Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Remembering the MUA and the Australian Army Conspiracy 1998

From the book of cartoons – War on the Wharves
One feature of the 1998 Patrick dispute that distinguishes it from anything else in Australia's recent history is the blatant, unashamed declaration by the government and big industry that they are preparing the army (specifically the SAS) to move against wharf workers in a direct physical conflict.

They were not merely desperate scab workers to be trained in Dubai - they are soldiers in the Australian army. 

The threat is much more serious than 'professional strike-breakers and a mini army supplied with truncheons and riot shields' - bad enough as this would be. The threat is guns - in the hands of professional soldiers whose special training is not only military, but highly political. These are soldiers who have no qualms about killing workers - they believe it's necessary.

It might not be coincidence that the SAS have been rushed into international 'duty' just now. Their reputation took a set-back after the Blackhawk crash, and the Government would be hoping to establish a good image for them preparatory to sending them in against workers.

How are we to deal with this? Most of us workers have no experience of facing the army. The Hawke Government used the RAAF to scab on pilots, but then the violence was implied rather than direct. The issue of the use of armed force against the workers should be brought into the open and discussed in pubs, street meetings, on radio, the internet, in markets, shops, transport stations, etc.

Peter Reith became unelectable in his safe Melbourne seat and resigned from parliament
John Howard was also to lose his very safe Sydney seat and his ambition to copy Menzies

Qube Melbourne Wharfies Walk Off The Job As Company Seeks to Terminate Agreement

Posted by Mua communications on March 18, 2018

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says its wharfies at Qube’s Melbourne Bulk & General operation have gone on strike for 48 hours this weekend after the company’s attempt to terminate their EBA and revert to the award, which would mean a pay cut of at least 40 per cent.

Qube management has continually provoked workers in Melbourne by removing long-established rosters and pushing excessive working hours, in contrast to other Australian ports where the company has reached agreement with its workforce.
“Why should Qube Melbourne not get the same wages as other ports when the company has inflamed the workplace with unjust sackings, excessive hours, discipline and removal of the roster,” MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.

After deliberately inflaming tensions in the workplace and refusing to negotiate in good faith, management have now decided to try to cut workers’ take home pay by 40 per cent by reverting to the award.

  • “The company is running rampant over the workforce with targeted sackings and the creation of work patterns that directly result in unsafe levels of fatigue.
  • “The company removed the roster in early 2015, saying it would revert when trading conditions improved but some three years later volumes have increased but the roster has not been reinstated.
  • “The company has identified fatigue as a major priority when it comes to occupational health and safety yet workers at Qube in Melbourne are working longer hours including several consecutive 12 hour shifts. This is the core of the problem.”

The ACTU and unions have broadly condemned the emerging corporate tactic of applying to terminate Enterprise Bargaining Agreements in order to cut workers’ pay and conditions.

This is a sneaky backdoor tactic, whereby companies apply to the FWC to terminate an existing agreement on the grounds it has negotiated in good faith when they had no intention of reaching agreement in the first place.

This is then used to severely undercut decades worth of enterprise negotiations.

  • “The MUA agrees 100 per cent with the ACTU in saying that it’s time to change the rules,” Smith said.
  • “Wage growth is stagnant while CEO pay packets and corporate profits are at record levels.
  • “All trade unionists know that the only way working people get pay rises when they have the power to negotiate them."
  • “Right now corporations like Qube have too much power and working people have too little.
  • “We need to change the rules, including the right to strike, so that there is a fair power balance between working people and big business.”

ANMF Sends a Message to Federal Politicians to Protect Australia’s Elderly

Ratios For Aged Care. Make Them Law. Now.

Monday 19th March, 2018

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), is sending a message to all federal politicians with a new public awareness campaign calling for staff ratios in aged care to be legislated as a matter of urgency – to protect vulnerable, older nursing home residents who are the victims of Australia’s crisis in aged care.

The voices of the campaign are people who are all involved in the aged care system. They include a registered nurse (RN), an assistant in nursing (AIN), a relative of a nursing home resident, a doctor working in the system, and a community supporter, who have come together to call on our politicians to fix aged care.

They describe how, in the absence of mandated ratios, dangerously low-levels of nurse and carer staffing continue to put the lives of the elderly at risk.

  • “When my husband went into aged care it was an absolute shock, I was quite horrified by what I saw. I saw a degree of neglect. The lack of staff amounts to abuse,” says Margaret, a widow whose husband was in a nursing home.
  • “There’s not enough staff and it’s extremely stressful. Things are so much worse than people realise,” says Cherise, a registered aged care nurse, who also had her Grandmother in a nursing home.
  • “I feel like sometimes I am on a production line, you don’t get enough time to properly care for residents,” says Julie, an AIN working in aged care.

The campaign highlights how there are fewer and fewer nurses and carers to care for an increasing number of nursing home residents with increasingly complex medical needs.

From 2003 to 2016, there was a 13% reduction in trained nursing staff working full-time in aged care facilities;

Over the past 13 years there has been a 400% increase in preventable deaths in nursing homes, from falls, choking and suicides;

Nursing home residents are receiving 2 hours 50 minutes of care per day from nurses and carers, well below the 4hours 18 minutes they should be getting; and,

Some aged care providers are spending just $6.08 a day for each resident’s daily meals.
All this, at a time when the profits of aged care providers continue to rise. The ANMF says this shows that the system is all about “profits before people.”

The media campaign commences with a series of TV commercials which air this morning coinciding with Federal Senators returning to Canberra today. Mobile billboards will also be circling Parliament House and moving throughout the city.

The ANMF is also supporting the actions of Senator Derryn Hinch, who has introduced a private member’s bill, the Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients Bill) 2017, and is calling on all political parties to support ratios for aged care.

Quotes attributable the A/Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Annie Butler:

  • “There are no actors involved in our campaign – our campaign’s voices belong to real people who are all living or working in aged care or have a relative in aged care. They want to send a strong message to our politicians, that there must be safe staffing in aged care because, without it, the care of the elderly continues to be compromised.
  • “Understaffing means that often just 1 registered nurse has to manage the care for sometimes over 100 residents on a night shift or that one carer has to feed, bathe, dress and mobilise 16 residents in less than an hour.
  • “Nurses and carers are struggling, they’re run off their feet. They are doing the best they can but they can’t provide the level of care they want to. It’s just not possible.
  • “It’s a national disgrace. It’s a crisis that shames us.
  • “Our aged care system has been ignored by governments for far too long.
  • “Australia has strict ratios for childcare, which is only fair and reasonable, but not for aged care. The result is a system where 1 registered nurse may be responsible for managing the care of more than 100 residents. How is this justifiable?
  • “While care for the elderly gets worse, taxpayer-funded providers increase their profits. Last year, owners of aged care facilities pocketed over $1billion in profits while cutting staff.
  • “It’s time elderly Australians get the care they deserve.
  • “Our politicians must stand up for elderly Australians and make ratios law now.”

ACOSS calls on crossbench to reject the Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill

With new Senators just arriving to sit on the crossbench, the Federal Government is again attempting to push through its widely rejected Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill, that will cut more people off income support and increase homelessness and destitution in our community.

The Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill is before the Senate today. If passed it would cut 80,000 people off income support, delay payments to people in need, and make it more difficult to access income support if you have an addiction.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS says people who are already skipping meals to pay bills will hurt even more if this Bill is passed.
  • “The new Senators have just arrived in Canberra and are faced with a government trying to ram through a Bill containing 17 different measures that will negatively affect the lives of thousands of people across Australia, including women and their children escaping violence.
  • “Over the last nine months the entire community sector has spoken out about the damage this Bill would do to thousands upon thousands of people in Australia, and yet the government wants the new Senators to pass this Bill without adequate deliberation or consultation with people affected or their representatives.
  • “It is essential the new Senators take the time they need to fully understand the implications of these proposals.”
  • “This Bill introduces more social security cuts and changes that would make life tougher for people already struggling,” she said.
  • “This Bill would remove legislated protections for people who, because of extenuating circumstances, cannot get all the paperwork for their income support claim into Centrelink.
  • “This means that people in hospital, people going through a separation, or women escaping domestic violence will have to wait longer to get their Centrelink payment because it is impossible to get the paperwork together.
  • “This Bill would deny back-pay to people, meaning they could lose hundreds of dollars in their first payment as they wait for the department to process their claim.
  • “80,000 people looking for paid work, will be cut off income support under a tougher compliance regime.
  • “It is near impossible to look for work if you are homeless and hungry. As we saw last week, homelessness is on the rise in Australia.
  • “Rather than cutting the incomes of people who already have the least, the government should focus on ensuring everyone has a roof over their head and food on their tables. It should look to increasing unemployment payments, which are now so low they act as a barrier to employment.
  • “We do not support punishing people for the sake of punishment.”
  • “We call on the crossbench to reject this Bill as a matter of urgency.”

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fischer takes on US-inspired firearms lobby

Tim Fischer takes on US-inspired firearms lobby
One of the architects of Australia’s strict gun control laws says he is “deeply concerned” about the emergence of what he described as a US-inspired firearms lobby.

Tim Fischer, the former deputy prime minister and leader of the National party who alongside John Howard helped to pass landmark reforms after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, says he believes a “wave” of firearm lobbying influenced by the US National Rifle Association is putting renewed pressure on Australian gun laws.

Fischer told the Guardian he believed “NRA-inspired” lobbying coupled with the increased influence of rightwing parties such as One Nation in Canberra and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party in New South Wales had influenced a “pushback” against Australia’s gun laws, and called on politicians to stand up to pressure.

“Waves of NRA-originated ideology do descend on Australia and have done since 1996,” he said. “I think we are seeing another wave of the NRA’s indirect influence descending on Australia at the federal and state levels [and] that’s deeply concerning to me.”
Fischer’s warning comes in the context of an increasingly well-funded and organised gun lobby with ties to weapons importers and manufacturers.

Last week the Guardian revealed that the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, was considering establishing a committee to allow gun importers to review proposed changes to firearm regulations for “appropriateness and intent”.

The proposal to establish the committee was put to Dutton during a private meeting with representatives from gun importer Nioa and the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (Sifa).

A lobbying outfit whose directors include some of Australia’s largest gun dealers, Sifa has only five members and represents a departure from the membership-driven model of most shooting groups in Australia. But what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in funding and influence.

Financial disclosures published with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission show that Sifa’s five members pumped $768,000 into the group in the 2016-17 financial year.

Among the members is Robert Nioa, the managing director of the largest small arms importer in Australia.

Aside from being a major donor to his father-in-law, the independent federal MP Bob Katter, Nioa’s company receives millions of dollars in defence contracts from the Australian government and Nioa himself is well connected politically.

In December the defence industry minister, Christopher Pyne, attended the opening of his new office in Canberra, according to the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia.

The federal lobbying register also lists Sifa as a client of Barton Deakin, a Liberal party-aligned lobbyist group. Barton Deakin’s federal director is Grahame Morris, a former chief of staff to Howard.

When contacted by the Guardian on Friday, Morris said he had never heard of Sifa but after checking said a former consultant of Barton Deakin had done “some work” for the group. However, he said the group was no longer a client.

“Do I want Australia’s gun laws changed? The answer is no,” Morris said.

Earlier this month the Guardian reported that Australian pro-gun groups including Sifa pumped more than $500,000 into helping minor rightwing parties win seats in last year’s Queensland state election.

Fischer said that while interventions such as Dutton’s were not “necessarily” a negative thing, the gun lobby’s motivations needed to be “watched closely”.

“The whole point is that the core structure and content of the Howard gun reforms must not be done away with,” he said. “Creep and corrosion of the core of the gun law reforms is a danger.”

While pointing to the pressure faced by Australia’s current politicians, he noted that he and Howard had faced fierce resistance to the changes in some parts of the country in 1996.

“I got hung in effigy in Gympie, I got shouted at across the country but I did not take step back,” he said. “It was all pretty ugly, but 20 years on there have been no massacres and the case [in favour of the laws] rests pretty strongly.”