Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Howard's IR plan a step backwards: Galbraith

A leading international economist has warned that the Howard Government's proposed industrial relations overhaul is a backwards step likely to send the unemployment rate up.

James Galbraith, son of US economist John Kenneth Galbraith, is a world expert on income inequality and growth, and has strongly challenged the conventional economic wisdom that blasting away employment and wage regulations produces more jobs, attacking the idea as "fundamentally, logically incoherent".

Professor Galbraith warned that deregulation of labour markets was "absolutely the low-road approach which is going to drive the country backwards".

"I don't know of any case where deregulation and increased inequality in pay structures was associated with solving the unemployment problem and I don't think it will work here," Professor Galbraith said after addressing the Economic Society of Australia's annual conference.

"The evidence is that unemployment is better in countries which regulated their labour markets than in countries which deregulated their labour markets."

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Launch of the Human Rights Act for Australia

When: Wednesday 5 October 2005
Time: 6.30pm
Where: Sydney Town Hall

The Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser will launch the campaign. .
He will be accompanied by Professor Larissa Behrendt, Elizabeth Evatt AC, Waleed Aly, Greg Combet, Nahid Karimi, Susan Ryan AO and John Menadue AO.

At the campaign launch the draft Bill that New Matilda has been preparing will be presented to the meeting and a range of prominent human rights experts will address the audience.

Australia is the only Western country that does not have a Human Rights Act. New Matilda's campaign sets out to change that. The campaign has been undertaken in response to concerns about the treatment of asylum seekers and the increased powers that the government has given itself through anti-terror legislation as well as areas such industrial relations reform.

Please feel free to forward this campaign information to colleagues, friends and family. To be successful, this campaign will require the support of individual members of the community and organisations

For more information about the campaign visit

Saturday, September 24, 2005

March on Washington: End The War!

Hundreds of thousands march through Washington to end the war in Iraq, bring the troops home and help bring about regime change in the Whitehouse.

In London up to 50,000 took to the streets demanding an end to the war and the dismissal of prime minister Blair aka B-LIAR

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist: The Autobiography of Wilfred Burchett

As the first journalist to describe the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Wilfred Burchett (1911—1983) has been widely recognised as one of the most important war correspondents in Australian history.

For most of his working life, controversial Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett chose to report from the 'other side'. His unorthodox views and activities caused him to be labelled a traitor by many.

Criticised ferociously by anti-communist groups and intelligence organisations in Australia and the US, the Australian Government denied him a passport for 17 years, forcing him to live in exile.

At a time when much international reporting is dominated by ‘spin’ and propaganda, this compelling autobiography resonates with these issues facing journalism today.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Brendan Nelson: Voluntary Student Unions and Hockey

This photo was taken at a hockey game on Sunday (18th September) night at the North Ryde hockey grounds, at a women's hockey game between Macquarie University and UTS


Unions defy Howard on minumum wages

Unions will defy the Howard Government's plan to stop any further national wage cases by launching one last pay claim under existing federal laws to help low-income earners.

The ACTU leadership will argue that the claim is necessary to protect the real value of wage levels for workers on minimum pay rates starting at $484 a week. The claim -- expected to be between $22 and $24 a week -- is part of union efforts to avoid a wage freeze of up to 18 months for low-income earners as workers wait for the Government's new industrial relations system.

ACTU secretary Greg Combet said the claim would take into account an expected 2.2 per cent rise in inflation and the surge in petrol costs, estimated to add $16 to $18 a week for the average family car.

"The Government is not doing anything about rising petrol prices," he said.

In a surprise strategy that will force the Government on to the defensive, the ACTU will as early as this week lodge a new pay claim in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on behalf of 1.6million workers.

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Howard: A cruel master to apprentices

Thousands of apprentices will miss out on proper, quality training, the AMWU today warned, following an announcement by the Prime Minister that laws that guarantee apprenticeship conditions will be stripped as part of his industrial relations proposals.

The Prime Minister claimed that by removing the quality guarantees for apprentices he would create more opportunities for young people.

“The Prime Minister’s statement that he is creating opportunities for apprentices is deceitful.

He is really giving employers the opportunity to kick apprentices around from site to site, underpay them, and take away their current rights to full training”, said AMWU National President, Julius Roe.

“The Prime Minister wants to see apprentices complete lower level qualifications which tie them to a particular employer or dead end job rather than completing a fully rounded trade qualification which opens up a well paid career. “

“This is an appalling and irresponsible move by the government and will exacerbate the enormous skills shortage Australia is currently facing."

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US Unions: What Gulf Families REALLY Need

Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in the lives of millions of Gulf Coast residents. Rather than helping these communities cope with the tremendous upheaval, the Bush administration is using the catastrophe as a starting point for attacks on working people.

President George W. Bush already has issued an executive order taking wage protections away from construction workers who will rebuild the Gulf Coast. Lowering wages for those who most need them will not help workers in their recovery efforts. It will be a real boon, though, for the unscrupulous contractors who will reap windfall profits at working families' expense.

In addition to the wage protection rollback, the administration already has handed out no-bid contracts to companies with ties to the administration and Republican Party while deferring affirmative action requirements and weakening preferences for small and minority-owned business.

The Bush administration also has suspended requirements that petroleum products travel on U.S.-flagged ships while operating in U.S. coastal waters and eased rules on how many hours truckers can drive when transporting fuel.

Bush's people also are using the disaster to forward their agendas on school vouchers, tax credits, health care--and even Social Security privatization.

Hurricane Katrina's victims deserve real help in their time of need--not this administration's cold-hearted actions.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Norwway: troops out of Iraq

Norway’s newly elected prime minister has signalled he will order Norwegian troops out of Iraq as soon as he takes office in mid-October.

Labour Party leader Jens Stoltenberg told US President George W Bush in a phone call that “the Norwegian officers should not remain in Iraq."

Mr Stoltenberg swept to victory on Monday when the Labour Party coalition with two other left-wing parties defeated the ruling centre-right coalition led by Kjell Magne Bondevik.

Labour Party partner, the Socialist Left, had lobbied hard for a common platform for government and battled the election on the Iraq exit.

The Spark: Australia 's first union podcast

The Spark, was launched on September 16, 2005.

The Spark Podcast, the voice of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU) Southern States Branch is presented by Phil Cleary and produced by the ETU. It's a place where workers around the world can have their say.

This podcast not only covers a range of labour union issues occurring in the States of Victoria and Tasmania but also looks to our international correspondents as well to give a picture of events in world of politics, music and the arts as well as social movements, that shape workers lives.

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download iTunes

Friday, September 16, 2005

Howard's Flexibility: Bush Pay Rates Slashed!

The Federal Government has delivered the bush its first taste of workplace flexibility, paying regional focus group participants half the amount it gives those in the city.

Howard Government representatives paid Melbourne residents $100 for commenting on TV ads designed to shore up their faltering workplace campaign but slashed the handout to $50 in regional NSW.

Participants said the $20 million ad campaign, designed to promote secret individual contracts, unfair sackings and award stripping, was short on specifics.

"They went down like a lead balloon," one focus group member said of the 12 advertising concepts. "People didn't think they were factual."

Participants in the focus groups were asked to fill out forms, giving their views on Canberra's workplace agenda. They were then subjected to 12 different presentations, via story boards, and asked to comment.

They revealed the feds intend to hammer patriotism, under a theme of "Australia we have an opportunity". And they will continue to run arguments that have been discredited by independent research.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Columbia: Protest against union assasinations

The serial murder of Colombian trade unionists continues with no letup. Luciano Enrique Romero Molina, a former Nestlé employee and leader of the foodworkers' union SINALTRAINAL, has become the latest victim of Colombia's deadly anti-union violence and the judicial and political impunity which nourish it. He was murdered sometime between the evening of September 10 and the morning of September 11, when his dead body was discovered in the city of Valledupar bearing multiple knife wounds and signs of torture.

The fact that Molina was living under the protective measures program of the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States shows that the Uribe government continues to fail to implement the most basic measures needed to stop the war against Colombian union members and officers.

The IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations) has protested this latest assassination to the Colombian government, demanding a full and open investigation of Molina's murder, prosecution of the perpetrators and an end to the reigning impunity.

We urge you to send similar protests. To send a message to the government of Colombia go to


Federal Court: Slams CBA contracts

The Commonwealth Bank has broken the law by inducing employees to resign and sign individual contracts offering substandard conditions, the Federal Court has ruled. In a victory for all union members, the Finance Sector Union has won its case against a decision to transfer CBA employees to CommSec as a condition of working in its Premium Financial Services Division.

The CommSec contracts scheme they used to do it has also been exposed as invalid. The Federal Court said the move was like a tax avoidance scheme and was designed help the Bank escape its legal responsibilities to employees.

The Judge found that:
  • CBA discriminated against its employees, disadvantaging them financially and legally because it wanted to avoid its obligations under the Union negotiated CBA enterprise agreements;
  • The CommSec non union enterprise agreement is invalid and the individual contracts arising from it do not have the protection of the Workplace Relations Act;
  • CommSec misled the Industrial Commission; and
  • CBA committed a serious breach of CBA enterprise agreements when it failed to consult with FSU about its plans and the impact on employees.
The public interest

In declaring the CommSec Clause 12 agreement procedure invalid the Judge said "While it is unclear as to whether the procedure is being adopted by other employers, I have little doubt that, given the quest by a number of other major employers for unregulated individual contracts, it is in the public interest that the Court makes it clear the procedure adopted by CBA is not lawful."

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NSW: Work & Family Online Survey

The NSW Office of Industrial Relations has launched an online survey on work and family. It’s on the web at www.workandfamily.nsw.gov.au (There are actually two surveys, one for employees and one for employers.)

“The aim of our employer and employee surveys is to gather an overview of the work and life balance practices across workplaces to better understand the needs of both employers and employees in NSW.

“The surveys will also facilitate the publication of case study material on the Work and Family website. The case studies, once published, will provide practical guidance for both employers and employees with examples of real life flexible working practices, as well as an insight into how the guiding policies have been successfully implemented in NSW workplaces.

“The surveys are comprehensive and quick to complete.”

Employees and employers, private and public, union and non-union, are invited to tap in their answers. The more the better with this sort of survey.

Pinochet: British arms deal scandal

The dogged pursuit of General Pinochet's multimillion dollar fortune by a Chilean judge, Sergio Muñoz, culminated last month in the arrest of Pinochet's wife and son in Santiago. The hunt has unearthed a sophisticated array of bank accounts and offshore hiding places. It has also left Britain's biggest arms company, BAE, facing many questions in what may prove one of the biggest scandals to hit an already scandal-prone company.

The Chilean legal documents, based on US banking records, list secret payments by BAE to what are said to be front companies and middlemen for Gen Pinochet. They total $2,098,841 (more than £1m). The payments began in 1997, and the latest were recorded last year. A final $189,940 payment went into an alleged front company on June 30 last year.

Many of the recent payments were not recorded in the name of BAE, but in that of Red Diamond Trading, an entity registered in the financial "black hole" of the British Virgin Islands. The company was set up in 1998 by a discreet subdivision of BAE at its Farnborough HQ. It has the uninformative title of HQ Marketing Services.

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CFMEU: $3M Bank Job

The CFMEU has stared down another round of anti-building worker legislation to win more than $3 million for employees and small businesses stranded by a Marrickville developer.

Financier Macquarrie Bank coughed up the money after a two-week picket of an apartment development, following the collapse of builder, JLB.

CFMEU state secretary, Andrew Ferguson, confirmed $3 million of the settlement would go to unpaid subcontractors, while another $150,000 had been earmarked for wages and entitlements owed to building workers, clerical workers and management staff.

"They all put their hands up and they were all owed money," Ferguson said.

"I'm not sure if the company went into administration or receivership. It doesn't matter, the point is it didn't pay.

"We will continue this type of action on behalf of workers and family businesses in spite of the threats of the federal government."

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Katrina: The Storm That Ate The GOP

Who will pity the soulless Republican Party now that Katrina is mauling their regime?

Can you hear that? That low scraping moan, that painful scream, that compressed hissing wail like the sound of an angry alligator caught in a vise?

Why, it's the GOP, and they're screaming, "No, no it can't be, oh my God, please no, this damnable Katrina thing is just an unstoppable PR disaster for us!"


Now BushCo's spineless Katrina response and our party's obvious contempt for lazy poor people who don't own SUVs and Lockheed-Martin portfolios means Dubya's ratings have plummeted below 40, as many of his precious pet agenda items head for the Dumpster, including the gutting of Social Security and the gutting of Medicare and even more tax cuts for his wealthy cronies. Damn you, Mother Nature!

Even the media has stepped it up, taken off the kid gloves and begun hurling angry, pointed questions at BushCo for the first time in four years, ever since we muzzled them with one part threat and one part Rove and all parts corporate stranglehold. Hell, the damn media was on the ground in New Orleans within 24 hours of Katrina, beating our untrained monkeys from FEMA by three days. Who the hell do they think they are?

there's more!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Chris Kempster Project

After Chris Kempster's death in January 2004, a group began work towards producing a CD of all the music Chris wrote throughout his life.

Chris went out of his way to assist others in their musical endeavours, and never got around to collecting his own work on one CD.

The emerging product is a unique compilation, showcasing the voices of some of Australia's finest, and some overseas artists as well - Roy Bailey, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Priscilla Herdman. All of these singers have had direct and affectionate links with Chris over the years.

The plan is to launch the CD at the National Folk Festival, Canberra, at Easter 2006.

Many of Chris's songs are already recorded by various musicians, and many have already given us permission to use their work. Should there be a profit from the sale of the CD, a reprint of Chris's book "The Songs of Henry Lawson", is envisaged.

Work towards the making of the CD is voluntary, and has the ongoing support of the Folk Federation of New South Wales, but the costs of professional production are considerable. At this point the folk community has generously donated about $4,000, and it is estimated that the double album will cost about three times that. This is where you come in!

Interested individuals, folk clubs and festivals and other organisations are being asked to sponsor the project, at a flat rate of $200.

In return for your sponsorship, you will be acknowledged in the CD booklet, and can include, if you wish, a brief quote giving your reasons for sponsoring the CD. You will also receive three CDs after production.

download sponsorship form

Chris Kempster Project

Friday, September 09, 2005

Church slams Howard's IR laws

In a briefing paper, the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations queries key elements of the Government's proposals and says they could allow some employers to mistreat employees, lead to lower wages and impose unfair burdens on low-paid workers.

The commission advises Australia's Catholic bishops and assists the church and its agencies in their role as one of the nation's biggest employers. About 100,000 people work for the various arms of the church across the country.

The commission argues that the Government's changes to wage-fixing, which will see minimum wages fixed on the basis of the needs of a single adult worker rather than a "living wage" needed to support dependants, could have a serious effect on families.

It says the changes would mean that low-paid workers would be "placed in a position where they are required to carry a disproportionate burden of the requirement for economic adjustment". Social measures such as greater tax relief for people on low incomes and increases in family payments could reduce that burden.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Howard's IR Laws: Threat to legal existance of unions

While small employers are annoyed about the need to incorporate themselves, and the cost involved, so that they can gain access to the proposed Workplace Relations legislation, trade unions are worried whether they will exist in law at all.

At issue is "registered organisation" status, which is conferred under the conciliation and arbitration power and recognises trade unions as an entity necessary in the process of resolving industrial disputes.

Under section 51(35) of the constitution, the conciliation and arbitration power gives the Federal Government power to make laws in relation to "conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one state".

The corporation's power in section 51(20) of the constitution is very different. Until now, this power has only been used in a very limited way to govern certain aspects of employment conditions. Basically it has never been used as the primary power to govern the employment relationship. Using this power opens up a range of options and possibilities for the Government by enabling the re-regulation of industrial relations.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Rich pay only 25pc tax

The wealthiest people in Australia are paying only 25 per cent of their income in tax and are easily avoiding the top personal rate of 47c in the dollar.

The very rich pay less than a third of the tax paid by the nation's highest-paid workers - $28,000 versus $92,000 a year - because they are allowed to use their investments to minimise income and claim tax breaks not available to regular workers.

The Howard Government claims that only 3 per cent of taxpayers, with taxable incomes above $125,000, will face the top marginal rate of 47c when the thresholds are lifted again on July 1 next year.

The truth is that the richest 2 per cent of the nation won't be among the people on the 47c band, according to evidence from the Melbourne Institute's recent survey of the nation's 3.6 million working households.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Hiroshima: Wilfred Burchett's report 60 years ago

Daily Express 5 September 1945:

30th DAY in Hiroshima: Those who escaped begin to die, victims of
'I Write this as a Warning to the World'

Poison gas fear: All wear masks

Express Staff Reporter Peter Burchett was the first Allied Reporter to enter the atom-bomb city. He travelled 400 miles from Tokyo alone and unarmed, carrying rations for seven meals -- food is almost unobtainable in Japan -- a black umbrella, and a typewriter. Here is his story from –


In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly -- people who were uninjured in the cataclysm -- from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.

Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.

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and more

Lithgow: Pottery dispute of 1890

Lithgow is a place with a proud history as a union town. The origins of broader community solidarity lie in the early industrial development of the town and the development of unions. The Lithgow Pottery dispute of 1890 was a key event.

Lithgow Pottery was a part of the industrialisation of inland Australia. Author Ian Evans found that it had its origins in 1879 with the arrival in the district of James Silcock. He was an employee of the Colliery that was a thriving sector because of the westward expansion of the railways by the Colonial government.

Greg Patmore, a historian of Lithgow and localism has documented the coalminers as being amongst the first to unionise in the area with workers at the Vale of Clywdd forming their own lodge as early as 1875. In 1886 a slightly broader union formation in the Western District Miners' Union was established. As Patmore notes many of the workers into the area in the coal industry and the iron works were potters from Staffordshire and, with the name above in mind, Welsh miners.

The potters then were first put to work in the area when it was determined that the clay was suitable for brick manufacture. Ian Evans, in his beautifully illustrated history of the pottery puts 1876 as the year the brickworks began. Pipe making was ready to go by October 1877 and began under the auspices of the Lithgow Valley Colliery Co with the first pipes not appearing until March 1878, with a distinctive kangaroo emblem. So confident was the area in the quality of its bricks and pipes that it took part in the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879.

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Workers Radio Sydney

Workers Radio Sydney is a new trade union radio program
broadcasting 5.30-9am Monday to Friday on 88.9 FM.

Trade unions, including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Services Union, the Public Service Association, the National Union of Workers and the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, together with progressive community organisations, have established the radio program.

The mass media in Australia is owned by the rich and powerful. Packer and Murdoch ensure that their control of the media does not jeopardise their power and wealth. This is why the workers and the people need a voice. The aim of the radio broadcast is to promote trade unionism and broader community struggles for peace, social justice and workers’ rights.

What you can do? Listen to and promote Workers Radio Sydney. Send news about struggles and disputes at the workplace to workersradiosydney@hotmail.com

Friday, September 02, 2005

Boom! Biff! It’s Howard Unplugged

A mine manager who stymied a safety inspection and shirt-fronted an organiser has threatened workers that their pay will be slashed if they join a union.

The incidents at Hartley - just west of the Blue Mountains – is a sign that the coming changes to federal industrial relations are emboldening employers to take on their unionised workforce.

Warren Baker, from the Australian Workers Union (AWU), says he visited the site, to speak to mineworkers earlier this week about plans to put them on to AWAs.

After workers quizzed Baker about their right to have an EBA, the mine manager called the AWU official a "dog", told him that anyone who joined the union would lose over award payments, shirt fronted him and tried to kick him off the site.

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Hugo Chavez Offers Hurricane Aid

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is offering planeloads of soldiers and aid workers to help American victims of Hurricane Katrina.

While confusion reigned in New Orleans, Chavez said the looting was to be expected under such circumstances.

"As more information comes out now, a terrible truth is becoming evident: That government doesn't have evacuation plans," Chavez said Wednesday night during a speech.

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union hurricane relief fund

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Neilson comes to Sydney

An exhibition of new paintings by Peter Neilson will be held at Australian Galleries in Sydney from Sepember 6 to October 1, 2005

Drifting South, Always South
Australian Galleries
15 Roylston Street
NSW 2021

02 9360 5177


"The art of Peter Neilson is very much a product of urban Melbourne radicalism. He was born in East Melbourne in 1944 and grew up in the inner - Melbourne suburb of Essendon where he formed a life long affiliation with the local football club"
Dr Sasha Grishin 2002

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