Australia

NSW electoral funding laws give advantage to big parties

In NSW, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) heard evidence from Operation Spicer of significant breaches of donations laws by Liberal candidates and private donors before the 2011 state election.

The hearings have exposed 12 state and federal Liberal politicians, who have either resigned or stood aside, including former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. ICAC is due to release its full report next year and this will include recommendations on whether criminal charges should be laid.

Editorial: The legacy of the Whitlam government

In the outpouring of grief over Gough Whitlam’s death at the age of 98 on October 21, many people remembered how their lives were changed by the reforms his government brought in.

In an age of worsening neoliberal attacks led by the anti-poor class warriors in Tony Abbott’s government, the reforms associated with Whitlam's twice-elected 1972-75 government can seem almost utopian.

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John Pilger: How Whitlam was brought down

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died.

His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

National rallies against black deaths in custody

National rallies were held on October 23 to protest against continuing Aboriginal deaths in custody.

About 300 people rallied in Melbourne at an event organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association, Melbourne and First Nations Liberation.

The catalyst for the rally was the death of a 22-year-old Yamatji woman known as Ms Dhu in police custody in Western Australia.

Pacific Climate Warriors tell Australia to cut emissions

Young people from 13 Pacific Islands visited Australia in October to raise awareness about the risk climate change poses for their homes and communities. Known as the Pacific Climate Warriors, they spoke at public forums in Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

They decided to tour Australia because they did not want to stand idly by as their homes sink. They said: “We are not drowning. We are fighting.”

Their message to Australia was blunt: emissions need to be cut and fossil fuel production needs to be phased out.

Gloucester stands up to coal seam gas

A local man was arrested on October 23 after locking himself to the access gate to four coal seam gas (CSG) pilot wells in Gloucester, New South Wales.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the wells, owned by AGL, was approved in August by NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts.

But residents in Gloucester stand opposed to any CSG drilling in the area.

A resident of 25 years, Brett Jacobs, said: "AGL has a battle on its hands if it thinks it can turn our valley into a coal seam gasfield. This is our home and we are not giving up or going away.”

Melbourne councillor says heatwaves should be treated as emergencies

Heatwaves are still not considered an emergency by state governments, but they should be.

There was a 24% increase in the number of deaths during the four day heatwave in Victoria in January. An additional 167 people died in the week of the heatwave when the temperature was above 41 degrees for four consecutive days in Melbourne and more than 45 degrees in other parts of the state.

In 2009, there were an additional 374 deaths during the heatwave in the week before the Black Saturday bushfires.

Townsville protests threat to Great Barrier Reef

The controversial issue of where to dump dredge spoil from the Abbot Point coal port expansion was the focus for hundreds of North Queenslanders who want to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the environmental impacts the dredging will cause.

On October 19, boats and kayaks formed a flotilla at the beach as others rallied onshore. After progressing a couple of hundred metres, the flotilla and the marchers were surprised to be joined by a group of scuba divers who emerged from under the water and made their way to the beach to join the rally on land.

Sole parents are slipping into poverty

The recent Australian Council of Social Service report into poverty has found one third of sole parents live in poverty.

Many sole parents are suffering after being switched from Parenting Payment Single to the much lower Newstart Allowance. Under former prime minister Julia Gillard, about 100,000 sole parents were switched to the lower payment.

University of Sydney suspends racist professor

University of Sydney professor Barry Spurr has been suspended following a protest at the university on October 17.

Students and staff rallied to express their disgust over reports from New Matilda the professor had vilified minority groups in emails to his colleagues by using terms such as “abos, mussies, chinky-poos” and referred to a woman as a “worthless slut”.

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