Tuesday, May 31, 2005

End the Cruelty – End the Abuse

New South Wales Teachers Federation Senior Vice President Angelo Gavrielatos said today;

"Last year the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Inquiry Report damned Australia's detention of children as 'cruel, inhumane and degrading'. Yet, as reported in today's Sydney Morning Herald, 70 children still remain in detention.

"Not only is this a breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires that detention is a measure of 'last resort', it is morally reprehensible.

"Children in detention are subjected to trauma which is detrimental to their physical and psychological wellbeing. Enclosed in an environment where children witness adults engaging in self-mutilation and self harm is unacceptable.

"The NSWTF calls on the government to end the cruelty and respect basic human rights. We call on the government to release the children into the community with their families."

Monday, May 30, 2005

Gutting the AIRC: Baume let's cat out of bag!

In an article in the Australian Financial Review (30 May 2005), long time Howard supporter, and former Liberal MP Michael Baume, writes:

"...leaving the otherwise-gutted Australian Industrial Relations Commission with compulsory dispute-settling powers represents a significantly higher level of regulation of collective disputes than in the UK or NZ."

Workers ponder Howard's industrial relations...

Vinnies challenges PM's views on Income Inequality

In 2005, we in Australia have a clear choice.

We can choose the current headlong dash into the chasm of inequality, the gap that lies between the rich and poor, our own "two Australias". If governments deny that we even have a problem or that we can work towards a solution, then growing numbers of our people will be consigned to the "other Australia". They will be abandoned to market forces that, left unchecked, can only further entrench the ourcomes of inequality and unfairness. If governments refuse to do what the market cannot, this course is guaranteed.

On the other hand, we can choose to face the problem. We can choose to mobilise all levels of government towards producing a solution. International evidence is unambiguous in demonstrating that domestic policy settings are able to achieve this.

We can pay to remove all Australians from poverty if we want to: the fact that we don't do so is a matter of choice, not affordability.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

TAFE workers’ rights ‘not for sale’

TAFE workers will join university staff around Australia on June 1 to protest the federal Coalition government’s attacks on the tertiary education sector.

In NSW, TAFE employees will stop work to participate in city rallies and protests outside federal parliamentarian’s offices.

On May 25, NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O’Halloran said, “TAFE teachers will take action to show their support for public education. They will not allow the federal government to hold teachers to ransom.”

O’Halloran explained that “the federal government is threatening to withhold funding unless the states agree to a range of changes that will undermine working conditions, salaries and the workplace rights of staff in TAFE”.

Uniting Church opposes Government's IR changes

National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, the Reverend Elenie Poulos, called on the Government to protect the wages and conditions of Australia’s lowest paid workers.

“We must remember that the purpose of a strong economy is to help Australians access secure and equitable standards of living. The labour market is not like any other market. People are not commodities in the service of greater profits and should not be exploited.

“The Government’s proposal to strip so many workers of their rights to challenge unfair dismissal is immoral. What avenues will there be for redress for a worker who feels they have been unfairly dismissed? Can we trust employers to put the needs of their workers before their desire for profits?

“The current unfair dismissal laws provide important checks and balances on employment relationships. It is a simple fact that single employees do not have as much power as their employers – the current legislation recognises this,” said Rev. Poulos.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Howard Flushes 650,000 Western Australians down the drain

"The absolute contempt and disdain for working Australians and their families that John Howard and his Cabinet have displayed today is unbridled fanaticism and an abuse of power akin to the worst excesses employed by infamous dictators," declared an angry Dave Robinson following the announcement of the Commonwealth's industrial relations regime.

The UnionsWA Secretary conservatively estimates that the Howard Government's emasculation of industrial relations laws, and its takeover without consent of our independent state industrial relations system, will allow 99% of the employers in Western Australia to terminate - without justification or recourse - the employment of at least 650,000 Western Australians who are currently working.

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IR changes are biased and unfair

Millions of Australian workers are set to lose their access to award conditions, protections from unfair dismissal and an effective safety net of minimum wages under new workplace reforms announced by the Prime Minister John Howard earlier today.

Responding to the Federal Government's announcement of its radical plan to strip Australian workers of many of their most basic rights at work ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

"Now that John Howard has control of the Senate he has dumped the battlers. The changes announced by the Government are an assault on the rights and living standards of Australian workers. The changes will benefit business at the expense of working families. They are a huge free kick for big business, and a kick in the guts for workers and their families."

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The Wages of Spin

Does it matter that we went to war on a lie? Will the good that has come of the war outweigh the wrongs done in our name? When our boys come home from Iraq, will they recognise the new militarised Australia?

This is the territory reconnoitred in The Wages of Spin, a new performance from the company behind CMI, last year’s smash hit based on the “Children Overboard” Inquiry. With sources including public inquiries and other artefacts from the recent war (and its electoral aftermath), it’s part documentary, part civic archaeology, and part frenzied media circus – political theatre for the 21st century.

Performance Space (199 Cleveland St Redfern) 02 9698 7235
20 May - 5 Jun
Wed - Sat, 8pm, Sun, 5pm

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

National Healing Day

More than an apology: Sorry Day is focusing on healing. Today marks marks eight years since the release of the Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Aboriginal Generations.

The Australian National Sorry Day Committee co-chairwoman, Gillian Brannigan, says there was a need to have a national day of healing as the focus for this year's events.

"It's very well recognised in the Indigenous community and becoming more recognised in the wider community that we need to take a holistic approach to healing," she said.

"We need to not just focus on physical health but also spiritual, social, emotional health as well."

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Guantánamo Bay prison: "Gulag of our times"

Amnesty International Report 2005 cover
The blatant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law in the “war on terror” continued to make a mockery of President George Bush’s claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights. Images of detainees in US custody tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world. War crimes in Iraq, and mounting evidence of the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody in other countries, sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security.

President Bush’s refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions to those captured during the international armed conflict in Afghanistan and transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was challenged by a judicial decision in November. The ruling resulted in the suspension of trials by military commission in Guantánamo, and the government immediately lodged an appeal. The US administration’s treatment of detainees in the “war on terror” continued to display a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees, none had appeared in court. Detainees reportedly considered of high intelligence value remained in secret detention in undisclosed locations. In some cases their situation amounted to “disappearance”.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Terror Laws and The Threat To Democracy

The underlying concern of this book is the issue of balancing the needs for national security with individual rights and freedoms. Author Jenny Hocking argues that, in the light of September 11 and Bali, the security legislation proposed, and in part passed, by the Howard government compromises the separation of powers and individual legal and political rights. The theme extends throughout the book, and her discussion of the establishment and history of ASIO gives context to current debates.

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Arbitration in Australia: reflections by Justice Kirby

"Just as the 1904 Act grew out of the legal and economic environment of the late nineteenth century, so today the successor Act and the Constitution mould themselves to the economic and social realities of our age. Those in the bully pulpit, who attack industrial conciliation and arbitration, who think they have the whole truth for all ages, need to be put in their place. There is no room in this nation for industrial ayatollahs. Ours is a more temperate and open-minded society, as befits the representative democracy established by the Constitution and the Australian culture of "fair go" which the 1904 Act reflected and to which it made its own contribution."

"In his famous Harvester judgment, Justice Higgins noted that he had been accorded the responsibility of determining a "fair and reasonable remuneration" for employees in Australia. This required him to conceive of a wage which permitted the ordinary Australian to enjoy "a condition of frugal comfort [as estimated by current human standards]"

"Of abolition and such fantasies: Rude as it may be to mention it at such a time, there are those who see no future whatever in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. For them, it should be closed down, lock, stock and barrel. Or, if retained, converted into a mediatory body "with no legal powers of arbitration or intervention". For those of this opinion, a wholesale alteration of the legislation is required; indeed it is urgent."

"Persons of such views tend to live in a remote world of fantasy, inflaming themselves by their rhetoric into more and more unreal passions, usually engaging in serious dialogue only with people of like persuasion. For the rest of us, who live in the real world, and know our country and its institutions better, time will not be wasted over such fairy-tales. Australia is not a land of extremes. Irritatingly enough to those of extreme persuasions, Australia's basic institutions and laws tend to adapt very slowly and over time: adjusting to changing economic and social forces only as such adjustment is truly needed. So it has been with the national conciliation and arbitration tribunal. So it will be in the future. Those who want more dramatic change, as distinct from constant adjustment, need to look for another country."

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Workers rights, union rights, your rights

Public Forum
2-5 pm Saturday 18 June 2005
Tom Mann Theatre, Sydney

Speakers include

Mark Lennon (Unions NSW)
Sally McManus (ASU)
Andrew Ferguson (CFMEU)
Doug Cameron (AMWU)
Kerry Nettle (NSW Greens Senator)
Garry Moore (NCOSS)
Robert Coombs (MUA)
Derek Belan (NUW)
Lee Rhiannon (NSW Greens MLC)

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Politics and crime: where’s the boundary?

Under the US-Australian free trade agreement, which came into effect just last January, the trigger amount for FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) scrutiny went up from $70 million to $800 million, something like an eleven thousand per cent increase. This extraordinary fact, lost in the fine print, was demanded by the Americans, and let me assure you, we have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not there were any direct or indirect interests of the crime syndicates making the running at those negotiations. It is, however, undeniable, that the mobsters have for many decades had their interests safeguarded and promoted by various US administrations, so the idea cannot be rejected out-of-hand.

But the end result is that the US crime syndicates, already huge investors in the corporate sector, and increasingly laden with its illicitly-gained mountains of cash, can now bring in lumps of $799-million dollars to buy up the Aussie farm and corrupt it with their traditional practices, and nobody in Australia will — or even can — lift a finger to stop it. Worse still, we won’t even know it has happened until it’s too late, and the amoral way the mobsters run their core businesses takes hold in the more legitimate Australian business sector.

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Working families in child's play protest

Go here for more on the national campaign Go here for more on the national campaign
Kids’ icons, the Hooley Dooleys, will be the unlikely strike weapon in the fight for working rights, headlining a major protest on the Sunday before the Howard Government takes control of the Senate.

They will perform alongside big name entertainers and comedians at Sydney Olympic Park as working people and their families enjoy their "Last Weekend'.

August 7 - a great family day
Event organiser, and Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, says the August 7 event should be a great family day with clowns, rides and stalls to entertain the kids.

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Land tax protest: Blue Mountains

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union representative (CFMEU), Dave Harwood, who was represented at the protest by building workers, said the taxes had failed to raise the projected revenue, and investors were taking their money interstate.

"Already local building workers are raising concerns that they may be out of work within months as employers are struggling to sell current developments, and are therefore unable to fund new projects which will result in layoffs.

"Half a million people have been hit with tax bills for thousands of dollars for the first time, with several thousand of them being small mum and dad investors from the Blue Mountains who bought a house or unit to finance their retirement."

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Working people struggle to make ends meet

Australian Council of Trade Unions.

ACTU Factsheet 19 May 2005

Household debt is at records levels with Australians in the red by $758 billion and on average, each household owes nearly one and half times (148%) its annual disposable income.
The ACTU fears that in the coming months the living standards of working Australians will be further undermined as the Howard Government introduces new workplace laws that push more people onto individual contracts with lower wages, worse conditions, fewer rights and less job security.

Unfair tax cuts
The tax cuts given by the Federal Government in its last two Budgets are unfair for low and middle income working Australians:
  • High income earners making more than $120,000 a year get a tax cut of more than $100 a week. Plus, they get an extra $24 a week (at least) from the decision to axe the super tax surcharge. A total tax cut of at least $124 a week.
  • By contrast 72% of low and middle income Australian taxpayers (6.7 million people) who earn less than $52,000 a year gets a tax cut of $6 a week or less — a ‘two cappuccino tax cut’.
download factsheet

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Eight Hour Day in Australia

Illustration of eight hour demonstration

'Eight Hours Demonstration' in Australian News for Home Readers 19 May 1866
Source: State Library of Victoria.

Garrison Church SydneySydney

Rowan Cahill writes:
On 18 August 1855 the Stonemasons‚ Society in Sydney issued an ultimatum to employers that in six months time, masons would only work an eight-hour day. However men working on the Holy Trinity Church (Garrison Church) in Argyle Cut, and on the Mariners‚ Church (an evangelical mission to seafarers, now an art gallery and café) in Lower George Street (98-100 George Street), could not contain their enthusiasm and decided not to wait. They pre-emptively went on strike, won the eight-hour day, and celebrated with a victory dinner on 1 October 1855.

Old Quadrangle Building Melbourne UniversityMelbourne

On the 21st April 1856 there was a march from a building site, at the Old Quadrangle Building which was the original building at Melbourne University.

The building still stands today. Workers marched from there to the city in celebration of the institution of the eight hour day on that worksite.

The intertwined numbers '888' soon adorned the pediment of many union buildings around Australia. Coming only 16 months after the Eureka Rebellion and 4 months after the Victorian Constitution became effective, the Eight Hour Day also became a symbol of the rights of workers to organise to achieve their rights not only as workers, but as citizens in a democratic society.

The Eight Hour March which began on April 21 1856 continued each year until 1951.

Australian workers continue to enjoy the Labour Day public holiday.

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The Corporation's Power: Howard's cure-all

The Corporation's Power a poem by David Peetz

The builders all were missing, their voicemails said "I'm out"
"You're looking for a plumber? You're really up the spout!"
No one could find a sparkie, even just to fix a fuse,
Until the P.M., from on high, delivered the great news.

"I know you all have suffered from our shortages of skill,
But now I have the answer, it gives me such a thrill;
The corporations power means no need to stay forlorn -
All we need is industrial relations reform"

Homeowners were ecstatic, "The P.M. knows the way
To solve a complex problem with the flash of a cliché!
The kids will be inspired, his rhetoric's so hip,
They'll all rush out and study for a new apprenticeship!"

Down at the pub retired tradesmen, watching the TV,
Upon hearing the news they just could not contain their glee.
"A cut in wages? Fabulous! Now that's just what we need!
We'll get back in the trade!" they all instantly agreed.

And in the child care centre, the mothers gave a cheer.
"Hooray! At last we can be sure our rosters won't be clear
From day to day or night to night - the kids will think it's great!
We'll rush back into nursing and get the country straight!"

From all around the globe, skilled workers flooded to this land.
The skills shortage was solved three months quicker than was planned!
Trade deficit? Health crisis? I.R. reform's the answer!
It fixed the drought, stopped cane toads - it was the cure for cancer!

And as the benefits exploded with each passing hour,
The whole land marvelled at this wondrous corporations power,
And shook their heads bewildered as the P.M. plugged away,
While the power of the corporations multiplied each day.

Australia and Indonesia: Old wounds opened

Stephen Senise 19 May 05

October 16 will mark the 30th anniversary of the slaying of five Australian-based journalists by an Indonesian-led assault on the border village of Balibo, East Timor, in 1975. They are the Balibo Five, and they have become part of the Australian mainstream consciousness.

Schapelle Corby, Tugun resident, and trainee beauty therapist, is set to emulate them. Not in deed, but in effect.

The proposition is not as strange as it may sound. Like the Balibo incident, the Corby affair has the potential to set Australian public sentiment crashing against the best laid diplomatic plans of Australian and Indonesian officialdom, in their attempts to restore closer ties between the two neighbours.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newcastle University “Save Our Uni” Rally

CPSU, the General Staff Union, in conjunction with students and other unions on campus, has organised a lunchtime rally this Wednesday in the Auchmuty Library Courtyard to call on the Federal Government to provide effective funding to our regional university.

The percentage of funding provided by Commonwealth Grant to Newcastle University has fallen steadily since 1996.

Although this university is an integral part of the Newcastle community and one of the largest employers (at least until these cuts take effect) the Federal Government has also refused to fund the additional student places needed to balance the shortfall in revenue.

One important area in which extra places have been refused is Medicine: the University asked for 100 extra places, which would have gone a long way to dealing with the current skills shortage across Australia. Our teaching in this area is acknowledged as among the country's best. Yet there is an obvious correlation between the shortage of doctors in the community and the lack of medical places in University.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Budget: massive tax cuts to the rich

This Budget gives massive tax cuts to the richest 5% of Australians but fails to give working families the financial lifeline they need to keep their heads above water says the ACTU

Responding to the release of the 2005 Federal Budget, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

"As a result of the last two Budgets high income earners stand to gain more than $130 a week in tax and superannuation relief while more than 75% of working people - everyone earning less than $58,000 a year - gets between zero and $6 a week.

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Public to fund assault on civil rights

In its budget the Federal Government has tripled the funding for the organisation set up to harass building workers and take away their civil rights.

CFMEU Construction National Secretary John Sutton said the Government is prepared to waste $40 million over the next year on these organisations to rob building workers of their rights, the equivalent of three thousand operations in public hospitals or one thousand new public school teachers.

"Already we have seen the Building Industry Taskforce run a series of discredited court cases, drawing judicial censure at their heavy handed tactics, including the secret taping of workers and employers," Mr Sutton said.

Not many Australians realise that they are funding a body that will have the powers to:

  • personally sue any worker who takes part in political or industrial action
  • allow investigators to suspend a person's right to silence during investigations (from June 23), and
  • give the ABCC powers to launch retrospective prosecutions (flagged by Kevin Andrews).

"These powers are an assault not just on construction workers, but on all Australian workers," Mr Sutton said.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

New Zealand IR lessons

It took New Zealand five years to turn around the economic and social devastation wrought by an IR regime being aped by Australia, a leading Kiwi politician has warned.

Government MP, Nanaia Mahuta, said nine years of life under the Employment Contracts Act, the blueprint for Howard’s agenda, left her country demoralised.

"We faced low morale amongst our working people," Mahuta told Workers Online. "And we lost thousands and thousands of skilled workers, mainly to Australia.

"New Zealand is not a big country and the talent drain still costs us."

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Australia's cruel and stupid immigration policies

In a long, descending spiral, we have come now to the late-night knock on the door, a device of dictators everywhere. This is the latest tactic of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs as it goes about the business of cleansing Australia of refugees from East Timor.

Those on the proscribed list who open their doors in the dark will find two officers from the department with a letter bearing the Commonwealth coat of arms. The letter begins thus: "I refer to your application made on 2 March 1995 for a Protection Visa, which was refused on 19 November 2002 and again by the Refugee Review Tribunal on 24 April 2003.

"I have given this matter much thought, but I have decided not to consider the use my non-compellable Ministerial power to grant you a visa under section 417 of the Migration Act 1958.

"You should now make arrangements to leave Australia."

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Bikies intimidated strikers: Union

A Melbourne plastics company has been accused of using bikies to intimidate striking women workers on a picket line. The National Union of Workers (NUW) called police after about 10 motorcyclists, some wearing bandannas to hide their faces, rode through the picket line, manned mostly by women, at Kemalex Plastics in Dandenong yesterday afternoon.

More than 50 workers at the factory, which makes plastic components for cars, have been on strike since April 27 in an enterprise-bargaining dispute over company attempts to make all new employees on the site independent contractors.

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Make Poverty History

MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY brings together a wide cross section of nearly 400 charities, campaigns, trade unions, faith groups and celebrities who are united by a common belief that 2005 offers an unprecedented opportunity for global change.

As such MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY is not affiliated to any political party and does not comment on the individual records OR manifestos of different parties during the period of a general election.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

George Galloway wins East End seat

George GallowayGeorge Galloway, the former Labour MP kicked out of the party for his vociferous criticism of the invasion of Iraq, said yesterday that he had "come back from the dead with a great victory" after winning a safe seat from the pro-war Labour MP Oona King.

"I see it as a vindication both personally and politically," he said yesterday. "I have taken everything that could be thrown at me, more than anyone else I have known in my political lifetime. I cannot think of a person who has, to the same degree, been smeared and decried.

"This is also a vindication for the anti-war movement. The vast majority of the public think that Mr Blair deceived the country."

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Striking Sydney Water workers win

After going on strike in support of their work mate who was suspended from duties for having diabetes, Justice Kavanagh of the Industrial Relations Commission ordered the suspension be lifted by Sydney Water Management and the worker re-instated to normal duties as of tomorrow.

It's victory for Sydney Water workers who have stood by a victimised co-worker. Justice Kavanagh will appoint an independent specialist to review the report of the worker's doctor which supports his fitness to work.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Is Australia a democracy? Malcolm Fraser

Malcolm Fraser 22nd prime minister didn't hold back on his political critique on revelations an Australian citizen was deported in 2001 and has since disappeared.

"What kind of a country do these actions belong to? Is it a democracy? Is it one where the rule of law prevails or are such actions the hallmark of a tyranny," he questioned.

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Award winning filmmaker tours Australian ports

Canadian film-maker Elaine Briere is touring Australia this month for screenings of her latest documentary Betrayed on the biggest international maritime strike of the 20th century.

No maritime worker, indeed no worker, should miss this film. Painstakingly researched the film documents the merchant marine at war, the union's fight to get seafarers better conditions, the 1949 strike, the bloody battles around the coast, as well as the solidarity action in Australian and other world ports.

Her film also documents the Yarra dispute with Canadian Steamship Line (CSL) in Port Pirie 2002, when crew barracaded themselves on board the vessel for two weeks in an attempt to save their ship from being flagged out.

Betrayed will show at a union function held at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour on May 10 before a public screening alongside her Timor film Bitter Paradise, book launch and forum with the filmmaker at the Valhalla Cinema, Glebe on May 12.

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Renewed security alert re containers in our ports

Security expert Sam Ignarski has warned that container monitoring technology is an inadequate safeguard against terrorism.

"There is a lot more faith being placed in RFID (radio frequency identification) seal, and OCR (optical character recognition)," he told the Lloyds List DCN Port and Maritime Security conference in Melbourne last week.

"I'm sceptical about these solutions given the fact that port authorities very rarely stuff or seal a shipping container in the way that they once did," he said. "You are hitting up against the reality that a container is somewhere else 70 per cent of the time. By the time a container gets to the port it is too late; the place where the mischief is, is further up the chain."

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Bosses risk criminal charges for email spying

NSW will be the first Australian state to outlaw unauthorised spying of employees using technologies including video cameras, email and tracking devices with the introduction of the Workplace Surveillance Bill 2005 to state parliament today.

"While some employers argue that this is necessary to protect their legitimate interests, employees expect that their private correspondence, like their private telephone calls or private conversations, should never be the subject of secret monitoring," NSW Attorney General Bob Debus said in a statement today.

"We don't tolerate employers unlawfully placing cameras in change rooms and toilets.

"Likewise, we should not tolerate unscrupulous employers snooping into the private emails of workers."

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Repressive new construction laws

CFMEU national secretary John Sutton said that under laws specially drafted for the construction industry, workers would lose the right to freedom of political speech.

"This is an attack not just on building workers - but the right of all citizens to take an active role in a democracy," Mr Sutton said.

Mr Sutton said if these laws had been in place in past years there would have been:

- no actions to improve safety on building sites.
- no Green Bans, which saved entire communities from ill-conceived development,
- no demonstrations against the war in Vietnam

"This is the beginning of the end for free speech in this country," Mr Sutton said.

"If this legislation was being proposed in a dictatorship we would be writing protest letters to Amnesty; that they are being proposed in Australia is a national disgrace."

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Paul Keating takes on two Howards

Paul John KeatingA national leader should always be searching for the threads of gold that run through a society, that lift us up and bind us together. The Liberal party, Australia's Tory equivalent, has in recent years made an art form of the whispered word "race".

In 2001, Prime Minister John Howard ran a despicable election campaign against asylum seekers. The campaign was successful but Australia was weakened by it. Its moral compass now lacks the equilibrium it had and the underlying compassion has been compromised.

The Australian Tories' agents are now in Britain. The chief operator, Lynton Crosby, calls it "guerrilla warfare" or "below-the-line campaigning". Michael Howard will know none of this of course; he will be like his namesake in Australia, hearing no evil and seeing no evil.

People cannot have the wealth and the jobs while at the same time laying waste to the human spirit. The beating heart of the country has to be kept in good fettle.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

What future for the minimum wage?

A Pastoral Letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker
1 May 2005
The Minimum Wage in an Age of Prosperity and Wealth

This could be the last time a Minimum Wage Case of the current type is heard. The Government has criticised the AIRC for supposedly lacking “economic rigour” and has suggested that alternative mechanisms for setting the minimum wage are being examined.

The Catholic Commission, ACCER, has expressed its concerns to Government that the wage decisions, affecting the lives of so many low income Australians, could be taken from the Industrial Relations Commission. This independent institution is obliged to consider a fair minimum in the context of general living standards, the likely impact of increases on the economy and with special concern for the low paid.

Those seeking to restrain minimum wage increases often argue that it impedes employer demand and keeps people who are unemployed out of work. But a failure to appreciate the common interests and experiences of the unemployed, the underemployed and the low paid is likely to result in unjust proposals for the reduction of minimum wages and the creation of jobs.

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We are all boat people

Photo of Opera House with Boat People Tall ships projected We are ordinary Australians who are appalled at the inhumane treatment of refugees by our government. We have decided to get involved and challenge the border panic encouraged by the current rhetoric of fear.

Our goal is to create a shift in the minds and hearts of our fellow Australians who have not seen the truth behind the lies told by the Howard Government and the mainstream media outlets that broadly support it's views.

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Free trade agreement jeopardises local workers

1000 workers may be jobless within months as two Sydney car-part manufacturers plan to close, or move to Asia, as Australia moves towards a free trade agreement with China.

AMWU state secretary, Paul Bastian, said:

"The China free trade agreement, together with existing competition from China, makes it impossible for the Australian auto component industry to survive."

"Employers are demanding that workers adopt and compete on Chinese wage conditions."

"What the Federal Government should be doing is have an open and transparent debate in Parliament about not just the economic impacts but also the social costs and implications."

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14 characteristics common to fascist regimes

In "Fascism Anyone" Laurence Britt identifies 14 characteristics common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 "identifying characteristics of fascism."

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See also Karl and King George political satire for their "Fascism is Fashionable" t-shirt

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bjelke-Petersen’s attacks on Queensland workers

Bernie Neville was an organiser for the Electrical Trades Union during the 1980s SEQEB dispute. Writing for the April special supplement of "Neighbourhood News", he explained the role Joh played in that dispute.

In February 1985, the National Party government of Joh Bjelke- Petersen sacked 1100 electricity workers, all members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), all were employed by the South East Queensland Electricity Board, its aim was to privatise the industry. Bjelke-Petersen’s goal was to take away from the power workers’ job security, erode their conditions and increase the length of their working week. The workers resisted.

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Federal Government In A Muddle

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews’ quest for a single national system of industrial relations is looking increasingly illusory.

Opposition is growing on both sides of politics, and there are manifest problems with the Government's muddled approach.

The fundamental difficulty for the Government is its' plan for a hostile takeover of the State industrial relations systems. This will never deliver a single national system because the Australian Government simply does not have the power under the Constitution to make the necessary laws.

Just about all State Government employment would be beyond the reach of the proposed Commonwealth laws, and to that can be added vast tracts of small business and many other areas of employment. Industries such as public education and health may even revert from the Federal to the State systems to avoid the hostile national laws.

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Unions Urge Fair Go For Timorese

The ACTU is calling on the Government to ensure East Timor receives its fair share of benefits from gas and oil projects in the Timor Sea.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow says East Timor deserves a fair go and a fair share of the billions of dollars being earned from the Timor Sea oil and gas reserves.

Burrow says it is also in Australia's best interests to have a prosperous and stable East Timor as our neighbour.

The ACTU is calling on the Australian Government to stop short changing the East Timorese on maritime boundaries and government royalties.

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May Day: Workers rally against loss of rights

May Day, Sydney, 2005 (Photo: AAP)Thousands of workers flocked to May Day rallies across Australia yesterday to protest against the Federal Government's planned industrial relations changes.

The ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, said many basic workplace rights would be threatened if the Government went ahead with its plan.

It intends to use the Senate majority it will gain in July to set up a single national industrial relations system that will override state systems.

The plan is opposed by state and territory governments, the Federal Opposition and unions, who claim it will leave workers worse off. Ms Burrow said Australia should use May Day to reflect on what it stood to lose if the Government went ahead with its plan to strip workers of many of their basic rights

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Good riddance to Joh Bananas

Not everyone’s a hypocrite. Some of us will be raising a glass to send the old bastard on his way to whatever level of hell lies in wait for hillbilly dictators. In all of the maudlin, confected nostalgia generated by Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s long overdue demise, something precious has been forgotten. The hate.

Because there were thousands of us trapped north of the Tweed who hated that vicious, crackbrained yahoo with a visceral intensity.

There were thousands of us who’ll look back on the Johera as a waking nightmare, when a gang of slack-jawed yokels, crooks, bandits, half-smart chancers and degenerate greedheads ensconced themselves in power by brutally crushing all opposition, debauching the public offices, and rewarding favoured cronies with the sort of naked contempt for propriety that would have impressed Ferdinand Marcos or Manuel Noriega

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Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the fictions of hindsight!

We are going to miss the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the lovable rascal. They don't make them like him any more. Joh was a battler for Queensland, a doughty warrior for the National Party who put his state four square on the world stage. He built the economic powerhouse that is Queensland today. Don't you worry about that.

And so on, blah blah. This is the ludicrous spin whipped up by the remnants of the Bjelke peanut mafia who will be seeing the corrupt old loon dispatched at his funeral in Kingaroy on Tuesday.

You expect such nonsense from them. And from the likes of the Nationals' federal leader, John Anderson, who pumped out a fatuous press release hailing Bjelke as "a great servant of the Queensland people and the National Party".

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