Tom Uren, one of the great characters of Australian post-war politics, has died in a Sydney nursing home this morning, aged 93.
Uren, a Minister in both the Whitlam and Hawke Labor Governments, was also the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party from 1975-77. He was a member of the federal parliament for 32 years and, in 2013, was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for his work on behalf of former prisoners of war.
Born to a working class family in Balmain, Uren left school during the Great Depression at the age of 13 because he could get a job and his father couldn’t. Having excelled at a range of sports in his youth, he fought for the Australian heavyweight title at the age of 20. At 21, he was on the Burma Railway, part of the force commanded by Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop.
Uren believed the Australians’ survival rate was due to the “collectivist” spirit engendered by Dunlop. He spent the final year of the war working in a mine in Japan. The experience persuaded him that his enemy was not the Japanese people but what he called “militarism”. These were to be the basic pillars of his political beliefs.
He was a leading figure in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam years and led a delegation to Iraq to free western hostages before the first Iraq war. He was a prominent activist in numerous environmental causes and he never ceased to campaign on behalf of the men who suffered with him on the Burma Railway.
Uren was smeared as a communist in the 1950s and ‘60s but by the end of his life he would list Pope John XXIII and Martin Luther King as being among his principal influences. A member of his family said Uren had met his death “with the same character and courage he faced the rest of his life”.
A memorial service will be held for Tom Uren in Sydney next week.
Inner West actors, performers and those in the artistic sector could soon see their jobs under threat as the Abbott Government undermines them by a process of stealth.
Last week a discussion paper reviewing visas for foreign workers in the entertainment and cultural industries was posted on the Ministry for Arts website.
There was no announcement by either the Arts or Immigration Ministers and it was left to the sector to discover the news themselves.
The Inner West is a vibrant diverse community.
It is home to more actors, performers and artistic workers than any other area in Australia.
Australian audiences are fortunate to have access to the best in world culture.
At the same time local industry should be encouraged to employ Australian skills and creativity.
Currently foreign workers can be brought in to work temporarily on a project, following the approval of the Arts Minister, consultation with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and confirmation that the project will bring a net employment benefit to Australia.
This discussion paper canvasses the removal of all those protections, and could see more foreign workers brought in to work on film and television productions.
Inner West families need no longer fear the cost of a visit to the local doctor as the Abbott Government today announced it would back down on sneaky changes to bulk billing.
Just two days ago Tony Abbott was happy to force doctors to hike fees and end bulk billing, yet now he has changed his tune.
This backdown follows Labor’s announcement they would fight this attack on Medicare every step of the way.
Australians should get the health care they need, not just what they can afford.
It also goes to show how out of touch Tony Abbott is with everyday Australians.
Forcing the sick and vulnerable to pay every time they see a doctor is not reform.
By taking a stand on this issue as a community, we have shown the Abbott Government how much we value our universal health care.
Abbott has not had a win on his plan for Medicare yet, and Labor will fight hard to make sure it stays this way.
I would like to wish Triple J a very happy 40th birthday in the lead up to Saturday’s celebratory Beat the Drum concert in Sydney’s Domain on Friday.
Since its inception as Double Jay (2JJ) in 1975, the station has nurtured generations of Australia’s best musicians, broadcasters, journalists and comedians.
As the Australian Young Labor Delegate to ALP National Conference in 1986 I was proud to move a motion to expand the by-then 2JJJ (later Triple J) into a national radio station.
This motion came from Newcastle Young Labor to Australian Young Labor and then to the ALP National Conference as one of the key Young Labor initiatives in the National ALP.
Until then, Triple J was just a Sydney-based station and there had been a considerable campaign from young people around the country to expand it.
As well as promoting emerging young artists, Triple J allowed young people across the nation to talk about issues they care about.
Labor recognised that service as one that should be shared with the entire nation.
Labor’s support for Triple J was consistent with its support for Australian culture including Australian-based musicians.
Last year Queensland Liberal Senator James McGrath called on the Abbott Government to immediately sell off Triple J.
This simply goes to show how out of touch the Coalition is with ordinary Australians.
Triple J is one of Australia’s finest and most beloved cultural institutions.
The Hottest 100 countdown has become an annual Australia Day tradition for tens of thousands of people who gather in backyards and on beaches across the nation.
Labor believes in supporting Australian music and live music.
Happy 40th birthday Triple J.
Families in the Inner West could still pay more to see the doctor despite the Abbott Government’s claim the GP Tax is gone.
In a devious move, Abbott has now decided to reduce the amount of funding the Government provides to doctors by $5 per visit.
This puts the onus on doctors to decide whether they will pass funding cuts on to patients or not.
It isn’t fair to our local hardworking doctors.
It isn’t fair to families, particularly those struggling to make ends meet.
It just goes to show how out of touch Tony Abbott is with everyday Australians.
Labor believes every Australian should get the healthcare they need, not the healthcare they can afford.
We know universal healthcare provides a safety net for those that need it the most.
Labor will continue to fight the Abbott Government each step of the way on this issue.
John Faulkner leaves the Senate as one of the greats of modern Labor.
As a Minister in the Keating, Rudd and Gillard Governments, John delivered a Labor agenda in portfolios as diverse as Environment, Defence, Veterans Affairs, Special Minister of State, Sport and Territories.
As Labor’s Senate leader, he showed commitment and determination to leadership in both policy development and political strategy.
John Faulkner is a man of principle.
John Faulkner is a man of integrity.
John Faulkner has been an outstanding parliamentarian without peer.
John has been the most effective member of Senate Estimates committees since their inception.
Throughout his political activism, he has fought corruption and the abuse of power, wherever he has found it.
As a leader of the New South Wales Left, he has fought to democratise and modernise our Party as NSW Branch Assistant General Secretary, a member of the ALP National Executive, and ALP National President.
On a personal note, John has been a mentor, a supporter, and a source of astute political and personal advice to me for over thirty years.
I will miss his presence as a valued member of Labor’s parliamentary team, but am sure he will maintain his unwavering commitment to the cause of Labor.
As a valued friend, I wish him and Liz all the very best for the future.
Today I met with the Member for Watson, Tony Burke, and the Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Mark Butler, on the banks of the Cup and Saucer Creek to discuss future funding for the Cooks River.
The Cooks River is an iconic part of the Inner West landscape.
Over the years the Cooks River has undergone a transformation from a stormwater drain to a place where you can go for a walk and appreciate the wetlands.
After decades of neglect much more needs to be done.
Community groups, such as the Cooks River Alliance, have played a critical role in this progress.
Funding, which includes more than $2 million from the former Labor Government, has also made a massive difference to the health of the river.
Our rivers and wetlands form a unique part of the Inner West and must be preserved.
I am pleased to have been able to help secure this funding and will argue for continued investment in the Cooks River.
Local residents will notice some of their favourite programs disappear as the Coalition takes their axe once more to the ABC and SBS.
Jobs may also be at risks as the Coalition’s cuts now exceed $500 million.
ABC’s Media Watch program said as a result of the cuts Friday’s state-based 7:30 program will be axed, Lateline will be cut back, ABC radio will be affected, and between 400 and 500 people will find themselves unemployed.
The ABC and SBS play an important role in providing news and Australian-based entertainment to our communities.
The Inner West is a remarkably diverse area that benefits from language specific radio and television programs.
The Coalition has broken their promise of ‘no cuts to the ABC and SBS’ and is letting communities across Australia who rely on these channels down.
I am committed to campaigning against these cuts.
Schools in the Inner West will now miss out on the opportunity to have a Trade Training Centre, following the Coalition’s decision to completely scrap the program.
12 local schools would have been eligible for funding, however the Abbott Government’s decision to cut $950 million from the Budget now means local Trade Training Centres won’t see the light of day.
The Abbott Government has shown complete disregard for our young people.
Students should have the opportunity to gain work experience and technical skills in the areas that interest them.
We should be making sure young people are job-ready, not taking opportunities away.
The Coalition has now cut all three federal youth unemployment prevention programs – Youth Connections, Partnership Brokers and National Career Advice, together with the National Job Guide.
These are programs which help young Australians finish year 12, get work experience and understand their options for the future.
Last week we heard Australia’s youth unemployment rate has risen to 14 per cent – its highest level since 2001.
This latest decision to cut Trade Training Centres is clearly counterproductive.
I’m committed to making sure our young people have the opportunities they need to get ahead in life.
List of schools –
Ashfield Boys High School
Canterbury Boys High School
Canterbury Girls High School
Dulwich High School of Visual Arts & Design
Fort Street High School
Marrickville High School
Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt Campus
Tempe High School
St Maroun’s College
The Athena School
Trinity Grammar School
Today I met with local university student, Chloe Smith, to discuss her concerns over the deregulation of university fees.
Tony Abbott’s plan to deregulate university fees will have a serious impact on students in the Inner West contemplating higher education.
Students shouldn’t have to fear their degrees costing $100, 000.
Access to university helped me go from public housing in Camperdown to Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
I want others to have the same opportunities.
Labor’s new online Debt Sentence Calculator shows just how much students could pay if the Coalition gets their way.
Chloe, who studies International and Global Studies at the University of Sydney, has found her degree would likely increase in cost by a minimum of $5,000.
Chloe believes for many students this increase would be too much.
“I know a lot of students who would find increased university fees a serious barrier,” Chloe said.
“Sometimes people can be quite nostalgic about student poverty, but with two thirds of university students living below the poverty line, it’s a pretty grim reality to face.
“As a young woman, I know that if I want to start a family it will already take me longer to pay off my HECS. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for women in the future if fee costs double, and in some cases nearly triple,” Chloe said.
Labor’s Debt Sentence Calculator can be found online at www.nodebtsentence.org