Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1037

The Socialist Alliance national conveners released this statement on January 9.

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The Socialist Alliance condemns the massacre of journalists, cartoonists and others at and around the offices of the Paris-based publication Charlie Hebdo.

However offensive anyone may have found some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, this act of brutal violence is not justified.

A bushfire that swept through the Adelaide Hills in early January has destroyed 27 homes, ravaged the local environment and killed many pets and animals.

Large smoke plumes were visible from the Adelaide CBD and several Adelaide suburbs were evacuated.

It is similar to other severe fires, such as in the Blue Mountains in NSW last year and the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009, which climate scientists say will occur more frequently.

On January 5, with most of the country still in holiday mode, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman called on the acting governor (even the governor was still on holidays) to issue writs for a state election on January 31.

The Liberal National Party (LNP) won government three years ago in a landslide against the Labor government’s privatisation of public assets, reducing the ALP to a rump of seven seats (now increased to nine after two byelection victories).

Joseph Elu, chair of the Torres Strait Regional Authority, told Radio National’s PM on January 5 that the islands that have been home to Indigenous people for thousands of years are “being inundated”, right now because of climate change.

“A couple of our islands, the tide rises over the sea walls of the beachfront and it flows under the houses and out the other end ... They’re predicting that in 100 years, then they’ll go under.”

NSW Labor has anointed a new leader less than three months before the state election in March. With the ALP trailing Mike Baird's Coalition government in the polls, it must have calculated that it has nothing to lose by dumping former leader John Robertson.

GLW Issue 1036

The statement below was released by Socialist Alliance national co-conveners on January 9.

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The Socialist Alliance condemns the massacre of journalists, cartoonists and others at and around the offices of the Paris-based publication Charlie Hebdo. However offensive anyone may have found some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, this act of brutal violence is not justified.

The statement below was released by the Tamil Refugee Council in Australia on January 9. The day before, opposition-backed presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena beat incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who oversaw war crimes and abuse of the human rights of Tamils and others in Sri Lanka.

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The Tamil Refugee Council urges the Australian government to use the change of leadership in Sri Lanka to push for a resolution to the country’s most pressing issue – the long-standing oppression and persecution of Tamils.

The federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has foreshadowed further major cuts to public sector jobs and services in the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released on December 15. The MYEFO is an update on the draconian federal budget brought down by the treasurer in May this year.

The National Union of Students (NUS) Conference 2014 kicked off at the Mannix College in Monash University, Melbourne last week to decide policy and administrative reform for the next year. They also voted to for the reintroduction of a new series of Office Bearing positions for 2015.

The conference was dominated by Young Labor Right, Student Unity, The Labor Left, National Labor Students, Socialist Alternative and Grassroots Collective. A scattering of independents also attended.

Last month, Rolling Stone ran an article on rape culture in US colleges, focusing primarily on the experiences of a young woman who told the magazine she was gang raped at a frat party.

Rolling Stone has been accused of letting rape survivors everywhere down by not properly fact checking the claims of the woman in question, Jackie, and for running a story with inconsistencies.

The magazine did let rape survivors down, but not by believing Jackie. They let us down by abandoning her for not being a good enough victim.

The statement below was released by Socialist Alliance on December 16.

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The Socialist Alliance has warned of a dangerous escalation of incitement of racial violence against Australia's Muslim communities in the wake of the tragic hostage incident in Sydney.

“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the families and loved ones of the two victims who died and to all those caught up in the terrifying and tragic siege in Sydney's Martin Place over the past 24 hours,” said Socialist Alliance national co-convener Susan Price today.

"The Abbott government's proposed back-door GP tax is a massive scam, and should be totally rejected by the whole community," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 2015 NSW state election, said on December 10.

"Today, International Human Rights Day, is a good time to stand up for universal public health as a basic human right. Abbott's proposed cut to the Medicare rebate for doctors still means the beginning of the end of our treasured universal, national public health system, Medicare," she said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed an agreement in September to allow sales of Australian uranium to India for the first time. Uranium sales were initially approved by then-Coalition PM John Howard in August 2007 but Howard’s successor, Kevin Rudd, reinstated the ban.

Rudd’s action was in accordance with long-standing Labor Party policy that uranium should only be sold to countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). A 2008 Lowy Institute poll found that 88% of Australians supported this policy.

As parliament wound up for the year, the Coalition government was desperate to salvage a symbolic “win” in the Senate to save some face. It was reeling from the defeat of the one-term Liberal government in Victoria, which was seen as a vote against Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the second most populous state in Australia.

Almost 70% of NSW voters oppose the partial sale of state-owned electricity "poles and wires" assets, according to a Fairfax/Ipsos opinion poll reported in the November 24 Sydney Morning Herald. Only 29% say they support the NSW Coalition government's plan to lease 49% of the power facilities to private corporations.

The same 69% of people also believe that electricity prices would rise if the sale goes through; while only 7% think prices would fall. About 20% consider prices would remain the same.

Three years after Barry O'Farrell promised to ban coal seam gas (CSG) mining in Sydney's drinking water catchment, the NSW government’s gas plan says nothing about protecting this sensitive area.

The plan, aimed at defusing community anger about CSG approvals and mining in the lead up to the March state election, has done the opposite.

This is the last issue of Green Left Weekly for the year. So it is a good time to take stock.

From our perspective, it has been a big year of people's struggles. Week after week, people have taken to the streets to protest about numerous issues all around Australia.

GLW is a record of this struggle that can be accessed online through our website, greenleft.org.au. Very few countries around the world have a record of people's struggle as comprehensive as this.

Days before the Victorian elections on November 29, the Labor opposition promised to scrap the East West Link, a massive road project in Melbourne with an estimated cost of $18 billion.

On the back of a large community campaign to stop the project, this position helped Labor win the election.

The history of the campaign to stop the tunnel provides lessons on how the community can successfully beat the power of corporations and governments.

You know a government is in some serious trouble when a morning TV host tears the prime minister to shreds. And when the most likable member of the government appears to be Julie “Death Stare” Bishop, it has less good options than a drunk at closing time in Canberra.

A little over a year in office, and Tony Abbott's one big achievement is he has made Bill Shorten look electable.

Nicole Judge worked at refugee centres on Nauru and Manus Island and despite warnings from various bodies, stood before a packed crowd at a Refugee Action Coalition forum in Sydney on November 17 to give an account of her time there.

When Judge first set foot on Manus Island she knew she was not getting what she had been promised. When she first signed up to work on Manus Island, she thought it would be a “working holiday”. She was looking for a break; what she found was despair, desperation and the deterioration of minds and bodies.

Just because we don't pay for something, it doesn't mean that it has no value. Clean air, safe food and public education are just some of the things that we expect to be provided “free” by governments. Yet ask anyone, and they will tell you how valuable these things are. We expect government to provide these services as a matter of course.

On its establishment in 1788, the colony of New South Wales was subject to English law by the application of legal reasoning that was settled in the late 18th century. It confirmed that “if an uninhabited country be discovered and planted by English subjects, all English laws then in being, which are the birthright of every subject, are immediately there in force.”

The Denis Napthine government, elected by a slim majority in 2010, has fallen in Victoria. This is the first time a Victorian government has lasted only one term since 1955, when the Cain Labor government fell in the midst of the great Labor split.

The Napthine government had lost support due to brutal public sector cuts, vindictive attacks on nurses, paramedics and teachers, the unpopular East West Link project, and corruption scandals that led to the removal of Ted Baillieu as premier last year and the sacking of several Liberal candidates before the poll.

Sixteen concerned residents of Kuantan travelled all the way from Malaysia to Sydney to protest at the November 28 shareholders' annual general meeting of an Australian rare earth mining and refining company.

Lynas Corporation's toxic refinery in the outskirts of Kuantan (population 700,000) on Malaysia's east coast is deeply unpopular with local residents and other concerned Malaysians who, together with Australian supporters, have mounted protests in Sydney at the past four AGMs.

GLW Issue 1035

A report conducted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has shown environmental concerns and technical lapses in coal seam gas (CSG) mining by Santos at their sites in Gunnedah and the Pilliga Forest, NSW.

The report, published in Fairfax Media, is an audit from May last year.

The Coalition government’s Direct Action policy has become law after passing the lower house on November 23.

The centrepiece of Direct Action is the Emissions Reduction Fund. Under this scheme, the government will pay for projects that will reduce CO2 emissions "at least cost".

Businesses, farmers, community organisations, local councils and individuals will be able to compete for $2.55 billion in government funding for projects to reduce their emissions.

Three species of owls are in danger of becoming extinct in Victoria, because the Victorian government has failed to protect the forest habitat where the Sooty, Masked and Powerful owls live.

The Powerful and Sooty owls are listed as vulnerable and the Masked owl is endangered, according to Victoria's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Management plans for the owls state that the Powerful and Masked owls require at least 100 areas of 500 hectares each, while the Sooty owl needs 131 areas of at least 500 hectares.

If there was one thing that seemed, finally, to unite this divided nation, it was the overwhelming sense of embarrassment at Prime Minister Tony Abbott's performance at the G20 Summit and other recent international platforms.

Hell, even the US media were talking about how cringe-worthy Abbott is, which, given the usual standard of American politicians, is a bit like having Andrew Bolt pull you up for being too racist.

A Senate committee recommended on November 24 that immigration minister Scott Morrison’s sweeping migration amendments be passed by parliament.

The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 would give Morrison unprecedented powers without the scrutiny of either parliament or the courts.

The education reforms of the 1970s occurred in a very different political climate from today's education movements, yet there are still lessons to be learnt from it.

The political agitation and mood for change of the 1960s opened the door to a number of movements, many coming from the Vietnam War. Students were not only shocked by the disturbing images of the war on the TV news during this time, but male students were also liable to be conscripted via a lottery process.