Our Common Cause

Finance minister Mathias Cormann has threatened the opposition parties that if they continue to block key budget measures — such as the demolition of universal health care and welfare, the deregulation of university fees, and the hike in the interest rate on student HECS debts — then the government would be forced to look at raising taxes.
For the fifth time since their election in September last year, thousands of Australians will take to the streets in protest against Tony Abbott Coalition's government. These mobilisations have been critical to keep the pressure on the Labor Party, Greens and independents to stand firm in opposing the government's budget, which will bring austerity, cuts and privatisation. As a result of this opposition, Treasurer “Smokin' Joe” Hockey's budget has stalled.
Media reports about a deal being struck this week between the Australian government and Cambodia to resettle refugees from Nauru have been denied by Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison. However the government has confirmed that negotiations towards a memorandum of understanding was continuing.
The social welfare cuts proposed in the federal government's May budget are a direct attack on working people and the poor. If implemented, they would represent a huge shift in income from the poor to the rich. This harsh reality is backed up by partial figures released by Treasury to Fairfax Media under Freedom of Information.
One petition I saw circulating recently called for both Israel and Hamas to put down their weapons. I dispute this approach that blames both sides equally. Israel is the aggressor. Not only is Israel bombing indiscriminately with a view to maximising civilian casualties, it continues to maintain its inhumane and illegal siege of Gaza. The kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teenagers was simply a pretext. There is no evidence that it was a Palestinian or a Hamas member who killed the teenagers. Israel has set itself as judge, jury and executioner. 
Not a week, nor even a day, goes by without a new outrage from the Tony Abbott government. One recent outrage was when Abbott declared that Australia was “unsettled” before the British invasion — taking us back to the days of terra nullius. This stand, alongside plans to quarantine how young people spend welfare payments while earmarking billions of dollars for unneeded (and technically dubious) fighter jets, indicates the character of the Abbott government.
Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.
"Money speaks” is the message we should be taking from the last few weeks of state politics in NSW. Inappropriate and undeclared financial dealings and interests are being found at every level of Australian politics. The parliamentary parties are riddled with factions, controlled by powerbrokers who promote the careers of their own base of loyal supporters. This undemocratic concentration of power leaves the parties unable to resist corruption. As one corrupt politician is dispatched there are always plenty more to take their place.
For the first time in Australian history, construction workers are facing government moves to seize houses and cars in relation to an industrial dispute. The 33 workers affected took part in an eight-day strike in north-west WA in 2008. Mick Buchan of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) told the ABC that the dispute between workers and the company was resolved at the time. “It was some time later that the ABCC [Australian Building Construction Commission] intervened and brought charges against individuals”, he said.
The Great Barrier Reef is almost certainly going to suffer permanent damage due to coral bleaching if countries do not act to reduce carbon emissions, the Fifth Assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on March 31. A lead author of the report, Chris Field, told the ABC’s 7.30: “Warm water coral reefs are one of the world's ecosystems that's most threatened and especially threatened by the combination of a warming climate and acidification of the ocean waters.”
In yet another parliamentary coup, new austerity measures were passed through parliament, albeit by a narrow majority, on March 30. The bill contained three articles, which seem to give the final blow to the remaining worker and pension rights, the country’s economy and public ownership of land and services. As the bill was passed, protesters outside parliament were beaten, tear-gassed and detained by special police squads.
The 10th national conference of the Socialist Alliance will be held in Sydney over the long weekend of June 7-9. This gathering will take place at a time of extreme inequality, intensified conflict and ecological crisis on a global scale. Even in Australia, one of the “richest suburbs” in the world, the political temperature is rising with the 100,000-strong March in March signalling a broad resistance to the attacks from the Tony Abbott government. The conference will discuss strategies and tactics to advance people's power in this country and around the world.
The March in March protests across Australia over March 15-17 were a resounding success – not just because of their size, focus and breadth. Just as significant is the fact that March in March tore apart the idea – seeded by the cynical rhetoric of John Howard's spin doctors in the wake of the invasion of Iraq – that protests don't work. This protest worked precisely because it brought between 80,000 and 110,000 people out of their homes and into the streets in a disparate yet united way against the Tony Abbott government's attacks.
You can tell how good a newspaper is from the enemies it keeps. The Australian wrote a sneering dismissal of the new Saturday Paper, launched last weekend, and used its ultimate insult by comparing the new paper to Green Left Weekly, calling GLW “ignorant, moralistic and simplistic”.
The Tony Abbott government has announced another Royal Commission into corruption in building industry unions. But Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver said the terms of reference for this Royal Commission “are narrowly directed at unions and will not adequately deal with corruption or unlawful behaviour by businesses or employers”.
A big attack on Medicare is on the cards after Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to rule out forcing all patients to pay an upfront cost when they visit the doctor. Former health advisor to Abbott, Terry Barnes, has written a paper to the federal government's Commission of Audit recommending a $6 upfront fee to see a doctor. The commission was appointed by the federal government to propose business-friendly cuts to government spending before the May budget.

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