Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1008

I have recently celebrated my 69th birthday. I have three adult sons, six grand children and one great grandchild, all of whom I love dearly. Last December marked 51 years since I was married and next month will be 30 years since I finally left the marriage.

Despite the research I have done, together with almost five years of counselling, I still suffer from the impact of 20 years of domestic violence. I have been diagnosed as suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is amazing, really, what with money being so tight these days, that there are people who seem to think we should be entitled to access a government minister for free!

It is a wonder anyone is upset that Treasurer Joe Hockey has been revealed selling meetings to businesses when he has made it perfectly clear time and time again: the age of entitlement is over!

Well, here we are at the halfway mark. It’s been about eight weeks since Alcoa announced it was shutting up shop in Geelong and there’s a little over eight weeks before workers are tossed out the gate for good.

But where are the announcements from the state and federal governments or Alcoa about how they will address the economic black hole and job losses in Geelong?

New documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activists who took part in Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Co-producer John Rainford writes about Wollongong's transition from making steel to looking after the environment.

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It is utterly galling to hear the leader of the federal Labor opposition criticising the government for proposing a “new tax” in the form of a modest and temporary “deficit levy” on taxpayers in the highest income bracket.

“Tony Abbott, Australians do not want your tax increases full stop,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said at a May 7 press conference.

The federal Commission of Audit's proposal to cut the minimum wage would create an underclass of US-style "working poor" in this country, the Australian Council of Trade Unions says.

The ACTU said on May 5: "The plan to aggressively drive down the minimum wage would see its real value fall to its 1998 level of $12 an hour.”

“This will not be a budget for the rich or the poor; it will be a budget for the country,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in his April 28 speech to the Sydney Institute, a privately funded “public affairs forum”.

He must think we are total fools.

Why else would a government that supposedly plans to introduce a budget that is “not for the rich” ask Tony Shepherd, former president of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), to conduct a pre-budget “audit” of government spending?

This was a speech given to a Refugee Action Coalition forum in Sydney on May 5.

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I am in Year 11 at a school in Sydney’s inner-west, and like many other high school students, I care about refugee and queer rights, as well as for the rights of women, the rights of Aboriginal Australians and the environment. I am also an activist for all of these things.

From what I've seen, many students support refugee rights and I've found few people my age who oppose them. But I've got into many stupid arguments about refugees with older people.

Iranian asylum seeker and aspiring architect Reza Berati was beaten to death inside the Manus Island detention camp more than two months ago, during what former employees of the detention centre described as “inevitable bloodshed”.

Now, the five witnesses who say they can identify those who allegedly kicked, punched and beat the 23-year-old until he succumbed to massive head injuries, have been receiving death threats from local security guards.

GLW Issue 1007

Call it reckless, short-sighted or just “plane stupid”, but the federal government’s decision to press ahead with a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek defies logic.

Along with the noise pollution it will inflict on western Sydney, the airport will spawn a huge amount of extra carbon pollution — something we cannot afford in an age of dangerous climate change.

As we brace for the Coalition government's first budget — with its foreshadowed cuts to Medicare, education, welfare and public service jobs — the salt in these wounds was Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement that his government plans to buy 58 F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter war planes for $12.5 billion.

Youth unemployment has risen to double the national unemployment rate, a new report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence has found.

The overall unemployment rate is 6%. But for 15 to 24 year olds it is 12.5% and in some areas as high as 20%. The rates of youth unemployment have risen for the past two years. The length of time young people are unemployed is also rising.

Young people who choose to study at university are also facing a life of poverty.

I am one of the organisers for the March in March and March in May and a social justice advocate.

The leaflet for the Sydney Institute dinner [held on April 28] declares that the honourable Tony Abbott has had a “long and distinguished political career”. I disagree with this statement, and from here on will refer to our prime minister as the dishonourable Tony Abbott.

Since taking office in September last year, the dishonourable Tony Abbott and his government have worked hard to undermine the needs and rights of Australians, giving us plenty to get worked up about.

One of the custodial deaths that launched the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody will be remembered this year with a national day of action, rallies and marches.

Eddie Murray died while in police custody in 1981 and his family and supporters are demanding a new inquiry into his death. They claim missing clothes and a coroner's report, which proved he suffered a broken sternum while in custody, were proof that he was murdered.

Last year we had the hottest week, hottest day, month and year on record broken in Australia.

Worryingly, the fossil fuel companies already have 2795 gigatonnes of fossil fuels in reserves they planning on burning.

That is five times more than the planet can handle if we want to stay below two degrees of warming their business plans, the planet tanks. We need to rewrite this script and go down a different path.

It is difficult to accept that NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell lost his position over the alleged gift of a $3000 bottle of Grange connected with the push to award lucrative contracts to Australian Water Holdings (AWH).

Conceivably, he could have stonewalled that accusation and ridden out the storm had he enjoyed the backing of cabinet and the Daily Telegraph.

New documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Here, co-producer John Rainford describes workers’ campaigns in the Illawarra that defeated greedy bosses and saved jobs.

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The Commission of Audit report is a declaration of open class war by the corporate ruling class against Australia's working people and the poor.

Released symbolically on May 1, the international workers' day, it is a clear challenge to the labour movement and social organisations.

If its 86 recommendations are implemented, it would be a wholesale destruction of the welfare state, hard fought for over a century or more by working people, and a huge victory for big business in shifting wealth from the poor to the rich.

The budget is approaching and it seems we are a bit short on cash. This isn't surprising really, seeing as we’re stumping up about $12 billion for a bunch of new fighter jets with such serious flaws they are expected to cost a further $12 billion in repairs and maintenance.

Plus we appear to be overrun by marauding hordes of free-loading pensioners clogging up doctors’ waiting rooms and bankrupting the economy with their subsidised medicines. The solution seems obvious to me: we should kill two birds with one stone and save some cash by burning these old people as jet fuel.

A casino was a fitting venue to host Prime Minister Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th anniversary dinner of conservative think tank the Sydney Institute on April 28.

Abbott's speech, coming two weeks before the federal budget, was full of promises of “happiness”, “security” and “a better life”. But in reality, Australian workers, pensioners and the poor will be lucky if they are left with much more than the shirts on their backs once the government is done fleecing them.

GLW Issue 1006

The statement below was released on May 1, international workers' day, by Socialist Alliance co-convenors Peter Boyle and Susan Price.

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ABBOTT'S 'STRONGER', 'HAPPIER' AUSTRALIA EQUALS MORE PAIN FOR WORKERS, PENSIONERS AND THE POOR

A casino was a fitting venue to host PM Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th birthday dinner of conservative think tank, the Sydney Institute on April 28.

The Tony Abbott government, in line with its ruthless drive to privatise all remaining public sector assets, last month announced a plan to sell off Medibank Private during the 2014-15 financial year. Following the secret recommendations of the government's big-business-controlled Commission of Audit, the federal budget in May is likely to include further attacks on Medicare — undermining its character as a national, universal health-care system.

Forty people travelled over 6000 kilometres as part of an anti-nuclear educational trip from Melbourne to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory and back from April 12 to 27.

The annual “Rad Tour" weaved its way through Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory to educate people about the dangers of the nuclear industry.

Early last month, former Health Services Union (HSU) national secretary and federal Labor MP Craig Thomson was sentenced to three months in jail for misusing union members’ money. He has appealed the decision.

Later in the month, Michael Williamson, former national president of both the HSU and the ALP, was sentenced to seven and a half years jail with a non-parole period of five years for defrauding HSU members. Few would argue that this was undeserving.

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Samuel Johnson’s aphorism is well known. But what does patriotism actually mean? Is it simply a matter of liking the sunshine, the gum trees, the beaches and a certain lifestyle? Is it about being overcome with emotion when we see the Australian flag or the Anzac Day dawn service?

REAL LOVE OF COUNTRY

The movers and shakers and heavy hitters in our society — politicians, business moguls, journalists in the corporate media, and so on — are all patriotic. But we should be very cynical about this.

If modern industrial capitalism were a person, he or she would be on suicide watch. The system that has brought us quantum physics and reality television, modern medicine and the columns of Andrew Bolt is set on a course which, by all the best reckoning, points directly to its doing itself in.

If capitalism goes on — everything goes. Climate, coastlines, most living species, food supplies, the great bulk of humanity. And certainly, the preconditions for advanced civilisation, perhaps forever.

Since Australian women rallied for “free, safe, accessible abortion on demand” 40 years ago, much has been achieved.

Legal reform of some kind has taken place in most states and territories. There is Medicare funding for pregnancy termination, mifepristone is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and women no longer suffer the complications from illegal “backyard” operations.

Yet there are still obstacles for women to access affordable pregnancy termination services in a timely manner.

A new documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong on May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres.

The film features activist participants from Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection.

Here, co-producer John Rainford gives an insight into the 1949 coal strike and the attempt to ban the Communist Party of Australia.

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The Supreme Court of Victoria decided on March 31 to fine the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) $1.25 million for its protest action on Grocon sites in Melbourne in August 2012.

Grocon is now seeking costs due to the industrial action, which could amount to an extra $1.7 million.

The CFMEU-led campaign against the construction giant began over the issues of safety and appointment of shop stewards as Occupational Health and Safety representatives on high risk construction sites, in opposition to the management-appointed “safety inspectors”.

When the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption first sat on April 9 it did little more than give general guidance about the direction of the inquiry.

This was largely provided by counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar SC. The learned counsel was eager to ensure all concerned that there were no preconceptions with the inquiry. But he did make the helpful suggestion that the legal obligations of union officials should be “even more onerous” than those of company directors.