Bush fires and climate change

February 4, 2013

Grant Brookes

The bush fires ravaging Australia this summer could turn out to be the worst on record.
Public reaction on both sides of the Tasman has been full of humanitarian concern for the victims. Meanwhile, our leaders plough on with policies which will spread more disasters like these globally – including here in Aotearoa.

The fires have been sparked by record-breaking temperatures. “The current heatwave – in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent – is unprecedented,” said David Jones from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Temperatures at Sydney’s Observatory Hill have hit 45.8 oC – shattering the 1939 record by half a degree. In the South Australian town of Oodnadatta, it has been so hot that petrol evaporated at the pump, making it impossible for people to refill their cars.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she felt “overwhelmed by the bravery and stoicism that people are showing in such difficult circumstances” and promised disaster relief payments for the victims, even acknowledging that “as a result of climate change, we are going to see more extreme weather events”.  But she added only, “We live in a country that is hot and dry… so we live with this risk”.
There was no mention of climate policy. Under her government, Australia remains the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

The story of the fires does not just concern Australia, however. The disasters also came less than two months after our own prime minister, John Key, announced that New Zealand would be pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change from the end of 2012.  Read the rest of this entry »


Interview: Socialist Party candidate re-elected in Yarra, Melbourne

November 6, 2012

In the recent local elections of Victoria, Australia, socialist candidates won seats in Yarra and Moreland (covered by Grant Brookes here: http://tinyurl.com/a7gbcxl.) Yarra Socialist Party councillor Stephen Jolly won his seat for the third time.  Writer for The Spark Ian Anderson interviewed Socialist Party member Mel Gregson.

The Spark: So the Socialist Party retained its council seat for Stephen Jolly, and lost its council seat for Anthony Main. Can you break that down a bit more?

MG: The campaign in Yarra was very successful with almost 1 in 5 voters across the city voting for us. We stood a team of five candidates, including current councillors Stephen Jolly and Anthony Main.

Our vote increased across all three wards, with Stephen Jolly topping the polls with 34.24% (the quota to be elected outright is 25%). Anthony Main stood in a different ward to which he was a councillor, where residents are being overrun by inappropriate development. There we increased our vote from 2.13% to 11.74%, with Anthony just missing out on re-election by a very small margin. In the other ward we almost doubled our vote to 10.81%.

The Spark: What is your political purpose in running electoral campaigns?

MG: The primary reason the Socialist Party stand in elections is to raise socialist ideas as an alternative to the pro-capitalist, neo-liberal policies of the main political parties. With class struggle at historic lows in Australia the level of political debate is also at a low, we believe that engaging with people at election time through standing candidates, debating the other parties and distributing political material can play a role in developing the level of political discussion.

In Yarra we have been able to take this to the next level by having some of our candidates elected to council. Through our work in Yarra over the last eight years we’ve been able to demonstrate socialist ideas in action. In this area we have been able to redefine the term ‘socialist’ from what many believed to be a stale, failed ideology into a positive term that people associate with the best class fighters and community campaigners in the area. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialists gain in Melbourne elections

November 4, 2012

Socialist Party candidate Anthony Main speaks at an election night party.

Grant Brookes, in Melbourne

Elections for local councils across the Australian state of Victoria took place on October 27. Socialist candidates scored major gains.

The Socialist Party, standing in all three wards in the inner-Melbourne City of Yarra, won its highest ever vote – up 58 percent on 2008. SP councillor Stephen Jolly was re-elected under the Single-Transferrable Vote (STV) system, topping the poll with more first preference votes than any other candidate.

Socialist Alliance candidates, running in the northern Melbourne suburbs of Moreland and in the regional city of Geelong, scored the party’s best results in Victoria. Sue Bolton came third highest in the tally of first preference votes, out of 24 candidates. And under STV she was elected to Moreland City Council as the most preferred candidate overall for her ward. In Geelong, Sue Bull won over 10,000 first preference votes (8 percent of the total) in the mayoral election.

Yet in a country where voting is compulsory, around a quarter of registered electors didn’t cast a vote. Commenting on the low turnout, Monash senior politics lecturer Nick Economou observed, “If people do not believe the system is relevant to them, they won’t turn up, even if there is a threat of a fine”.

Institute of Public Affairs spokesperson James Paterson called for voluntary voting, adding, “We don’t believe people should be compelled to cast a vote for a party they don’t agree with”.

The largest socialist group in Melbourne maintains that elections shouldn’t be a focus for activists, and may even be a distraction from the “real” struggle. Sadly, their abstention meant that voters only had the option of supporting socialist candidates, campaigning to radically transform the system, in three out of Victoria’s 79 council areas.

But the strong results for the SP and SA show the opportunity – and the need – for activists to connect with community members through elections. Read the rest of this entry »


Australia: Hundreds rally for refugees outside detention centre gates

October 16, 2012

Demonstration in MelbourneBy Chris Peterson, Melbourne
First published in Green Left Weekly

About 200 people rallied at Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention Centre on September 22, against deporting refugees to danger and mandatory detention. Dayan Anthony, a Tamil refugee, was deported to Sri Lanka in July against his will from Maribyrnong.

Antony’s Lawyer Sanmati Verma said: “Each and every professional and all community members in contact with Dayan Anthony attested that he was a torture survivor. And yet he was put on a plane and yet he was sent back to Sri Lanka.

“He was interrogated there for 16 hours by the notorious Criminal Investigation Department in the presence of Australian personnel. This deportation is the talk of law over the spirit of justice. “Regimes that commit war crimes are not magically transformed thee years later. We live in an age where the language of care has been hijacked from us. We are either on the side of Nauru or the side of people dying in the sea. This false discourse created by the expert panel [on asylum seekers] needs to be changed abolished.” Read the rest of this entry »


Solidarity with Coles workers (Australia)

July 23, 2012

Resistance comrades in Adelaide support Melbourne Coles Workers.

More information on Coles dispute:


Crucified on Christmas Island

December 20, 2010

 

The death of 30 asylum seekers, whose overloaded wooden boat crashed on the rocks of Christmas Island and sank, speaks volumes about immigration controls. This 21st century barbarism needs to be abolished, just as the slave trade was.

In the past year 5000 people made their way to Australia in flimsy boats via Indonesia. Most were from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka fleeing war and genocide. Australia, as a key player in the US-led wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, is directly responsible for the desperate plight of those who turn to people-smugglers.

The journey to Australia invariably ends in prison or death. Read the rest of this entry »


Showing the way forward:Australian union disaffiliates from Labor Party

October 5, 2010

The Spark October 2010
Philip Ferguson

In July this year, the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) took an important step forward and disaffiliated from the Australian Labor Party (ALP). Over 85% of those who took part in the vote voted to disaffiliate. Dean Mighell, the secretary of the Victorian union, told the paper Green Left Weekly, “Our members have watched over a long period of time as the ALP has attacked their union. . . They like the idea of their union being politically independent and putting their interest first and not the interests of any one party. We didn’t get any sense that members don’t want us campaigning on political issues that affect them. But they don’t see themselves as wedded naturally to the Labor Party.”

Affiliation hinders workers

Mighell noted the affect that being affiliated to the ALP has on unions campaigning for their members, saying, “What I’m bitterly disappointed about is that the union movement only seriously campaigns when the conservatives are in power. In reality, we’ve got conservatives in power now.” The union “looked at how we achieve political change for our members and what the most effective way was to do it”. They decided that they would be much more effective politically by ending their affiliation to Labor. Read the rest of this entry »


Free the Tamil asylum seekers

January 18, 2010

People protested outside the Australian consulate in Auckland, on 18 January, as part of an international day of action to support the Tamil Asylum Seekers who have spent 100 days on a boat in Indonesia in appalling conditions.

A protest organiser  spoke of how 254 Tamil Asylum Seekers refused to leave the boat for fear of being locked up in an Indonesian detention centre or being deported back to Sri Lanka.

Returning to Sri Lanka is not an option, as one man who had returned to see his ill mother had been thrown in prison, without charges being laid, and is still locked up.

“The refugees are rightly demanding that they be given basic human rights and that Australia, as a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention, adhere to its international responsibilities” Priyaksha said. Read the rest of this entry »


Australia builds military capacity

August 5, 2009

The Spark August 2009
Joel Cosgrove

 

Continuing a precedent followed over most of the last decade, the Australian government has increased the military budget well above inflation, with a 56% increase in the last seven years and 9% in the last year, to $25.66 billion dollars, with expectations that it will rise to $29.47 billion in 2010, a rise of 12.9%.

This is an important development in the attempts by the Australian ruling establishment in their move away from the traditional Australian defence position of border control and response to one of regional projection and incursion to maintain and develop Australia’s interests. Read the rest of this entry »


Go Harvey Norman, go!

November 25, 2008

Retailing billionaire Gerry Harvey has lamented that Australian charity is being wasted on “no-hopers”. Asked in a new book about his community role, Mr Harvey said giving to people who “are not putting anything back into the community” is like “helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”.

A whole heap of no-hoper homeless
Why  on earth should we help them survive?
They don’t buy our chairs or appliances
When their dole payments arrive
Even if we display them on special
The homeless won’t buy a tv
They say they’ve got nowhere to plug the thing in
They’re plainly not like you and me.
They don’t have 600 race horses
Or a hundred and sixty odd stores
Or a fortune of one point six billion
And they’re probably covered in sores.
Survival should be for the fittest
Those who get up and get to the goal
Like the beast in the depths of a jungle drought
Who governs the water hole.

Don Franks


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