Mel Barnes

Mel Barnes lives in Wollongong and is a co-editor of Green Left Weekly. She has been an activist for environmental and social justice issues since 2003, and is a member of Socialist Alliance.

UNSW staff strike for better pay and conditions

Staff at the University of NSW took industrial action on March 11 in response to stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is seeking a pay rise of 3.5%, employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and greater job security, including opportunities for permanence for casual staff, some of whom have been employed on a casual basis for many years.

Classes were cancelled for the day and about 100 NTEU members and students picketed six gates around the campus.

Thousands of unionists rally against government

Thousands of people rallied around the country on March 4 to protest against the federal government’s anti-worker laws.

Organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the rallies protested against a range of government policies including cuts to wages and conditions, the deregulation of university fees, cuts to the ABC, and slashing unemployment benefits.

Angry community rejects WestConnex

More than 1000 people attended a meeting at the Enmore theatre in Newtown on February 23 to hear from the builders of the $12 billion motorway WestConnex.

The WestConnex Delivery Authority organised the meeting as a community consultation to answer what they call “misinformation” about the project. But they faced an overwhelmingly hostile reaction from the crowd.

The crowd booed and heckled WestConnex Delivery Authority chief executive Dennis Cliche as he tried to promote the benefits of the motorway.

Hundreds protest at Maules Creek mine

About 250 people gathered at the Leard State Forest in northern NSW from February 13 and 18 to stop Whitehaven Coal clearing the forest to make way for its proposed Maules Creek coalmine.

The project has been plagued by protest for more than two years and more than 300 people have been arrested, including farmer Rick Laird and former Wallabies captain David Pocock.

Sydney police gave no warning before pepper spraying students

Police attacked students with pepper spray during a protest against university fee deregulation in Sydney on February 13.

About 30 students gathered to protest against education minister Christopher Pyne, who was giving the Inaugural Hedley Beare Memorial Lecture at the Sydney Masonic Centre. He planned to “outline the Australian government’s achievements in schools since coming to office”.

Police sprayed students to stop them entering the lecture to take part in an advertised Q&A with Pyne.

Fossil fuel divestment week

In the lead-up to the first global divestment day on February 14, the University of Sydney announced it will reduce the carbon footprint of its investments by 20% within three years by divesting from heavy polluters.

But it has shied away from divesting from fossil fuels altogether.

The decision follows a sustained student-led campaign, with support from Greenpeace, that has been urging the university to completely divest its investments in fossil fuels.

Protesting Qantas passengers stop refugee transfer

Update: An earlier version of this article reported that asylum seeker Puvaneethan reboarded the plane after protesting passengers had been removed. Reports have now confirmed he is now back in Maribyrnong detention centre in Melbourne.

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Three passengers were removed from a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Darwin this morning after refusing to take their seats in protest against the transfer of an asylum seeker on the same flight.

A Tasmanian's tales of history and struggle — from near and far

Essays From Near & Far
James Dryburgh
Walleah Press, 2014
130 pages, $20
http://walleahpress.com.au

The Tasmanian establishment like to promote the idea that their state is separate to the rest of Australia; that its isolation means things are done differently and that’s just the way it is.

It’s an attitude that keeps newly arrived residents as outsiders and maintains acquiescence to the status quo in politics and business.

Why Direct Action won’t make the cuts we need

The Coalition government’s Direct Action policy has become law after passing the lower house on November 23.

The centrepiece of Direct Action is the Emissions Reduction Fund. Under this scheme, the government will pay for projects that will reduce CO2 emissions "at least cost".

Businesses, farmers, community organisations, local councils and individuals will be able to compete for $2.55 billion in government funding for projects to reduce their emissions.

The people v the G20

As the G20 wrapped up in Brisbane last week, national leaders issued a statement to announce the key issues they would focus on until the next meeting.

This included the creation of jobs through growth, with the ambitious target of growing the GDP of G20 countries by 2% over the next four years.

It was couched in language that promised a better life for everyone. “Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority,” the statement said.

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