Jim McIlroy

"We will do everything we can to make sure Westpac decides they won't fund the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the Adani coal mine," Amy Gordon, from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), told a crowd of about 200 outside the head office of Westpac Bank on February 20. The rallies were organised by the AYCC and 350.org.

The appointment of former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh as CEO of the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA) is a desperate public relations ploy by the Big Four Australian banks to head off a looming royal commission into their crimes and misdeeds.

It seems unlikely to succeed, given the anger in the community against the Big Four — the Commonwealth, National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ — and their systematic gouging of the general public.

The Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) has announced a "Put the Liberals Last" campaign in the coming state byelections in NSW, with SOCC spokesperson Phil Jenkyn saying: "They [the Liberals] will be massacred in the North Shore byelection."

The group was responding on February 14 to the decision by Premier Gladys Berejiklian to push ahead with the forced amalgamations of 20 urban councils and continue to pursue the mergers of the five Sydney councils that are currently taking legal action against the plan.

About 200 people marched from Hyde Park to the NSW State Parliament on February 13 to demand an end to the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare. They chanted, "What does Sorry mean? You don't do it again!"

The march, organised by the Sydney branch of Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), was held on the ninth anniversary of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations.

“Stop WestConnex! No WestConnex!” rang out across Macquarie Street from a snap action of up to 100 people outside NSW Parliament on February 14. A number of anti-WestConnex groups gathered at short notice after the Australian National Audit Office released its damning report into WestConnex.

A map sent to the group No WestConnex: Public transport, not motorways by an insider has revealed plans for Stage 4 of WestConnex. Beginning with the Western Harbour Tunnels, this $11 billion, 22 km tunnel system is being readied before the planning has finished on Stage 2 and without any connection to Sydney Airport.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members in the federal Department of Human Services (DHS) have launched six days of rolling industrial action over the stalled enterprise bargaining process and the Centrelink robo-debt crisis.

Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support workers will strike and take other forms of industrial action over February 13 to 24.

"Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) was formed two years ago in opposition to the state government's forced mergers of local councils. We believe in local democracy," Carolyn Corrigan from SOCC told a rally outside the office of resigned Liberal MP Julia Skinner on February 5.

"Forced council amalgamations are a stitch-up. Big business and big developers are behind it. We want the stitch-up to be ripped up," she added, to rousing applause.

SOCC spokesperson Phil Jenkyn added, "Forced amalgamation is a deeply flawed process. Let's end this quickly.

Sydney may be in the grip of an apartment boom, but the construction of thousands of units across the city has done little to put a lid on rents, according to an analysis of the latest rental data.

Apartment living became more expensive in Sydney in the year to September 2016, after rent increases in all but three of the city's local government areas, according to the NSW Tenants' Union Rent Tracker report.

Tenants' Union advocacy and research officer Leo Patterson Ross said: "Apartment rents are growing faster than house rents at the moment."

At least three of Australia's largest infrastructure investors are queuing up to form consortia to bid for the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway. CP2, IFM and the favourite, Transurban, are involved, with QIC and AMP Capital said to be likely participants.

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