Friday, December 29, 2006

Howard: safety underminer!

John Howard wants the states to change occupational health and safety requirements so responsibility for mine accidents are not focused solely on mine managers, as he says is presently the case in some jurisdictions.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) president Tony Maher says Mr Howard's claim that mine managers are solely responsible for accidents is false, and that any changes would lower safety standards.

"What Howard says in his letter is wholly false," Mr Maher said.

"The legal liability does not solely rest on mine managers.

"The legal liability is placed on all employees, and employers in the industry.

"That's proven by the fact that companies are prosecuted, managers are prosecuted, those lower in management ranks have been prosecuted, and ordinary rank and file mine workers have been prosecuted.

"It's all well and good to put your arms around the Beaconsfield survivors, and shed crocodile tears about mine safety.

"But the laws that we have around the country have been built on the backs of the deaths of over 4,000 Australians.

"There'll be lower standards if they are changed. Basically he'll have blood on his hands. More people will die. More people will be injured."


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Voter penalty rates: Howard Out!

The Christmas press is full of examples of people forced to work over Christmas without any extra payment because of Scrooge Howard's industrial relations laws. There are warnings too, that Howard's days as PM are numbered as this excerpt from a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald reveals:

"justice will be delivered at the next election. This is not dog-eat-dog America and we are not going your way, Mr Howard. It's Australia and the workforce is sick of overpaid chief executives shoving decent, ordinary working people around. Retribution is just months away now - it's going to be sweet. There are more of us than there are of you. You should have done the maths before you decided to treat us with contempt.

And mate, I voted for your party last time and the time before that. Without the industrial relations laws I would have voted for you again. You are screwing hard-working people and we are not going to take it".


Friday, December 22, 2006

Iran: Osanloo freed by union campaign

Iran - Mansoor Osanlou, Tehran, undated photo
Mansour Osanloo (file photo)

And he is, in part thanks to the thousands of LabourStart readers who sent messages of protest to the Iranian government. (Photo: IASWI).

Click here for the latest news on his release on 19 December.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Loggers lies exposed

If we are going to take a firm step in tackling climate change, it is important to read, understand and acknowledge the science that has been conducted over the past decade on climate change, and the role native forest and woodland ecosystems play in ameliorating the process, and what happens when we log and clear them.

For example, research conducted (and peer-reviewed) by independent scientists from the Australian National University, Melbourne University and Monash University show that almost 10,000 hectares of Victoria's native forest and woodlands were logged last year, and this process released about 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent to an extra 2.4 million cars on Victoria's roads for a year.

An important part of this analysis is that it accounted for all the carbon that could have theoretically been stored in wood products, generated from the logged timber.

The 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide released came from other elements of the native ecosystems being logged, including carbon found in the stems, litter and the soil.

Not surprisingly, these carbon emissions are never accounted for by the native forest industry in their reports, or in their opinion pieces.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Qantas "fry the flag" sell off - sell out

After years of trying to outsource every skilled job from maintenance work to pilots, while still claiming to be Australian, Qantas finally shows it's true flag the flag of convenience, the surrender to the global asset strippers with shonky money sloshing around for another slice of what the taxpayer and employees built up over generations.

One striking aspect of this modern craze of "debt financed" takeover is that the $11 billion buyout will increase the Qantas debt from $4 billion to $18 billion! Tax dodging writ large, yet Howard says his government "will not take sides".

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Acting National Secretary Dave Oliver said the take-over bid by Macquarie Bank and Texas Pacific Group was not in the national interest and would make the loss of jobs and a decrease in safety standards more likely.

“Qantas is an Australian icon and the service, safety and standards that it is famous for are all down to the Australian workers who make up the Spirit of Australia.”

“It is against the national interest for the Prime Minister and Treasurer to sign-off on this take-over bid.”

“We are extremely concerned of the likely approach Texas Pacific will take going from their previous willingness to sack workers and send the jobs overseas.”

“For example their take-over of airline catering company Gate Gourmet in the UK led to the sacking of 3000 workers, and when they took over German Grohe Water Technology they commissioned a study that recommended sending production to China and then sacked around a fifth of the workforce.”


Unions are also troubled by the fact that the Howard Government's new IR laws have made the take over of Qantas a more attractive proposition because they allow major cuts to workers' wages and conditions in a number of ways. Qantas has already started the process of cutting workers' pay through the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements.

In the likely event the company is restructured, it is also possible under the IR laws for workers to lose all their terms and conditions including entitlements to public holidays, leave loadings, penalties, allowances and redundancy pay - receiving only $13.47 per hour and four other minimum conditions.


More important than the future of Qantas is the whole phenomenon of "private equity" and where it's likely to take us. Private equity is negative gearing for companies. No wonder wise heads are warning it will end in tears.

The company's desire - under present or proposed owners - to continue enjoying the profits flowing from government protection as the "national carrier", while continuing to cut costs and reduce service.

In this it's a typical Macquarie Bank acquisition. Macquarie has roamed the world seeking to control government-granted monopolies that have been privatised and inadequately regulated. Wherever politicians screw up, there is Macquarie clipping tickets.


Monday, December 11, 2006

30 November: rally broadcasts


Guest workers forced to sign illegal contracts

Core Values Must Underpin New Labor Leadership, says Doug CameronThree Filipino guest workers who were sacked from Dartbridge Welding after they joined the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have lodged complaints with the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission.

AMWU Queensland Secretary Andrew Dettmer said not only had the three men been discriminated against, their case was an example of regular intimidation of guest workers not to join unions.

"The AMWU has now seen a number of cases where guest workers have been forced to sign contracts containing anti-union clauses, or they have been threatened with deportation if they contact a union over their pay and conditions."

"This is illegal, yet the Federal Government does not seem to care."

"Like other guest workers, these men have been exploited. They were brought here as casual workers who could be laid off at a days notice, forced to pay inflated costs for their accommodation and transport, they were paid less than Australian workers and they were threatened with deportation when they questioned their employer."


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cole omission


Howard's "flour power"

John Howard and Alexander Downer sparked Australia's biggest biological terror scare last year when they exaggerated test results to claim white powder sent to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra — later shown to be flour — was a "biological agent".

Documents from ACT Pathology and the Australian Federal Police, obtained under freedom of information laws, show the microbiologist who examined the powder on June 1 last year and the AFP never called it a "biological agent" and described it as a commonly occurring bacteria; gram-positive bacilli.

On June 1 last year, Mr Howard said: "It's not an innocent white powder, it's some kind of biological agent."

The documents reveal that some days after testing began, the powder was shown to be flour, something Howard failed to mention at the time.

Opposition homeland security spokesman Arch Bevis says the Government exploited the situation to suggest a bigger threat.

"I think what it proves is that John Howard and a number of his senior ministers are far more interested in trying to get some political spin for their own benefit instead of protecting Australia's national security interests," he said.

"I mean to claim that a white powder was anthrax, which is what the Attorney-General did in radio interviews at the time, when the Federal Police and other agencies had directly said it's not anthrax, it's not a biological agent."


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Federal Court: urgent Hicks hearing

Lawyers for Australian Quantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks have been granted an urgent hearing in the Federal Court amid hopes he can be brought home before Christmas.

Hicks' lawyers today lodged papers with the court in Sydney, accusing the federal government of failing to provide adequate assistance to an Australian citizen abroad.

A directions hearing has been granted before Justice Brian Tamberlin on 15 December.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and the federal government have all been named in the papers filed with the court today.

9 December demos

Which Bank Slashes Work Rights?

Australia’s largest bank launched a WorkChoices offensive this week – denying staff time off to attend Thursday’s Your Rights at Work rallies and introducing a standard, bank-wide AWA which drastically reduces conditions.

The Finance Sector Union wrote to the bank requesting permission for staff to take time off to attend the union-organised day of action against new IR laws. Permission was denied, said FSU national secretary Paul Schroder.

In the same week, the bank began offering new and existing staff an AWA individual contract that does away with a raft of long-held award conditions including overtime payments, shift penalties, weekend and public holiday loadings and rostered days off. It also waters down redundancy and parental leave rights and gives the employer carte blanche over work duties, hours and location.

The Commonwealth Bank becomes the first major employer to introduce AWAs on a large scale.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Rudd not Ruddock!

... and Gillard not Howard

Labor's leadership has been passed on to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, a combination that seems to please both the union movement and the wider community, while also setting aside some of the rivalry inside the Labor Party.

Maybe it's another drover's dog election looming ... certainly the battle to boot out Howard will now have to be taken taken more seriously.

Former leader Kim Beazley has called on his colleagues to unite, now that the leadership has been decided.

"We in the Labor Party will need to be solidly behind Kevin because John Howard is the most formidable conservative politician of his generation, the most formidable conservative I've served in Parliament with," he said.

"He is not going to be an easy man to beat and he'll not be beaten by a rabble."


Friday, December 01, 2006

30 November: rally roundup

Fill the 'G' IR Rall...The employers said it was a fizzer and then complained how much it had cost "the country" as they like to imagine themselves. Peter Hendy, head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry calculated the cost at $31 million per 100,000 who protested, while the Master Builders Association of Victoria estimated a loss of $20 million just for the building industry where up to 15,000 building workers stopped work.

Action … protesters near Central Station yesterday.

One thing was made clear at the rallies; This was the start of the push to topple Howard ... time for regime change!

The MCG was more than half full with over 50,000 present, followed by a march that filled the wide streets from the cricket ground to Federation Square and grew to 100,000. Sydney saw a rally and march of 40,000 and the protest was strong in other capital cities (Brisbane 20,000, Adelaide 7000, Perth 3000, Darwin 2000, Canberra 1000, Hobart 500) and some 300 locations across the country. (100,000 in NSW).

In the Blue Mountains close to 300 rallied at the Katoomba RSL and a similar number at Springwood's Royal Hotel, a rally that grew as it became a march through Springwood followed by an open air protest meeting.

Overseas saw support protests from unions outside the Australian High Commission including Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, outside Australia House in London and ouside the Australia Mission in Geneva.

The real fizzers of the year have been the electoral losses of the Libs and Nationals at the state level. In three elections Howard's IR laws have cost the coalition votes (over the 10 years of the Howard government the coalition of Liberals and Nationals have lost 20 State elections!). How can Howard keep his IR laws out of next years Federal election? Watch out for things going overboard!


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Join Your Union

A song by John Warner©John Warner 2006

Tune Hymn "Bread of Heaven" - "Guide me oh thou great Jehovah/Redeemer"
Welsh tune: Cwm Rhondda. Composed by John Hughes (1873-1932).

play MP3 or

Join your union, join your union,
Friends, we need our unions now,
Friends, we need our unions now

Thieves grow rich and liars prosper,
Milking profit's sacred cow.
They make war to make their money,
How we need our unions now.

One man's pay for three men's labour,
Bosses' powers enshrined in law.
When our rights are torn and trampled,
How we need our unions more.

Women's rights and women's wages,
Fiercely fought and barely won,
Children's care and education,
Go where all our hopes have gone.

Shake the souls of union leaders,
Shout the message clear and plain,
Leave the desk, desert the boardroom,
Fight the workers' cause again.

Quiet words did not avail us,
Patience only earned defeat,
Unity's our only answer,
Join your unions on the street.

Stand with us and swell the numbers,
We are the majority.
Sing in chorus, raise the banners,
Union is victory.

more IR songs

NSW: IR laws make wages go backwards

New research by the ACTU shows that workers in NSW are being hard hit by the Government's industrial relations laws with average wages for full time employees dropping $33 a week in real terms over the last year.

"While the economic boom means corporate profits are at an all time high, there is a growing class of people in Australia that are being left behind," said Ms Burrow.

"Our latest research shows that the Howard Government's unfair IR laws are a contributing factor.

Average real wages for full time workers throughout Australia are failing to keep pace with inflation for the first time since the introduction of the GST.

Recent data also shows that workers in the hospitality and retail industries are being hardest hit.

Workers in our shops, cafes and bars are bearing the brunt of the new IR laws.

They work in sectors of the economy where many employers have moved to take advantage of the new IR laws by cutting penalty rates, overtime payments, public holiday pay and annual leave loading.

"If there is an economic downturn many people will start to feel the effects. Real wages could go down further, people could lose their jobs and Australians who are mortgaged to the hilt could lose their homes and many may be forced to turn to charities for help.

The Howard Government's IR policy means that in a downturn low paid workers will be hung out to dry when they most need protection and support," said Ms Burrow.

Who Are These People?

Lyrics by Burt Bacharach and Tonio K.

Who are these people that keep telling us lies
And how did these people get control of our lives
And who’ll stop the violence cause it’s out of control?
Make em stop

Who are these people that destroy everything
And sell off the future for whatever it brings
And what kind of leaders can’t admit when they’re wrong?
Make em stop

This stupid mess we’re in just keeps getting worse
So many people dying needlessly
Looks like the liars may inherit the earth
Even pretending to pray
And getting away with it

Who are these people that keep telling us lies
And how did these people get control of our lives
And who’ll stop the violence cause it’s out of control?
We’ve got to make them stop

Who are these people that keep telling us lies
And how did these people get control of our lives
and who’ll stop the violence cause it’s out of control?
Make em stop

See things really have to change
Before it’s too late


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Victoria: Victory for working families opposing IR laws

Labor has claimed victory in the Victorian election.

At the Italian Social Club in Williamstown, Premier Steve Bracks said the victory belonged to working families in Victoria.

Mr Bracks said his Government would commit to his election promises including establishing new elective surgery centres; implementing the largest water recycling project in the country to secure water supply for next 50 years; continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions; develop renewable energy and keep Victoria nuclear free.

He said he would keep standing up for working families around Victoria because the result was a clear message to the Government to stop attacking working families with extreme industrial relations laws.

The New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma, has offered his congratulations to Mr Bracks. He says Victorian voters had Federal Government issues on their minds. "This is a win for working families," he said.

"It's a clear signal that voters recognise state Labor governments are the last line of defence against John Howard's extreme WorkChoices laws."

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello was clearly rattled by Labor's win and the role played by Howard's unpopular industrial relations laws and his purile faith in nuclear power as a cure for global warming.

Costello warned Bracks to keep out of "federal issues": "His ambitions are now to start taking on the federal government, I would say to the people of Victoria, though, you didn't elect a premier of Victoria to spend his time worrying about Canberra."


London: 30 November solidarity

Amicus the UnionIt's been almost a year since the Australian right wing government introduced a raft of new industrial relations laws.

These are the most draconian laws in the industralised world having a disastrous effect on Australian working families, particularly their right to a living wage, freedom to join their union and collectively bargain.

Amicus pledges its support to Australian workers and their trade unions. To show our solidarity we asking members to attend a protest organised by Amicus. Demonstration will be held at the Australian Embassy, The Strand WC2B 4LA on 30 November 30 2006 at 9.30am.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Blue Mountains: 30 November rallies

Thousands of workers across the Blue Mountains and Central West are expected to walk off the job this Thursday, November 30, as part of a national day of action against the Federal Government’s workplace laws.

Katoomba RSL is the venue of a 9am meeting co-ordinated by the Blue Mountains Unions Council, which will feature a nationwide satellite hook-up with similar meetings in other capital cities and regional centres across Australia.

Other venues in the Mountains include the New Lapstone Hotel in Blaxland and The Royal Hotel at Springwood.

The Springwood meeting will be followed by a march to the office of Kerry Bartlett; a keen supporter of the laws which have seen penalty rates, take home pay and conditions cut and breadwinners thrown out of work.

Meetings will also be held at Lithgow Workers Club, Royal Hotel Oberon, Bathurst Panthers and Penrith Paceway.

Others from the region are traveling to Sydney to take part in a mass rally planned for Belmore Park, next to Central Station, that morning.

“With our rights at work under attack from Kerry Bartlett’s Liberal Party we are seeing people in the mountains, especially in the hospitality industry, being given ‘take it or leave it’ individual workplace agreements that cut or abolish penalty rates and slash conditions,” said Kerry Cooke, Blue Mountains Unions Council President.

“We are placing those businesses that think that they can sink the boot into our neighbours on notice that we are not going to stand by and do nothing while our community is under attack.”

Blue Mountains Unions Council Secretary, Brett O’Brien, is encouraging as many people as possible to get along to the meetings at Katoomba RSL, Springwood and Blaxland.

“People really need to have a serious look at these laws,” said O’Brien. “Bit by bit they will destroyworking conditions built over decades.“With holidays, penalty rates, sick leave rules andhourly rates under attack, our kids could be the firstgeneration to end up with worse working conditions than their parents.

“How is that progress?”

O’Brien encouraged those that cannot get to the meetings to contact the Blue Mountains Unions Council on 0413 866 520

Global warning!

AWB notes: so who misled parliament?

Previously secret AWB documents have shown the organisation was told Australia would join the invasion of Iraq a year before the Federal Government told us that it was going to war.

The information came from Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations, John Dauth.

When Prime Minister Howard announced that Australian troops would join the invasion on March 1, 2003, he also claimed his decision was made just before that.

Now the secret AWB board notes prove that early in 2002 the Australian Ambassador to the UN, Mr Dauth, said Australia would support and participate in US action, 18 months before the invasion.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NSW IRC: Landmark ruling for truck drivers

better rates better safetyThe New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) has ordered transport companies to implement safe driving plans advocated by the Transport Workers Union.

The plans include appropriate breaks and pay, to discourage drivers from long, unsafe shifts.

Driver Ray Driscoll says the ruling could go a long way to saving lives, by reducing fatigue and pressure on drivers.

"This decision today is groundbreaking because the truck drivers will be a bit better protected," Mr Driscoll said.

"Not only that, our roads in New South Wales, hopefully it'll be a safer place to be."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Greg Combet: new consensus for 21st Century

Delivering the 2006 Hawke lecture in Adelaide today, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet has called for Labor and the union movement to develop a new "democratic consensus" on the issues of economic growth, security, education and climate change.

Mr Combet said Australia needs "a consensus which united rather than divides us" in the face of "division and deliberate deceit and distraction from the real issues" by the Howard Government.

Mr Combet said the Coalition Government was prepared to "unleash every evil spectre", including racism, xenophobia and contempt -- all for its own political gain.

He said long-term economic, environmental, social justice and security issues were not being effectively addressed.

"Political opportunism, divisiveness and disregard for civil rights and democratic principle is evident at unprecedented levels.

Democratic values have been weakened as the Coalition put human rights and social justice behind other priorities."


Fair Employers Scheme

Unions NSW has launched a ground-breaking initiative that will take the campaign into hitherto untapped areas of small business operators who want to give their employees decent secure jobs.

The fair Employers Scheme will see Rights at Work campaign committees around the state support businesses that to turn their backs on WorkChoices and AWAs.

There is a natural alliance between decent small business operators and workers - both victims of the ruthless power plays of the big corporates who view competition and respect as commercial impediments.

By supporting each other - by choosing to do business with the businesses that treat workers with respect - the scheme could provide a counter-balance to the seemingly compelling logic of dragging down wages and conditions to match competitors.

In this way, the corporate interests protected by our highest court could just come undone by ordinary men and women who are building a high road on the high street.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Here we go

A song by Clem Parkinson (2006)

play MP3 or

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go
With a roar that will sweep through the nation
United we stand and we know
We will never be denied

Strike a blow
Strike a blow
Strike a blow
Send the bosses to hell and to damnation
Like thunder our anger will grow
We'll make stand and build a land
That's free for ever

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go
With a roar that will sweep through the nation
United we stand and we know
We will never be denied

Strike a blow
Strike a blow
Strike a blow
Send the multis to hell and to damnation
Like thunder our anger will grow
We'll make stand and build a land
That's free for ever


This song began as a football chant sung to the tune of "Stars and Stripes Forever". It became the song of the striking miners in Britain in 1984 and has been rewritten here for the Australian battle against the Howard government's anti-union laws.

more IR songs at

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

High Court dismisses IR laws challenge

The High Court has dismissed the challenge to the Federal Government's workplace relations laws.

The states and the unions challenged the validity of the new laws, saying they were unconstitutional because they were set up under the corporations power in the Constitution.

However the High Court has found the laws are valid, and that it was appropriate for the Government to base its new laws on the corporations section of the Constitution.

The Court also rejected the challenges to particular sections of the Act.

Two of the seven judges, Micheal Kirby and Ian Callinan, dissented from the majority.

Justice Kirby, in his dissenting decision, said Work Choices should be declared completely invalid and declared the case important in the context of constitutional power in Australia.

"The majority concludes that not a single one of the myriad constitutional arguments of the states succeeds," he said.

"Truly this reveals the apogee of federal constitutional power and a profound weakness in the legal checks and balances which the founders sought to provide to the Australian Commonwealth."


Sunday, November 12, 2006

NSW: unions plan for green jobs

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson says the combination of environment targets and government purchasing policies would create massive job and export opportunities for NSW companies.

"We have the opportunity to generate smart, export industries by taking a lead on the environment," Robertson says.

Under the plan, NSW would be declared a carbon neutral state and take a lead role by installing solar panels in all NSW schools, hospitals and public buildings.

It would then use procurement policy to favour NSW suppliers, creating the required demand to build an export base in energy-efficient manufacturing, with centres of excellence based in regions such as Newcastle and Wollongong.

"This is the sort of smart government intervention that makes the most of our current challenges," Robertson says.

Robertson says the community fights against WorkChoices and climate change are fighting the same enemy, the Howard Government's support for big business over ordinary working families.

"Our current battle for Rights at Work has bought us closer to the community than ever before," he says.

"There is no doubt that, like the attack on workers rights, the issue of global warming is resonating in the community.

"Both our campaigns have a common theme: ordinary Australians taking a stand for future generations.

"And in both our campaigns, we are up against a Prime Minister who always puts the interests of big business ahead of the interests of the people he is meant to represent."


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Whither the architects of war?

One by one, they are falling victim to conflict they engineered. Bush and Blair remain - for now

Richard Armitage
Colin Powell's number two quit at the same time as his boss after the 2004 election.

Jose Maria Aznar
Spanish PM. Victim of Islamic extremism caused by war. Ousted after Madrid bombs.

Silvio Berlusconi
Big backer of the war, sending 2,000 Italian troops. Cost him his job as PM this April.

Tony Blair
In last year of premiership. Still insists war was right, but it will be his unwanted legacy.

John Bolton
The neocons' darling as ambassador to the UN. Infuriated Powell and Armitage.

Paul Bremer
Ran Iraq's civilian affairs after war. Crucially, disbanded Iraqi army. Seen as a failure.

George Bush
Iraq buck stops here. Has two years left in office with hostile Congress. Lame duck.

Alastair Campbell
Brilliant PR reputation lost in row over 'sexing up' dossier on case for war. Later quit.

Ahmed Chalabi
CIA adviser behind 'evidence' of weapons of mass destruction. Failed to win Iraq seat.

Arch neocon, and key foreign policy voice. Despite war fiasco, will remain Vice-President.

Iain Duncan Smith
Backing for war crucial. Limits Tories' scope to criticise now. Dumped as leader in 2004.

Jay Garner
US general supposed to lead the occupation. Replaced after a month as violence flared.

Lord Goldsmith
Friend of Blair. Despite doubts, eventually ruled war legal. Still Attorney General

Sir Jeremy Greenstock
As UK ambassador to the UN, tried to build coalition for war. Now works for think-tank.

Geoff Hoon
Loyal Defence Secretary demoted to be Leader of Commons. Now Europe minister.

Sir Christopher Meyer
Was UK ambassador in US. Currently heads PCC, press watchdog. Has become war critic.

Colin Powell
Secretary of State's February 2003 speech to UN making case for war was untrue. Retired.

Condoleezza Rice
Replaced Powell. No fan of Cheney-Rumsfeld agenda. But has never objected.

Donald Rumsfeld
Ruthless US Defence Secretary. Tried to redefine US Army. Paid with job for war fiasco.

John Scarlett
Allowed 'sexing up' of dossier making case for war. Reward? Promotion. Heads MI6.

Jack Straw
As Foreign Secretary, loyally backed Blair's Iraq strategy. His payback was demotion.

George Tenet
CIA chief called case for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction "a slam dunk". Sacked.

John Williams
Foreign Office spin doctor who wrote a draft of the WMD dossier. Now a freelance journalist.

Paul Wolfowitz
Deputy at Defence. Neo-con and intellectual force behind war. Went to World Bank.


Friday, November 10, 2006

15th year: UN condemns US blockade against Cuba

8 November: The United Nations General Assembly, for the 15th consecutive time and by overwhelming majority, passed a resolution condemning the U.S. blockade against Cuba and demanding that it be lifted.

The resolution obtained the support of one more country than last year, with 183 votes for, 4 against – the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands – and one abstention, Micronesia.

From 59 countries that supported the resolution in 1992, when it was presented for the first time, the number rose to 179 in 2004, 182 in 2005 and 183 this year.

On this occasion, Australia proposed an amendment (under guidance from the US government!) that was rejected by the General Assembly.

The approved resolution “once again urges States where laws and measures of this type exist and continue to be implemented that, in the shortest possible period and in line with their legal order, they take the necessary measures to abolish them or leave them without effect.”

The General Assembly reiterated that countries that adopt such sanctions are not complying with “their obligations according to the Charter of the United Nations and international law, which among other things reaffirm freedom of trade and shipping.”


Andrews puts jobs & livelihoods at risk

A new Federal Government ban on the content of common law agreements between workers and employers in the building industry is a dangerous expansion of the Howard Government's unfair IR laws and has put the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of construction workers at risk says the ACTU.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has unilaterally changed the Government's national code of practice for the construction industry to prohibit agreements containing important rights for workers including the right to attend union-provided health and safety training.

Commenting on the new ban, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

"This is a highly irresponsible act by Minister Andrews which threatens to undo months of co-operative work by unions and employers in the building industry.

Only recently the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Office of the Employment Advocate both certified that common law agreements approved by building workers and their employers complied with the law.

But within a few weeks, the Minister has unilaterally moved to change the law and ban agreements that contain important provisions such as prompt dispute settlement procedures involving union delegates, rights for paid leave to attend union-provided health and safety training, and rights for an internal review of dismissal decisions.

Companies that do not comply with the ban cannot bid for federal government funded construction work."


Howard: slow learner?

PM John Howard is one of the few commentators on the US elections to play down the role of the Iraq War on the Republican electoral defeat.

Is this just another example of his inability to admit he was wrong?
  • Howard was very slow to admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
  • He was slow to admit there were no children thrown overboard
  • He was the last to to acknowledge the war in Iraq had made the world less secure
  • He still shows extreme sluggishness about whether Global Warming needs to be tackled
  • He has yet to recognise that Nuclear Power remains more of a problem than a solution
  • Slow on water policy, slower on recognising Kyoto, going backwards on human rights. Slowly increasing interest rates and still refusing to recognise how damaging they are.
  • Slow to admit his IR laws affected the results of two State Elections and are likely to do same in a third.
Howard's slowness is largely the result of trying to permanently hitch Australia to the insane Bush bandwagon; in effect he has handed over all policy to a foreign power. More parrot than patriot!

Vic election: Coalition splitting on IR laws

Remarks by Nationals MP Peter Hall have shown a widening gulf between Victoria's conservative parties, with Liberal leader Ted Baillieu backing the IR reforms.

In an interview with the Australian Education Union journal, Mr Hall distanced his party from the Liberals, saying: "I think the new IR laws are a worry. I can understand teachers being nervous."

Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd applauded the Labor strategy of highlighting the federal laws, saying the reforms were deeply unpopular in the state, particularly among young working people.

He said he expected almost 100,000 to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a union protest rally on November 30, five days after the state election.

"We think we're on a winner in terms of what the public perception, especially in Victoria, is," Mr Boyd said.

"The IR laws are hurting, they need to go, and we think Bracksie is on a winner with it. It's not a matter of being desperate. I think it's good politics. There are lots of anecdotal stories coming through in terms of what's happening to young working people. A lot of young people are starting to hurt and I think a lot of parents are worried about what the legislation will mean for their kids."


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bush whacked!

09.11.06: Steve Bell on the US midterm elections

The Stress Position

October 23Illustration: Bruce Petty

Workers and homeowners hit: Howard happy, banks happy

John Howard was relaxed and comfortable. Homeowners mortgaged to the hilt were quite the opposite. The banks were preparing to rake in even more from us. And Treasurer Peter Costello seemed uncomfortable defending it all.

The Reserve Bank's decision yesterday to raise interest rates took no one by surprise. Governor Glenn Stevens flagged it even before new figures showed underlying inflation has edged just above the Reserve's target zone of 2-3 per cent.

We've all done our calculations, and know what it will cost us. For homeowners, mortgage bills will now rise by a quarter of a percentage point. The banks' standard home loan rate will jump to 8.07 per cent, its highest level since February 1997.

But then, households owed $195 billion on their mortgages. Now they owe more than $800 billion. Household incomes have risen 75 per cent, but mortgage bills have quadrupled.

This interest rate rise is going to hurt more people than any since 1994. The statistics show a rapidly rising number of mortgage defaults by borrowers, and repossessions as banks take over homes and sell them off.

In contradiction to Howard's public ravings about interest rates, Reserve Bank figures show that the effect of interest rates on households now, at 8 per cent, is very much higher than the effect on households when rates were 17 per cent under Keating.

The reason for this is simple. Household debt has almost tripled as a percentage of family income since 1989, when interest rates were 17 per cent. At that time housing interest payments made up 6.1 per cent of household disposable income. Now they make up 9.1 per cent of household disposable income.


US unions claim victory against Bush

We did it. We’ve made history. Working families have won back the U.S. House of Representatives, picking up at least 28 seats (13 more than we needed to win back control) and votes are still being counted in many races across the country. In the U.S. Senate, we have won back at least four seats with votes still being counted in two key races—Montana and Virginia—that will determine whether we win back the Senate as well.

Yesterday’s resounding victories are a testament to the power of ordinary working Americans working together to change the course of our country. We stood together and rejected the Bush administration’s agenda. We said no special favors to the privileged while blocking the minimum wage. No to lousy trade deals that have exported good jobs. No to privatizing Social Security. No to spending hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq while ignoring the war on the middle class at home. No to energy and health care policies that have fattened oil and pharmaceutical industry profits without helping working families.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Crocodile tears over Telstra jobs

The Australian Government are now shedding crocodile tears over Telstra job cuts which are a direct result of their own policies. The Communications Minister Helen Coonan and Western Australia Senator Judith Adams both expressed disappointment over call centre closures in Queensland which will led to the loss of around 180 jobs.

They said the job losses were regrettable but defended the Government's overall record of job creation, including the creation of employment opportunities within the telecommunications industry.

In fact, both these job cuts and the deteriorating working conditions in the industry generally can be laid at the Government's doorstep. As for claims that the Government had increased telecommunications employment during its decade in office, the figures tell a different story.

The Government says that there are now approximately 77,000 people employed in the telecommunications industry. But in June 1996, Telstra alone employed 76,522 with Optus employing another 4,000. Total industry employment was probably some 85-90,000. Yet the most recent survey identified 67,750 telecommunications workers. So where's the growth? said CEPU's Colin Cooper.

Difficult questions

Sunday, November 05, 2006

IR and Jobs: issue in Vic elections

More than 500,000 Victorians will have their working conditions protected by a standard to be introduced by the Bracks Government if it retains power.

Premier Steve Bracks yesterday promised a new pay and conditions standard to protect workers from the Federal Government's new workplace laws, which he said under- mined job security and work conditions.

The standard will guarantee rights such as annual leave loading, extra pay for working overtime, penalty rates and flexible family provisions.

Estimated to cover about 25 per cent of Victorian workers, it will be legally binding in workplaces not covered by federal awards, such as some charitable organisations, unincorporated sporting clubs and workers in partnerships.


Friday, October 27, 2006

42 steps to serfdom: What Price Security?

In their newly published short book What Price Security?, legal academics Andrew Lynch and George Williams point out that federal parliament has passed 37 laws dealing with terrorism during the past five years, an average of one every seven weeks. Another five pieces of legislation have been introduced. It is not, they argue, that new laws were not warranted but that we have overreacted.

Robert Menzies said as prime minister when introducing national security legislation in 1939: "The greatest tragedy that could overcome a country would be for it to fight a successful war in defence of liberty and to lose its own liberty in the process." As the book points out, Menzies ignored his own warning when, after the war, he introduced legislation banning the Communist Party and associations with it, though he was stymied by the High Court and a referendum. The anti-terror laws, argue Lynch and Williams, strongly echo that legislation.

They detail how ASIO's power to detain people is more extensive than that given to similar organisations in Britain, Canada and the US. Only in Australia can non-suspects be held in secret by an intelligence agency. Organisations can be banned not only for planning a terrorist act but for advocating one and people can be jailed for associating with such a body, even though they may disagree with what it says. The authors point out that control orders and preventive detention are a significant departure from accepted legal principles, such as not detaining people without trial or restricting their liberty without a criminal conviction.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Union win on minimum wage

The ACTU wanted $30 a week for about one-and-a-half million workers who rely on award pay rates.

The major employer groups wanted something in the region of $12 to $14.

The Fair Pay Commission delivered $27.36 a week, for workers earning a weekly wage of up to $700, just shy of the ACTU claim. It granted a rise of $22.04 to workers above this level and that equals a sizeable pay rise well above inflation for workers on the Federal Minimum Wage.

The unanimous decision by the commission is broadly in line with previous AIRC decisions on minimum pay and has angered the big employer lobbies.

The decision shows once again that the Howard government is becoming scared that it's draconian IR laws will see it booted out at the next election.

The coalition has discovered that the IR laws and the job insecurity they produce has made them unelectable at State level. They now fear the same voter backlash will hit them federally with only a year to go before the election.

Howard gave his game away when he described the decision of his hand picked commission as "a work of genious". Clear the decks, here comes an election!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

November 30: Take action all around Australia.

New Lapstone Hotel
15 Great Western Hwy, Blaxland

Katoomba RSL All Services Club
86 Lurline Street, Katoomba

Lithgow & District Workmen's Club
Tank Street, Lithgow

The Royal Hotel
Macquarie Road, Springwood

There will be rallies in all capital cities in Australia on Thursday November 30, and in scores of regional centres.

Stay tuned to the Rights at Work website for venue and time details!

Almost a year ago, hundreds of thousands of Australians took to the streets and filled community venues to show their disgust for the Howard Government’s legislation.
Ignoring popular opinion, the Government used its Senate majority to ram the laws through parliament.

Since the IR laws came in, wages have gone down while costs like interest rates and petrol keep climbing up. At the same time our job security has been undermined by the new IR laws, which attack the pay and conditions we all rely on.

As we count down to the next election, let's show the Government that we will never forget the human impact of their radical laws. and let's show both sides of politics that Australians will fight for our rights at work.

Howards culture war: next it's SBS

Howard loyalists are set to launch a scathing attack on multicultural broadcaster SBS and force it to answer accusations of blatant left-wing bias.

Influential Victorian Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson will lead the assault on SBS and its executives at a special Senate estimates hearing next week.

Senator Ronaldson, a key player in the Howard Government's long campaign against perceived political bias at the ABC, told The Sunday Age that SBS was "out of control" and needed to be reined in. "I am very concerned about SBS's impartiality and balance."


Friday, October 20, 2006

Forum: Leave Your Human Rights at the Door

The workplace in Howard's Australia
  • 6 pm Wednesday 1 November 2006
  • NSW Teachers Federation Auditorium
  • 23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills
A Forum jointly hosted by the NSW Teachers Federation, NSW Branch of the CFMEU (Construction & General Division) and The Greens NSW

  • John Robertson: Unions NSW Secretary
  • Bernadette Peters: Partner of one of the 107 WA workers being prosecuted
  • Andrew Ferguson: NSW CFMEU Secretary
  • Maree O'Halloran: NSW Teachers Federation President
  • Chris Harris: Greens Councillor City of Sydney
  • Julian Burnside: QC and Human Rights advocate (TBC)
Howard's workplace laws are a serious attack on civil liberties, as well as living standards. Special legislation has been introduced so government investigators can interrogate workers about union activities, without a right to silence.

Already 107 WA construction workers are being prosecuted. They face fines of $28,600 for defending their union delegate from victimisation.

Organised by:

Friday, October 13, 2006

Melbourne: Union Solidarity -- community unionism

We Stand Together!

Union Solidarity has only one reason to exist: to show no strings attached solidarity to unions and communities taking action in opposition to the Howard Government attacks on our rights. So far there are 8 local organisation covering the North, Northwest, West, South Eastern and Melbourne Central. More groups are being established all the time. The Melbourne Central group exists to resource the locals as they grow.

Helping unions and communities.
Each local is free to organise the appropriate response in their own area including.
  • Public Meetings to facilitate community concerns
  • Building new local branches across Melbourne suburbs and Victorian regions
  • Support unions taking action against wrongful dismissal in our neighbourhoods
  • Fundraising to keep the information flowing
  • Letterboxing in local areas
  • Building union and community local media profile
  • Providing resources such as food and shelter for picket lines
  • Acting as one link between communities, unions, Vic Trades Hall and the ACTU

Howard's Police State? Workers Lose Right to Choose Lawyers

The Federal Court has ruled a federal government agency has the power to prevent a worker it is interrogating from being represented by a lawyer of his choice.

CFMEU Construction Division National Secretary Dave Noonan said the decision showed how extreme the Howard Government's anti-building industry laws actually are.

"What the court has said is that a government official can deny a worker the basic right of choosing their own legal representative.

"The effect of this decision is that workers can be called before a secret hearing of Howard's hand-picked political appointees and forced to answer questions under the threat of six months jail - without a lawyer of their choice.

"This decision reinforces the repressive nature of these laws, which have been enacted with minimal public scrutiny or debate.

"These laws are bad for workers, bad for democracy and bad for the building industry, which has always thrived when employers and employees work together cooperatively," Mr Noonan said.


Iraq: The Killing Must Stop!

Around 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the US-led coalition invasion, according to the largest scientific analysis yet. That is 2.5% of the country's entire population.

The study was conducted by US and Iraqi scientists to determine how many Iraqis have died since the invasion in March 2003.

Gilbert Burnham and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, Iraq, surveyed 1849 households with a total of 12,801 inhabitants, in all but two of the 18 governorates across Iraq. The researchers asked about births, deaths and cause of death. They did not discriminate between civilian and combatants.

The death rate before the invasion was a fairly normal 5.5 per thousand people per year. Since March 2003, that figure has averaged 13.2, the researchers found. More worrying, the death rate has risen every year since the invasion: this year reaching 19.8 per thousand people per year, a near-fourfold increase over pre-invasion levels.

New Scientist

Guardian Unlimited

Monday, October 09, 2006

G-G blasts citizen tests

Former governor-general Sir William Deane has joined the attack on plans for citizenship tests based on Australian culture and values.

He said national values and principles should be discussed, but said they should not form the basis of citizenship tests.

And Australia's multicultural society should be seen as the nation's "greatest achievement", not "damned with lip-service while undermining the mutual respect which lies at its heart".

Sir William opened the National Civil Society Dialogue in Canberra yesterday, on the theme "What kind of Australia do we want?". He said there should be considerable public discussion on the identity and importance of national values, principles and characteristics in Australia. But the values should not be used for tests, such as the citizenship tests the federal Government has been considering for immigrants.

"There are values and principles of great importance, not so much for framing tests of exclusion from our society, but for defining and informing the standards and as reference points for the policies and actions of those within our society," he said.


Ruddock erodes rule of law

The NSW Law Society is disappointed by the comments made by the Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock MP which draw an inappropriate comparison between two distinctly different cases.

President of the Law Society June McPhie said the comments were entirely unnecessary and displayed an apparent lack of understanding of fundamental principles of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.

“David Hicks has committed no crime under Australian law and no lawful charges have ever been made against him in spite of being held in detention for nearly five years.

“The criminals to whom he has been compared were detained after being denied bail on serious gang rape charges. Unlike them, Hicks has been denied the opportunity to even apply for bail.

“The Law Society strongly agrees with the views of Major Mori that drawing comparisons between Hicks and gang rapists is a complete misrepresentation of Hicks’ circumstances.

“In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that the military commission process was fundamentally flawed and failed to contain important safeguards critical to the conduct of a fair and proper trial.

“Hicks is being detained under a system which contravenes the fundamental principles of the rule law and denies him the opportunity to seek his liberty through a court. If he had been charged in Australia, he would have had the opportunity to apply for bail."


WorkChoices: won't work and no choices

Legal academic Ron McCallum predicted the laws would be replaced as employers, workers and unions struggle with "a huge wall of law" running to 1700 pages.

"It is this very legal edifice which carries some of the seeds of its destruction," he told the NSW Law Society.

The dean of law and professor of industrial law at the University of Sydney said employers would resent being told what they could and could not include in workplace agreements, under new "prohibited content" rules.

"Employers will sidestep the laws and make their own private arrangements," he said.

"When laws are overly prescriptive, people usually bypass them in one form or another," he said.

Professor McCallum predicted the Howard Government would be engulfed by legal battles because its workplace laws had failed to consider international conventions on freedom of association signed by Australia in 1973.

A number of provisions were hurriedly drafted and likely to be declared invalid, he warned.

American employers would rightfully regard a list of prohibited bargaining matters imposed in Australia as a gross interference with their liberty to contract, he said.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews' spokesman said: "It's well-known that Ron McCallum is more comfortable in the company of the IR Club of the 1970s and 1980s, and we'd be staggered if he said anything different."

Howard takes up teaching!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Building workers face fines for defending workmate

Workers faced with fines of up to $28,600, possible jail sentences, no right to silence, secret police investigations and a ban on industrial action. This is not life in a third world dictatorship, but the daily life of Australian building workers in John Howard’s Australia.

In August, 107 building workers faced court for the first time. They face fines for allegedly taking industrial action in February this year to defend a sacked workmate. The case came as the result of two years of safety disputes on the Mandurah Rail Project in Perth. The builder repeatedly cut corners with safety and demanded excessive of hours of work. A union safety audit uncovered 80 breaches of safety laws, but nothing was done.

On February 24 safety delegate Peter Ballard was sacked because of his vocal complaints following a series of workplace accidents. Fellow workers took action to demand his reinstatement.

While the case was resolved and work resumed, the Government’s enforcers, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, decided to prosecute 107 of the workers who now face penalties of $28,600 each.

The draconian law they allegedly breached, the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act, was quietly passed last year. It meant workers questioned by the ABCC have fewer rights than murderers or rapists. There is no right to silence and not answering a question could land you in jail for up to 6 months. Any meeting not authorised in writing by all employers on site is illegal. Workers who take part can be fined.

The case will restart on November 1. Meanwhile the workers are seeking to build a united national fight against these unjust laws.

What you can do to help:

•           Attend the Penrith Community Meeting and help get rid of these unjust and unfair laws.

•           Send a protest email to the government:

•           Enrol to vote and get rid of these laws at the next election:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Costello dives again

Prime Minister-in-waiting, Peter Costello suits up for a mission that will prove his worth to the Liberal Party of Australia... and the Victorian Volunteer Coastal Patrol.


City tanks solution to wasted run-off

Melbourne's CBD buildings could collect 4.2 billion litres a year in rainwater if tanks were installed across the city.

With an estimated roof space of 8.5 million square metres, the CBD grid could harvest enough rainwater to fill 16 billion drinking glasses or 83,000 backyard swimming pools each year, according to calculations by environmental consultant Eric Noel.

Mr Noel's figures increased pressure on the State Government to force commercial developers to meet the same environmental standards as new residential homes. It is compulsory for new residential buildings to acquire a five-star green rating but the rule does not apply to commercial premises.

Environment Minister John Thwaites' spokesman said four-star ratings to new large commercial developments would be rolled out but he did not give a time frame.

And smaller commercial buildings, under 5000 square metres, only require a 3.5 star rating.

"Sceptics will come to you and say it is costly, Mr Noel said.

"We need to develop a will and behaviour change that says we cannot afford to have this water pouring down into our streets."


The Fox and the Subbies

With new laws looming for “independent contractors”, Foxtel subbies have had the carpet pulled from under their feet, writes Nathan Brown.

In 2003, Max Catania, a Foxtel installer was called in to "renegotiate" his contract with Siemens Thiess.

The offer on the table was the same for all techs - instead of being paid $43.93 per job, they would get $35.

Catania could not believe his eyes. He had been doing it tough since being retrenched by Telstra and having to become a contractor.

As part of cost-cutting during the 1990s, Telstra had sacked all its Foxtel installers, who were taken on as subcontractors by companies contracted to do their old work.

As a subbie, Catania found himself paying for his own workers' compensation, public liability insurance, petrol and equipment. Sick leave and annual leave had disappeared.

Now Telstra was demanding cheaper rates from its contractors and they were responding by slashing the earnings of subcontractors.

Catania estimated Siemens Thiess's offer would cut his income by $540 a week.

"We had to decide there and then, accept the contracts and accept the rates," Catania said. "There's always the threat of do it or you don't get any work."

But Catania was not alone. Other subbies were equally outraged.

"We were dying as individuals, it was just one person against these multinational companies," Catania said.

They took their anger to the union. Many had previously been members of the CEPU and now they felt they had no one else to turn to.

Through word of mouth, subcontractors were organised into taking a stand against the rate cut.

In NSW and Victoria, almost 200 subbies went on strike. They used their vans - which they were forced to buy when Telstra dumped them- to mount blockades against the telco.

Catania was amazed by the willingness of the subbies to band together.

"These companies put in a lot of effort making sure we can't contact anyone. They never have meetings where everyone is involved, and they divide us into teams and make sure one team never meets up with another team," he said.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Howard government "cash for comment" in higher education

When Brendan Nelson got a complaint from a constituent about the absence of right-wing views in a reading list for a history subject at Macquarie University, the Minister (for Defence, not Education) passed the complaint on to the University's vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz with an added handwritten ministerial note: "I am very concerned about this and I would appreciate your personal attention to these issues, which I find disturbing."

Over at The University of Melbourne meanwhile, the tune has a similiar sound. There, the piper -- Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis -- has been instructed by the government to remove three books on terrorism from the university library. To which the piper has replied that removing the books restricted legitimate research.

Australian Values: Ruddock's tortured view

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says the use of sleep deprivation to gain intelligence from terror suspects should not be considered torture.

Mr Ruddock's comments follow the passing of new laws in the United States that ban torture but allow interrogators to use aggressive interrogation techniques against terror suspects - including sleep deprivation.

Labor legal affairs spokeswoman Nicola Roxon says Mr Ruddock's comments could put Australia on a path towards using torture.

"It was an alarmist statement, as Mr Ruddock often likes to be, surely one of the values we do want to promote is humane treatment of all people, surely we can't afford to give that up or we have lost what we are actually fighting for."

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said the use of sleep deprivation was torture.

"Using ghetto blasters and extreme cold and light to keep prisoners awake for days on end is part of new torture techniques aimed to scar the mind but not the body," Senator Brown said.

"Philip Ruddock is dumping long-held Australian values."

Australian Values: Howard's record

After winning a Senate majority in the 2004 election, Howard announced that he would "be modest, even humble" in using his numbers. The track record since the government took control of the Senate in July 2005 tells a very different story.
  • The workload of the references committees has halved
  • Reference to the AWB scandle in Iraq: refused
  • Reference to aviation security: refused
  • Reference to cross-media ownership laws: refused
  • Workplace relations laws: forced through in record time
  • Terrorism laws: forced through in record time
Since July 2005, less than 1% of legislative changes proposed by the opposition and minor parties have been passed by the Senate, compared to 40% during the same period before the government gained Senate control.

Debate in the Senate has also been stifled with increased guillotine use. Even questions about the AWB scandle at Senate esimate hearing have been banned.

The government's attack on the Senate committee system come at a time when challenges like terrorism means decisions are increasingly made in secret and away from normal scrutiny. Such is the nature of Howard's "Australian Values" and of course his commitment to telling the truth!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Teachers May Remain Seated and Silent During 'Kimigayo' Anthem

The Tokyo District Court ruled on Sept. 21 that the Tokyo board of education's directive forcing teachers to stand for the Hinomaru flag and to sing the "Kimigayo" national anthem was both unconstitutional and illegal.

Hinomaru was legally defined as Japan's national flag, and "Kimigayo" the national anthem, in 1999.

In October 2003, the Tokyo board of education issued a notice ordering public school teachers to stand and sing the anthem at school ceremonies, such as graduations. Teachers who failed to do so would be disciplined.

But the Tokyo District Court said that forcing all teachers to stand, sing or play the song's piano accompaniment infringed on their freedom of thought and conscience.

Presiding Judge Koichi Nanba said that teachers are not obligated to follow the directive and should not face punishment for refusing.

The court also ordered the Tokyo board of education to pay the 401 plaintiffs ¥30,000 each as compensation for the mental anguish they experienced.

The ruling was the first clearly recognizing that forcing teachers to stand for the flag and to sing the anthem violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of thought and conscience.


AMWU: Radio ads

Temporary Skilled Migration Radio Ads

Click on the links to hear the AMWU's radio ads about the damaging affects of the federal government's exploitative temporary skilled migration visas.

Temporary Skilled Migration Radio Ad

Temorporary Workers on Low Wages Radio Ad

Lost Apprenticeships Radio Ad

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

If it's WorkChoices then it's no choice!

Australian chewing gum giant Wrigley’s has issued maintenance workers at its Asquith plant with AWA’s, after walking away from negotiations with the the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

AMWU Official, Michelle Burgess said:

“Wrigleys simply walked away from the negotiating table when workers would not agree to a massive wages cut.”

“The company claimed they needed to reduce costs to stay competitive and be more flexible. But they don’t have any competitors in Australia – they control the market!”

Michelle Burgess said that the company demanded:
  • Reduced weekend penalty rates
  • No more toilet and wash up breaks
  • Halving shift penalty rates
  • Reduced annual leave for shift workers
One Wrigleys worker said: “If this is what John Howard means by WorkChoices, then its no choice!”

“The company told us: ‘Either sign the AWA or keep our current Agreement - but you’ll never get another pay rise’. That’s not much of a choice.”

Friday, September 15, 2006

Howard apes Bush

Does this sound familiar?

President Bush and his allies in Congress have it in for working families. They’ve taken away overtime pay, refused to raise the minimum wage, given huge tax breaks to the rich and attacked our union rights. Now, the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is poised to broaden the definition of “supervisor” in a move that could rob 8 million workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The NLRB is preparing to rule on a series of three cases collectively called “Kentucky River.” It won’t be any surprise if the NLRB uses these cases to erode workers’ rights.

Under President Bush, the NLRB already weakened the collective bargaining rights of graduate employees, workers with disabilities and temporary workers. The Bush administration also stripped 40,000 federal workers of their freedom to form unions and is trying to take collective bargaining rights away from 860,000 more.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ACTU lays out collective bargaining vision

Launching the report and policy vision at the National Press Club today, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

"Unions are about protecting and improving the livelihoods and living standards of working Australians and that is what collective bargaining does.

We want to see basic employee rights and fairness returned to Australia's industrial relations system.

A central feature of our proposal is to ensure workers have the right to bargain collectively with their employer and that workers can have a collective agreement if that is what a majority of workers in a workplace want.

We want to enshrine democracy in our workplaces and restore the balance that has been taken away by the Howard Government's IR laws.

John Howard Government's AWA individual contracts are being used to drive down the wages and conditions of working Australians and they should be abolished.

We think Australia's work laws should support collective bargaining based on an obligation on unions, workers and employers to bargain in good faith with arbitration used only as a last resort.

The union proposal would no longer allow employers to lock out workers and refuse to offer anything other than individual contracts - as is increasingly happening under the current IR laws."


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Judge blasts Howard's IR laws

A judge has attacked Australia's tough industrial laws while dismissing a case of building workers who were paid while they stopped work to honour a dead colleague.

Federal Court judge Tony North said yesterday a section of the Workplace Relations Act stopping bosses paying workers in a safety audit was harsh.

"If penalties are imposed on employers who pay workers for stoppages which reasonable people would see as understandable and justified . . . the law itself will be seen to be out of step with reasonable community expectations," Justice North said.

He dismissed charges against builder B&P Caelli Constructions and two officials from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

The case was prosecuted by the building industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

It involved workers being paid for a stoppage in August 2003 after a worker died in Shepparton.

The ABCC pursued the builder for providing strike pay, and union officials for allegedly demanding the pay in breach of the Act.

CFMEU state secretary Martin Kingham said the ruling was a slap in the face for the ABCC and Federal Government.

Indigenous strike leader dies in Pilbara

An Aboriginal elder, who was one of the leaders of the first strike by Aboriginal pastoral workers, has died in the Pilbara, in north-west Western Australia.

Peter Coppin, often known as Kangushot, was one of the leaders of the 1946 strike by Aboriginal workers to protest against the conditions they worked under.

It was the first time there had been such a strike.

He was born under gum trees at the De Grey River in the Pilbara in 1920 and when he died yesterday, aged 86, he was the most senior lawman and Aboriginal leader in the Pilbara.

Former Western Australian premier Peter Dowding, who was a friend of the Indigenous leader, says the country has lost one of its heroes.

"Many people across the whole of Australia and indeed internationally will recognise the loss of such a great man," Mr Dowding said.

"He'll be remembered by the community at large for the great contribution he made over many, many years."

Mr Coppin's efforts eventually led to better conditions for Aboriginal workers and he was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1972 and was NAIDOC 2002 Elder of the Year.

Song: Clancy and Dooley and Don McLeod

Sell Howard not Medibank (2)

ACNeilson poll shows the Government's proposal to sell Medibank has attracted an emphatic thumbs down from voters.

Only 17 per cent of respondents support Medibank being sold. Opposition is stronger among minor party (77 per cent) and Labor (76 per cent) supporters. But 46 per cent of Coalition voters are also against the sale.

The increasingly jittery Howard government is to delay the sale of Medibank Private until 2008, Finance Minister Nick Minchin said today.

But on advice, it will hold off on the listing until after the next election!

Senator Minchin said the Government was committed to the sale and would introduce enabling legislation in October, which it try to force through parliament by the end of December!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Queensland vote: Howard IR laws on the nose

Labor's election win in Queensland proves voters do not support the federal government's workplace relations laws, Premier Peter Beattie says

"I think there is a message in here in terms of industrial relations," Mr Beattie said.

"And I say to the Prime Minister, Australians want a fair go in the workplace.

"They don't like their security of work being put at jeopardy and at risk.

"And if the Prime Minister wants to take something out of Queensland, and I hope he will, is that these laws of the jungle, these American-type industrial relations laws are not supported by the average Australian family."

Bruce Hawker - of the Labor consultancy Hawker Britton, and a key strategist in the campaign - said research showed industrial relations was an issue that would change votes if voters believed states were "in a position to do something about it".

"The Coalition couldn't agree on IR, and John Howard blocked the Coalition merger, announced he'd sell the rest of Telstra and had his promise of 'no banana' imports shown for its hollowness," Mr Hawker said. "That allowed us to focus our advertising on Beattie being the only leader willing to stand up to Howard on IR, interest rates and petrol prices."


Sunday, September 10, 2006

BMUC meeting

Blue Mountains Unions Council meeting
Sunday 10 September, 11am
Blackburn's Family Hotel
(next to the fire station in Katoomba)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Reply to Jackie Kelly

In Penrith Press, Jackie Kelly wrote "I know our workchoices legislation has offered some relief from union bullying but I think it didn't go far enough".

Undoubtedly the Howard verson of the nanny state where the Federal Government micro manages the relations between workers and their employers is more to her liking.

Where belonging to a union and taking action to defend working and safety conditions recedes into dim a memory of a bygone golden era.

Where the employer is relieved by law from any responsiblily other than making more dough

Where the immigration department evolves into a modern version of the "Blackbirding" systems of imported indentured labour so loved by the government's precursors in the 19th Century

Where the penal clauses against wage earners daring to stop work can result in fines that foreclose their right to own a house.

Jackie, the reason the government calls it WorkChoices is because it it offers no choice and it can't work! George Orwell called it newspeak, and everyone knows who the real bullies are.

Politics in the Pub: 7th October 2006

WorkChoices or No Choices?

Come for lunch, stay for the Forum

Community Forum about WorkChoices
Blackburn’s Family Hotel, 15 Parke Street, Katoomba

Speakers include:

Associate Professor Joellen Riley, author of a book, WorkChoices
Mark MacDiarmid, Senior Solicitor, Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre
Justice Paul Munro, former Senior Deputy President, AIRC, Sydney
Martin Cartwright, ‘Your Rights at Work Campaign’, Macquarie, Unions NSW

Further information:
Brett O’Brien 0413866520 Margaret McDonough-Glenn 0401385509

download flyer

Monday, September 04, 2006

Keep Medibank: sack Howard!

Despite growing community concerns, the Federal Government is steaming ahead with plans to sell Medibank, Australia's most successful 'not-for-profit' health fund. While big business is keen to get its hands on Medibank's $1 billion assets, there serious concerns the sale will reduce competition; putting pressure on premiums, jobs and services. At the very least, Medibank's three million members deserve a say in its future. If you agree, please complete the survey.

Did you know...

  • Medibank is Australia's only national health fund, with outlets in every state.
  • More than 3 million Australians rely on Medibank.
  • Medibank is a publicly owned, 'not-for-profit' company.
  • Under the current rules, any profits made by Medibank must be reinvested for the benefit of members.

Find out more at

Friday, September 01, 2006

18 September: John Pilger film: Palestine is Still the Issue

Palestine is Still the Issue,
Monday September 18, 7.30pm
Tris Elies nightclub, Katoomba

Green Left Weekly and the Blue Mountains Socialist Alliance are proud to present John Pilger's moving and topical documentary, Palestine is Still the Issue, at Tris Elies nightclub in Katoomba (next to the train station). The film will be followed by a discussion period.

Entry is $8 waged/$5 concession/ $10 solidarity price.

For more info, please phone Terry on 4787 7859 or John on 4782 6347.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Telstra: Howard's crossed wires

What was that about the Howard Government being a great economic manager? It has stuffed up the sale of Telstra from the beginning and there's probably more disarray and disaffection to come. The root cause of its mismanagement of the telco is clear: its obsession with privatisation for its own sake.

It's a mistake to imagine that Sol Trujillo and his amigos are a bunch of crazy Yanks who just don't understand the way the game works in Australia.

Equally, though Telstra's share price has fallen by about a third in the year or so that Trujillo has been in charge, it's a mistake to imagine he's been deliberately talking the share price down.

Trujillo has been doing just what he did as an American telco executive: whatever it takes to extract from the government and its regulators the best possible deal for his company. That's precisely why Telstra's board hired him. It has been doing just what Telstra has always done: fighting to protect its monopoly privileges.


Unionists rally in solidarity

Tuesday 29th August 2006 6:30 pm EST

The ABCC's prosecution of 107 workers for alleged unlawful strike action will return to the Federal Court for further directions on October 18, after Justice Robert Nicholson held a preliminary hearing in Perth today.

Defendants and their supporters overflowed from the court room and into the waiting area this morning as the hearing of Hadgkiss v Aldin & Ors began at 10am Perth time.

The defendants are required to lodge their defences by Wednesday, November 1.

Only 75 of the 107 workers who allegedly took unlawful industrial action have been served with writs so far, according to the ABCC. The union, however, says 74 have been served. Some 73 are represented by solicitor Jeremy Noble, while barrister Kevin Bonomelli appeared for them in court today. One individual is self-represented.

Unions this morning marched and rallied in Perth before the hearing, with ACTU president Sharan Burrow and other senior union officials and state and federal ALP figures addressing hundreds of people at the Perth Concert Hall.

In Melbourne, hundreds rallied outside the Federal Court at lunchtime, where they were addressed by ACTU secretary Greg Combet, VTHC secretary Brian Boyd, CFMEU Victorian branch secretary Martin Kingham and AMWU Victorian branch secretary Dave Oliver. Combet reiterated that the 107 had the full support of unions.

In Sydney, some 500 people rallied at Trades Hall where they heard speeches by Unions NSW secretary John Robertson and CFMEU construction division national secretary John Sutton, before binding 107 of their number together with chains before marching on the ABCC's premises at 133-145 Castlereagh St.

Other rallies were held in Adelaide, Canberra and Wollongong.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Gunns' thrown out of court

Justice Bernard Bongiorno has rejected Gunns’ third statement of claim in its entirety. The company has been given until 19 October to tell the court if it will try to introduce another statement of claim.

In the Victorian Supreme Court, Justice Bongiorno said that the statement of claim 'cannot be allowed to stand in its present form’. Its size and complexity places an unreasonable burden and enormous cost on individual defendants.

Defendants cautiously welcomed the decision, but pointed out the unfairness of the process. Nearly two years on, after huge expense and anxiety, the case is no further advanced and Gunns still has the option to make a fourth statement of claim.

Justice Bongiorno said the company referred to an overarching conspiracy against Gunns, but resorted to using "weasel words" like "campaigner", "coordinator" and "protest activities" that didn't specifically allege anything.

In his judgement he said that "it's fundamental to the proper conduct of civil litigation that defendants are entitled to know the case against them with precision".

Outside court, Greens Senator Bob Brown welcomed the decision. "This has been a huge burden on people who should never have been treated this way by Gunns, which meantime is continuing to not only destroy the ancient forests and wildlife which ought to be protected forever for this nation, but with a pulp mill in line, flag their intention to continue the enormous injustice of destroying Tasmania's, Australia's prime forests and wildlife for decades to come."

Support the 107

Friday, August 25, 2006

Letter to the editor: Jackie Kelly not above law

Liberal MP Jackie Kelly has taken political spin into overdrive in an attempt to justify her husband's refusal to obey workplace safety laws and his violent attack on a union safety officer who exposed the breaches. ("Don't bully my spouse", Sun Herald 20/8/06)

While she makes no mention of her husband's unprovoked tirade of abusive language and his violent assault, she accuses the 64 year old union safety inspector of "bullying".

Ms Kelly also failed to explain why her family should be able to refuse to install scaffold or rectify a dozen safety breaches on the multi-million dollar mansion they are building, despite every other Australian builder being required to.

Jackie Kelly and her family are not above the law. While we the people pay her generous salary, she and her husband have an obligation to provide a safe workplace as required by law, and not to use violence, threats or public smears to avoid safety laws.

Jackie Kelly must learn that safety should always be a priority and that putting a workers' live at risk to save money is never acceptable.

Andrew Ferguson
CFMEU NSW Secretary
12 Railway St, Lidcombe NSW 2141
(02) 9749 0404 - 0412 511 994

Keep Telstra, sack Howard!

August 13 Illustration: Bruce Petty

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fixing the WorkChoices Mess

In an era of free market extremism, the state systems form a buffer, not just for the workers they protect, but for the ideas behind them. As WorkChoices strip back rights and conditions, the NSW IRC is delivering minimum wage increases, maintaining harmonious work relations and enforcing its legislative mandate to put fairness in to the workplace.

As State Labor Government's around the nation are discovering, these systems are one of their strongest assets in laying out their credentials to govern.

Cashing these in for a shot at running the national economy is a big gamble. Yes, you may gain power for a few terms, but then the pendulum swings back to the Tories the entire population will be at their mercy. Why would unions prefer hedging on the state systems where they have had far more electoral success?

Think of some of the recent advances from workplace surveillance protection to gender pay equity - devised in NSW, trialled here, then refined and adapted in the other states. Conversely, conversion of casual employment to secure work has been won at a federal level and then applied by state jurisdictions. The advances have ebbed and flowed between systems, but they have all been in a positive direction.

In this context it is easy to see why big business wants to see an end to the state systems where workers rights have been seeded and nurtured. Understanding the union movement's readiness to give them away is harder to fathom.