An opinion poll showing that only 24% of Victorians support the government's flagship road project, the East West Link, has sent shockwaves through the Victorian government.
The East West Link is not the vote-winner that Victorian Premier Denis Napthine had hoped it would be. A recent opinion poll shows most Victorians are opposed to the state government’s plan to build the new toll road and want the money spent on public transport infrastructure instead. The Labor opposition says it opposes the project and would not continue the project if it wins the next state election, due to take place in November. That is, unless contracts have already been signed, in which case an incoming Labor government would allow the project to go ahead.
Public housing tenants and nearby residents gathered at Debney's Park in Melbourne's inner-west to protest the impact of the East West Link on public housing flats, Debney's Park and the Flemington Community Centre. The protest was organised by local Greens MP Adam Bandt. Yasseen Musa, a leader of the local African community living in the flats, told the protesters: “It took 15 years to get a sports ground, then another 10 years to get two soccer pitches and a pavilion. Now we have a soccer team for the African community.
Protesters were more imaginative than usual with slogans for the Children's March for the Animals to Melbourne Zoo on May 4. They were protesting against the $8 billion road project known as the East West Link because of the impact it would have on animals that live at the zoo. Placards read: “Tollway noise — I can't BEAR it”, “East-West Tunnel? Don't be GALAH!” and “The toll road is enough to make a ZEBRA cross!”. Children dressed in animal costumes or carried a stuffed toy of their favourite animal.
Food giant Coca-Cola Amatil has threatened to close the SPC Ardmona fruit canning company in Victoria, unless the federal government and Victorian government give it $25 million each in assistance. The company wants to spend $161 million on upgrading and restructuring its manufacturing facilities in Shepparton. If the plant is closed, about 3000 jobs in the Goulburn Valley, and many small orchard farms, would be lost.
At the national refugee protest in Canberra on November 18, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young concluded her speech by saying her first involvement in politics was through the refugee movement and that she used to come to rallies like this, until she realised that it was more important to change the minds of the people inside parliament, so she stood for parliament instead. I’ve heard Hanson-Young and Greens candidates make similar statements previously. I think such statements need to be challenged.
Over the years, I have heard many left-wing activists say that mass peaceful protests do not achieve anything. Rather, “militant actions” which “take it up to the ruling class” are more important. But for smaller direct actions to have any real political significance, they have to be connected to a patient and democratic approach to building mass movements that can win reforms. Smaller direct actions that are not tied to this political aim are a posture.
Jahangir Hosseini has been on hunger strike outside the immigration offices in Melbourne since September 19. He has been joined by his wife and five other Iranians. He is drinking water but is refusing all food. Hosseini feels dizzy and has lost a significant amount of weight but he is determined to remain on hunger strike until seven Iranian hostages being held in an Iraqi jail have been freed. Hosseini told Green Left Weekly this is his fifth hunger strike.
Many residents have been involved in the campaign to stop the East West tunnel in Melbourne, an $8-15 billion tollway project of Denis Napthine’s Coalition government. One resident, Keith Fitzgerald, has lived in Collingwood for 70 years. Fitzgerald told Green Left Weekly his grandparents had come over from Richmond in 1898 and settled in Collingwood. His father was born in Collingwood in 1900. Fitzgerald has lived in the same house for 69 years but has received a letter saying it is likely to be requisitioned,
Protesters gathered outside the immigration department CBD offices on October 18 to call on the Australian government to allow seven West Papuan asylum seekers to seek protection in Australia. The seven West Papuans arrived in Australia’s Torres Strait on September 24. They fled West Papua, fearing reprisal for involvement with a Freedom Flotilla from Australia.
A group of Iranians were on hunger strike outside the immigration department in Melbourne on October 19. Local Australian-Iranian man Jahangir Hosseini has been on hunger strike for more than 30 days. Another four women and one man have joined him on hunger strike. The hunger strikers plan to continue their hunger strike until seven hostages abducted by Iraqi forces are released. Hosseini called on the Australian government to intervene to secure the immediate release of the seven hostages, six of who are women.
The proposed the East West tunnel in Melbourne’s inner north will be environmentally, socially and economically disastrous. It is not a solution to the problem of congestion on Melbourne’s Eastern freeway. It is draining money from other, useful projects all over Melbourne. 1. THE TUNNEL WILL NOT FIX TRAFFIC PROBLEMS
For the third time since the Victorian government sold off the Yallourn power station in 1996, Yallourn power workers have been locked out of their workplace. In 2000, the workers were locked out for seven weeks. Yallourn power station’s owner, Energy Australia, locked out all 75 shift operators at midday on June 21 after the workers began industrial action by limiting power output. They are not being paid and are not accruing any leave or service. Even operators who were on holidays or sick leave have had their pay stopped. The company has locked the workers out indefinitely.
Kuwaiti-born doctor Ghaleb Jaber is prepared to follow in the footsteps of overseas-trained doctors (OTDs) who went on hunger strike in 1997 in Sydney and Melbourne to fight for their rights. Jaber set up the Overseas Trained Doctors Network of Victoria five years ago. This network is organising a conference on July 26 to raise the issues facing overseas-trained doctors in the lead up to the federal election. “We want them to listen to us this time,” Jaber told Green Left Weekly.
One thousand firefighters from around Victoria descended on parliament house on July 1 to protest Premier Denis Napthine’s cuts to the fire services budget. United Firefighters Union (UFU) state secretary Peter Marshall said that as of July 1, the Napthine government’s fire services levy collection will increase “from $322 million [in 2009] to $654 million [last year]. “The government is collecting more, but it is putting $157 million of the fire services levy in a bank account to help the government’s coffers”.
Former US marine and anti-war activist Vincent Emanuele is making his second speaking tour of Australia during June and July. A member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Emanuele is speaking to audiences about the US military machine. At a meeting in Melbourne where Emanuele spoke on July 4, the film On the Bridge was also screened. The film is a series of interviews with Iraq war veterans opposed to the war, including Emanuele.