Comment and Analysis

Many environmentalists were disappointed, if not outraged, at Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, released on June 9, which sought to stabilise the existing electricity market.

At the same time, the failure of the privatised and deregulated electricity grid led NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham to call for its nationalisation as the only way to solve its intractable problems.

The following is a statement issued by participants of the StandUp2017 conference that concluded with a rally in Mbantua (Alice Springs) on June 26.

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Rosalie Kunoth Monks: “You better believe it, when the Intervention first hit in 2007 community councils were decimated.”

Matthew Ryan: “Trying to get the government to listen to us, is like a brick wall.”

The Independent member for Cairns Rob Pyne made the following statement in the Queensland parliament on June 16, while holding up a piece of bleached coral.

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This is coral — bleached coral. Be scared. Be afraid. It will not hurt you, but the global warming that killed it will. This bleached coral is the canary in the coalmine.

For Raymond “Bubbly” Weatherall, a Gamilaraay man from the Gunu Gunu and Biridja clans, the outcomes of the Uluru meeting at the end of May have not changed his mind about the tokenism of Constitutional Recognition.

“Throughout the campaign, as well as at the Uluru meeting, no grassroots voices had really been listened to or given proper weight in the discussion”, he told Green Left Weekly.

“The Uluru statement was just another government voice through the mouths of Black people — Megan Davis, Pat Anderson and Noel Pearson.”

Life is about to get a lot tougher for 700,000 workers and their dependents when the penalty rate cuts hit on July 1. It is also the day politicians will get a 2% pay rise.

Full and part-time workers in the retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries are the first to be hit. The ACTU calculated that casuals in the pharmacy industry will face an annual cut of up to $6000 as the result of a February ruling by the misnamed Fair Work Commission.

The NSW Teachers’ Federation released this statement on June 24.

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In the early hours of Friday morning, the [Malcolm] Turnbull government pushed through its school funding legislation. This new funding scheme will have very serious ramifications for all teachers and students in our public schools.

NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon is again the target of a very public attack. This time it is not being led by the Murdoch press but by the Greens federal parliamentary caucus. Former Greens leader Bob Brown has also stepped in and repeated his demand she step down.

Attacking Rhiannon for sticking to her principles has become a passtime for the right-wing of the Greens.

"The NSW Coalition government's 2017 budget might be better described as the ‘biggest con-job in the Western world’," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for Ashfield in the upcoming Inner West Council elections, said on June 21. She was responding to state Treasurer Dominic Perrottet's declaration that his inaugural budget was "the envy of the Western world".

In a speech to parliament on June 21, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson attacked the Venezuelan government and President Nicolas Maduro, while praising right-wing opposition protests in the country.

It is not clear whether Whish-Wilson’s position reflects the official policy of the Australian Greens or is merely a personal view. In either case, the Greens should reject this position that promotes violence and confrontation, rather than dialogue and respect for Venezuela’s democracy and sovereignty.

Unless you lived in West London, you would not have known about a 24 story, 70-metre-high apartment block that served as public housing London before June 14.

Grenfell Tower housed low paid workers, single mothers, migrants — those who could not afford to live anywhere else. It is located in an affluent area of London surrounded by luxury apartment blocks, many of which are empty.

Last year we wondered where the Australian Bernie Sanders would come from. Now we're asking, who will be our Jeremy Corbyn? Could it be Anthony Albanese? Nah, too right wing. What about Scott Ludlum or Sally McManus?

Posing it this way gets the question the wrong way around. The circumstances produce the leaders that answer the call.

In both the US and Britain recession and austerity inflicted pain on working people to a degree not yet felt by most Australians, although it's surely on the way.

Alice Pearl Daiguma Eather, a young Aboriginal community leader, activist and teacher, died aged 28 in the Aboriginal township of Maningrida, Northern Territory on June 4. Speakers at her funeral and wake summed up Alice as having “a beautiful spirit, a remarkable life”.

Alice was a bilingual primary school teacher and slam poet as well as an activist against coal seam gas (CSG) mining. More than 500 family, friends, supporters and members of the Maningrida community attended Alice’s funeral at Mount Gravatt in Brisbane and more attended her wake in West End.

The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council (W&J) is involved in a remarkable struggle to assert their Indigenous rights in opposition to the proposed Adani Carmichael coalmine.

Despite the company’s board-level decision to proceed, the mine has not cleared all legal hurdles.

The adage of moving house being the most stressful time of one’s life has been proved at a West Brunswick public housing estate. Resident Lindi told Green Left Weekly: “One hundred residents are being compulsorily moved. The latest notice on the move is it will be in July.”

There are countless reports from NGOs, scientists and government agencies on climate refugees.

For example, last year more than 2 million people had to gather their possessions and flee as floods hit the Yangtze River in China. But, despite this becoming one of the world’s greatest issues there is very little activism around climate refugees in the developed world.

Last November, two-thirds of the 350 members of a South Australian-government initiated Citizens' Jury rejected "under any circumstances" the plan to import high-level nuclear waste from around the world as a money-making venture.

After the recent spate of murders in Manchester, London and Melbourne people are increasingly asking what the past 20 years of the “war on terror” has done besides making the world a more dangerous, divided and fearful place.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel presented the Blueprint for the future: Independent review into the future security of the national electricity market, known as the Finkel Review, to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Leaders’ meeting on June 9.

The mainstream media has focused on one recommendation — a Clean Energy Target — and the Coalition’s reaction.

As the celebrations marking 25 years of the Mabo decision died down, the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 quietly passed in the Senate on June 14, with the only opposition coming from the Greens.

The amending legislation effectively negates the Federal Court ruling of February 2 that all native title claimants had to sign off on an indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) for it to be registered.

The dramatic surge in support for Labour in the June 8 British election was a shot in the arm for progressive people around the world. Jeremy Corbyn — who had been roundly derided as “unelectable” — achieved the biggest swing of any Labour leader in Britain in more than 70 years.

Three important recent events are intensifying the pressure on the federal government and opposition over their bipartisan cruel treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those held in offshore detention.

The first event was the tabling of a damning UN report, the second was the world premiere of a new documentary, Chauka Please Tell Us the Time, (filmed inside the Manus Island prison) and the third was news of an out-of-court settlement by the federal government over the wrongful imprisonment of detainees on Manus Island.

“Don’t let the Green Left Weekly have its own way,” was the headline of Murdoch columnist Miranda Devine in a June 14 Daily Telegraph piece, and my first thought was: “She’s right.”

Here’s my two cents worth on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leaked impersonation of US President Donald Trump.

If you are prime minister and you are going to do a private impersonation of Trump you could pick a better occasion than the Parliamentary Mid-Winter Ball which is packed with drunken politicians, journos and political advisers. So it is a mighty stretch to call it a leak.

However, if you are a conservative, hollow-man prime minister, down in the polls, the “leak” of a recording of the said impersonation might be a welcome circuit breaker.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has called for a national day of rallies for June 20 to stop the attacks on workers.

This is the second national day of action called by the CFMEU this year, with a previous round of rallies having taken place in March.

The day after a public meeting to oppose development on a toxic site in a northern suburb of Melbourne, the developer put it up for sale on a real estate site, without any mention of the contamination. In Victoria, there is no legal requirement for the sellers of contaminated land, to indicate that a site is contaminated.

Local residents packed the Fawkner Senior Citizens Centre on May 11 to hear speakers about the issues around this toxic site.

Like many Victorian TAFEs, Melbourne’s Polytechnic is in decline. Trade training facilities sit idle and rusting away, mere ghosts of their former selves. Student activity in the once grand technical campuses is at a record low in Melbourne. Enrolments have dropped by tens of thousands — an overall decline of 40% — as courses are cancelled, staff made redundant, libraries shut down.

As we celebrate the courage and the achievements of Eddie Koiki Mabo we all walk in his determined footsteps in our hope for a brighter future. The Mabo family asked me to paint you a picture of how Australia can offer an example to the world, if we achieve what that passionate man dreamed of, if we do it with reason and common sense, and if we show the care and respect that will create here in the 21st Century a Great Society like none the world has ever seen.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton has become so despised by sections of society that some are questioning if he has a soul or heart.

This could also apply to any Coalition or Labor immigration minister over the past couple of decades.

Watch videos of refugees protests over the past decade and it will not be long before you hear chants such as “Lock up [insert current immigration minister] throw away the keys, we won’t stop till we free the refugees” or “Blood on your hands [insert name]”.

The Australian national anthem is a fraud when it says: “For we are young and free”.

As I pass people on the streets of Melbourne, many grab their bags, dogs, kids, anything valuable, as I pass, simply because people — especially young adolescents — with a South Sudanese background are perceived as criminals. What if they greeted us with “g’day”, as they do to every other Australian, instead of being fearful of us?

Once again the mainstream media is using lurid headlines and racist hyperbole to convince us that Australia is under threat from the spectre of Islamist terrorism.

Right-wing columnists are whipping themselves into a frenzy calling for further curbs on the already minuscule opportunity for refugees to settle in Australia, further criminalisation of ideological views and imprisonment without conviction.  

We condemn the terror attacks in London and Manchester, but we also need to call out the cynical and dangerous response from those in charge who have one solution — more of the same.

British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump are using these tragedies to ramp up Islamophobia, expand police powers, weaken civil liberties and strengthen the “war on terror” — the same policies that have failed to stop individuals from carrying out terror attacks.

The Australian Financial Review Rich List for 2017 features 60 billionaires — the most ever in its 34-year history. The total wealth of all "rich listers" has reached $233.1 billion, up from $197.3 billion last year.

Highest ranked among the 200 richest people in the country is paper and packaging tycoon Anthony Pratt, with a fortune of $12.6 billion. It looks like all that plastic packaging floating in the world's oceans has reaped at least one plutocrat some positive returns.

To mark the sixth international March Against Monsanto activists in Sydney organised an event on May 20 to raise awareness about the dangers of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) food technology.

This year the focus was on Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide, an organophosphorus compound the company patented in 1974. In 2105, the World Health Organization urged people to stop using it due to its extreme toxicity saying that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer. The use of glyphosate has increased 16-fold since the mid-1990s when GMO crops were first introduced.

For the briefest of moments — and to everyone's great surprise — it seemed like the Queensland government was finally going to do one thing right in relation to the Adani coalmine.

Unionists held a protest in favour of penalty rates on May 27 outside the Liberal member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson’s Geelong office. Adele Welsh, a social worker and member of the Australian Services Union and Geelong Trades Hall Executive, gave this speech at the protest.

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Rosie Scott, the well-known writer and human rights supporter, died on May 4, after a long battle with cancer. Born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1948, she was the author of seven books of fiction, beginning with the collection of poetry, Flesh and Blood, in 1984.

In 1988, she published her first novel, Glory Days, which depicted the lives of Auckland social fringe-dwellers. The last of her seven works was Faith Singer, published in 2003, which explored the tumultuous world of the people who dwelt in Sydney's Kings Cross.

In a recent public discussion, campaigners against WestConnex — the huge motorway and tunnel project in Sydney — were challenged to sum up their case against WestConnex in three sentences. “Start with what the proponents of WestConnex say will be the benefit of the project then say what is wrong with it.”

There were half a dozen seasoned anti-WestConnex activists in the room and each came back with much more than three sentences.

This statement was posted on the National Tertiary Education Union website on May 30. The author, Adam Frogley is NTEU National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Coordinator and a Taungurung man from the Kulin Nations.

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The Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN) held its inaugural conference on May 20-21 at the Australian National University in Canberra. It brought together more than 150 activists and representatives of 48 refugee advocacy and activist groups from around the country. 

Participants included a large number of activists from Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) groups. RAR held its own national meeting over the conference, and elected a new leadership. The proposal to form ARAN came out of discussion at last year’s RAR conference.

French economist Thomas Piketty argued in his bestselling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century that capitalism arose from feudalism and is in many ways reverting to it.

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