Comment and Analysis

Since 2003, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has had the power to detain people for up to seven days, without charge, for questioning in relation to a terrorism investigation.

That person does not have to be a terrorism suspect or even an associate of a terrorism suspect; is compelled to answer questions; and is forced to keep the detention and interrogation secret.

The responsibility of governments to help with the costs of child-rearing has been a part of Australian social policy since the early 1920s, when the first widows’ pension (1926) and child endowment (1927) schemes were introduced.

Australia has recognised this principle since the Harvester judgment of 1907, which raised the issue of how much income was appropriate for a family with child-rearing responsibilities. For most of the 20th century, this was recognised in taxation policy, as well as in income support policies.

Increased evidence of homelessness in Melbourne’s iconic graffiti laneway, Hosier Lane, has prompted outrage from government and local businesses in recent weeks.

Early one morning last month, the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) Lucy Turnbull — a lifelong resident of the city’s most privileged suburbs along the south-eastern edge of the harbour — quietly slipped across to Sydney’s inner west where she was taken on tour by a WestConnex manager of the M4 East tollway tunnel corridor. There she presumably saw for the first time the gigantic construction sites in Haberfield where scores of heritage homes, businesses, gardens, parks and trees stood until a few weeks ago.

The Turnbull government recently decided to cut bulk-billing incentives to pathology services. This will result in pathology labs charging for basic tests including pap smears, MRIs, urine tests, blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds. The cuts will force patients to pay at least $30 for a pap smear, urine or blood test and up to $173 for an MRI scan.

These cuts are unfair to all, but will especially hurt women. Free and accessible pathology tests are key to ensuring early detection of cervical cancer, STIs (sexually transmitted diseases), UTIs (urinary tract infections) and pregnancy.

Last week US religious figure Troy Newman, who campaigns against abortions, was denied entry into Australia on the grounds that he would be a danger to the community. Some are hailing his banning a victory for women's rights. But was it?

Newman is the president of Operation Rescue, a right-wing misogynist organisation in the US dedicated to stopping women having abortions and doctors from performing them.

Privatisation continues to be touted as a quick fix, so the mantra goes “public sector bad, private sector good”.

That is, using community funds and resources to build up a vital service or piece of infrastructure, usually over a period of many years, then when there is a “budget crisis” selling it off to yield a quick cash injection and the removal of an expense from the ledger — regardless of whether it is generating income or not — while giving sweetheart deals to the new owners to ensure monopoly-like conditions to maximise their profits.

Disengagement from mainstream politics is so widespread that when the marginalised and poor start getting engaged the establishment, and its media, hits back.

This explains the corporate media's sexist-tinged blitzkrieg against Sue Bolton and Roz Ward, both Melbourne-based activists. Both women have come to prominence recently for their determination to stand up for the most marginalised and dispossessed sectors of society and involve others in the process.

In 2008, the then-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Jay Weatherill announced a review of the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988.

After initial intensive activity there was a long period of inactivity. Then, suddenly last month, with little notice or consultation, draft legislation to amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act was introduced into state parliament. On March 22, having passed through the Legislative Council, the House of Assembly agreed to the bill without any amendment.

Photo: Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association.

On 26 January, one of the saddest days in human history will be celebrated in Australia. It will be "a day for families", say the newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. Flags will be dispensed at street corners and displayed on funny hats. People will say incessantly how proud they are.


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