Australia

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and other construction unions are organising national rallies on Thursday March 9 against the Turnbull government’s war on construction workers.

The resurrected Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is an attack on the industry and it will endanger lives.

About 65 workers at the Parmalat dairy factory in Echuca, Victoria, have been locked out since January 18 in a dispute over the company's plan to radically slash pay for new employees.

Parmalat is a national dairy company, whose brands include Pauls, Oak and Vaalia. In February last year it was bought by French-based company Lactalis, the largest dairy manufacturing company in the world. Emmanuel Besnier, CEO of Lactalis, has a personal worth of $6.7 billion and in 2015, Parmalat Australia’s sales revenue was $1.65 billion.

"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 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.

Activist, teacher and mother of two, Petrina Harley, grew up in the suburbs of Perth. She is a fierce advocate for human rights, her main passions being rights for the LGBTI community, illegally detained asylum seekers and stopping the Roe 8 freeway.

She is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the WA state election alongside Sam Wainwright in the South Metropolitan Legislative Council. Harley was interviewed by Green Left Weekly by Chris Jenkins, who is standing in the seat of Fremantle.

Gas giant Santos’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposal to create a gasfield in the Pilliga Forest was made public on February 21, two weeks after it was lodged with the government for assessment. It will be on public exhibition until just April 24.

The EIS shows that Santos still intends to drill coal seam gas (CSG) production wells despite widespread protests over the trouble-plagued Narrabri Gas Project.

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