Comment and Analysis

The pledge below was published on the website of the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign, which says: “Let Greece Breathe is a campaign for hope and justice. We aim to show that Greece and the Greek people are not alone in their hour of need.

“A victory for Greece will be a victory for people everywhere -- that is why the battle is so fierce. You can help by endorsing the statement and pledge below.”

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It’s reasonable to expect, that if you visit a relative or friend in a nursing home in NSW, you will find a registered nurse on duty. But that could change this year.

The NSW Public Health Act currently requires all “nursing homes” in the state to have a registered nurse on duty 24/7. However, changes to the federal Aged Care Act in mid-2014 have now undermined this requirement.

With 44 seats (to the LNPs 42) and the support of Independent Peter Wellington, the ALP leader Annastacia Palaszczuk was sworn in as Premier on February 14. The full Cabinet of 14 (including 8 women) was sworn in on February 16.

The ALP minority government represents a number of firsts for Queensland: first cabinet with a majority of women ministers; first female team of Premier and Deputy Premier (Jacki Trad); and first woman indigenous cabinet minister Leeanne Enoch.

It is assumed that the axing of asset sales will be the first item on the new government’s to-do list.

The Refugee Convention and similar international laws exist to protect the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted people. People who flee war zones or are victimised by their governments and communities rely on countries that are signatories to these conventions to recognise their at-risk status and provide safety.

Australia has a poor record on native animal extinctions. We know that native forest is essential habitat for koalas and other wildlife. Yet, knowing how important the preservation of sufficient, suitable habitat is to sustaining endangered wildlife, we still continue to destroy vital native vegetation and old growth forest.

The dire situation for koalas around Ballina, NSW, is in the spotlight again. A critical colony of more than 200 koalas is at risk of extinction in the region if Stage 10 of the Pacific Highway upgrade goes ahead.

On February 9, the Grandmothers Against Removals joined a national sit-in protest at Parliament House in Canberra.

This group of Aboriginal women has campaigned tirelessly to raise the issue of what they call the “Stolen Generation of the 21st Century”. Despite the official policy of child removals being over, Aboriginal children are today placed in “out of home” care at record rates.

At the G20 meeting held in Brisbane last December, Treasurer Joe Hockey unveiled his blueprint for the Australian economy. It came in the form of a document grandiosely titled The Comprehensive Growth Strategy.

This was Australia’s contribution to the G20’s strategy to raise their overall economic output by 2% over the next five years.

So it must have come as a surprise to cigar-smoking Joe that when the IMF and OECD looked at the fine print of his document and reached for the abacus they concluded that it would, if implemented, add only 1.2% to economic output.

Grandmothers Against Removals National Committee and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy released this statement at a rally in Canberra on the anniversary of the National Apology on February 13.

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Today we march in protest against the unprecedented theft of Aboriginal children from their families by so-called “Child Protection” agencies across Australia.

“Half the world is dying of starvation and the other half is dying of boredom.”

This expression, one of many popularised during the protests of the 1960s, encapsulates a feeling of alienation that many young people today can still relate to.

The capitalist world system, despite its proponents’ claims, does not offer a future worth having to any person, whether they live in the relatively secure - though increasingly less so - core nations or the impoverished and exploited periphery states.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) is the second-largest bank in the world.

It operates in most countries, including Switzerland, which has long had a reputation for the secrecy of its finance sector. In 2008, a former HSBC employee gave the French government a list of the names of 261 Australians who held HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland.

In 2010, the year that HSBC’s 25th branch office in Australia was opened in North Sydney by Treasurer Joe Hockey, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) received a copy of the list — a fact it disclosed on February 9.

Partly due to luck, and partly due to the heroic efforts of severely overstretched firefighters, the huge bushfires that swept southern Western Australia in early February resulted in no loss of life. These devastating fires also provide a glimpse into our future on a warming planet unless we cut carbon emissions fast.

Eighty days on hunger strike has put an Iranian man who sought safety in Australia at death's door, as advocates around Australia fight for the immigration department to act to save his life.

“Martin” took the non-violent step to refuse to eat last November after the Australian government denied him refugee protection and redetained him in the remote Wickham Point Detention Centre. At least 15 other men in the same situation as Martin have also taken up a hunger strike.

The Australian Electoral Commission data from the declaration of donations to the major parties in 2013-14 was made public in early February.

They show that a total of more than $278 million in speculative political capital was invested in the ALP, Liberals, Nationals, Palmer United Party (PUP) and the Greens.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has campaigned against the privatisation and sale of public assets by both the Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman governments.

Not4Sale was launched three years ago with financial and organisational support from the ETU and has involved union members and their local communities in the campaign to stop assets sales. This strong, popular and localised resistance was a significant factor in the recent defeat of the Liberal National Party (LNP) government.

Three new coalmines have been approved by the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission, just weeks before the state election.

The new coalmines will be in Bengalla, near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, the Watermark Coal Project, near Gunnedah on the Liverpool Plains and Moolarben, north-east of Mudgee.

What lessons can we learn from the recent victory of SYRIZA for building the anti austerity movement and a political alternative to neoliberalism here in Australia? Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, in her recent article in New Matilda [see reprinted article on page 6], writes that the left in Australia should wake up and take notice of what is happening in Europe. I couldn’t agree more.

Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, the lead Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the upcoming March 28 NSW elections, released this statement on February 11.

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The NSW and other state governments must share the blame for the latest shameful and outrageous results of the Closing The Gap Report tabled by PM Tony Abbott in federal parliament today.

As the excitement subsides on the Queensland election results, we need to take stock of what this means for the left in Australia. While the deep north of our country is a world away from Greece, there is a political trend here. But first let’s stay in Queensland.

It was just three years ago that the then Bligh Labor government was thrown out suffering a 15.6% swing, one of the largest against a sitting state government in Australian political history. The Newman government lost with an 8.8% swing against it.

This joint statement was issued by unions and campaign organisations on February 10.

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Australia’s universal health insurance scheme, Medicare, has ensured world-leading public health care is accessible for all, for over 30 years. The availability of bulk-billing has delivered a health system that is more cost-effective and equitable than in many comparable OECD countries.

"NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird is in danger of going the way of his Queensland counterpart Campbell Newman, if he continues down the path of selling essential public assets," Howard Byrnes, Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW Legislative Council, said on February 11.

"The issue of power industry privatisation effectively brought down the Newman Liberal-National Party government in the Queensland elections on January 31, and could cause a huge upset in the upcoming NSW elections as well," he said.

The Labor Party has enjoyed a remarkable recovery in the recent Queensland elections.

Three years ago, after Labor privatised publicly owned railways, ports and forests, the party was reduced to a 27% primary vote and seven state seats.

At the January 31 election, its primary vote rose to 38% and, with a stronger flow of Greens preferences, it won at least 43 seats with a possible total of 45 — the final result will be determined by further counting. Forty five seats would give the party an absolute majority in state parliament.

The Mekong River is the mother of all south-east Asian rivers, providing life-sustaining resources to millions of people. Now, the future of the Mekong, its people and wildlife are in jeopardy.

The government of Laos plans to build the hydroelectric Don Sahong Dam — the second dam proposed for construction on the Lower Mekong mainstream — on the main pathway in the Mekong that allows for year round fish migration.

On January 30 a meeting of the New South Wales Education Action Network (EAN) was convened at the University of Technology, Sydney. The EAN is a cross campus collective of university students committed to fighting fee deregulation and for free education. It is open to all student activists.

Dunking her biscuit into the cup now covered in a suitable amount of filth, she thinks about the time she went driving up a mountain range in Cape York. “What a beautiful area — shame about the people.”

Fully aware she’s been accused of intellectual snobbery on more than one occasion, she lulled herself into a meditative state, knowing she would have to turn on the charm once more. “I say vagina and cunt twenty times a day and they still accuse me of it,” she said out loud this time.

The boats that “just kept coming and coming” under Labor have been “all but stopped”, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared to the Press Club in his widely described as “crash-and-burn” address on February 2.

“The Abbott government has stopped the boats — and only this government will keep them stopped.”

If you reading this after Tuesday, there's a chance we could have a new Overlord.

Liberals spooked by polls so bad that an electoral coalition between Islamic State and Ebola — or hell, even the Labor Party — could probably win the next federal election, are holding a leadership spill that could dump Tony Abbott as prime minister less than half way through his first term.

Phoenix is the name of a mythical bird which, after death, rose from the ashes to live with renewed vigour and start the cycle all over again.

It’s also the name of an illegal activity in Australia where directors wind-up a company and then create a new one while leaving their debts behind.

Workers loose their wages and entitlements, and other creditors are left with no chance of recovering the debts they are owed.

It’s a rort that’s common in the construction industry, and fiddled to the tune of more than $3 billion a year.

"The people of NSW should rise up and reject the Baird government's plan to sell off the state's power industry, just as Queensland voters did last weekend," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 28 NSW elections, said on February 5.

"The massive rejection of Premier Campbell Newman and his Liberal-National Party (LNP) government in the Queensland state election on January 31 has been sheeted home by most commentators to the LNP's disastrous plan to privatise the state's publicly owned electricity industry.

The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) was established nine months ago. It is a site of resistance to a program to move Aboriginal people out of Redfern led by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC) and development company DeiCorp. The racist campaign of social cleansing is backed up by Redfern police.

The Tent Embassy has been under sustained attack. RATE activists have suffered verbal and physical assaults and bail conditions imposed on victims that prevent access to the Embassy — all while the perpetrators have no restrictions on their movement.

On November 27, early in the morning, Jorge Castillo-Riffo was found on the scissor lift at the new Adelaide Hospital construction site. He had been crushed against a beam and died the following day.

Castillo-Riffo cared about his fellow workers and was diligent about Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) at his work site. About 1400 construction workers walked off the site and did not return to work until the following Monday.

The dramatic dumping of Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party government in Queensland and the leadership spill against Abbott have starkly revealed the ongoing popular opposition to the Coalition's program of cutbacks and privatisation. It has thrown the federal Liberals into a crisis.

This is a tremendous boost for progressive people in Australia and the anti-Abbott campaign in particular.

Elephants, rhinoceroses and lions are being killed in Africa in record numbers. Despite the work of authorities to stop the practice of poaching, 1020 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa says only 344 arrests were made that year. At the same time, more lions were killed in South Africa than rhinos. At this rate, lions will be extinct in the wild in less than 20 years.

Climate change will threaten the viability of grassroots sport in Australia, and elite tournaments will have to adapt to rising temperatures, extreme rainfall and shrinking snow cover, a report has warned.

Scientists had long thought the giant East Antarctic ice sheet was barely affected by global warming and that its glaciers were stable. It turns out those assumptions were wrong.

A team of scientists returned on January 26 from a 7-week expedition to East Antarctica with the bad news: warm ocean water is melting the huge Totten glacier from below.

People with a disability, especially young people, are facing another wave of attacks and victimisations by the federal government in a new crackdown on those receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP).

In mid-December, the then-minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, announced that his department would begin investigating people on the DSP. This will be carried out by the Coalition’s leading attack-dog, Scott Morrison, who inherited the ministry after a cabinet reshuffle removed him from the position of immigration minister.

One of the pre-election promises of Tony Abbott’s government was to initiate an inquiry into workplace relations by the Productivity Commission.

But the spectre of former prime minister John Howard’s WorkChoices, which lost the Coalition the 2007 election and the PM his seat, meant there was no great rush.

The plan was to pave the way for an assault on wages and working conditions by first attacking unions through a Royal Commission specially set-up for the purpose.

Harold John (Hal) Alexander passed away on December 19 in Sydney. He was born on April 9, 1924 and was for many years an electrician, mostly in heavy industry. He joined the then-illegal Communist Party in 1941, at the age of 17, and was a member until its dissolution in 1991. He was an organiser from 1954 to 1967 in Sydney, then Adelaide.

He suffered many arrests for his political activities and served three jail terms, two involving hunger strikes. He worked and lived with the Arrente people of Central Australia on and off from 1985.

“Greece is turning the page,” SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras told an ecstatic crowd on January 25. The radical left party had just come first in historic elections in Greece with 36.3% of the vote.

“Greece leaves behind the austerity that caused its destruction. It leaves behind fear and intimidation; it leaves behind five years of humiliation and grief. Greece advances with hope, with dignity and steady steps towards a changing Europe.”

The news from Greece has spread hope around the world.

I have decided there’s no longer any point trying to write these columns while we have a government as truly mad as this one. What’s the point of trying to think up witty ways to mock this bunch of heartless, cruel, out-of-touch, poor-hating, Tory scum if their leader just wanders about doing bat shit insane things like “knighting” Prince Philip?

On a blistering hot Sunday in January, a group of Aboriginal activists and allies delivered their impassioned accounts to a captivated crowd at The Block, Redfern. The banners behind them displayed powerful messages: “Justice Now! Reopen the TJ Hickey inquest”, “Black Law on Black Land”, and “You may kill our warriors, but you’ll never kill our fight for justice”.

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