centre to a remote detention centre in Curtin in Western Australia, a picket was hastily organised to try to stop the buses leaving.

Even though there was very little time — about 10 hours — activists wanted to show the asylum seekers that there is broad support for them.

Asylum seekers claiming automatic protection after the immigration department accidently leaked their identities online in February are being transferred to the other side of the country before their case returns to court.

Buses were at the gates of Villawood detention centre early on the mornings of April 3 and 5, as refugee rights advocates including Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon held a protest against their removal outside. Asylum seekers held a sit in protest inside the centre and were trying to refuse to board.

GLW Issue 1003

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Australian Aborigine] you're guilty before you're found innocent."

The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

Stop Income Management in Playford released this statement on March 26.

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The number of income management clients in the city of Playford in northern Adelaide increased almost 700% over the second half of last year, according to data from the Department of Social Services.

As of December 27, 495 people were on income management. The May 23 figure for Playford, seven months earlier, was 71 people.

The parade of ALP politicians before the latest NSW corruption inquiry has given way to a cross-party merry-go-round. As the Independent Commission Against Corruption calls the tune, Liberal Party luminaries are now on the carousel.

Liberal Senator and Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, has stood down from his ministerial position after being called to give evidence before the NSW corruption watchdog.

PRIME MINISTER TONY Abbott introduced a “red tape repeal day” on March 26. About 9500 regulations contained in more than 50,000 pages of legislation and related documents got the chop.

One of the “red tape regulations” that will be scrapped is the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, which apply to cleaners employed on government contracts.

The 10th national conference of the Socialist Alliance will be held in Sydney over the long weekend of June 7-9.

This gathering will take place at a time of extreme inequality, intensified conflict and ecological crisis on a global scale. Even in Australia, one of the “richest suburbs” in the world, the political temperature is rising with the 100,000-strong March in March signalling a broad resistance to the attacks from the Tony Abbott government.

The conference will discuss strategies and tactics to advance people's power in this country and around the world.

It is the end of the “age of entitlement”, we have been told by the federal Coalition government. But now they have brought back feudal titles.

Not content with making the poor poorer and the filthy rich even richer, they want to rub our noses in their class privilege. They add insult to injury, just in case we didn't already know who was running the country.

Over the past year, Geelong has been hit hard by job cuts at Ford, Alcoa, Target, Holden, Toyota and Avalon Airport, as well as state and federal government departments. Geelong Trades Hall has organised a rally on April 7, calling for more manufacturing jobs in the region.

Born in 1929, Michael Denborough studied medicine in Cape Town, South Africa, and as part of his training went to treat people in the black townships. Later as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he saw the stark contrast between the two worlds and his passion for social justice was ignited.

World War II had had a profound effect on him as people he had known at school were sacrificed in an “appalling waste of humanity”. He said: “The nuclear industry seems to embody everything that is worst about human nature. It could destroy all life on earth 50 times over simply for greed”.

Community Services Minister Pru Goward announced that 293 public housing in Millers Point and The Rocks on Sydney's harbourside would be sold. The billions gained would be used to invest in public housing in the rest of the state, Goward said. But the sell-off would come at a human cost — the destruction of the close-knit working-class community that has existed there for hundreds of years.

These are dark times, so we should celebrate what victories come the way of working people facing the brunt of the Abbott gang's “kick everyone and their dog” strategy.

And so we should celebrate the big win for workers' rights with media star, would-be politician and part-time Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes' announcing his resignation from the union movement.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended Papua New Guinea's efforts to shut down at least two legal inquiries into the treatment of asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre, after the violence that left one man dead and scores injured.

A PNG National Court judge, Justice David Cannings, announced early last month he would hold an independent inquiry into the conditions in the centre, and determine whether asylum seekers' human rights were being upheld under the country's constitution.

The Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy (BASE) celebrated its two-year anniversary on March 22. During the past two years, BASE has experienced community support and state repression in their struggle to put Indigenous sovereignty on the agenda in Brisbane and has served as a beacon for Indigenous freedom fighters across the country.

Boe Spearim spoke to Green Left Weekly about the history of BASE, its projects, influences and future.

What were the origins of the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy project?

GLW Issue 1002

Jock Palfreeman is serving a 20-year sentence for murder in Sofia Central Prison, Bulgaria. His conviction followed a trumped-up trial in a dysfunctional state where the local gangsters known as mutri hold sway, and hatred of Roma is a national pastime for many.

Palfreeman was alleged to have killed Andrei Monov in Sofia in December 2007 while trying to defend two Roma men. Monov was the son of a Bulgarian MP who wants Jock to spend the rest of his life in jail.

The Liberal Party swept to victory in the Tasmanian elections on March 15, winning 14 seats of the 25 seat parliament. The Labor Party, which had governed for the past three years in coalition with the Greens, received a swing against of 9.5%. It won only six seats.

The Greens were also heavily punished, losing two seats in an 8% swing against them. Party leaders Nick McKim and Cassy O’Connor managed to keep their seats. Kim Booth looks likely to be re-elected as well.

To get elected, wait until the existing government makes itself unelectable. Say as little as you can about your real policies. Smile, and present a small target.

Those were the perspectives of South Australia’s Liberal opposition in the run-up to the state elections on March 15. The key Liberal slogan, outside polling places throughout the state, was “A Fresh Start”. A start to what, specifically? Voters weren’t supposed to ask.

As David Harvey reminds us, capital never solves its crisis tendencies, it merely moves them around. Since the turn to neoliberalism in the 1980s there has certainly been a lot of movement.

Throughout the 1980s there were big recessions in all of the rich countries. Across Africa, Latin America and Western Asia at that time there was a depression, although it was not called this because of a self-imposed taboo on the word by mainstream economic commentators since 1929.

Community gardeners were stunned when AusVeg, the peak body for the vegetable industry, publicly welcomed the federal government’s cut in funding the Food Grants Program.

Mentioning “biosecurity risks” and “food safety concerns”, AusVeg spokesperson William Churchill said the program “has been identified as a potential risk to the national horticulture industry”.

"The solution to Qantas's problems is being framed as a choice between lifting the level of permissible foreign ownership or a public debt guarantee,” Chad Satterlee wrote in article in the Guardian on March 3. “There is another option: renationalisation".

Washington's role in the fascist putsch against an elected government in Ukraine will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore the historical record. Since 1945, dozens of governments, many of them democracies, have met a similar fate, usually with bloodshed.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries on earth with fewer people than Wales, yet under the reformist Sandinistas in the 1980s it was regarded in Washington as a "strategic threat". The logic was simple; if the weakest slipped the leash, setting an example, who else would try their luck?