Australia

The Australian government, at the behest of the United States, has decided to boycott major United Nations nuclear disarmament negotiations beginning on March 27. It argues that US nuclear weapons are essential for Australia’s security and therefore should not be prohibited under international law.

The February 23 ruling by the so-called Fair Work Australia Commission to allow the slashing of weekend penalty rates for those working in the food and retail sector is a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable and underpaid workers in Australia.

Green Left Weekly’s Chris Jenkins spoke to Aaron Beardsell, WA state organiser of the newly formed Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) about the new union and the challenges facing workers in their sector.

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More than 400 people rallied for abortion rights outside the Queensland parliament on February 16 in the lead up to a March 1 debate on decriminalising abortion in the state.

One feature of the rally was the strong support by unionists speaking out in favour of the campaign demands. General secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions Ros McLennan gave a powerful speech criticising the “weak-kneed hand-wringing and flip flopping” of the state's politicians when the “right thing to do is just so clear”.

Eaten Fish

Iranian cartoonist Eaten Fish (Ali Duranti) ended his hunger strike after 18 days on February 18. He went on hunger strike to protest being sexually assaulted and guards ignoring his complaints, often bullying him in response.

A protest was held on February 18 in response to the City of Melbourne’s proposed by-law amendments that ban any form of public camping and make it easier for the confiscation of unattended property — essentially criminalising rough sleepers in the streets of Melbourne.

Australia ranks equal 15th overall in a new World Bank scorecard on sustainable energy, tied with five other countries in the bottom group of wealthy OECD countries.

The Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) provides benchmarks to evaluate clean energy progress.

RISE rates country performance in three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency, and access to modern energy (excluding advanced countries), using 27 indicators and 80 sub-indicators.

Severe coral bleaching could return to the Great Barrier Reef in the next four weeks scientists warn, after new bleaching and unusually high ocean temperatures have been documented.

Newly bleached corals have been discovered near Townsville.

Vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef have been placed on Alert Level 1 by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch for the next four weeks — meaning that coral bleaching is likely.

With the decision by the misnamed Fair Work Commission to slash the take home pay of some of the lowest-paid workers, it is worth restating that all wealth in our society is created by workers and not capitalists.

Profits come from the difference between the value of the goods and services created by a worker and what they are paid for their work. Some of this "surplus value" is invested back into production, but the rest is siphoned off as profit.

Victoria passes Climate Change Act

Victoria’s new Climate Change Act, which was passed on February 23, will set Victoria on the path to zero climate pollution.

The act will establish a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; require five-yearly interim emissions targets from 2020 onwards; improve accountability and transparency on efforts to cut emissions; and ensure all arms of government are factoring climate change impacts and emissions reductions into their decision making and policy setting.

Australians overwhelmingly believe keeping asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru indefinitely is cruel, but are evenly split on whether they should be resettled in Australia. 

This was the result of a survey by Roy Morgan Research over February 18 to 19.

The poll found a majority of voters in Victoria (52%), NSW (51%) and Tasmania (58%) supported bringing those on Manus and Nauru to Australia.

A majority of voters in Queensland (53%), WA (57%) and SA (54%) opposed resettlement in Australia.

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