Comment and Analysis

The Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) held a hearing on October 29 to allow the community to express their views on Incitec’s proposal to build an ammonium nitrate production facility in Newcastle.

All 18 speakers slammed the proposal as presenting an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic explosion that could threaten the lives of thousands of people in the city.

Speakers ranged from explosives expert Tony Richards to the Socialist Alliance, the Greens, and several community groups from Stockton and Mayfield, as well as members of the public.

The witch-hunt into unions descended into farce last month as the Royal Commission’s attempt to justify its existence instead showed that it is an inquiry compromised by its politically motivated construction and damned by its own incompetence.

The week began with Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) assistant secretary Tim Lyons attacking royal commissioner Dyson Heydon and senior counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar for confusing workplace bargaining with corruption and failing to understand the role of unions they had been asked to investigate.

Aboriginal activists in Western Australia are gearing up for a rally on November 12 to protect remote communities in the face of federal government attacks. It will follow a September 16 rally against state government threats to Aboriginal heritage and an October 23 rally against ongoing Black deaths in custody.

The federal government announced on September 24 that it would withdraw funding for 180 remote Aboriginal communities in WA. It will grant $90 million to the WA government for a two-year “transition period”.

For those paying attention to the science of climate change, it might seem counterintuitive to talk about hope.

To some it might even seem in bad taste, given that the future impacts include the melting away of the Himalayan glaciers that provide fresh water for 1.3 billion people in Asia and the possibility that many low-lying island nations may become uninhabitable.

In an article in the Guardian on October 28, Antony Loewenstein says that he does not write about feminism because he fears being “attacked by women for questioning a consensus position on feminist issues”.

“Writing about feminism when male is like gate crashing a party,” he said, “and I’m concerned I’ll be slammed for daring to arrive without an invitation.”

The passing of former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the age of 98 on October 21 provoked a wave of emotion from the community, both young and old. At a time when the federal government is trying to smash the remnants of the progressive reforms initiated during the Whitlam government — in office from December 1972 to November 1975 — the Whitlam era seems like a period from another political universe.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for “a mature debate” on whether to raise the GST — and, make no mistake, he'll shirtfront any economic girlie-men who try to stop it.

The authority responsible for managing the East West Link has sent residents in inner-city Melbourne an eight-page brochure extolling the virtues of the new motorway.

The newsletter says that work is set to commence on the project to build 4.4 kilometre twin tunnels between the Eastern Freeway and City Link in Moonee Valley. It would create about 3700 jobs, including 150 for automotive workers facing unemployment from the closure of Ford, General Motors and Toyota plants in Melbourne and Geelong.

A fierce debate over women’s participation in video game culture has erupted online. Known as “GamerGate”, it is a battle over power and sexism in video games.

Women now represent nearly half of those who play video games, and the traditional gamer identity is being challenged. The problem of sexism in video games is part of a wider problem of misogyny in society, and in the same way misogyny is being confronted in parliament or at universities, it is also being confronted in gaming.

The University of Western Sydney Resistance club released this statement on October 28.

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Student campus councillor at UWS Bankstown Mia Sanders has slammed the federal government’s higher education reform bill which went before the Senate on October 28.

At Geelong's Walk Together rally on October 25, Labor's shadow immigration minister Richard Marles told the crowd Labor would “welcome” refugees.

Despite trying to appeal to the crowd's message of acceptance and tolerance, Marles was heckled by members of Rural Australians for Refugees and the Socialist Alliance. Unionists from the Geelong Trades Hall stood up front and turned their backs on him while he spoke.

It is ominous. As the federal government's joke climate change “Direct Action Plan” passed the Senate with the support of coal baron Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party, the first heatwave of an early Australian summer had just smashed new temperature records for the hottest day in October.

The Bureau of Meteorology said October 25 was Australia’s warmest October day on record, kept since 1910. Average maximums across the nation reached 36 degrees Celsius.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated his government plans to increase the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Before last year’s election, Abbott promised the Australian people that “the GST won't change, full stop, end of story”. But on October 27, he called for a “mature debate” on the topic, making it clear his government intends to increase GST revenue.

One of the most striking features of the first year of Tony Abbott’s government is the sustained attacks on Centrelink clients.

These started with the federal budget and its proposed cuts to Newstart Allowance for those aged under 30, Family Tax Benefits for sole-parent and low-income families, and restricted access to Disability Support Pension.

These were followed by employment minister Eric Abetz announcing the expansion of Work for the Dole to all jobseekers under 50.

Bill Deller was a well-known left-wing activist in Melbourne and presenter on community radio station 3CR. He died on October 17. Below are remembrances of Bill’s life from some of his comrades.

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Lalitha Chelliah — radio co-host and a friend and comrade of 24 years

I met Bill Deller in 1990 when he employed me to work at the State Public Services Federation (SPSF).

The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign (GCPC) was formed in mid-February at a meeting of the Marrickville Peace Group, Marrickville Residents for Reconciliation (now part of ANTaR Inner West), Pax Christi and the Marrickville Greens. Since then a number of local individuals have also participated in the coalition’s meetings and events.

Moreland City councillor Sue Bolton gave this speech to a rally in solidarity with Kobani in Melbourne on October 25.

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There are two reasons to support the Kurds of Kobane. One reason is humanitarian: to prevent a massacre. The other reason is to protect and defend the building of an alternative society which should be a beacon for all left and progressive people in the world.

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died.

His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

In the outpouring of grief over Gough Whitlam’s death at the age of 98 on October 21, many people remembered how their lives were changed by the reforms his government brought in.

In an age of worsening neoliberal attacks led by the anti-poor class warriors in Tony Abbott’s government, the reforms associated with Whitlam's twice-elected 1972-75 government can seem almost utopian.

Recent opinion polls show the Queensland Liberal-National government has 51% electoral support compared with 49% for Labor.

So it is not surprising that the privatisation rhetoric has shifted from asset sales to leasing. Under the “Strong Choices Plan”, endorsed by the government on October 7, $37 billion in public assets are to be leased to the private sector on 99-year contracts.

Premier Campbell Newman said: “Today we say very clearly the assets are not for sale.”

Cairns Woolworths caused outrage recently by stocking a singlet with the Australian flag and the phrase “If you don't love it, leave...” But let no one be confused by such a slogan, which, at first glance would seem a little reminiscent of “Fuck off, we're full” stickers or even the infamous “I grew here, you flew here” slogan that raised its head during the 2005 Cronulla race riots.

Sean Brocklehurst is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale in the November 29

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A good example of the anti-worker attitude of Denis Napthine’s government is its treatment of paramedics.

Victoria's paramedics have been campaigning for pay parity with interstate paramedics for more than two years with no sign of a resolution.

The recent Australian Council of Social Service report into poverty has found one third of sole parents live in poverty.

Many sole parents are suffering after being switched from Parenting Payment Single to the much lower Newstart Allowance. Under former prime minister Julia Gillard, about 100,000 sole parents were switched to the lower payment.

In NSW, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) heard evidence from Operation Spicer of significant breaches of donations laws by Liberal candidates and private donors before the 2011 state election.

The hearings have exposed 12 state and federal Liberal politicians, who have either resigned or stood aside, including former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. ICAC is due to release its full report next year and this will include recommendations on whether criminal charges should be laid.

With his harsh budget in tatters and his popularity in decline, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and outgoing head of ASIO David Irvine raised the terror alert from medium to high on September 13.

It was justified, they claimed, by the threat of those returning from fighting in the Middle East — all 70 or so of them — posing an increased risk to Australia’s way of life.

Green Left Weekly and ActionAid will be co-sponsoring a Political Economy Society seminar at Sydney University on October 29 to discuss the case for greater international efforts to combat corporate tax avoidance before the G20 summit.

Large corporations systematically avoid paying the statutory level of company tax — a low 30% in Australia — by numerous means including siphoning funds to notorious international tax havens.

In Problems of Greater Britain, the English politician Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke concluded that high wages, cheap food and the time available for sporting and cultural activities made Australia a workers’ paradise.

If Dilke’s observation in 1890 ever had any truth to it, it was a paradise soon lost. The average weekly wage did not recover from its fall in the 1891 depression until 20 years later. For the less skilled in the labour force, the 20% wage loss in the depression wasn’t clawed back until 1921.

The ebola outbreak in West Africa is "unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times", World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Dr Margaret Chan said on October 14.

When the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was set up by the federal government, it was widely seen as a political witch hunt intended to smear the union movement with guilt by association to the scandals that had emerged in the Health Services Union (HSU).

With a bit of good fortune and a lot of spin-doctoring it would also provide the Coalition with handy ammunition against the ALP at the next federal election, likely to be held in late 2016 — a contrived “ticking Tampa”.

Woolworths was caught out this month selling T-shirts with the slogan “If you don’t love it, leave” emblazoned over an Australian flag.

After George Craig posted a photo of the shirt on Twitter with the caption: “@woolworths cairns, selling racist singlets for everyday low prices! #racist”, the T-shirt was quickly and widely condemned. Woolworths immediately pulled the stock from its shelves and apologised.

Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance released this statement on October 16.

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Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance supports the struggle in Kobani against the Islamic State for a number of reasons.

Kobani, is part of an emerging progressive autonomous region called Rojava where people of all ethnicities and religious beliefs are equal and where women are leading the way forward.

Kurdish fighters in the northern-Syrian city of Kobani have been fighting an armed struggle against Islamic State (IS) fighters for the past month. The Kurdish fighters are resisting IS attempts to take their city, which would result in a massacre.

There has been some debate among left activists about whether the Kurdish struggle is anti-imperialist, whether the people’s militia groups in Kobani have been calling for imperialist military intervention, and what issue Australian anti-war activists should focus on.

Paul Verhaeghe, senior professor of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis at Ghent University in Belgium, has argued in a recently published essay that neoliberal economics brings out the worst in human beings.

He finds that thirty years of neoliberalism, and the privatisation and free-market misery that comes with it, have taken their toll on people’s values and even their personalities.

Now I know things seem pretty bleak in this country right now, but we must remember there is always hope. After all, in 1967, an Australian prime minister entirely disappeared without any warning after he went swimming — and Tony Abbott loves to swim!

So don't give in to despair — it might happen again. The key thing is to not lose all hope.

NSW ALP Senator John Faulkner, luminary of the Labor left, has been complaining of the structural flaws in the party for decades. Despite being a long-time beneficiary of the party’s factionalism, almost 10 years ago he was writing of the “shared venality” of party apparatchiks that led it back beyond factionalism. “It is feudalism, and it is killing the ALP.”

Last week he was at it again in his address to the “Light on the Hill Society” at Revesby Workers Club in western Sydney.

"We are now in the world of 'big insurance,' with health funds squarely in the business of providing financial returns to shareholders ... Private health insurers serve their shareholders, meaning they don't necessarily seek to actively protect or advance models of care that result in the best health outcomes for members," chief executive of St Vincents Health Australia Toby Hall, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health-care organisation, wrote in the October 10 Sydney Morning Herald.

As I watched the slick military-supplied “news” clip of the first Australian Super Hornet mission over Iraq — where the two warplanes dropped not a single bomb on an IS target — I wondered how much that abortive mission cost the supposedly budget-strapped government and certainly budget-slapped Australian public.

The Queensland capital is getting ready to lock down for a two-day meeting of world leaders in mid-November. More than $171 million has been allocated to “city improvement works” in an effort by the government “to help Brisbane shine” in time for the G20 summit.

Homeless people will be offered hotel rooms, bins will be sealed to prevent bomb concealment, public transport will be affected and roads will be closed.

The G20 “red zone” will encompass the central business district and Spring Hill along with much of Kangaroo Point, Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane.

Sarah Hathway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong, and Sean Brocklehurst, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale, released this statement on October 16.

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We strongly support the Reclaim the Night marches organised across Victoria and the world. Violence against women is endemic to the sexist culture promoted by our oppressive, exploitative, capitalist society. Vibrant public campaigns protesting such violence can help win better safety and rights for women, and are an important part of the struggle for a better world.

The decision to deny 11-month-old Ferouz Myuddin a protection visa precedes a plan by Tony Abbott’s government to retrospectively deny all babies born to asylum seekers the right to seek refugee status.

An amendment bill containing extensive changes to the Migration Act was tabled by the federal government last month. The bill would remove most references to the refugee convention and legalise boat turnarounds.

The Coalition government also wants all babies born to asylum seekers who arrived by boat after August 13, 2012 to be declared “unauthorised maritime arrivals”.

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