Comment and Analysis

1. We are community activists

We won’t just represent, we will help empower communities by working alongside others against WestConnex, for marriage equality, for sustainability and public housing and by fighting for a local council that is more democratic, transparent and accountable to the community. Socialist councillors in Victoria and West Australia were critical to defeating the East-West Link and Roe 8 motorway projects.

2. Organise to take on corporate greed

It is important to put socialists on council because we have a very different perspective from other political parties. Our “people and planet before profit” philosophy guides our approach and, increasingly, councils are being relied on to lead key political debates — such as recognising Australia’s colonial past.

The August 14 publication of a NSW local court ruling earlier in the year has again shone light on the state’s anti-abortion laws.

A 30-year-old woman was found guilty of attempting abortion and sentenced to a 3-year good behaviour bond. The court record describes the circumstances, but leaves important questions unanswered.

Can you imagine being a bank CEO today? Wouldn’t you be wishing you were leading the bank 10 years ago before the global financial crisis when you could do whatever you wanted without too much fuss?

Fast forward to 2017. Bank CEOs are under intense scrutiny, but still pushing the banks’ profit-driven agenda in the face of scandal after scandal and community anger.

Ever since it was announced, the federal government’s postal survey on marriage equality has been met with responses questioning both the legitimacy of the survey and demonstrating support for marriage equality — responses that have been vital for the confidence and morale of members of the LGBTIQ community.

Despite this, the right, particularly the Christian right, has demonstrated its determination to defeat the push for marriage equality through the mobilisation of homophobic and transphobic hatred and disinformation.

According to an Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) tweet, between August 8 and 22 the electoral roll increased by 54,545.

There were 577,879 total enrolment transactions processed in that time, including checking and updating enrolment details. This data does not include the last two days of the enrolment period, which closed at midnight on August 24, so these numbers are likely to increase.

In an August 9 speech to parliament, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson once again backed the right-wing campaign against Venezuela’s democracy and national sovereignty.

His statements follow a June 21 speech to the Senate, where he spoke out against what he claimed was an “increasingly anti-democratic and corrupted government under President Nicolas Maduro”, while praising the “democratic and peaceful” protests led by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition.

Sentient lobsters boil at 200°C, screaming in pain, just so billionaires can slurp them up. Consider this the lobsters’ revenge on the Victorian Opposition Leader. Matthew "tough on crime” Guy was boiled and cooked red after having a sit-down lobster and donations dinner with mobsters.

Coalition finance minister Mathias Cormann told an admiring audience at the conservative Sydney Institute on August 23 that Labor leader Bill Shorten was “channelling” Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

If only...

What local councils do or don’t do on January 26 has burst into the national political debate, and what a good thing that is. No matter the frantic condemnation from the corporate media or the pompous and arse-about assertion by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that councils were “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”.

These opponents of an honest examination of Australia’s history may want to shut down the conversation but the opposite has happened.

Amir Taghinia is the founder of Manus Alert, an online news agency coming directly from within Australia's immigration prison camp.

Taghinia is fluent in many languages and often finds himself as a negotiator between people who have been incarcerated in the Manus Island camp, local authorities and communities.

He holds a passion for the beautiful lands we live on and in and has read widely on environmental issues.

He acknowledges some editorial assistance from Melody Kemp and Janet Galbraith.

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One hundred years ago this month, the Great Strike of 1917, the biggest strike in Australian history began. It was to last more than two months, from August 2 until the last workers drifted back to work on October 15, but the impact of the strike lasted a lot longer.

After a local community campaign lasting almost a decade, the South Australian government has finally committed to build solar thermal with storage in Port Augusta. It will bring 24-hour solar power to SA, creating hundreds of regional jobs, cutting pollution and putting downward pressure on electricity prices.

In the past fortnight, many of us thought we were right on the edge of FINALLY winning marriage equality in Australia as dissent within the ranks of Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government came to a head.

Liberal MP Dean Smith and others put up the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill and called for a free vote. Even Turnbull, a self-declared supporter of marriage equality even as he called for a plebiscite, said he supported the right of Liberal MPs to cross the floor to vote for the bill.

US President Donald Trump's August 8 statement that any threats from North Korea would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” should have made us all very worried. But it has grown worse since then.

Despite widespread community opposition and the Senate's repeated rejection of a plebiscite the Malcolm Turnbull government is persisting with a non-binding postal survey on the question of removing the current definition of marriage from the Marriage Act and replacing it with an unspecified definition that will provide for marriage equality in some unspecified form.

A new campaign, #HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing, spearheaded by Dr Alex Wodak and GetUp!, has been launched in response to the federal government’s decision to deny income support payments to those who test positive to certain drugs.

So the government is planning a plebiscite on equal marriage by means of post, presumably because it didn’t want to confuse elderly opponents of marriage equality with new-fangled technological developments like the telegram.

The whole project will cost $122 million for a vote that is not even binding, when all polls for years have shown a large majority in favour of marriage equality and the thing could be resolved in a matter of hours by a simple vote in parliament.

Last week was Homelessness Week. It was also the week when the 76 homeless people sleeping in Martin Place were removed by the NSW Coalition government.

Sydney City Council has, at least, defended the “tent city” and taken a more pro-active role in trying to find solutions, compared with the NSW government which simply wants to wash its hands of this enormous problem.

Hamed Shamshiripour, a 31 year old Iranian refugee, died on August 7 as a direct result of Australia’s detention system. He is the sixth man to die on Manus Island since the detention centre was opened in 2012, according to Monash University’s Australian Border Deaths database.

A recent expose by the ABC’s Four Corners has alleged significant illegal extraction of water from the Barwon-Darling river system, one of the major tributaries of the Murray River.

The case for re-nationalising the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is becoming stronger every day. The latest in a string of scandals to hit "Australia's leading bank" is the revelation the CBA is facing allegations that its Intelligent Deposit Machines (IDMs) were used by money launderers and criminal gangs to process millions of dollars in cash.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s surprise decision on July 27 to abandon plans for more local council mergers is a win for communities who strongly protested this undemocratic decision, said the Socialist Alliance candidates standing for the Inner West Council in the September 9 election.

In Australia, the National Electricity Market is rapidly becoming dysfunctional, with power shortages, blackouts and soaring prices making headlines.

Private companies are refusing to invest in new fossil fuel generators to replace those that have closed. This “investment strike” is due partly to uncertainty about carbon pricing and partly to increasingly volatile spot prices received by generators.

Opposition groups in Venezuela are currently engaged in a campaign to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Portrayed by the media as a peaceful, democratic movement, it is clear that what Venezuela is experiencing is a right-wing destabilisation campaign that not only seeks to remove Maduro but to roll back the important gains of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says inequality in Australia is falling, and accuses Labor of pursuing a dishonest campaign based on the "politics of envy". Morrison claims Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's statement that inequality has reached a 75-year high is a "lie".

Shakespeare reckoned that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Old Will is right of course, because whether you call it rhubarb, a rhododendron or a rocking horse, a rose is a rose.

Sometimes though, if enough people use the new name of an old thing often enough, they can convince themselves and others that it is in fact a different thing. Then, having transformed the thing semantically, we can consider it a new thing, and treat it as a new thing. This is nothing new. It is marketing and corporate branding 101 and it does not matter most of the time.

There have been numerous instances of human rights abuses since the Nauru detention centre was reopened in 2013 and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that no refugee who arrived by boat would ever be settled in Australia.

The Guardian’s Nauru Files gave detailed accounts of children being assaulted, women sexually abused by guards and suicide attempts being laughed at.

On July 19, 2013, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood beside Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and said in a classical Rudd pretentious drone: “You won’t be settled in Australia. You’ll be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for reprocessing and resettlement.”

Effective immediately, everyone who came by boat seeking asylum would never be given protection in Australia.

“Socialism is back. Unmentioned and unused, a dead concept and suddenly there was Corbynism.” That’s how Guy Rundle announced the resurrection in “The Death of Neoliberalism” in the July 15 issue of The Saturday Paper.

As students commence semester two on August 1, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will release a report entitled The University Sexual Assault and Harassment Project, the culmination of year-long research into the nature, prevalence and reporting of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in university communities. 

A toll road spiderweb is spreading across Sydney, with the cost of vehicle journeys set to rise substantially in coming years.

The status quo in this country is ... interesting. Take the man who deliberately chased down 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in a four wheel drive, killing the Aboriginal teenager in Kalgoorlie, yet was acquitted of manslaughter by a jury without any Aboriginal people on it.

But don’t worry, he was found guilty of “dangerous driving”, which makes me wonder if the judge gave him a stern lecture about taking more care on the roads or next time he might kill someone whose life matters.

South Australian Yankunytjatjara elder and activist Yami Lester, who was blinded as a teenager by dust from the Maralinga nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s, died on July 21 in Alice Springs, aged 75.

His family said his death "leaves an incredible legacy of better global understanding of the devastation of nuclear bombs and for the ongoing battle for recognition of the consequences of them".

The largest ever Australia-US joint military exercises have just finished. Talisman Sabre 2017, the seventh of these expensive biennial war games, wound up in Brisbane on July 26 on the USS Ronald Reagan — a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with capacity for 5000 troops and 200 fighter jets.

Imagine a workplace where you could be put on a secret register for forgetting to say a word from a call centre script because it would be a breach of company policy. Then, if you left that company and tried to get a new job, your prospective employer would not hire you simply because you were on that register.

You would never know whether you were on that register; you would have no right of appeal; nor would your name ever be removed from it, regardless of whether you were eventually found not guilty of the allegation.

On July 21, a Western Australian Supreme Court jury found the man accused of chasing and killing Aboriginal teen Elijah Doughty with his car was not guilty of manslaughter.

It is the latest demonstration that the legal system is failing Aboriginal people and exposes the depths of a racism that remains the bedrock of mainstream Australian culture.

In launching the report Not so super, for women: Superannuation and women’s retirement outcomes” by David Hetherington and Warwick Smith on July 20, Australian Services Union (ASU) national secretary David Smith said: “Australia’s compulsory superannuation system is failing women. According to the latest figures, women are retiring with around half as much superannuation (53%) as men.”

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US has led many to ask where is our Corbyn or our Sanders and to question whether conditions in Australia are ripe for a similar break to the left.

Because Australia was buffered from the worst of the GFC, due mainly to the mining boom, some argue that conditions here may need to get a lot worse before people are prepared to get behind a left platform.

Let’s look at some social indicators in Australia today.

The Sydney Morning Herald published audio on July 19 from a Liberal Party function in Sydney at which former Western Australian state MP Michael Sutherland described anti-fracking campaigners and refugee rights activists as "a bunch of cockroaches".

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