Our Common Cause

Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act — the law against racial vilification — are under renewed attack from the right. These attacks have the backing of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and the support of the federal government, which has announced a parliamentary inquiry to determine whether this law imposes unreasonable limits on free speech and recommend whether the law should be changed.

Stop the war on refugees banner at rally

After ripping up Australia's commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention on several occasions in the past, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on October 30 that the Australian government intends to do so again.

In the latest iteration, the government is threatening to formally prevent any refugee who arrives by boat from ever getting an Australian visa. This would include short-term tourist and business visas, let alone the permanent protection envisioned by the Refugee Convention.

Those who believe empowered communities are the best defence to politics-as-usual are celebrating the re-election of two hard-working socialist councillors — Sue Bolton and Stephen Jolly — in Victoria’s local council elections held on October 22.

CFMEU members and police

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and Registered Organisations bills passed in the House of Representatives on October 18. These bills, first introduced by the Tony Abbott government in 2013, were twice rejected by the Senate, triggering the double dissolution election earlier this year. 

This is the latest attempt to extend the John Howard era’s union busting agenda. The ABCC was first established by the Howard government in 2005, targeting the militant unions that covered workers in the construction industry. It was opposed by the union movement.

Just as in the 21 countries where marriage equality has been won, we will have to win this democratic right on the streets here too. This is the resounding conclusion supporters of equality must draw if we are to push back an emerging tide of conservatism unleashed by this latest round of major party politicking over the plebiscite.

Today, there are 55 workers still camping outside Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Melbourne, 16 weeks after they were sacked when their employer lost the maintenance contract for the brewery.

Most of these workers were directly employed by CUB until their jobs were outsourced in 2009. There was a hard fought campaign to keep the positions permanent but, in the end, the workers were forced to settle for contracts with no loss of income or conditions. Supposedly it was a “win/win”.

On September 20, days after the passage of the “omnibus” legislation that enabled the implementation of the federal budget, Minister for Social Services Christian Porter released the Baseline Valuation Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as part of the federal government’s “Priority Investment Approach”.

In what amounted to a financial audit of the welfare system, the report focused on the costs to the welfare system over a prolonged period of three categories of recipients: young carers, young parents and students.

Newly elected Senator Pauline Hanson gave her maiden speech in the Senate on September 14 — 20 years after her first appearance as a parliamentarian in 1996.

Her incendiary speech outlined a far-right agenda of racist bigotry, misogyny and attacks on welfare rights.

Since 2003, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has had the power to detain people for up to seven days, without charge, for questioning in relation to a terrorism investigation.

That person does not have to be a terrorism suspect or even an associate of a terrorism suspect; is compelled to answer questions; and is forced to keep the detention and interrogation secret.

Photos by Chelsea Dennison

The good turnout to national rallies on August 27 and 28 shows the refugee rights' movement is starting to gain political ground. A number of pro-asylum seeker groups are forming to force an end to the cruel policy of locking up refugees in offshore detention.

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