Jim McIlroy

The community assemblies at Port Botany in Sydney and Port of Brisbane continue to hold the line as the protracted process towards a settlement of the long-running dispute between Hutchison Ports and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) continues. On November 6, the dispute over the controversial sacking of 97 Hutchison waterfront workers by text and email reached its 92nd day.

The New South Wales Baird government has announced an historic decision to privatise public housing.

In a $22 billion bonanza for the government's property developer mates, public housing estates will be torn down and rebuilt into places where private tenants and homeowners outnumber social housing tenants by 70% to 30%.

NSW Coalition Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard announced the state government's "Future Directions for Social Housing" policy. It includes the transfer of 35% of public housing to community housing organisations.

Residents of public housing towers in Waterloo, inner Sydney, rallied on April 23 against the NSW Coalition government's plan to forcibly evict tenants so it can sell off their homes.

The community is fighting the government's plan to begin relocating residents from mid-next year, before demolishing the Waterloo apartment towers to build new private high-rise apartments.

"How do you exaggerate the greatest bleaching event on the planet? How do you exaggerate that one quarter of the world's largest reef is dead? You don't," Tony Fontes, a prominent Great Barrier Reef diver and tourism operator, told a crowd of up to 2000 at Steyne Park, Double Bay, in the heart of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth on June 26.

The rally was organised by a coalition of groups, including GetUp, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Council.

In the recent controversy over the proposed sale of key NSW state-owned electricity company Ausgrid to Chinese bidders, the primary issue seems to have been lost: a vital public asset such as Ausgrid should not be privatised in the first place, whoever the potential buyers might be.

A storm broke out over the planned sale of Ausgrid by the state government to either of two Chinese corporations: the government-owned State Grid Corporation of China; or the privately-owned Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group (CKI), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.

The New South Wales government is preparing a fire sale of state-owned properties around the Sydney Harbour foreshore, on the pretext of funding an upgrade of the Circular Quay ferry wharves.

Premier Mike Baird announced on September 28 that government-owned hotels and office buildings would be sold to raise $200 million for the renovation project.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is calling on the Turnbull government to improve its bargaining policy to allow federal agencies to make acceptable enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) offers to public sector workers. Despite a small increase in the government's pay guideline from 1.5 to 2%, union members are insisting on a minimum rise of at least 2.5 to 3%.

"The NSW Coalition government's proposed sell-off of public housing to property developers is a huge hand-out to big business from the public purse," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the upcoming federal election, said on February 3.

"And the planned 'redevelopments' of public housing will make the housing crisis for workers and poor people even worse than now."

The Mike Baird Coalition government in New South Wales is keeping its plans for further privatisation of the publicly-owned Sydney Trains network tightly under wraps, after state officials refused to release nearly 100 documents on the issue, declaring them "cabinet in confidence".

NSW Treasury bureaucrats rejected a freedom of information request from the Labor opposition, saying the correspondence and emails could have an impact on commercial interests.

About 500 people attended a Stop WestCONnex community rally in the inner city suburb of Rozelle on June 26 to call a halt to the project and for an end to federal funding of the controversial tollway.

The rally was organised by the WestCONnex Action Group; No WestConnex: Public Transport; Save Newtown from WestCONnex; Save Ashfield Park; and Rozelle Against WestConnex.


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