Saturday, March 24, 2007

NSW Election: IR laws keep Libs out again

At 42% of votes counted it looks like the ALP is set to retain power with 11 seat majority.

A major feature in this State election was the issue of the Federal government's draconian anti-union industrial relations laws. This has been an issue in 21 State election over the past 10 years and is one of the reasons that Labor has won in every state and territory.

A win for Labor in NSW represents yet another defeat for Howard. Bring on the federal election where Howard's IR laws will be an even bigger issue.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Howard's version of mateship

Last week's appointment of former senior private secretary to John Howard, cabinet secretary and now company director, Paul McClintock, as chairman of Australia's biggest private health insurer, the Commonwealth Government-owned Medibank Private.

Just by-the-by, McClintock is also chairman of Symbion Health, a company with extensive interests in private health care, health centres, radiology and medical imaging, pharmaceuticals and other health products like vitamins.

The controversy over the appointment of Howard adviser and close confidant Geoff Cousins to the Telstra board late year - just ahead of its going out of majority government ownership - is another example of this increasingly common phenomenon.

This put the Government into conflict with another of its past appointees, and now Telstra chairman, Donald McGauchie. The former National Farmers Federation chief, a central player in the 1998 confrontation with the waterfront unions, was placed on the Telstra board shortly after that dispute, only a day before the 1998 election was called.

Tony Clark, a former NSW managing partner of KPMG and personal friend of John Howard, was another Telstra board appointee. Clark was also put on the Australian Tourist Commission (now Tourism Australia), of which he is now deputy chairman under former National Party leader and deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer.

Meanwhile former Liberal party NSW state director Scott Morrison was managing director of Tourism Australia from 2004 to last year, when he fell out with Minister Fran Bailey and departed. (In December he returned to a political role as campaign director for NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam.)

Of far wider consequence is the Reserve Bank board. The controversy around the board appointment (and subsequent resignation) of South Australian businessman and Coalition donor Robert Gerard - despite his company having been in a fight with the Tax Office, later settled for $150 million, over a Caribbean tax haven.

But there have been others, including former WMC chief executive Hugh Morgan, whose company donated heavily to the Liberal Party, as well as the ubiquitous Donald McGauchie.

Former Commonwealth bank chief David Murray, an outspoken public supporter of Government policy and the Prime Minister during the last election, was appointed to head the Future Fund, which will invest billions in retained surpluses on behalf of the taxpayer.

Professor Ian Harper, a public supporter of Government policy and former business partner of former Liberal party treasurer Ron Walker in an online banking venture, heads the Government's Fair Pay Commission, which determines the minimum wage.

Graeme Samuel, appointed head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in 2003, was treasurer of the Victorian Liberal Party in the early 1990s.

Another old Howard friend, George Weston Foods chairman John Pascoe, was in 2004 appointed Chief Federal Magistrate. George Weston had been a large donor to the coalition parties.

A more recent appointee to the federal magistracy is John O'Sullivan, formerly a senior adviser to former workplace relations minister, Kevin Andrews, and an industrial officer with the Metal Trades Industry Association and the NSW Farmers' Association

If John Howard did happen to be beaten at the end of the year, he will be leaving a network of appointees in powerful positions as a legacy that could outlast him for some time.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Tristar: pictures at the gallery

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has stepped up a campaign to embarrass an Adelaide businessman locked in a bitter industrial dispute with Sydney workers.

Outside the South Australian Art Gallery, the AMWU displayed pictures of 29 TriStar staff embroiled in a fight over redundancy entitlements.

Andrew Gwinnett, chairman of TriStar's parent company Arrowcrest, is on the art gallery's board.

AMWU official Tim Ayres said the company had cut 90 per cent of its workforce. Those remaining had an average of 31 years' service.

If Tristar held out until next year, these workers would get a maximum 12 weeks' payout instead of four weeks for every year.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Howards mud bucket

March 14Illustration: Michael Leunig

International: Unions fight private equity scams

Likened by some to a plague of locusts, private equity funds have emerged as major owners of companies in the IUF and other manufacturing and service sectors. The top global buyout funds now control more overseas assets, and employ more workers, than the traditionally ranked leading TNCs.

Trillions of dollars in recent years have gone into acquiring, restructuring and disposing of the companies, often with a catastrophic impact on employment and working conditions. With 2007 now being talked about as the year of the hundred billion dollar "deal", leveraged buyouts cast a long shadow over our sectors and the global economy as a whole.

Unions internationally are now responding and fighting back. The IUF has opened a new web site - Private Equity Buyout Watch - to strengthen our collective response. On the site, you'll find news of private equity developments and acquisitions in the IUF sectors, reports on union campaigns, organizing and bargaining strategies in response to leveraged buyouts, and updates on key developments in the campaign to contain and roll back private equity through political and regulatory tools.

You can visit the IUF's Private Equity Buyout Watch at

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Katoomba: Sharan Burrow speaks

Join ACTU president Sharan Burrow at a Rights at Work event in the Katoomba

Upper Mountains Rights at Work Community Meeting - all welcome
7.00pm, Wednesday 14th March
Katoomba Bowling Club
Dora Street, Katoomba

As you are aware, the Howard Government's new workplace laws have taken away protection from unfair dismissal, and allowed wages to be cut through the introduction of individual contracts, which can remove fundamental workplace rights such as penalty rates, shift allowances and overtime.

The most vulnerable in our community are the young Australian workers who are now forced to sit down and negotiate for their first job with an experienced employer. We can't sit back and watch over one hundred years of hard fought for rights and conditions disappear.

If you would like any further information about the event or about the Your Rights at Work Campaign, please contact
Daniel Walton on 0413 232 018
or email

Monday, March 12, 2007

Howard: election strategy backfires!


Kevin Rudd and the ALP have reached unprecedented heights of popularity while the Howard Government's support is sliding, according to a new poll.

The AC Nielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers today, shows Labor would easily win an election on a two-party preferred vote of 61 per cent to the coalition's 39 per cent.

The result shows a three point swing to Labor over the past month and reveals the government's concerted attack on Mr Rudd's integrity and judgement has backfired.

see also

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day: 8 March


The theme for IWD 2007 is Valuing Difference / Leading Change. This theme encompasses those achievements that women in NSW have made towards championing diversity, leading the community towards respect and responsibility, and exploring new directions in innovation.


Blue Mountains City Council
Ms Kerry Mumford 4780 5744
Celebrating Women's Strengths & Achievement


News from LabourStart:
According to a new report issued this week by the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation, thanks to the Howard government's labour laws, not only is Australia at the bottom of the OECD countries in terms of workers' rights, but women workers are hardest hit. Since the introduction of anti-union legislation, women's wages have actually fallen by some two percent.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Howard government caves into Qantas selloff pressure

Unions and shareholders are worried the debt-based takeover consortium could renege on its promises and send jobs overseas.

Doug Cameron from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) says the Qantas takeover is a "crook agreement" that does nothing for Australian workers.

"It is simply about political spin, to give the impression that the Howard Government is doing something about jobs and employment," he said.

"In fact they are doing nothing, the document delivers nothing and it is a complete nonsense to try and argue that this document does anything to support families and the community that depends on the income from Qantas workers' jobs."

The Shareholders Association chairman, Stephen Matthews, says the Federal Government could exercise its ultimate power over Qantas.

"We all know that Singapore Airlines is very interested in the Australia-West Coast USA route that is said to be very profitable for Qantas and the Government controls who comes in and who flies those sorts of routes," he said.

"If Qantas don't play their part, there's always that hanging over their head."

Polling of voters in Coalition-held marginal seats released last month shows strong public opposition to the proposed sale of Qantas to local and foreign private equity interests.

The polling shows that high levels of community concern over the impact of the sale on Australian jobs, rural and regional airline services and safety standards mean that 79% of voters say they oppose the sale of Qantas.

Commenting on the polling ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said: "The Australian community are extremely concerned about the impact of the proposed sale of Qantas on jobs, services and safety standards.

"They want the Government to stand up for Australian jobs, and apply conditions to any sale of Qantas.

"The Australian public is sick and tired of the Howard Government sitting back and making excuses while more and more Australian jobs and businesses go overseas.

"The Federal Government can and must impose strict and enforceable conditions on the takeover or stop the proposed sale of Qantas. The Government needs to act to prevent aircraft maintenance services jobs going off-shore; protect airline routes and services to regional Australia; and stop customer service jobs in Qantas also being sent overseas.

"All of the national interest issues surrounding the Qantas sale need to be examined by a parliamentary inquiry," said Mr Combet.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


a poem by Phyl Lobl March 2007

I’d like to see the Barrier Reef and Lake Eyre in full flood,
I’d like to see the Back O' Bourke and so would Mr Rudd.

The Back O' Burke is pretty big, the mud there black and thick,
And when its thrown at anyone, be sure such mud could stick.

Mud that oozes, you cannot grab it, once its oiled and stirred by Abbot
And fired off by that other fellow, what’s his name? Oh yes, Costello.

Abbot and Costello, pit bulls with poison feelers
No need to call the other dogs the Peter Reith Rottweilers.

These two chew reputations beyond all recognition
They’ll have their fun, score grubby points, ‘gainst those in opposition.

‘Tell the truth’ says Honest John, putting Kevin on the spot
But could Johnny recognise the truth ? On evidence ...... could not.

Back to Burke, it seems to me Burke has more front than back,
With dead-ends,side-tracks, fashion flaws but friends he doesn’t lack.

Yes the Wild West is truly named, poor Rudd’s been burnt & how,
He’s no longer bright and shiny, but ..... he seems more normal now.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Howard fiddles while Holden burns

While John Howard and his cronies dig around for more dirt to throw at opposition leader Kevin Rudd in the desperate hope that something sticks, in the real world GM Holden has sliced a further 600 assembly workers, or 15 per cent, from its Elizabeth plant to "bring output into line with demand", despite a bumper month for the car industry.

March 5Illustration: Bruce Petty

Keating takes on "the dessicated coconut"

Former prime minister Paul Keating today spoke out in support of Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd, who is under pressure from the government over three meetings he had with Brian Burke in 2005.

John Howard has attacked Mr Rudd over three meetings the federal opposition leader had with the former Labor premier in 2005.

Mr Keating referred to Treasurer Peter Costello as "all tip and no iceberg" and John Howard as a dessicated coconut.

"The little dessicated coconut is under pressure and he is attacking anything he can get his hands on," Mr Keating told ABC radio.

Mr Keating said the Liberal Party was in no position to complain about Mr Burke.

"Have a look at all the bag men in the Liberal Party, for God sake. If you applied the sanitary test to those guys, I mean no minister would do any business in this country," he said.


The Age Poll 05/03/07

Has Kevin Rudd's reputation been tarnished by his meetings with Brian Burke?

Yes - 18%
No - 82%

Total Votes: 1906

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Rudd: "Bring it on!"

John Howard has ordered his minister Senator Campbell to fall on his sword, so he can continue his attacks on opposition leader Kevin Rudd.

Mr Rudd says the Prime Minister is desperate to do anything he can to hold onto office and is targeting him because he realises the Australian people are warming to Labor.

"This decision by Mr Howard reflects a new level of political desperation, as he senses a changing mood, electoral mood right across Australia," he said. "That's what all this is about.

"I say this to Mr Howard - bring it on, bring it on now, bring on an election now and let the Australian people decide."


ACTU president Sharan Burrows has launched the union movement's latest assault on federal workplace reforms, saying new figures show workers are being hurt by the laws.

In a new advertising campaign being launched tonight, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) says workers are losing award conditions, overtime, penalty rates and shift allowances through the Work Choices laws.

Ms Burrows pointed out that the escalating scandal over disgraced former West Australian premier Brian Burke coincided with the one-year anniversary of the controversial industrial reforms.

"What I would say is the government is obviously is looking for a distraction.

"Today we have released an ad that is based on their own figures which shows that working people are being hurt, they are losing award conditions, take-home pay through the loss of overtime, penalty rates, shift allowances, even rest breaks are going."