Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1015

Sri Lanka has confirmed plans for asylum seekers from its persecuted Tamil ethnic minority to be directly handed over by Australia at sea. Although the Australian government has refused to confirm or deny such plans, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on July 3 that Sri Lanka was “a society at peace” that had made “much progress” on human rights.

That day, the Tamil Refugee Council released a statement explaining the true situation in Sri Lanka that included the ive points below.

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“The Australian government has reached a frightening new low as a human rights’ denier and perpetrator,” the Tamil Refugee Council said on July 3.

The council was responding to “credible media reports” about immigration minister Scott Morrison's “abhorrent act of secretly sending back a boatload of Tamil asylum-seekers to the certainty of a Sri Lankan jail and the probability of rape and torture”.

The Tony Abbott government has recently been at pains to emphasise that it is “protecting” the community from Australian-born “jihadists” returning from participation in conflicts in the Middle East.

Having learned the tools of the terrorist trade in zones of sectarian strife, they argue, these “extremists” might well embark on a campaign of politically-motivated civil slaughter in this country.

Citing this as a motivating factor, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently cancelled several Australian passports.

Welfare groups have expressed anger at changes to welfare for people with disabilities, which the federal government released in a draft report on June 29.

The McClure report proposes far-reaching changes to the welfare system and cuts the number of welfare payments to just four; a working age payment, disability support, child support and the age pension.

There are 830,000 recipients on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Social services minister Kevin Andrews has suggested only people with a permanent disability would be eligible for the DSP.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a recent address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, “all fit young people should be ... expected to persevere for six months to find a job or to choose a further training programme before accessing welfare payments”.

The government’s stubbornness in persisting with the changes to Newstart Allowance for job-seekers under 30 ignores the advice from welfare agencies and other parties that it will lead to poverty or crime, not increased employment.

Clive Palmer is proving to be a more adept and unpredictable populist than many of us gave him credit for. The latest surprise was his decision to back the abolition of the carbon tax while opposing the scrapping of the Renewable Energy Target, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Commission.

For controversial sporting bans for violating “common decency”, forget Luis Suarez and his four-month ban from all football-related activities after the Uruguayan striker decided to taste a little Italian. If you want a really outrageous penalty for a sporting star, it is hard to overlook the sacking of rugby league player Todd Carney.

GLW Issue 1014

A glaring omission from the strategy debate over how to fight the budget has been any solid discussion from most union leaders about how and when to deploy industrial action.

At the packed out mass delegates' meeting in Sydney on June 12, National Tertiary Education Union activist Susan Price moved two amendments to the official motion that, judging from the room, had they been put would have committed Unions NSW to do just that.

In the first two weeks of hearings at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, further claims were made against Labor leader and former national secretary of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Bill Shorten.

Former Health Services Union (HSU) official Marco Belano told the commission that Shorten donated $5000 to his 2009 union election campaign when Shorten was parliamentary secretary for disabilities in the Labor government.

Is it just me, or are the government going out of their way to be such extreme bastards on such a wide array of issues, that it seems a plot to just wear us all out?

Because once you've screamed “AAAAAAAAARRGGHH” for the 17th time in the first half hour after waking up, you've got no voice left with which to register a protest about the 18th insane injustice — inevitably some proposal to force disabled pensioners to sell at least two still-functioning organs or face being put to work as indentured servants for Gina Rinehart.

The government is ducking and weaving in the face of combined resistance to its cruel budget.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing on June 26 that the Productivity Commission's review of the Fair Work Act will now be delayed until the second half of this year.

The media say this is to allow the government to devote its energies into getting its budget measures through, and to avoid an all-out campaign by unions to "revive the spectre of Work Choices".

Breakthrough 2014, National Climate Restoration Forum, held over June 21 to 22 in Melbourne, brought together scientists, economists, engineers, business leaders and climate activists.

In some regards, the forum represented an important step forward for the Australian climate movement. It highlighted the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis and discussed the possibility of restoring a reasonably safe climate in which human civilisation could continue.

At its national conference over June 7-9, the Socialist Alliance adopted an amendment to its Charter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights, which stated that it does not support Constitutional recognition in the current form put forward by the government and the Reconciliation Australia initiative Recognise.

The policy now states that Constitutional recognition must be accompanied by sovereignty, land rights and a treaty.

LIFE FOR MOST AUSTRALIANS IS GETTING HARDER, WHILE POLITICIANS SERVE THE WEALTHY. BUT PUBLIC BACKLASH IS BREWING INTO A MOVEMENT TO CHALLENGE THIS SYSTEM, WRITES SUSAN PRICE.

In handing down its first budget, the Coalition government echoed its National Commission of Audit, warning that a “business as usual” scenario for public spending on welfare, pensions, public services, health and education is “unsustainable”, even “irresponsible” in Australia today.

In 2011, the Maritime Union of Australia invited leaders of the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation (MOJO) in Britain to Australia -- Gerry Conlon, Paddy Joe Hill and John McManus.

GLW Issue 1013

An opinion poll showing that only 24% of Victorians support the government's flagship road project, the East West Link, has sent shockwaves through the Victorian government.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on June 19.

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The US, Australia and other partners-in-crime in the more than a decade-long war on Iraq must not be allowed to use the latest conflicts in that country to increase their military intervention in the region.

The Socialist Alliance adds its voice to others in Australia rejecting Prime Minister Tony Abbott's all-the-way-with-the USA commitment made to US President Barack Obama over Iraq.

Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.

More than half a million Iraqis have been displaced and hundreds killed after the fall of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul to Islamic fundamentalists. But even as the crisis in Iraq dramatically worsens, Australia is refusing to offer any reprieve for the thousands of Iraqi refugees in its care.

So apparently there is a crisis in Iraq. Really, who could have predicted this? Who among us could possibly have guessed a full-scale invasion and occupation of the country, destruction of its infrastructure and society leading directly to the deaths of at least 1 million people could have actually led to such problems?

The revolution might not be televised, but you can see the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption proceedings live-streamed into your lounge room.

Such is the overwhelming public demand for riveting daytime televised reality shows that the commission is competing with Judge Judy in bringing this much-awaited courtroom drama to a computer near you via a mere click on their website.

The proceedings began in earnest on June 10, but much of what was heard in evidence has been well rehearsed in the Murdoch press over the past couple of years.

Jo di Pietro gave the following speech to a “bust the budget” meeting organised by Unions NSW in Sydney on June 12.

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I am a technical officer in the NSW Public Health laboratories at Lidcombe (otherwise called FASS) and a proud member of the Health Services Union.

NSW Health has decided to privatise food safety testing, to tender it to the private sector, so the government can distance itself from food safety work, and ultimately from its responsibility to the public.

Union activists have written an open letter to Victoria Trades Hall Council calling for a state-wide delegates meeting to organise a strike to bust the budget.

A similar petition has been launched in NSW, calling on Unions NSW to organise a mass delegates meeting to plan for a stop work protest against the budget. Sign the letter at change.org.

Read the letter to the Victorian Trades Hall Council below.

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Much of the public debate on the Senate “blocking supply” suggests that it is an all or nothing tactic. However this is not the case. The Senate can carefully cherry-pick the elements in the budget that it demands be amended and force the Abbott government to either accept those amendments or see its budget fail.

This is a short explanation of the Senate’s powers and its ability to force a budget debate on its terms with the government-dominated House of Representatives.

THE BILLS

The Federal budget contains two main pieces of legislation:

To summarise the NSW Coalition state budget announced on June 17: Sell off public electricity assets; build more private roads.

This first budget from new Premier Mike Baird is in line with the drive led by the federal government to privatise all remaining public enterprises in the interests of their big business masters.

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance told state parliament: "We are now in control of the budget. It's no longer in control of us."

This is code for: We plan to sell off the remains of the people's property in this state, whether you like it or not.

When Muckaty traditional owners first heard about a proposed waste dump on their land seven years ago, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Many thought it was a general rubbish tip that would recycle, sell reclaimed materials and provide work opportunities for people living in the remote area of the Northern Territory.

Millions of dollars were promised for roads and scholarships. In an area with few employment prospects or education opportunities, it is little wonder the offer seemed attractive.

GLW Issue 1012

There is one city in the world the indigenous people, who make up a third of the population, are officially classified by the authorities as having permanent residency, a legal status normally granted to migrants.

As non-citizens, Palestinians legal status in East Jerusalem is legally inferior to that of Jewish residents.

East Jerusalem, which was occupied by the Israeli army in the 1967 war and still contains refugee camps of survivors of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of large parts of Palestine, known as Al Nakba, bears the marks of an apartheid regime.

Australia is at risk of becoming a scientific backwater due to the federal government’s budget cuts to the CSIRO.

The government has proposed a $111 million cut to CSIRO funding in the May budget — about 20% of its total funding — and at least 1000 full-time staff will lose their jobs over the next four years.

Eight CSIRO sites around the country will close. Many are in regional country towns, which rely on the sites for employment.

The global financial crisis had its origins in the US when interest rates fell from 6% in January 2001 to 1% in mid-2003. This led to banks and other financial institutions awash with cheap money to conclude that lending to home buyers at obvious risk of defaulting their repayments was a safe bet.

Sham contracting — when a company lists employees as contractors to avoid having to pay tax and benefits — and charging workers illegal fines are widespread practices in the sex industry.