Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1022

The recent media attention given to the case of “baby Gammy” — the child of an Australian couple born to a surrogate mother in Thailand, and left in her care by his parents allegedly because he was born with a disability — has led to suggestions that rules around surrogacy should be changed.

The rates of surrogacy in Australia are very low. In 2011, only 80 women volunteered for it, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on August 10.

I'm 16 years old. I identify as queer and am in year 11 in high school.

While I go to a tolerant and progressive school, there are many students like me who do not enjoy this privilege. For people like me, school can be the most dangerous place to be. For people like me, mental health issues are rife because of experiences at school. For people like me, things need to change in our schools.

The Growing Up Queer report, released this year by Twenty10 in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney, has revealed some staggering facts about life at school for queer kids.

Should Scotland’s people decide to separate from Britain in next month’s independence referendum, the English establishment may well be very unhappy with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose recent ham-fisted attack on Scottish nationalism appears to have given the Yes campaign a boost.

The total number of jobs now advertised across Australia is about 133,000. This is the labour market for the 790,000 unemployed looking for work — and it will get a lot worse before it ever gets better.

In the financial year to June, private sector wages rose by just 2.4%, the lowest growth rate in 17 years. With consumer prices rising at 3% over the same period, the decline in real wages will continue as unemployment rises.

What does it say about Australian politics when a mining billionaire who rides around in a Rolls Royce becomes the people’s champion in parliament?

The Palmer United Party (PUP), formed and largely funded by Clive Palmer, continues to disrupt the two-party game played by most politicians and their media supporters.

To them, the PUP is “maverick”, a label that fits after Palmer’s outburst this week about “communist” China trying to “take over” Australia.

For the fifth time since their election in September last year, thousands of Australians will take to the streets in protest against Tony Abbott Coalition's government.

These mobilisations have been critical to keep the pressure on the Labor Party, Greens and independents to stand firm in opposing the government's budget, which will bring austerity, cuts and privatisation.

As a result of this opposition, Treasurer “Smokin' Joe” Hockey's budget has stalled.

I was walking towards Sydney's Verona Cinema – where the pro-Palestine protesters were holding a peaceful protest, despite heavy police intervention, calling for a boycott of the Israeli Film Festival that was being launched there – when a man in a suit shouted at me: “How many heads did you chop today?”

What the hell???

The reason for this ridiculous taunt was that I was walking beside an activist from Jews Against The Occupation who was wearing a keffiyah scarf in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The thing that really gets me about Australian politics right now is not just that we are getting so severely screwed, it’s that we are getting screwed by such dingbats.

I mean, you cannot check the news on any given day without being smacked in the face with the latest utter insanity from one, or frequently, multiple members of the Abbott government.

GLW Issue 1021

Israel uses cinema to shore up its carefully manufactured international image as an enlightened “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” – a world away from the fanaticism of the settlements, the separation wall, the checkpoints, and the siege and butchery of Gaza.

Film festivals like the Israeli Film Festival are an attempt to culture-wash Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. The goal is for the international public to see Israel as a civilised country committed to peaceful, artistic pursuits – not as the warmongering power oppressing an entire people, that it really is.

Media reports about a deal being struck this week between the Australian government and Cambodia to resettle refugees from Nauru have been denied by Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison. However the government has confirmed that negotiations towards a memorandum of understanding was continuing.

Two ministers and five backbenchers have been suspended from the Liberal Party in NSW as a consequence of Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigations over the past couple of months.

The latest ICAC hearings, which resumed on August 4, are centred on illegal donations from property developers in Newcastle and the Central Coast.

When Labor Premier Nathan Rees banned these donations in November 2009, it was not well received by significant groupings in the Liberal and Labor parties.

You can see where federal treasurer Joe Hockey is coming from with his comment about poor people not having cars and so not being affected by the rise in the fuel excise tax, can't you? On the planet he seems to be lost on, the rich are the real oppressed.

The rich are paying too much tax — or even “all the tax” according to a recent rant in the Australian — doing all the work, doing the heavy lifting, while the rest of society bludges off them.

A few months ago, the Daily Telegraph ran a headline, “The Ferals are Revolting”.

That headline is very revealing, not just about the nature of the media, but also about how young people and students are seen in society in general. We are seen these things that are just supposed to work terrible jobs for terrible pay, and whatever our opinions are, they don’t really mean anything and we are just supposed to put up with it.

The federal government took the first steps towards privatising the Medicare payment system on August 8, asking businesses for expressions of interest in taking over the handling of claims and Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme payments.

This $29 billion annual operation is currently carried out by the federal Department of Human Services (DHS), the government's largest department.

The federal government has plans to expand Work for the Dole. From July next year it will be compulsory for job-seekers aged 18-30 to do 25 hours of work a week.

The Anti-Poverty Network South Australia spoke to two former participants, Jarred Sferruzzi and John Murcott (not his real name) about their experiences on the scheme under the John Howard government.


When were you on Work For The Dole?

GLW Issue 1020

As civilian casualties climb from its brutal assault on Gaza, Israel has met growing condemnation for the carnage from human rights groups and many governments.

In Latin America, the response has been especially strong. Since Israel began its assault a month ago, El Savador, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador have withdrawn their ambassadors in protest.

Former prime minister Bob Hawke is urging Australia to become the world's nuclear waste dump. But he has little hope of succeeding.

A bill targeting protests in Tasmania’s forests was passed in the Tasmanian lower house on June 26. It is due to be introduced to the upper house when parliament sits again this month.

Ten years ago, on August 13 2004, the John Howard government, with the support of the Labor Party, passed legislation that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Queer people did not have the right to marry before the legislation was passed, but the new definition was brought in to close any loopholes and make it explicit that the Coalition government did not support civil rights for gay and lesbian people.

In the same week that employment minister Eric Abetz announced the government would expand Work for the Dole to all job seekers under 50 and that job seekers would have to apply for double the number of jobs than previously, billionaire miner Andrew Forrest released his own recommendations for welfare reform — some of the most punitive ever proposed.

The gains of the first and second waves of the women’s liberation movement were groundbreaking. Yet in Australia today, 14% of women live below the poverty line. Why?

The answer is that since the 1970s, and as part of the overall neoliberal offensive, Labor and Coalition governments have both presided over cuts to funding of women’s services, attacks on child care, education, health, and aged and disability care. New threats are also being posed to women’s reproductive rights.

“Everybody needs to be part of Team Australia,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott, raising one very big question: which prick gave Abbott a DVD player and a copy of the South Park makers’ joke film Team America?

Coz that kinda shit is not funny. Seriously, this guy makes laws. Don’t go fucking around with hilarious practical jokes like this, coz next thing you know it will be a real government program.

As, indeed, it already is.

The serious financial fraud that surfaced in the scandal-ridden Health Services Union (HSU) provided the federal government with a handy excuse to establish the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

Although the commission has powers wide enough to inquire into all unions, the HSU is one of five organisations specifically mentioned in its terms of reference alongside the Australian Workers Union, Communications Electrical Plumbing Union, Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, and the Transport Workers Union.

The 157 Tamil refugees who refused “a very good” deal to be deported to India now face the orchestrated despair of detention on Nauru.

The refugees were delivered to Nauru on August 2 without the knowledge of their lawyers and reportedly showing “clear signs of manhandling and trauma”. Human rights lawyer George Newhouse said he had “not had the opportunity to inform our clients of their rights and options.

The social welfare cuts proposed in the federal government's May budget are a direct attack on working people and the poor. If implemented, they would represent a huge shift in income from the poor to the rich. This harsh reality is backed up by partial figures released by Treasury to Fairfax Media under Freedom of Information.

Here is the latest “deal” from the self-proclaimed Captain of Team Australia that you are not allowed to refuse: He'll withdraw his law change that will give people the right to be bigots and in return his spooks will have access to the past two years of your metadata.

My meta-whaaat???

The largest coalmine ever built in Australia, and one of the biggest in the world, received final approval from the federal environment minister Greg Hunt on July 28.

The Carmichael coalmine in central Queensland, owned by Indian company Adani, is forecast to produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year over the next 60 years. This dwarfs Australia’s current largest mine, which produces 20 million tonnes a year.

This was a speech given to a forum hosted by the Resistance – Young Socialist Alliance student club at the University of Western Sydney on August 7.


As I speak now, the people in Gaza are facing death or dispossession while other Palestinians are living under harsh conditions imposed by the apartheid state of Israel.

GLW Issue 1019

The Greens have faced criticism for their position on Israel’s war on Palestine.

At a Palestine rally in Melbourne on July 26, Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice was booed for calling for an arms embargo on both Israel and Palestine. At a Palestine rally in Brisbane on the same day, Greens candidate Jake Schoermer had a shoe thrown at him for condemning violence on both sides, New Matilda reported.

Amid asylum seeker polices that grow crueller and more surreal by the day, plans to turn the unemployed into virtual slaves and Christopher Pyne let loose on education, there is, without a doubt, one big question in Australian politics in 2014.

And that is: What drugs is Clive Palmer on?

And where can we get some? ‘Coz that bloke is clearly off his chops. You never know what the hell he’ll pull next, which makes me worry about what will happen when he finally comes down. Some poor aide is going to have to explain what he got up to.