Comment and Analysis

The Senate has voted down Christopher Pyne’s Higher Education Reform Bill, which would uncap university fees. This is the second time that the legislation has been struck down. It puts Tony Abbott’s government on aan uneasy footing.

The defeat of the bill comes after Pyne spent weeks on a campaign to bully and threaten crossbenchers in parliament. This strategy included threatening to cut $150 million of research funding to the National Collaborative Research and Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) if the bill was not passed.

This NSW election, like the Victorian and Queensland polls before it, hinges on growing public opposition to Tony Abbott’s federal government and the neoliberal policies implemented by Labor and Coalition state governments.

The sell-off of public assets and services, cuts to the public sector, unsustainable development, mining and unprecedented handouts and tax cuts to corporate interests and the super rich are now standard practice, and people have had enough.

Thousands of people rallied in cities and towns around Australia on March 19 in opposition to the planned closure of around 150 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight in September when the federal government — without consultation — announced that it would stop providing funding to these homeland communities from July 1 this year.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent comments on the “lifestyle choice” of Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas are troubling, especially given his self-anointed role of “Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs”.

I have been privileged to work in Aboriginal health, in a rural centre of South Australia, for a number of years. The simplistic notion that people live in remote regions purely due to a lifestyle choice is far from reality.

The power to “play God” with the lives of asylum seekers was granted to Australia’s immigration minister by the passage of the most punitive refugee laws ever seen last December.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison, who held refugee children to ransom to pressure recalcitrant senators to concede their votes, pushed through the laws.

The latest buzzword the government is tossing around to try to scare people into supporting its grossly unfair budget is “intergenerational theft”. It recently released an Intergenerational Report, which looks at the budget over the next 40 years to back up this campaign.

The report says that in the future we will all live much longer and spend more of our lives in retirement. There will be a lower proportion of working people whose taxes pay for pensions and health care, so “we” have to start paying for it now.

Amid so much bad news about so many species of wildlife in danger of extinction, it is encouraging that there are finally some good stories about endangered wild animals.

There has been good news regarding rhinoceros conservation in India. The Indian state of Assam’s environmental ministry recently revealed that the population of Indian one-horned rhinoceros in the state had grown by 27% since 2006, hitting a high of 2544 animals. The Indian government has a goal of 3000 rhinos by 2020. There were only about 200 Indian rhinos in the early 1990s.

My name is Stephanie O’Donnell, but I also go by “the girl from the plane”.

On December 19, my partner and I were at Sydney Airport on our way to Heathrow via Beijing. We had booked the cheapest flight available and were waiting to check in for flight CA174, when a plucky activist approached us.

To date, Vice-Chancellor of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Attila Brungs has supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's fee deregulation legislation. Last year he said fee deregulation “could have some positive impacts” and result in “teaching quality going up”.

Arguing that it is positive that students finish their course with $100,000 debt is a hard sell, and Brungs felt the heat as students at UTS signed petitions calling on him to oppose it.

I am a political science student, two years into a bachelor degree at the University of Western Sydney. I major in Social and Cultural Analysis.

I am also an activist, I campaign day-to-day on campus and on the streets, talking to students and workers.

I am a young, unemployed, queer woman and activist from a working-class family.

I am not the typical Legislative Council candidate — but that is exactly why I’m standing.

Through my candidacy, I seek to actively challenge the notion that the 1% represents the 99%, or that you should be forced to vote for the “lesser evil”.

The NSW government’s decision to buy back coal seam gas (CSG) licences in the upper Hunter just before a state election raises more questions than it answers.

It increasingly seems these days that we don't have a prime minister, we have an instant Internet meme creator. In fact, I am starting think that Tony Abbott is proving so good at generating outrage and bemused laughter in equal measures that he might actually be a left-wing plant.

How else could he prove so useless at actually pushing the hard-right, pro-rich, anti-poor, socially reactionary agenda he claims to stand for?

This month two reports were released in Canberra.

The first was an important analysis of economic data, the 2014 national accounts issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

What Australia’s national accounts show is an economy in deep trouble. As David Harvey reminds us, to function satisfactorily it is necessary for capitalist economies to achieve a minimum 3% compound growth forever.

Several commentators have pointed out that treasurer Joe Hockey's Intergenerational Report is a partisan document designed to bash Labor over the head.

A couple of weeks ago I was campaigning with Green Left Weekly at our regular Friday afternoon Central station tunnel spot. It’s a pretty frenetic spot as hundreds of people bustle past every minute, eager to catch their trains and get home or out for the night.

In This Changes Everything, author Naomi Klein raises the question of how capitalist societies will “adapt” to the people made homeless and jobless by increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters.

One of the issues she focuses on is the reaction of insurance companies, pointing out that the chief executive officer of Swiss Re America admits that climate change is “what keeps us up at night”.

A month after the Labor landslide electoral victory, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has begun to fine-tune her government’s opposition to the sale of public assets.

The sale of public assets caused the demise of both the previous Labor and Liberal-National Party governments. The Palaszczuk Labor government was elected on a platform of halting the proposed sale of state assets, such as electricity and ports.

Refugees on Nauru have defied government and police attempts to ban protesting, as the United Nations adds to the growing body of evidence that Australia's asylum policy is violating human rights.

The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) said 300 refugees held a peaceful protest on March 11, “just one week after Nauruan police staged mass arrests on the island in a bid to stifle the campaign of non-cooperation being waged by the refugees”.

The stop WestConnex campaign is intensifying heading into the NSW state election.

Apart from the proposed electricity sell-off, it has become one of the top issues, damaging both Liberal and Labor.

The announcement by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of a WestConnex forum at Sydney Town Hall, set for March 16, has ignited campaigners, and will put the unpopular and expensive plan under further scrutiny.

The Literacy for Life Foundation in partnership with the University of New England, hosted a one-day seminar on February 28 to discuss the “Yes I Can” Aboriginal Adult Literacy campaign.

This campaign has achieved notable success in raising adult literacy levels in three western NSW communities, using a model originally developed in Cuba. More than 80 people have already graduated in pilot projects in Wilcannia, Bourke and Enngonia.

It is hard to distill what it is like to live in poverty into a few words, because poverty is so huge and complex, particularly for single mothers.

On my own, it’s easy to feel powerless to do anything about it and as a woman the injustice of poverty makes me so angry.
It makes me angry that in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we have more than 600,000 children living in poverty.

It makes me angry that right now there are women and children living in cars or in unsafe and insecure housing because rents have become impossible to manage.


The ABS's steam-powered computer systems are too outdated to run a census.

The various agencies of Australian governments have a capacity to access data generated by individuals that is unprecedented — one of the “benefits” of the communications revolution that we are living through.

Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who chaired the Special Task force on Domestic and Family Violence, handed the report Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on February 28.

The task force was established on September 10 last year by the previous LNP government and charged to deliver its findings by February 28. It included several now-former MPs.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2014, also known as the “data retention” bill, if passed, will be the third installment of sweeping powers granted to Australian intelligence agencies.

It will mean that every move you make, every call you take, the government will be watching you.

How does data retention impede the role of investigative journalists, political reporters and whistleblowers?

1: METADATA THEFT

In August last year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott thought it would be a good idea to send 1000 Australian soldiers to Ukraine. Their intended purpose was to guard the crash site of the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down there killing 38 Australian citizens.

The proposal was quietly dropped after military planners advised that, as none of the troops could speak either Ukrainian or Russian, and would not be able to tell the difference between the militias of either country, it was not such a great idea after all.

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott used a March 3 press conference at Parliament House to announce the deployment of 300 more soldiers to Iraq, it was impossible to ignore the political theatre to serve a partisan domestic agenda.

If you missed it in the content of his talk, you couldn't miss the no-less-than eight flags propped up behind him as he spoke.

A combination of relentless attacks on the living standards of ordinary people and Abbott's incompetence has made his government one of the most unpopular in Australian history.


The ABS's steam-powered computer systems are too outdated to run a census.

The various agencies of Australian governments have a capacity to access data generated by individuals that is unprecedented — one of the “benefits” of the communications revolution that we are living through.


As the sun sets on Australia’s mining boom the RBA feels it needs to stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates.

In February the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) reduced the cash rate to 2.25%, a rate it then maintained at its March meeting.

While there has been a great deal of commentary on this in the mainstream press, especially in the Australian Financial Review, the left press (for lack of a better term) has been stunningly silent.

Health minister Sussan Ley’s announcement that the GP co-payment has been dropped was welcomed by Save Medicare Sydney (SMS). But the group warns: “Medicare is not safe while the rebate remains frozen and the government looks for other ways to dismantle universal health care.”

Jean Parker from SMS said: “Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott and Ley want Medicare bulk-billing to become a safety-net for the ‘vulnerable’.

Despite widespread public opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne are determined to get their higher education deregulation bill through the Senate.

Students, on the other hand, are just as determined to stop it.

Mia Sanders, the UWS Bankstown Student Council Secretary and an education activist, told Green Left Weekly that students would not back down.

If Tony Abbott’s government has its way, new laws further empowering Australia's secret police to greatly expand their mass surveillance powers will be rammed through federal parliament by mid-March.

But it will succeed only if the Australian Labor Party backs the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill.

“The findings of guilty are set aside and dismissed and appellant’s sentence is vacated.”

With this statement on February 18 the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), found David Hicks innocent of a previous guilty plea of providing military support to terrorism.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Hicks said: “I am not jumping up and down for joy. I am very tired by it all. Then there are the government’s and media’s attitude to it all. I am quite fed up with it all.”

The onshore gas industry in south-east Australia is in trouble. Public opposition, low international oil prices and projected supply shortfalls have combined to cast doubt on the profitability of the industry.

The international finance company Credit Suisse has indicated that the LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facilities at Gladstone in Queensland may fall short of meeting their export contracts in coming years, by up to 30%.

“We will not be treated like slaves,” a refugee forced to live on Nauru said during a series of public protests held by refugees on the island.

Hundreds of refugees living in the community, alongside asylum seekers still held in detention camps, have been holding a campaign of non-cooperation and protest since February 25. Children have boycotted class, refugees with jobs have begun a stay-away strike and many are refusing to talk to their case mangers.

Blink and you might have missed it, but February 27 was the “Great Debate” between Luke Foley and Mike Baird.

The media reported that Premier Baird handed Labor’s Foley his election slogan, because Baird has no plan B for infrastructure without the electricity sell-off to fund $20 billion in projects.

The Redfern Tent Embassy survives, a week after an eviction notice was served demanding that they vacate by February 23. For four long days, locals and supporters have kept watch to protect the Block from an expected hoard of Redfern police coming to enforce the eviction.

About 20 people gathered at the embassy on Monday after the initial 5am call out for supporters, and about 150 people were at the embassy after Mick Mundine, the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), said on NITV that he would “definitely be coming in the afternoon”.

It seems there is no end to the incredible bias facing the poor, beleaguered Tony Abbott government.

If it isn't an ABC journalist daring to ask a government minister a question they don't like, it's the Human Rights Commission releasing a report on the plight of children in immigration detention centres that even the most impartial observer would have to admit shows a distinct and unmistakable bias in favour of respecting human rights.

Workers in Australia are under an unprecedented and multi-fronted attack, designed to strip away hard-fought wages and conditions, including penalty rates and industrial rights. This attack is part of a drive by Australian capital to shore up profits in the context of a global economic slow down.

An alliance of 46 Sovereign First Nations from across the Murray Darling Basin has proposed a new partnership between government and traditional owners to ensure key reforms on Aboriginal ownership and management of water entitlements are fulfilled.

Frack Free Tasmania held a public meeting on February 18 at Sustainable Living Tasmania to warn about possible exploration for shale oil and gas in the island state. The current moratorium on fracking in Tasmania is due to end on March 31.

The government put out an issues paper which received 157 submissions, 90% of which were opposed to fracking being allowed in the state. The government responded to the review on February 26 by extending the moratorium until 2020.

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