Comment and Analysis

Throughout last year, devastating conflicts raged in Iraq and Syria. The Afghan War entered its 16th year with a record number of civilians deaths, while in Yemen, a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition continued to bomb civilian targets using British and American-made weapons.

It would surprise the federal Coalition government — that assumes we dislike welfare recipients as much as it does — that one of its biggest problems at the start of the year is the Centrelink debt fiasco.

Over the past six months, 170,000 people received debt notices from Centrelink, with the number gradually rising to 20,000 a week.

By comparison, only 20,000 debt notices were issued for the whole of 2015.

On December 16, the Federal Court ruled that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

Socialist Alliance’s Dave Holmes gave this speech at a Melbourne rally in honour of Fidel Castro on December 4.

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Fidel Castro was a towering figure in world politics for almost six decades. Now, with his passing the hacks of the capitalist media have been gloating over the death of the “dictator”. Of course, he was nothing of the sort. As he truthfully told director Oliver Stone in the movie Commandante: “I am a slave to the people”. His life is a monument of conscience and loyalty to principle.

The date November 30, 2016 will surely go down in infamy through all history — or at least until the developing ecoholocaust being worsened by Australian government policies destroys the basis for human civilisation and renders meaningless the concept of history. So until about 2030, at least.

On that day, in Canberra, a terrible assault on democracy took place. It pains me to write this, but Parliamentary Question Time — that institution all freedom loving people throughout the world hold so dear — was delayed for 40 minutes by chanting protesters in the public gallery.

Hundreds of days of protests by refugees on Nauru, landmark court decisions, the Nauru Files, politicians’ offices occupied, parliament interrupted, suicides in detention, damning international reports and many more people becoming active in the campaign for refugee justice is the story of the refugee campaign this year.

The significant growth of campaign groups and the development of new ones means we are in a better position to end the indefinite and cruel mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees.

NSW Premier Mike Baird’s vision of “NSW Inc” is under increasing fire as the year ends. Dubbed the “Smiling Assassin”, “Mike the Vandal”, and “Robert Askin with a smiling face”, Baird’s approval ratings have plummeted as a number of his pet projects face rising opposition.

The former Liberal NSW Premier Askin was notoriously corrupt, renowned for his dodgy dealings with developers and his demand that his driver “run over the bastards” during an anti-Vietnam War protest in 1966 against visiting US President Lyndon Johnson.

Fast food workers, many of whom are young, have been left without a union fighting for decent wages and conditions.

On November 21, a new union — the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) — announced its formation. It is a rival in more ways than one to the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA).

The SDA, long led by Labor Party officials, has been at the centre of a national wages scandal in which 250,000 people are being paid less than the award by major employers including Coles, Woolworths, Hungry Jack’s, KFC and McDonalds

The Zika virus, borne by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 18 to no longer be a global emergency, to the dismay of many health workers around the world. This decision will minimise the amount of research and public vigilance against Zika infection.

Irene Bolger was branch secretary of the Victorian branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (RANF) when 20,000 nurses went on strike for 50 days in 1986. It was one of the longest strikes in Australian history and it was led by women.

Now, flipping through a stack of trade union and history books, Bolger says: “Lengthy on an international scale, it was 50 days of rage. But still I can't seem to find any reference to one of the most significant strikes in Australian history. The sexism continues."

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