Friday, June 29, 2007

'save the Aboriginal children' blitzkrieg

The first Howard Government Budget 1996-7 removed $400 million from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. In 2004 he abolished the Commission in its entirety.

Howard claimed he was going to solve the practical problems which prevented Indigenous people taking their place in modern Australia. He claimed he would end “dependence on welfare”. Howard attacked those he accused of promoting a black armband version of history. He refused to say “Sorry” to the stolen generations. He consistently argued that issues of symbolic importance to Indigenous people paled into insignificance when compared with his determination to seek practical solutions to the problems facing the Aboriginal community.

Confronted by the Wik High Court Judgment he launched his 10 Point Plan attack on Native Title legislation in order to give pastoralists and miners “certainty”. He eroded some significant autonomy promoting provisions of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act. He has criticised legal recognition being given to customary law and bilingual education.

He, assisted by his Minister Mal Brough, has coerced some Indigenous communities to sign over their communally owned land to 99-year leases. At the United Nations he has opposed efforts to recognise Indigenous self determination. He claims to have set out to mainstream the administration of Indigenous affairs.

In this, his 11th year in office and in the run-up to the next election it is timely to review his progress towards practical reconciliation. This is all the more relevant now as he has just launched his “save the Aboriginal children of the Northern Territory” blitzkrieg. Soldiers and police are being rushed into Indigenous communities as the vanguard to doctors and child protection officials who will follow.

The reality on the ground

Indigenous Australians are dying on average 17 to 20 years earlier than other Australians. And it has been like this during his entire period in office. At every stage of life Aboriginal people experience more illness and injury than other Australians. Indigenous Australians are considerably more likely to live in over crowded housing than other citizens: 15 or more people to a dwelling is the rule in many Aboriginal townships across northern Australia.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cochlear workers demand union coverage

An industrial row is brewing in Prime Minister John Howard's Bennelong electorate where hundreds of Cochlear Ltd plant workers are holding out for a union-sponsored agreement.

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said the workers at the Lane Cove manufacturing plant were being denied the right to choose to be represented by their union in wage negotiations.

"An overwhelming majority of the 300 mainly female migrant workers have indicated their preference to be represented by the AMWU (Australian Manufacturing Workers Union)," Mr Robertson said in a statement.

"Despite this, Cochlear will tomorrow force them to vote on a non-union agreement that removes family friendly provisions among other rights at work."

Mr Robertson said the workers had already voted against the company's non-union agreement once but Cochlear was demanding a second vote to exclude unions.

"The example of Cochlear workers clearly shows how the prime minister's Work Choices laws actually prevents choice in the workplace," Mr Robertson said.

"In the case of these workers, they have clearly stated their choice for union representation, but the company has just ploughed on with an anti-union agenda.

"These are vulnerable workers, many of whom speak limited English and they joined the union so that their rights at work would be protected.

"Mr Howard's laws have taken away their advocate in the workplace and tipped the balance too far in favour of the employer.

"These workers love their jobs and are proud of the good work Cochlear does - all they want is for their choices to be respected."


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dean Rioli: Howard's latest stunt

Is John Howard looking for another rabbit in a hat? The cynics believe the PM is so desperate to find something to stop his poll troubles, he's looking for another Tampa – children overboard – to capture the electoral middle ground. Known as a cunning politician, his latest stunt has all the hallmarks of a politician pinning his hopes for re-election on being depicted as a man of action dedicated to protecting children. Dean Rioli, the ETU's indigenous apprenticeship officer had this to say: Click here to hear what Dean had to say when Phil Cleary popped a few questions.

Public sector wage freeze slammed by unions

Unions are refusing to rule out strike action after the NSW State Government announced a wage freeze for public servants.

Pay increases will be capped at 2.5 percent.

But unions argue employees will need almost double that amount to keep pace with their private sector colleagues.

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson says the freeze is ridiculous.

“A government that’s looking to maintain service levels and attract people into these areas of nursing, education and other areas of health, is going to struggle if they’re not paying increases that keep up with market rates,” Mr Robertson said.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Macquarie Rights at Work: Winter Magic!

More Howard trickery

There's no evidence that dealing with addictions and sexual abuse through legal, criminal or administrative systems alone works. It might help alleviate some physical injury and perhaps prevent a small amount of abuse, but it doesn't address the emotional and mental turmoil that gave rise to the behaviour in the first place.

By contrast, Native Canadian communities in crisis with sexual abuse have turned the issue around in 10 years by community-led action, by government being prepared to listen to and trust local community leaders, and by supporting communities themselves to make the abuse of alcohol a socially unacceptable behaviour. But to think that forcing such programs on anyone will work is stupid. This is a Government too hungry for power and control, and prepared to ignore evidence to use it.

Research strongly shows that programs developed by indigenous people themselves are the ones most likely to work. The NT report called for a diverse approach, and called for education services to deal with grinding poverty. How can Aboriginal children be forced to school when in many cases in the NT there are not the schools or teachers to educate them properly? Howard's response is to assume total control and make it look as if he's dealing with root causes. Instead, all he is doing is window-dressing the symptoms and blaming Aborigines, as if they're all criminals.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lawrence on CFMEU's McDonald

Jeff LawrenceThe CFMEU is a strong union and they need to be, Jeff Lawrence, ACTU Secretary-elect and LHMU National Secretary said tonight.

"This union represents workers in an industry where one worker on average dies every week," Lawrence said.

"Issues relating to the ALP membership of individual union officials are ultimately a matter for those individuals and the ALP.

"The ACTU believes that all unions and union officials should conduct their activity in a manner consistent with community standards.

"In this context, the video footage of CFMEU official Joe McDonald which has been aired on national television in recent days does raise some obvious concerns.

"The matters to which these alleged incidents relate are currently before the court and Mr McDonald should not be pre-judged. Like all Australians, Mr McDonald should be entitled to a fair process and a fair hearing.

"Mr McDonald has indicated today that he does not intend to resign from the ALP. In this context he also has certain rights in relation to his ALP membership. That is why his membership of the ALP is properly a matter for him and the ALP.

"Members and officials of the CFMEU are not the only people in the building and construction industry who swear.

"But the CFMEU and other construction unions are the only organisations in the industry which will independently stand up to protect and improve the health and safety, and the rights and entitlements of building and construction workers.

"The ACTU continues to support the CFMEU in campaigning to get rid of construction industry laws which allow workers to be sent to jail for taking industrial action or refusing to answer questions from Government officials.

"These laws are undemocratic and unjustified."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Telstra: staff must learn to bully!

Telstra has been accused of bullying staff and setting punishing sales targets to cut costs and increase efficiency.

A former Telstra team leader has told Four Corners that a management course instructed her to label union delegates as "dragons", inefficient employees as "submarines", and workers with a perceived negative attitude were to be called "savages".

Sales targets for call centre operators also doubled in one year and every minute of their shift was monitored.

In an interview to be aired at 8:30pm tonight, the former Telstra team leader says she quit when she realised she was bullying employees.

"That was just part of it and that was the way of the future," she said.

"My style was bullying because I had no choice, because if I wasn't doing it, I'd be getting it from up above, from my boss."

A Telstra executive has said the organisation must be run like a dictatorship if it is going to increase its efficiency.

In May, chief operating officer Greg Winn told a business meeting that the company had to be ruthless and underperforming employees had to be "shot" to get them out of the way.

"It's a cultural issue," he said.

"If you can't get the people to go there, and you try once, and you try twice - which is sometimes hard for me, but I do believe in a second chance - then you just shoot them and get them out of the way."

Politics in the Pub: Rod Brooks Memorial

[photographs courtesy Barbara Roberts]


Howard's taxpayer funded party

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Privatisation of Education: Politics in the Pub

Blackburn’s Family Hotel, 15 Parke Street, Katoomba
(download A4 Flyer) (download small Flyer)
Blue Mountains Union News: Jun 2007

Saturday, 16th June 2007, 2.30 pm

The Privatisation of Education

Education is an important part of our community, but increasingly
government sees it as just another business. Find out what economic
rationalism is doing to schools and TAFE, locally and across Australia,
and find out what you can do about it.

This Politics in the Pub is a must see event for every parent, student
and educator in the Blue Mountains.

Speakers include:
Angelo Gavrielatos, Australian Education Union (AEU) Deputy Federal President
Janice Frape, Blue Mountains P&C
Local TAFE Students

Further information:
Brett O’Brien 0413866520 or

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Canada: Unionism a human right

Supreme Court of CanadaCanada's Supreme Court has endorsed collective bargaining as both a human and a constitution right. It is thought that the decision (excerpts below) represents the strongest support for collective bargaining ever to come out of a Court.
  • "The right to collective bargaining is a fundamental right endorsed by the members of the ILO in joining the Organization, which they have an obligation to respect, to promote and to realize in good faith."
  • "The right to bargain collectively with an employer enhances the human dignity, liberty and autonomy of workers by giving them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work."
  • "Collective bargaining is not simply an instrument for pursuing external ends... rather [it] is intrinsically valuable as an experience in self-government."
  • "Collective bargaining permits workers to achieve a form of workplace democracy and to ensure the rule of law in the workplace."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Collective Bargaining: OK for business!

Federal Government advertisement June 12 2007:

Collective Bargaining
making it easier to do business

Collective bargaining enables businesses of all sizes to work together co-operatively.
Small businesses can benefit by joining together to negotiate with a larger business, who is their common customer or supplier. Larger businesses can find it more efficient to negotiate directly with a group of small businesses rather than each small business individually.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Howard's nuclear emission!

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Union campaign: 'Hands Off Aussie Post'

CommSec says the Government could get up to $7 billion from the sale of Australia Post.A bizarre finance sector plan to sell Australia Post to help fund a national response to climate change seems to have run out of puff, for now.

"Dealing climate change demands a comprehensive response - not a band aid solution that prompts a fire sale of public assets like Australia Post," said CEPU Communications Divisional Secretary Ed Husic.

"While the Federal Government has today said it has "no plans" to sell Australia Post, we need to make sure they don't embrace a change of heart after the election.

"We think rural and regional Australians need to make sure their local MPs and candidates commit to vote against any Coalition plans to sell this national asset in the future.

"Our union will be approaching these MPs and candidates calling on them to stand by their local communities who want to ensure their local postal service won't be sold off.

"Australia Post is already using elements of the Federal Government's WorkChoices laws to contract out or privatise their Post Offices via franchising.

"We think it's time that any plans to privatise Post by stealth are stopped dead in their tracks.

"During the previous successful community and union campaign 'Hands Off Aussie Post', the Australian public took a strong view on privatisation and deregulation.

"After a massive reaction from customers - particularly those in rural and regional areas - the Federal Government backed off plans to deregulate Post.

"They should heed this warning if they are toying with ideas to privatise Post."


Howard's 'fairness' will cost you $25,000

Greg Combet  AAPACTU President Greg Combet has slammed the government's new fairness test as a farce, with claims unhappy workers will be forced to go to the High Court.

Anyone wishing to question a ruling on their AWA individual contract would have to lodge an appeal - costing them up to $25,000.

"An ordinary person may be earning fifteen or sixteen dollars an hour, feeling that they've had to sign an unfair individual contract and the only you can have it reviewed is to go to the High Court and maybe pay ten thousand dollars a day on lawyers fees - it's impossible," Mr Combet said.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mabo: 15th anniversary

In the early 1970s, Eddie Koiki Mabo, a Murray islander of the Merriam people in the Torres Strait, was astonished to hear that he and other islanders ‘were technically trespassers who could at any moment be legitimately driven off the Island’. Mabo could not accept that anything ‘as obvious as his property rights’ could be so thoroughly and comprehensively ‘disregarded by the white man’s law’.

Mabo’s determination led to a ten-year legal battle against the Queensland government to reclaim ownership of his property, and that of other Murray Islanders. Mabo’s actions resulted in the High Court of Australia findings in 1992 that native title was not necessarily eroded through European settlement and that terra nullius, the concept of an uninhabited continent, was a legally flawed assumption and had no basis in the determination of Australian land tenure.

While the High Court’s was a high-point for indigenous land rights, others were not so sure. The day after the announcement of the High Court case, John Hewson, then leader of the Liberal Party, promptly declared that the court’s adjudication was ‘a day of shame for the Australian Parliament’ and that there would be people ‘all over Australia who are significantly worse off’. The National Party’s Tim Fischer scorned Aborigines stating that they ‘had not even invented the wheel’.

The conservative backlash was harsh, and as Mabo’s legal representative, Bryan Keon-Cohen stated, it was ‘as if the propertied elements of this country believe the High Court was there to protect their rights and deny anyone else’s ability to challenge those rights, even if those rights were founded on a legal fiction’.