Comment and Analysis

On March 23 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF) with $1 billion in funding over ten years. The Prime Minister's media release explicitly mentioned that it could be used to fund projects such as a “large scale solar facility with storage in Port Augusta”.

In all the media hype about Malcolm Turnbull's recalling of parliament in April and talk of a double dissolution election, it is easy to lose sight of the “trigger” — the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill (ABCC bill).

I recently heard an ABC Radio National commentator talking about the use of the ABCC bill as the trigger. She said words to the effect that most people would be in favour of cleaning up construction unions as only 11% of workers are in unions now. So it was considered to be a winner for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Opponents of Shenhua-Watermark's mega coalmine in the Liverpool Plains in north-western NSW have been given a boost by the Chinese government-owned company's annual report released on March 24, which hinted it may not proceed.

The Daily Telegraph exposed the latest example of political correctness gone mad by revealing in a March 30 front page exclusive that the University of New South Wales is teaching students that Australia was “invaded” by Britain and was not actually “discovered” by Captain James Cook.

The NSW BLF, the most radical and innovative union the world has ever seen

Fifty years ago, a group of dedicated left-wing activists wrested control of the NSW Builders Labourers' Federation (BLF) from the corrupt gangster types who had used it to feather their own nests. The militants, who included Jack Mundey, Joe Owens and Bob Pringle, rebuilt the union into a radically democratic, socially progressive and environmentally-aware organisation the likes of which Australia and the world had never seen.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on March 31.

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The Senate reform pushed through by the Turnbull Liberal-National government with the support of the Greens does not make federal Parliament more democratic.

While it will end the “gaming” of the Group Voting Ticket for people voting above the line on the Senate ballot paper, it also weakens the preferential system and could give the Coalition an advantage in the next federal election.

Across the US young people are pouring into the polling booths. The contest is not the Presidential election — that is still some months away. Instead they are lining up to vote in the primaries for the Democratic Party. In particular they are turning up to vote for an old Jewish radical from New York.

In the lead-up to the federal election, talk of balancing the budget, jobs and growth are centre.
Amid rising unemployment and job insecurity, single parents continue to face both a job market unforgiving of parenting responsibilities and parenting payments that have been consistently attacked and eroded — framed by the false narrative of providing incentives to return to work and finding necessary budget savings.

A broad coalition of forces continues to challenge anti-protest legislation tabled in the Western Australian state parliament.

If passed, the broad powers of the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an unnamed “thing” or to disrupt "lawful activities". The bill also threatens two year’s jail and $24,000 fines for impeding lawful activity. Widely criticised by environmental, social justice, and legal campaigners the law smashes free speech and criminalises peaceful protest.

"This is a law to protect the rich. We will need to break these laws to protect our democratic rights," Aboriginal activist and lead NSW Senate candidate for the Socialist Alliance team in the federal elections Ken Canning, said on March 15.

Earlier this month, a 10-year-old Aboriginal girl took her own life in a small Kimberly community near the town of Derby in Western Australia.

It is believed that her life leading to her suicide was marred by “trauma and tragedy” and she had previously witnessed the suicide of a close family member.

My name is Ken Canning. My traditional name is Burraga Gutya. My people are the Kunja clan of the Bidjara Nation of what is now called south-western Queensland.

I was raised mainly on the coast of Queensland and in Brisbane and, although I have lived in Sydney since the late 1970s, I am still a very proud Murri.

I have been fortunate that since living in Sydney the local Koori community has always taken me in and I feel very much at home here. Many First Nations peoples now living in Sydney are from all over this country and from many different nations.

Experts have laughed at a prediction by the environment minister Greg Hunt that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions peaked 10 years ago.

Hunt told the ABC’s AM program: “I believe that we have reached what is sometimes known as peak emissions. In my best judgment … we reached peak emissions in 2005-06 ... and the course of history to come for Australia is that we will continue to be below that figure.”

Experts have laughed at a prediction by the environment minister Greg Hunt that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions peaked 10 years ago.

The federal government continues to drag its feet on marriage equality. It is now clear that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will not initiate a marriage equality plebiscite before the end of the year, as promised.

LGBTI community organisations are increasingly losing patience with delays and broken promises. Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome described a plebiscite as “an incredibly costly and harmful opinion poll”, after PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated it would cost $525 million.

NASA dropped a bombshell of a climate report on March 11. February 2016 has soared past all rivals as the warmest seasonally adjusted month in more than a century of global recordkeeping. NASA's analysis showed that February ran 1.35°C above the 1951-1980 global average for the month, as can be seen in the graph of monthly anomalies going back to 1880.

During the early days of his campaign to be US president, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders wondered if the crowds that he saw on the street were headed to a baseball game, only to be told: “Actually they are on the way to hear you”.

This story illustrates how the Sanders message of free education, affordable health care, a $15 minimum wage, taxing the mega-rich and support for renewable energy has taken off.

Young Americans — the millennials — facing unpayable student debts, unaffordable health care, low wages and climate change inaction, are flocking to his campaign.

Under the cover of thick clouds and blinding sun, a drone assignation takes place in the Middle East. Interception of internet messages leads US authorities to a 16-year-old Anonymous group member.

Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, a descendant of the Guringai, Gadigal, Wiradjuri and Dharug peoples of NSW and National Councillor in the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), has been preselected for the Socialist Alliance's NSW Senate ticket for the next federal election. The ticket is headed by militant Aboriginal activist and writer Ken Canning. Peter Boyle interviewed Leroy-Dyer for Green Left Weekly.

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What motivated you to throw your hat into the ring for Socialist Alliance's NSW Senate ticket?

On the evening of March 12, during Melbourne's Moomba festival, there was a disturbance involving crowds of young people around Federation Square.

One passer-by was hospitalised, and discharged later the same evening. Four youths were arrested: two for drunkenness, one for carrying a stun gun, and another for allegedly knocking a police officer's radio or phone into their face. Some tables and chairs outside cafes were overturned, and crockery smashed.

The NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee is keen on new anti-protest laws in NSW. He claims to be concerned about the safety of the workers as well as the protesters “illegally accessing mine sites”.

Mining and Energy Minister Antony Roberts has been a little more blunt: he says the new law is aimed at better enforcing the protection of private property and “lawful business activity”.

Most, however, can see through the spin.

The powers-that-be in NSW have deemed that there are so many examples of “unsafe protest activities” across the state that, to make everyone safe, we need new laws that will protect “lawful business activity”.

Protesters will be able to be jailed for up to seven years for “intentionally” or “recklessly” interfering with a “mine” — the definition of which has been changed to include an exploratory or test site.

A recent cartoon by Bill Leake in The Australian gave me a good chuckle, although not for the reason you might expect.

Captioned “The Road to Ruin” and featuring references to the recently published book of the same name, there was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at his local newsagent picking up “his” morning papers, sighing while saying “just the papers thanks”. The papers were the Sydney Star Observer with the headline “Marriage Equality special edition” and tucked in behind it was a copy of Green Left Weekly.

Liberal and Labor politicians, who govern for the big corporations at the expense of people, have overseen decades of cutbacks to social services, privatisations and attacks on our democratic rights.

The neoliberal consensus has meant that our public health and education systems have been starved of funds and semi-privatised. It has also meant that our working lives are less secure and our work rights have been undermined.

A controversy broke out at Sydney's Mardi Gras on March 6 when organisers threatened to ban the No Pride In Detention refugee rights float if they criticised Opposition leader Bill Shorten's refugee policies.

And fair enough. The Mardi Gras was begun by people demanding basic human rights and an end to dehumanisation and unjust repression, so there's obviously no connection with the current bipartisan treatment of refugees.

“Thank you for these protests. We love you and our hearts are with you in this moment.”

This message was sent from a refugee inside Northam Detention Centre in West Australia to activists who were protesting outside in 2014.

Messages like this inspire many of us to get active and persist with campaigns to make the world more humane.

A whole generation, to which I belong, has only known mandatory detention: it was introduced by “left” Labor immigration minister Gerry Hand in 1992.

The Turnbull Coalition government must call a full royal commission into CommInsure, the Commonwealth Bank and the general financial malpractices of the insurance and banking industry immediately.

This Coalition government wasted more than $50 million in taxpayers' funds on the royal commission into the union movement, but adamantly refuses to hold a proper inquiry into its big business mates in the major banks.

This interview with Amnesty International's Australian refugee coordinator Graham Thom, was broadcast on Radio 3CR in Melbourne on March 4.

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Amnesty International has put out a media release criticising the Australian government's draconian laws against refugees. Why did you do that?

You might expect that this year's Mardi Gras parade, which came just days after the institutional apologies to the original queer rights activists — the 78ers — would be free of the political heavy handedness that launched Mardi Gras as an annual protest march in 1978.

Rob Pyne (MP) is now the independent Member for Cairns in the Queensland Parliament, following his shock resignation from the Australian Labor Party on March 7.

Pyne was a student leader at James Cook University, then served on the Cairns Regional Council between 2008 and 2015 before becoming Australia's first quadriplegic member of parliament in last year's Queensland state election.

Racism and homophobia are on the rise. Millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and sex and gender diverse identifying (SGDI) people face life-threatening persecution.

About 2.7 billion people live in the 76 countries that criminalise homosexuality. The death penalty for homosexuality is applied in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. In China, several hospitals use electric shock therapy as “anti-gay treatments”.

“These girls have stories that would make the biblical movies that we grew up on look tame,” Pamela Curr told a forum on women in Nauru in Sydney on February 29.

The journey of women seeking asylum in Australia is filled with misery, fear, shame, sexual harassment, vulnerability and torture. It is a story of survival against all the odds meeting an Australian government with a detention system designed to be worse than what they are fleeing from.

The Labor and Liberal National parties hope to slip in four-year fixed parliamentary terms in Queensland through a referendum being held at the same time as state-wide polls for local councils. A four-year term proposal was defeated in 1991.

From a distance, Australia's tax system looks gender neutral.

The tax return carefully avoids gendered words and the tax rules were purged several years ago of direct gender discrimination. There is no assumption that the male in a partnership is the primary breadwinner or that the female is the primary carer.

There is no assumption that one partner must disclose to the other all their financial affairs to enable a tax return to be sent on behalf of both of them, unless they explicitly agree to it. Single men and women are not treated differently for income tax purposes.

When looking at the world through the prism of the mainstream media it can sometimes be easy to get stuck in a pessimistic feedback loop. Take, for example, the US presidential primaries, where candidates vie to become the presidential candidate for their respective party.

On the one hand there is the almost unstoppable rise of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential race and, on the other, there is the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

On March 2, two Gamilaraay men, Paul Spearim and Allen Talbot, and a Githabul man, Laurence Miles, locked on to concrete barrels at the entrance to Whitehaven's controversial Maules Creek coalmine, stopping work.

The action followed protests earlier in the week, with one man stopping coal trains near Willow Tree and three others locked to bulldozers.

We can blame the livestock corporations for the destruction of antibiotics' ability to fight human infection.
They routinely inject all the animals we eat — chickens, cows, sheep and pigs — with huge amounts of antibiotics so that the animals grow faster and plumper, without any infection. The faster they can put meat on the kitchen table for us to consume, the greater their profits.

A survey of 604 Australian youths undertaken by Our Watch has come up with some dismaying findings about their attitudes towards sex and consent.

Of those polled, one in four said it is normal for men to pressure women into sex, and 60% said it was “up to the girl to make it very clear if she does not want to have sex”.

Thirty seven per cent reported that it was hard to respect a female when she was drunk and 27% said it was hard to respect a woman in revealing clothing.

Why is the government so keen to reform Senate voting with the threat of a double dissolution election hanging in the air?

The government and the Greens are supporting legislation to enact some recommendations of a parliamentary committee into the 2013 election while Labor and most small parties and independents are opposing them.

Green Left Weekly hosted a forum on February 17: “After the Paris Climate Talks: Which way forward for the climate movement?”, with John Englart (citizen journalist, observer at Paris Talks); David Spratt (climate policy analyst, People's Climate March organiser) and me (Socialist Alliance and grassroots climate activist).

Paris Agreement

John Englart summarised the main parts of the Paris Agreement:
• A warming target of well below 2°C, with efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C;