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Issue 1: Doors opening, doors closing



July 21 · Issue #1 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
Australia’s media landscape is one of the most concentrated in the world – and it’s getting worse. Dominated by large corporations that push a pro-business, anti-worker, anti-justice agenda, it’s increasingly difficult to hear progressive voices above the baying of the conservative commentariat.
That’s why we’ve launched SundayFocus. Brought to you by UnionsACT, SundayFocus will promote and amplify the often overlooked work of independent and progressive journalists and media outlets, presenting a wrap of the week’s most important news and looking ahead to what’s happening over the next seven days.
We trust you’ll bear with us while we iron out the kinks and find our voice, and we hope that SundayFocus will soon become an indispensable part of your weekly routine. Feel free to send me an email if you have any advice or suggestions. 
Thanks for reading!
Guy Mosel, Editor

Doors opening, doors closing
Credit: Alessia Francischiello | Unsplash
Credit: Alessia Francischiello | Unsplash
It already feels like a long time since newly appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt opened the door to a referendum on constitutional recognition within the life of this parliament.
Since then it’s become clear that the government is divided on what exactly it’s proposing. Even more depressingly: it doesn’t appear to be proposing any of the actual recommendations of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The statement, for example, does not actually call for “constitutional recognition”; instead it asks for the “establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” and a “Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history”. None of this, unsurprisingly, appears to be on the government’s agenda.
Indeed, the mere mention of a constitutional voice was quickly slapped down with PM Scott Morrison flatly ruling it out and Barnaby Joyce echoing sentiments previously uttered by Morrison and his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull that an Indigenous voice would constitute a “third chamber” of parliament (it wouldn’t). Joyce later apologised for this (kind of).
Is there any good news?
Yes! The good news is that even though Ken Wyatt ruled out federal leadership on a treaty there are emerging hopes for state and territory-based agreements across the country. Queensland this week launched “Tracks to Treaty”, a process that will work towards “negotiating one or more treaties to create a positive shared future”. The state joins Victoria and the Northern Territory which are already well-advanced in their own treaty processes.
Read more
Kate Galloway explains how a voice to parliament is a practical move with real-world implications, dismissing criticisms that it would be mere symbolism and identity politics.
Former Canberra Times editor Jack Waterford warns that a losing referendum on the Statement from the Heart would be “disastrous” for Indigenous Australians and the prospects of meaningful reconciliation.
And in Meanjin the excellent Amy McQuire explores how the centering of “white witnesses” within mainstream media silences Indigenous voices, shapes narratives and is itself a form of violence.
Also, find out about the great work of the First Nations Workers Alliance and its struggle against the Community Development Program, the racist and punitive “work for the dole” initiative introduced by the Turnbull Government.
In other news...
Sunny days for solar While the government writes sonnets to fossil fuels, the transition to renewables is picking up pace in the real world. On the back of recent news about a proposed $20 billion solar farm in the Northern Territory, construction has begun on the territory’s (currently) largest solar project, while energy giant Alinta just signed on to a $480 million battery and solar project in South Australia.
Adani dud? Despite being given the go-ahead evidence mounts that the Carmichael project is a dead duck in the face of plummeting coal prices and difficulties securing finance and insurance. Read Osmond Chiu’s piece from a few months ago on how we might build support for a just transition from fossil fuels with an Australian Green New Deal.
Wage theft epidemic George Calombaris might be the most high-profile wage thief in Australia but he’s not the only one – or even the worst recent example. If calls to criminalise “underpayment” are successful some of Australia’s biggest names in the restaurant industry could find themselves in jail.
What do you think? Should wage theft be criminalised? Let us know here.
Coming up this week
Federal parliament resumes Debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Members’ Interests First) Bill 2019 has been scheduled. The legislation, which would make superannuation insurance opt-in only for under 25s and people with account balances lower than $6000, will disproportionately impact women in low-wage jobs and young workers in high-risk industries, leaving them without access to low-cost insurance.
Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System The final week of public hearings will hear from witnesses on suicide prevention and the governance of services.
For your reading list
On Fairness, by Sally McManus
Money: 5,000 Years of Debt and Power, by Michel Aglietta
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