Sue Bolton

More than a hundred people attended a public meeting in Coburg on March 10 to oppose the construction of residential towers, including a 19-storey tower, on the Pentridge prison site. Save Coburg organised the meeting. A number of resolutions were passed at the meeting, including one to set up a community campaign group. This is a vital step as state government and local council have proved themselves incapable of defending the rights of the community on this issue and have allowed developers' greed to rule.
Not for some years has there been so much justifiable outrage over bipartisan cruelty towards refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. The groundswell of community organising to keep the 267 asylum seekers, being threatened with deportation to Nauru and Manus Island, is a bright spot on an otherwise bleak horizon.
Moreland councilors voted on October 26 to elect Sam Ratnam as the first Green mayor. Left Labor councilor Lita Gillies was voted in as her deputy. I voted for the Green mayor to break the stranglehold of the two big-business parties, Liberal and Labor. The Labor Party has controlled the Moreland council for many years. However I was surprised that, immediately after electing the mayor, the Greens councillors voted for Liberal Party councillor Rob Thompson to be her deputy.
About 300 anti-racism protesters rallied in Bendigo on October 10 as part of the Bendigo Action Coalition's Say no to racism and fascism campaign. Local residents and activists from across Victoria mobilised at the Bendigo Town Hall to oppose the far-right United Patriots Front (UPF) who paraded in Rosalind Park opposing the construction of a mosque in town. The UPF had called a national mobilisation in Bendigo on October 10, with members coming from Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. About 400 attended the racist protest.
A planned strike set for September 22 was cancelled when the tram and bus division of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) struck a deal with Yarra Trams. Workers had to take industrial action to win an agreement — they had non-uniform days, they banned short-running on tram routes and they had two four-hour strikes. They were about to go on strike again for four hours when the negotiations reached a resolution.
Industrial action taken by tram workers has already had an impact on Yarra Trams. The company has withdrawn some of its proposals for stripping the working conditions of tram workers.
The announcement on September 9 that Australia will accept only 12,000 refugees from Syria and that the government will seek to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity and religion is further proof that the government is lying about leading the world in welcoming refugees.
Vienna, September 1. “Tony Abbott's bizarre proclamation that Australia is leading the world on a per capita basis in welcoming refugees is a lie,” says Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance Councillor.
Over the past two weeks the Victorian Labor government has ramped up its hostile rhetoric towards rail and tram workers fighting to defend their rights. This culminated in joint legal action taken in the Fair Work Commission with rail boss Metro Trains against the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) in a bid to stop railway workers from taking strike action on September 4. It failed to stop the strike going ahead.
An emotional and highly charged stopwork meeting of hundreds of tram workers jammed into Trades Hall on August 27 to hear a report on their dispute with Yarra Trams. Yarra Trams and Metro Rail workers had called off a planned four-hour strike on August 21 in the hope that the companies would present the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) with a better offer. The better offer never came so the tram workers struck for four hours on August 27. This was the first tram strike since 1997.
After a huge amount of political pressure from the Victorian government, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) agreed to postpone its August 21 tram and train strike, and Metro Rail and Yarra Trams agreed to return to the negotiating table. Had the strike gone ahead it would have been the first such strike in 18 years. RTBU members were clearly fed up with their respective train and tram companies, with 98% of railway workers and 99.4% of tram workers who returned ballots voting for industrial action.
The official unemployment rate in Broadmeadows is 23.5% but the real unemployment and underemployment rates are far higher. Youth unemployment is higher than the overall rate. We are very close to the 30% unemployment rate of the Great Depression. Woolworths has now announced that it intends to close its Hume Distribution Centre and shift it across town to the outer south-eastern suburbs. This would throw about 680 people out of work.
August 13 was Day 4 of an indefinite strike and picket by workers at Woolworths’ Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre (MLDC). The strike began at 4am on August 9 when workers walked off the job in protest at Woolworths’ plans that all new employees would be labour hire casuals. During the last enterprise bargaining negotiations, Woolworths had agreed not to introduce labour hire. Currently, all employees, including casuals, are directly employed by Woolworths with opportunities for casual workers to apply to become permanent each year.
In what has become a typical pattern by employers, Woolworths sent a text message to the 680 workers at its distribution centre in Broadmeadows on June 9 to inform them that the warehouse would be closed down in 2018.
Woolworths’ decision that all new employees at its Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre (MLDC) will be labour hire casuals has sparked an indefinite strike.
There has been a wave of support for famous Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes in the face of the racist torrent that has been directed at him. At the same time as people are expressing their solidarity with Goodes, right-wing commentators such as Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones are doing their best to stoke the racism, by denying that Goodes has been subjected to racist booing.

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