Comment and Analysis

A battle is raging over a 5 kilometre stretch of road known as Roe 8.

The seeds of the current crisis of confidence in the capitalist parties in Australia go back to the 1980s when the Bob Hawke Labor government implemented its version of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal economic policies. The Hawke government also managed to achieve what previous Coalition governments had failed to do — seriously weaken the union movement.

While these reforms did not immediately create right-wing populism, once the reforms started to really bite by the late 1990s, it began to develop around Pauline Hanson.

After a 16-month battle to survive and then recover from a major brain hemorrhage in August 2015, long-time Green Left Weekly journalist and seller Terry Townsend is at last able to move out of the nursing home to live in his own home again.

Now he needs your help to ensure he is not confined there for the rest of his life, can reconnect with comrades and friends, and participate in political activities again.

The dual trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Western Australia has ended with a bilateral agreement signed on February 1 by the WA state and federal governments.

The WA model got the guernsey and will be locally run and administered. Starting in July, it will be rolled out to an estimated 39,000 people over the next three years. WA will pay all the administration and operating costs but governance responsibilities will be shared nationally.

The family of TJ Hickey is still being denied justice, 13 years since the 17-year-old died after being impaled on a fence in Waterloo during a police chase.

The refusal by successive NSW governments to bring the police officers responsible to court — and allow the family some closure — is testimony to the endemic racism First Nations people have to endure.

NSW police refuse to concede their officers were responsible for Thomas James Hickey’s death. They claim it was an accident. 

As economists debate whether this year will be economically better or worse for Australia, one thing is certain: we will all get screwed even more this year.

Last week, BusinessDay Scope economic survey for 2017 issued its survey of 27 leading economists from financial institutions, academia and consultancies.

Conservationists say the Strzelecki Ranges hold “one of the most important koala populations in Australia”, after completing surveys that may suggest a population of several thousand koalas across the region.

Surveys conducted in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges and South Gippsland over 2013–2016 indicate a population of almost 1000 koalas in the 10,500 hectare area surveyed, koala expert Dr Steve Phillips told Green Left Weekly.

At least three of Australia's largest infrastructure investors are queuing up to form consortia to bid for the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway. CP2, IFM and the favourite, Transurban, are involved, with QIC and AMP Capital said to be likely participants.

So the Greens’ electoral support has stalled at about 10% and the leadership of Richard di Natale is being questioned. This “dire” situation, according to Bob Brown and others, is the result of the “wrecking” presence in the Greens’ ranks of leftish Senator Lee Rhiannon and the founding of Left Renewal by radical Young Greens in NSW.

A sharing of culture, food and art that supports refugees and asylum seekers, including those in detention, is at the heart of the Food for Thought project.

Ravi, author of From Hell to Hell, a collection of poems and drawings from his time in Nauru detention centre, or “human dumping ground” as he calls it, first started thinking about Food for Thought the day he got out of detention.

Condemning Donald Trump’s cruel bigotry is easy — well, OK, maybe not for the Australian government, but for actual human beings with functioning consciences.

Then again, our country is so screwed up, our government’s response to the rise of the most extreme racist authoritarian president in US history is to ask him if he’s still ok to take desperate asylum seekers we won’t help, coz we are sick of the expense of torturing them in isolated hellholes.

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report, Principles and Practice — Australian Defence Industry and Exports, in Parliament in December 2015. The report made 19 recommendations about how the Australian government should increase its support of Australian arms exports, which largely reflected the wishes of arms companies.

Sydney may be in the grip of an apartment boom, but the construction of thousands of units across the city has done little to put a lid on rents, according to an analysis of the latest rental data.

Apartment living became more expensive in Sydney in the year to September 2016, after rent increases in all but three of the city's local government areas, according to the NSW Tenants' Union Rent Tracker report.

Tenants' Union advocacy and research officer Leo Patterson Ross said: "Apartment rents are growing faster than house rents at the moment."

The government has not made a mistake with the Centrelink robo-debt notices. It knows it is sending out incorrect notices.

Centrelink staff warned management the notices would be wrong and the new debt recovery system would incorrectly claim overpayments.

The dairy industry is in crisis and dairy sustainability is under attack.

In Victoria — where most dairy farms are — Australia’s largest processor, farmer-owned co-operative Murray Goulburn, allowed outside investors to become members, to get the funds to build more infrastructure to take advantage of export opportunities. Murray Goulburn prioritised paying returns to those investors out of their 2016 $44 million annual profit, rather than to the farmers who supply the product.

People across the world are rising up, angry at the failure of governments to listen to their concerns or prioritize their lives over the profits of big business.

On January 12, Perth joined this movement when more than 1000 “protectors”, as they have dubbed themselves, descended on the Roe 8 construction site to protest the state government’s efforts to build a freeway through the Beeliar Wetlands. Roe 8, which is part of greater freeway known as Perth Freight Link has ignited some of the most sustained community opposition Perth has ever seen.

New Premier Gladys Berejiklian is already on the run, after only a couple of weeks in the job.

Since taking over from disgraced former premier Mike Baird on January 23, Berejiklian has managed to cobble together a new cabinet of misfits, but is already reported to be preparing to dump one of Baird's signature policies — the forced amalgamation of the state's local councils.

The Refugee Council of Australia called for a bipartisan commitment on offshore detention on February 1.

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The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has called on political leaders to urgently bring the people imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru to safety in Australia.

In the six months since the federal election we have seen an acceleration of the ruling class’s neo-liberal agenda. The continuing cuts and privatisations are rationalised by Turnbull’s three-word slogan, “Jobs and Growth”, but the effect seems to be quite the opposite.

There are about 13 million people in the Australian workforce. According to Roy Morgan Research, in October a total of 2.5 million Australians, or 19% of the workforce, were either unemployed (1,188,000) or under-employed (1,266,000). This is up 256,000 from October 2015.

The federal Coalition government has unleashed robots to illegally extort $4.5 billion from poor people. The money for politicians’ perks, tax dodging by the rich and corporate hand-outs — such as the $1 billion dollars given to coal giant Adani — has to come from somewhere.

There can be no doubt about it. Capitalism is eating the future, destroying it with systematic greed and exploitation.

Just one year ago, according to calculations by anti-poverty group Oxfam, the 62 richest people on the planet owned as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population (3.5 billion). This year that number has dropped to eight as inequality spirals out of control.

Eight super rich men have more wealth than half the people in the world and the richest 1% have more than the other 99%. Does anyone believe this is sustainable, let alone conscionable?

Cuts to the age pension, legislated in 2015, have begun. The main change is to the assets test taper rate.

For every additional $1000 in assets, pensioners now lose $78 a year (raised from $39). Previously, a homeowner couple with $1,178,000 in assets would have qualified for a part pension. This upper limit has dropped to $816,000. (These figures do not include the family home.)

Siobhan Kelly, president of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, gave this speech at the 12th Socialist Alliance national conference, held over January 20-22 at the Geelong Trades Hall.

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I’m in the really privileged position of getting to build a militant union from the very beginning. We have unashamedly started a union that has the same coverage as another union with a 100 year history in this country.

I became aware that Centrelink were trying to pin a cooked-up “robo-debt” of $5558 on me through a text message from the aptly named Probe group debt collection agency.

There resources about how to dispute a Centrelink debt letter, including GetUp! which has a page that sends a bunch of letters to key places in one go. 

Most of the arms companies that made submissions to the Inquiry into Government Support for Australian Defence Industry Exports said government assistance in the promotion and facilitation of overseas arms sales should be increased.

So now former Greens parliamentary leader Christine Milne has come out of political retirement to invite — via the pages of Fairfax media — the young lefties in the Greens NSW who have formed "Left Renewal" to leave the building and establish their own party.

Good riddance to former state Liberal Premier Mike "Bad" Baird who announced on January 19 that he was resigning from his position.   A year ago, Mike Baird was the most popular politician in the country. By the end of last year ose, suffering one of the biggest falls in opinion polls in Australian political history.  

As the people on Manus Island prepared to see in the New Year, drunken immigration officials and police beat up asylum seekers who were then taken into police custody and denied food and medical treatment. PNG politician Ronny Knight responded by tweeting “They deserved what they got”.

Barely a week earlier Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a Somali asylum seeker in Manus Island detention centre, died on Christmas Eve after months of being denied adequate medical treatment.

When Fremantle councillors voted in August last year to end the Australia Day fireworks display that it had been running for the past eight years, I fully expected a conservative backlash. But even I was surprised to see the decision featured in news bulletins for months on end.

On one level the whole thing is bizarre. Local governments are not obliged to do anything special on January 26 and most of them don't.

What drove the conservative media and Coalition politicians into a frenzy was the council's reason for doing dropping the fireworks display.

Throughout last year, devastating conflicts raged in Iraq and Syria. The Afghan War entered its 16th year with a record number of civilians deaths, while in Yemen, a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition continued to bomb civilian targets using British and American-made weapons.

The Federal Court ruled on December 16 that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

Early last year, an academic debate over Invasion Day erupted at the University of NSW. Apparently, some well credentialed people are offended that the term “invasion” is used to describe January 26.

I would be quite happy not to have to use that term. Stop and think for a few minutes: that would mean altering history or going back in time and ensuring the invasion of this country, now called Australia, never happened. 

Job agencies are the government-funded organisations tasked with helping unemployed people find work.

There is growing evidence suggesting this “help” consists of the following:

To most South Australians, Labor Premier Jay Weatherill’s plan for a vast outback dump to host imported high-level nuclear waste is dead, needing only a decent send-off.

Nevertheless, the Premier keeps trying to resurrect the scheme. Why?

It would surprise the federal Coalition government — that assumes we dislike welfare recipients as much as it does — that one of its biggest problems at the start of the year is the Centrelink debt fiasco.

Over the past six months, 170,000 people received debt notices from Centrelink, with the number gradually rising to 20,000 a week.

By comparison, only 20,000 debt notices were issued for the whole of 2015.

On December 16, the Federal Court ruled that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

Socialist Alliance’s Dave Holmes gave this speech at a Melbourne rally in honour of Fidel Castro on December 4.

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Fidel Castro was a towering figure in world politics for almost six decades. Now, with his passing the hacks of the capitalist media have been gloating over the death of the “dictator”. Of course, he was nothing of the sort. As he truthfully told director Oliver Stone in the movie Commandante: “I am a slave to the people”. His life is a monument of conscience and loyalty to principle.

The existence of drug markets — and the struggles around them — raise a number of important sociopolitical and structural issues for analysis.

The expansion of markets for psychoactive substances was a strategic initiative by European companies in the development of capitalism, slavery and imperialism. Initially there were no illicit markets but the licit industries included the critical sugar (and rum) industry in Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia and other countries and the tobacco industry in the US South.

Irene Bolger was branch secretary of the Victorian branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (RANF) when 20,000 nurses went on strike for 50 days in 1986. It was one of the longest strikes in Australian history and it was led by women.

Now, flipping through a stack of trade union and history books, Bolger says: “Lengthy on an international scale, it was 50 days of rage. But still I can't seem to find any reference to one of the most significant strikes in Australian history. The sexism continues."

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