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.

Campaign to save Port Kembla steelworks steps up

More than 1000 people rallied in Wollongong on September 19 to demand the federal government take action to save jobs at the Port Kembla steelworks.

Bluescope has announced it aims to cut $200 million from its operating budget and intends to sack 500 workers in the short term, with a possibility that thousands more jobs will go in the future.

This is despite BlueScope posting a $134 million profit for the last financial year.

Unions have launched a campaign to save the steelworks and emergency talks have been held between government ministers, unions and Bluescope management.

Murray-Darling basin water buybacks capped

Water buybacks for the Murray Darling basin will be capped at 1500 gigalitres after Labor joined with the Coalition to pass a bill in the Senate on September 14.

The bill was backed by the National Farmers' Federation and means the government will be able to buy back only 1500 gigalitres of water entitlements from farmers each year.

Activists condemn National’s appointment of coal lobbyist

Newly-elected Nationals Party president Larry Anthony has been revealed to be the executive director and co-owner of a lobby firm that counted coal company Shenhua Watermark as a client.

Anthony’s firm, SAS Group, lobbied for Shenhua until July this year. The company wants to build an open-cut coalmine near Gunnedah, on the Liverpool Plains. The mine is expected to produce 10 million tonnes of coal a year.

New laws to strip citizenship without trial

Labor and the Coalition will vote for new laws this week that will strip dual nationals of their citizenship at the discretion of the immigration minister.

Both major parties agree that the laws should also apply retrospectively to those sentenced to at least ten years’ jail.

A bipartisan committee released a report on the proposed laws on September 4 and recommended that some of its measures be watered down.

Serious climate action must challenge the system

This week Canadian author Naomi Klein is visiting Australia to speak about why capitalism is incompatible with action on climate change.

Her book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate encourages everyone already involved in fighting for social justice and equality to see climate change as the “best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world”.

New demolition threat to Palestinian village

Palestinians in Susiya demonstrate in May against Israel’s plans to destroy the village. Photo: Sarah Levy/Electronic Intifada.

The Palestinian village of Susiya is at imminent risk of demolition. On May 5, Israel’s High Court of Justice refused to grant an interim order to freeze the demolition until the outcome of an appeal brought by villagers to prove the village’s legitimacy.

Voters reject Abbott’s weak climate targets

The federal government has been widely criticised for its weak carbon emission reduction target announced on August 11. The new target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 will replace the previous target of a 5% emissions reduction on 2000 levels.

These targets are nowhere near enough to stay under a 1.5°C rise in global temperature, needed to prevent going over climate tipping points.

New policy denies refugees TAFE loans

Under NSW government changes to TAFE called Smart and Skilled, many refugees are finding it difficult to study. While people with a permanent resident visa are allowed to study at TAFE, they are not eligible for VET-FEE HELP — the federal government loan that offers access to cover the cost of rising fees.

Emmanuel Bakenga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, lives in Wollongong and works part time for Green Connect, a social enterprise that employs resettled refugees to grow vegetables, keep waste out of landfill and turn food waste into compost.

Grassroots groups call climate protests

Grassroots climate groups are calling for large protests in cities around the world to coincide with the United Nations climate talks held in Paris in November and December, known as COP21.

In France, a broad coalition of almost 100 groups, including trade unions, have created Coalition Climat 21 to organise mass mobilisations before and during the Paris talks.

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.

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