Comment and Analysis

A new enterprise bargaining agreement reached by the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) is set to leave thousands of low-paid workers worse off, according to detailed analysis conducted by union official Josh Cullinan, the May 24 Sydney Morning Herald said.

“Cullinan, who works for the National Tertiary Education Union, did the analysis in a personal capacity, estimated Coles could be saving more than $20 million a year in wages by underpaying its staff.

The township of Camberwell in the Hunter Valley and Camberwell coalmine in the background.

Early this month, Beyond Zero Emissions published a report called Fossil Economy, which highlighted the potential economic risks to Australia because of its heavy dependence on fossil fuel exports.

The Baird Coalition government is rushing its legislation for the privatisation of NSW power assets through the Legislative Assembly, without waiting for the report of the Legislative Council’s inquiry into the sell-off, due on June 2.

The move to fast track the bill before the inquiry, chaired by Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile, releases its report, exposes the inquiry as a sham, according to Greens NSW MLC John Kaye. Premier Mike Baird has ridden roughshod over the process and denied the public a proper investigation into the long-term impacts of the sale.

Australian lawmakers are set to begin debating marriage equality, and the anti-equality brigade is not happy at all.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director Lyle Shelton is the public face of the campaign against marriage equality in Australia.

I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but I do agree with his motto, which can be aptly summarised by Helen Lovejoy’s catchphrase, “won’t somebody please think of the children.” But for once in my life I should make a minor confession: I mostly agree out of pure narcissism.

This is my open letter to Shelton.

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Socialist Alliance’s Sue Bolton spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne.

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with Bolton. You can find the whole interview at links.org.au.

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The federal government wants to allow burning native forest waste to qualify for renewable energy subsidies under the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

They reached a compromise with Labor early this month for a renewable energy target of 33 gigawatt hours (GWh).

However, negotiations have since broken down due to the federal government’s fine print inclusion of burning native forest biomass in furnaces and the retention of two-yearly reviews of the RET.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has turned playing the national security card into a cliche in his desperate attempt to reverse his unpopularity by promising to protect Australians' lives from a serious threat of terrorism.

On May 26, he again gave a press conference in front of half a dozen Australian flags, arguing that stopping Australians from being harmed by terrorists was his government's overriding priority and foreshadowing announcements in the coming parliamentary sitting week of a new round of legislation attacking fundamental civil liberties.

On May 19, the federal government’s Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption released a 116-page discussion paper recommending a swathe of new attacks on union rights.

The proposals give the clearest indication so far of the likely outcome of the expensive inquisition into the union movement when the commission releases its findings in December.

The document presents little more than a sweeping wish list of restrictions on the rights of union officials and the ability of unions to carry out their work to benefit members.

Marriage Equality has come to Ireland through a popular referendum. The result was hailed by the May 23 New York Times as placing Ireland “at the vanguard of social change”.

This will be surprising to many, considering Ireland is a country in which transgender status is not recognised by the state, abortion is illegal, gay couples are denied access to surrogacy, unmarried couples cannot adopt, and homosexuality was decriminalised as recently as 1994.

In 1939, as Europe stood on the verge of all-out war, Nazi Germany, true to their promise, had issued and implemented 400 different decrees for the regulation of the public and private lives of Jews. Their properties were confiscated, and their businesses and synagogues were burned down. These laws effectively purged Jews from schools, academia, business and public life, and declared them “undesirables”. Many Jews were forced to seek asylum in other Western countries.

A 59-year-old Aboriginal man died in Darwin on May 21 while being held under controversial new “paperless arrest laws”. These laws give police the powers to arrest people for summary offences — such as “obscenity”, undue noise, offensive language — and hold them for up to four hours at a time.

In NSW, a program that has been proved to prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody has lost funding under the federal government’s ironically named Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

If you listen to most Western politicians you could be forgiven for thinking that refugees are a pesky annoyance, greedy “economic refugees” from the Third World illegitimately trying to break into this wealthy country.

Their now monotonously routine scapegoating of refugees for the pain and insecurity that more and more people feel, even in the richest countries in the world, translates into plain abuse out there in the public.

The toll of Australia's bipartisan anti-refugee policies in death and suffering is rising. In the past fortnight more than 3000 Rohingya refugees from Arakan state in Burma (Myanmar) have turned up on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, having either swum ashore or been rescued by local fishing boat crews. An estimated 7000 more are trapped on boats that have been described as “floating coffins”.

In January this year, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott drew attention to the “unfolding tragedy” of violence against women and vowed to put the issue of what he misleadingly calls “domestic violence” on the national agenda.

You would not have thought it possible, but Tony Abbott appears to be degenerating — in literacy skills as well as morality. Having campaigned on a simplistic three word slogan, in office, he's decided that's two too many, and has cut “Stop the boats” to “Nope, nope, nope.”

The May 2015 budget was framed by the Abbott government with one issue in mind — winning the next federal election. Although there are some members of the Coalition keen on an early election, it seems unlikely to be called until sometime next year.

In its latest federal budget, the Tony Abbott Liberal-National government announced the setting up of a $5 billion “concessional loan facility” called the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. The proposal has been condemned by environmental and Aboriginal rights groups.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as a local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the third of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton. You can find the whole interview at Links: Online Journal of Socialist Renewal.
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Is there a tension between getting involved in the here-and-now and local issues, and balancing that off with our engagement with national and global issues and vision for a new society?

It took a long time for politicians to accept that human actions were warming the planet. Climate scientists began warning that human actions in burning fossil fuels were changing the climate in the late 1980s.

The difficulty was how to put the scientific data into a simple form that the public and politicians could understand. Their first effort was to describe Earth as if it were covered by something that kept the heat in: the greenhouse effect.

If you want to meet the best Australians, meet Indigenous men and women who understand this extraordinary country and have fought for the rights of the world's oldest culture. Theirs is a struggle more selfless, heroic and enduring than any historical adventure non-Indigenous Australians are required incessantly to celebrate.

I know this to be true, because I have been reporting from and filming in Indigenous communities for most of my life. In 1984, I met one of the best Australians, Kwementyaye Randall.

Following a recent meeting of federal and state ministers with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figures, the federal government announced that it will publish by mid-year the emissions target it will take to the Paris Climate Summit in November.

However, even if all the world's governments agree to limit future emissions to what would cause the global average surface temperature to rise by no more than 2°C from before industrialisation, it will not be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.

I have never really thought about the impact free education has had on me. Where would my life be if I had to pay to get an education? I am from Denmark. I would certainly not be here in Australia; I might not even have gone to high school.

The Abbott government has coped a lot of flak for breaking promises, but this budget bucks the trend. Abbott always promised a “no surprises” approach to government, and with this self-proclaimed “dull” budget, his government has finally delivered.

Few may have predicted some of the weirder moments of Abbott's reign, like knighting Prince Philip, threatening to shirtfront Vladimir Putin or making Bronwyn Bishop speaker of the House, but who could honestly say they were surprised by more proposals to hurt the poor and help the rich.

New mothers will be pushed to return to work sooner and non-working families will be punished by having childcare subsidies reduced in the government’s latest budget.

Treasurer Joe Hockey chose Mother's Day on May 10 to announce that almost 80,000 women will have their existing paid parental leave slashed, saving $1 billion.

At the moment the government provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage of $600 a week.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton spoke to Dave Holmes about her work as an elected socialist local councillor in Moreland, a municipality in Melbourne. This is the second of a series of interviews with Sue Bolton. You can find the whole interview at Links: Online Journal of Socialist Renewal.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Particularly when it comes to responsible reporting of Aboriginal poverty.

Last week, Four Corners pointed its lens into a few Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and produced a beautiful piece of promotion for the WA government and its plans for a catastrophic assault on Aboriginal homelands.

Joe Hockey may have been hoping that his spin about a "dull" budget would lull the public into a stupor, but the budget is anything but dull if you're a woman, a parent, pregnant, a student, a pensioner, on welfare, need legal aid or are unemployed.

The government faced significant, organised, public opposition to its 2014 budget measures, many of which failed to pass in the Senate. It was forced to back down on a number of policies, however it is under increasing economic pressure to get its neoliberal agenda through.

Paddy Gibson spoke at a Stop the Intervention Collective public meeting in April on the Northern Territory Intervention and Western Australian community closures. Gibson has lived in Alice Springs, researching the impact of the Intervention. He is a senior researcher with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology Sydney and co-editor of Solidarity magazine. This is an edited version of his speech.

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One of my guilty, I won't say pleasures so let's go with habits, is skimming through the Daily Telegraph while waiting for my coffee at the local cafe. It kills time and I can check out the content without giving any money to Murdoch’s media empire.

Rallies have been called in response to the federal government’s attack on education funding in the upcoming budget, and a big one is planned for Sydney on budget day, May 12.

Although Christopher Pyne’s education policies have been repeatedly defeated in the Senate, he is determined to continue to try to “fix” the education system by reducing governmental funding and pushing for fee deregulation. The next chance he will have to do this is with mass education spending cutbacks in the budget.

Macquarie University has suffered a setback in its courtroom battle against seven students associated with the Macquarie University Postgraduate Research Association (MUPRA).

On May 7, the Supreme Court recommended mediation, which was agreed to by both parties. The university also agreed to release MUPRA funds for legal representation in a future mediation hearing.

The mediation hearing is set by May 28, and the verdict will be released in a month, if a result is not reached through the mediation process beforehand.

During his visit to Sri Lanka, Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton said the transfer of refugees to Cambodia would “happen very shortly”.

Dutton said he wanted to send “a small group” to the south-east Asian country to “send a clear message to the remaining people on Nauru that Cambodia is an appropriate option to consider to start a new life”.

The Australian government has been trying to persuade refugees held on Nauru to volunteer to settle in Cambodia, which signed a deal with Australia to take refugees in exchange for aid.

When thousands of people hit Melbourne's streets on May 1 to protest planned closures of Aboriginal communities, the Herald Sun followed up its front page denunciation of a similar April 9 protest as a “selfish rabble” with a special double page-spread under the headline: “Still Selfish. Still A Rabble.”

The Moreland council in Melbourne became the first council in Australia to pass a motion last month condemning plans for forced closures of Aboriginal communities, and to send a letter of solidarity to those communities.

The motion was moved by me as a Socialist Alliance councillor on Moreland council. The motion passed unanimously, with even the Liberal party councillor voting for it.

On April 28, a second Melbourne council, the Moonee Valley council, passed the same motion. The motion was moved by Jim Cusack, a Labor councillor.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's harsh regime of cutbacks and user-pays charges has been rejected by the Australian people in poll after poll. But this has not stopped the pro-business media from trying to wear people down and pressure Labor and the Greens to accept some of the government's demands.

Typical of this drumbeat was the widely reported Deloitte Access Economics report, which likened the growing budget deficit to a novel by horror writer Stephen King. In an effort to massage a consensus for cutbacks it demands, "For our budget to be sustainable, our politics has to be sustainable".

I’ve never been much of a morning person but some mornings it can be a struggle to get out of bed. Crippling depression aside, peeking at what passes for news in the mainstream media to find out what is going on in the world can be enough to send me running for the covers.

Just last week there was the announcement that after his latest pay rise, the Macquarie Bank CEO Nicholas Moore “earned” $1586 every 12 minutes. That’s roughly the same amount the average Australian worker takes home in a week.

Environment Victoria released this statement on May 5.

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Analysis by Environment Victoria has revealed that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions could rise by up to 20% without breaching the proposed Safeguard Mechanism in the Abbott government’s Emissions Reduction Fund because of the government’s proposed “special treatment” of coal generators in the electricity sector.

Australia has fallen behind similar economies around the world in the generation of renewable energy, a new report has found.

The Climate Council’s new report, The global renewable energy boom: How Australia is missing out, says that despite having enough renewable energy resources to power the country 500 times over, jobs and investment in the renewables sector have fallen sharply since the Coalition government came to power.

Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) has come under increasing attack at the same time as DeiCorp developers are advertising their proposed development with the tag line “"The Aboriginals have already moved out, now Redfern is the last virgin suburb close to city".

RATE was established by Redfern residents as a protest against the proposed development on what is legally Aboriginal land of a block of commercial shops and student housing, by the Aboriginal Housing Company and developer DeiCorp.

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett government is slowly backing away from his controversial announcement that up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities are facing closure.

In what he described as “a more nuanced approach”, Barnett is now proposing a “hub and orbit” strategy that will leave some communities bigger and better resourced, others reduced in services and the smallest ones abandoned.

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