Jim McIlroy

The NSW Coalition government’s decision to lease the 150-year-old Land Titles Registry to a private consortium of Hastings Funds Management and First State Super is "a recipe for disaster" for millions of property owners across the state, the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) said on April 12.

First State is a $59 billion superannuation fund, which developed from a NSW public sector fund. Hastings is owned by Westpac Bank.

The total cost of building the controversial WestConnex tollway, plus necessary connecting roads, could reach $45 billion, according to an analysis by the Sydney City Council. The council's analysis adds the estimated $29 billion cost of building and widening new and existing roads to support traffic flows from the 33-kilometre project, to the $17 billion cost of WestConnex itself.

"The NSW land titles registry's $190 million-a-year revenue stream could soon start flowing towards the Cayman Islands," the Sydney Morning Herald reported on April 3.

A Fairfax Media investigation found that “behind the newly created companies that may house Land and Property Information are an array of foreign players, a mysterious trustee, and business links to tax havens such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man.”

"As students, penalty rates can be your main sources of income,” Susie Elliott, a member of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), told a "Save our penalty rates: Hands off our pay," rally in Pitt Street Mall on April 2.

“Often, you can't work during the week because of classes, and you'd rather be doing something else on a Sunday, but you need the money to buy food. That's why we need penalty rates. This system should be working for the people, not the big corporations."

The Bolivarian government of Venezuela, together with its allies in Latin America, have repelled a serious attack on its sovereignty within the Organisation of American Unity (OAS). The attack was led by right-wing OAS secretary-general Luis Almagro, and backed to the hilt by the US government.

After a lengthy debate triggered by Almagro’s call to suspend Venezuela from the body, an extraordinary session of the OAS in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, ended on March 28 without a formal vote on the issue.

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) working in the Department of Human Services (DHS) resumed rolling strike action on March 24 in support of their longstanding struggle for a new enterprise agreement.

The workers in DHS, which includes Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support, had already begun work bans as part of their campaign.

The NSW Gladys Berejiklian government’s forced council amalgamation policy is in crisis, after the NSW Court of Appeal on March 27 blocked the merger of Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Councils.

The court accepted Ku-ring-gai Council’s appeal against the merger, in part because the state government kept the KPMG consultants’ report on the amalgamations secret from the public and from the delegate appointed to investigate the merger.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has backed calls for a new “people’s bank” to challenge the power of the Big Four mega-banks. He told the National Press Club on March 15: “The time has come for a people's bank, one that injects real competition into the banking sector.”

Senator Di Natale drew on the example of the state-owned KiwiBank in New Zealand, run by the NZ Post Office. A similar operation in Australia would boost competition, push down fees, help young buyers enter the property market and deter “unscrupulous behaviour”, he said.

Residents, unionists and supporters marched and rallied on March 19 in Millers Point, to protest the continuing eviction of remaining public housing tenants of the Point, Dawes Point and the iconic Sirius Building. The event, which attracted about 200 people, was sponsored by the Millers Point Community Working Party and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

“The fight to remain in our community goes on. The fighting spirit of the elderly, the frail and the vulnerable continues the struggle,” publicity for the action stated.

Students and academics at the University of New South Wales have mounted a major exhibition outlining a proposal for a radical redirection of the WestConnex tollway project from road to rail.

The exhibition, Civilise WestConnex, imagines what could be done if Stage 3 of WestConnex was cancelled and the other tunnels already under construction were converted from roads to train lines.

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