Comment and Analysis

Michele O'Neil: Supporting boat turn-backs reinforces idea that seeking asylum is a crime

The Australian Labor Party’s 47th National Conference was held in Melbourne from July 24 to 26. It is its highest decision-making forum and the largest political gathering in the country. The conference decides the policies that Labor will take to the next federal election and potentially implement in government.

A few days before the conference began, Labor leader Bill Shorten announced a policy of turning back asylum seeker boats, essentially agreeing with the Coalition government’s policy.

'Marriage equality and beyond'

After the victories in Ireland and the US, activists are reflecting that Australia too is on the cusp of a victory on marriage equality.

This framed the discussion at a lively forum in Sydney on July 28, entitled "Marriage equality and beyond: Taking the struggle forward".

However, as the speakers noted, the struggle is by no means won, and there are still many challenges facing the LGBTI community. The forum discussed the history and future of the fight for equal marriage rights and the rainbow struggle generally.

‘Marriage equality: a step towards a better world’

We thought marriage equality was in the bag after Prime Minister Tony Abbott hinted he’d support a cross-party bill and conscience vote in the Liberal Party room in June.

We thought we were closer when opposition leader Bill Shorten put forward a marriage equality bill. Victories overseas — Ireland and the US — in May and June propelled momentum here.

But both Abbott and Shorten are now backtracking.

Alcoa’s exit signals death of fracking in the Kimberley

Buru Energy is an oil and gas exploration and production company that plans to explore and develop the gas resources of the Canning Basin, in the south-west Kimberley region in Western Australia.

The company wants to use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to test for tight gas flows in four wells — the Asgard well in Noonkanbah, two Yulleroo wells on Yawuru country, and Valhalla in an unclaimed area.

Buru has refused to provide details of their chemical risk assessment to traditional owners.

The Wilderness Society released this statement on July 30.

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No such thing as ‘cheap’ fossil fuels

Scientists have warned that if humanity is to avoid catastrophic climate change — which means limiting a rise in average global temperature to 2°C above that of pre-industrial times — most known fossil fuels reserves have to stay in the ground.

The science is lost on the Tony Abbott government, which argues that Australia’s vast fossil fuel reserves will ensure the country’s energy remains “cheap”.

Queer pride saves lives — and helps us fight for a better world

The fight for marriage equality in Australia has been long ongoing, and its success long, long overdue. Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), for instance, is just one of the groups which have fought for equal legal rights. Founded in 1999, it has been campaigning tirelessly for well over a decade. This activism has already changed Australia, helping create majority support for marriage equality.

Forest groups demand NSW government halt logging to save koalas

Forest conservation groups have demanded that the New South Wales government immediately halt logging operations in state forest areas known to be koala habitat. They fear that proposals by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to allow clear felling of large areas of forests on the NSW north coast could be the catalyst that tips the area's koalas onto the path to extinction.

Tasmanian government drives Swift Parrots to extinction

The Wilderness Society has obtained documents under freedom of information that show that the Tasmanian government is driving the endangered Swift Parrot to extinction.

Last year the Tasmanian government quietly changed its rules to allow the parrot’s breeding habitat to be destroyed by logging. They also withdrew from the Swift Parrot Recovery Team, the national multi-agency expert group tasked with saving the species. The documents also show that federal environment minister Greg Hunt has repeatedly refused to act to protect one of Australia’s most endangered animals.

Graduates rack up huge debts to go on the dole

When Gough Whitlam’s Labor government abolished university fees in January 1974, student enrolments had already been increasing at double the population growth for two decades.

In 1985, three years before Bob Hawke’s Labor government abolished free tertiary education and brought in the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), it had decided to develop the full-fee international marketing of education as an export industry.

Hiroshima Day: time to ban the bomb

Seventy years ago, two split second explosions changed the course of history. The blinding light and fireballs that scorched Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the start of the atomic age. More than 200,000 people died either instantly or within a couple of months. Thousands more have died in the years since due to the radiological impacts of the bombs.

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