Thursday, September 27, 2007

Unrecognised maritime history

World Maritime Day, 27 September 2007

By Mick Doleman - MUA Assistant National Secretary

Maritime Day is a time to reflect on our collective and individual roles in the very noble industry of seafaring. It is also time to reflect on the largely unrecognised role seafaring has played in our history, our economic development, the defence of our nation, national security and the environment

"It is a strange irony in Australia - an island nation surrounded by water that relied so much on ships and seafarers in its settlement and the opening up of regional areas before roads or rail existed and then, even in the early days of road and rail, an enormous reliance on shipping to assist in our rural and mining sectors - that shipping has such a small recognition of the role it played in the development of this country.

"In the United Kingdom, England "ruled the waves". They celebrate heroes of the sea, sea battles, sea voyages - the sea and seafaring is on the school curriculum and is an iconic part of English history.

"Yet in Australia the heroes of our country are Burke and Wills, Lassiter and Leichhardt. Our focus seems to be inland on the exploration and opening of this great nation and our exploits at sea and the role of seafaring in the development of this country are basically ignored and rarely recognised."


Carmen Laurence valedictory


Dr Carmen Lawrence addresses a rally about the Chinese government"I have been horrified over the time that we have been in opposition and the Howard-Costello government have occupied the opposite benches that they so blithely involved us in the illegal invasion of Iraq, sanctioning the deaths of many thousands of innocent bystanders. Over four years ago, the government joined with the United States and sent our soldiers to invade Iraq. They made a fateful decision while many of us said that they should desist. A lot of Australians protested, multitudes marched and the majority of us made our opposition clear. But we were ignored and derided by the government and their supporters, and the Howard government took us to war.

As many anticipated, Iraq is at a stalemate. The war has not yet ended and it shows no sign of diminishing in intensity. The PM's 'months not years' promise looks as foolish as Bush's 'mission accomplished'. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands have died, and the cycle of revenge killings has escalated. Bloody suicide bombings are daily events. More than a million people have been displaced within in Iraq, and double that number have fled to neighbouring countries. Ethnic strife is rampant. Children die in droves from preventable diseases, as basic services have been reduced to a primitive state. There are reports today of an outbreak of cholera which has already killed 10 people. The US's own agencies agree that regional instability is worse and Iraq is now spawning a new generation of Islamic radicalism. As we told the Prime Minister at the time, war is not a solution. I say to the Prime Minister, his cabinet and his members today: you were wrong-appallingly, brutally wrong.

I have been dismayed, too, that on so many fronts the Howard-Costello government capriciously withdrew our support for good international citizenship; that they engineered and justified the brutal treatment of asylum seekers, including little children, and washed their hands of the deaths of over 300 people on the SIEVX; that they surreptitiously endorsed the Hanson agenda; and, I have to say, continue, as one editorial put it, 'to hector minorities for political gain'. The Howard-Costello government knew which buttons to push and had no compunction about pushing them, despite the potentially damaging consequences to our social fabric. I have disagreed with the government too when they have systematically singled out Indigenous people for 'special treatment' to pressure them to assimilate into the mainstream. We have just witnessed in the Northern Territory and indeed have been debating another 'instant solution' devised without reference to Indigenous people and without enlisting their engagement. They are to be the objects of policy again rather than its subjects; their agency is denied.

Like many Australians, I have objected to the Howard-Costello government habitually construing disadvantage as resulting from individual moral failing and acting accordingly; that they have been relentless in their attacks on organised labour, so important to protecting the wellbeing of Australian workers; that they have systematically bullied critics into submission, narrowing the sources of advice to government, stacking boards and committees with fellow travellers, politicising the public service and misleading the public on so many occasions that we have lost count; that they have dramatically shifted the provision of health, education and social services toward private consumption and undermined the core of our egalitarianism; that they continue to pay lip service to the very real threats posed by global warming and; that, frankly, they could not give a stuff about the cultural life of the nation."


Monday, September 24, 2007

WorkChoices actors

Monday, September 24, 2007.

Business Coalition uses crims in dirt ads

Horace, the TV critic of ancient Rome, once wrote: "Mutato nomine de te fabula narrator." ("Change the name and the story is about you.")

He’d probably been watching WorkChoices ads. As The Age reported, the "union thugs" gracing our televisions are actually real life criminals, hired by the Business Coalition for Workplace Reform.

That’s right. The three CFMEU droogs who burst into a dress-making firm intent upon ultra violence include Brendan Piper, imprisoned for drug trafficking and possession and crimes of violence and dishonesty, and a certain Mark "Porky" Lesser, previously convicted for drug offences. According to The Age, they’d been recruited after the ad’s makers trawled pubs searching for "rough"-looking types.

The campaign was commissioned by the Business Coalition for Workplace Reform, which turned to "no dirt from me" John Howard's research and polling firm Crosby Textor to produce the ads.

Why should we be surprised? Historically, union-bashing companies have often used the services of bashers of a different kind. Think of the balaclava-clad goons during the MUA dispute. The railway tycoon Jay Gould, who surely would have found a job for Porky Lesser somewhere in his operations, explained the principle with refreshing honesty.

"I can hire half the working class," he said, "to kill the other half."

The TV campaign against unaccountable unions was always bizarre, given that trade unions are subjected to far more democratic controls than almost any other institution in society today. How many of the employers represented by the Business Coalition face regular elections like union officials? How would they react to bringing major decisions to mass meetings of delegates?

Actually, we know the answer to that one. Here’s a report from a few years ago about the response of the Business Council of Australia (a Business Coalition member) to the token democracy of shareholders' meetings:

Under a new code of conduct, released today by the Business Council of Australia, shareholders deemed to be "insulting" or "aggressive" can be turfed out of meetings by security guards. The rules also put an onus on Chairmen to discourage and curtail "irrelevant" questions, with relevance defined by the Chairman.

As for construction workers as mindless goons, we might recall the crucial role builders labourers played in the early gay liberation movement, well in advance of the chattering classes. Or that the term "green" as a reference to the environment came from the conservation campaigning of the NSW BLF in the early seventies.

In those years, the BLF adopted radically democratic practices (constant mass meetings, limited terms for officials, etc). And how did the employers react?

Melbourne Uni’s Verity Burgmann explains:

The green-ban movement collapsed in 1974 when the federal branch leadership of the BLF under Norm Gallagher removed the New South Wales branch leadership. This "intervention" was justified on the grounds that the New South Wales branch had overstepped the bounds of traditional union business; it was carried out to the approval of property developers, conservative politicians and the media, who had tried unsuccessfully in so many ways to intimidate the New South Wales branch into dropping its green-bans. Overstepping the bounds of union business had constituted a genuine threat to the developers; Norm Gallagher was their man of the hour.

As is Porky Lesser today.


and also

Lame Duck AND Goose for sale!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kim Beazley: Democracy Needs Unions

In his valedictory speech to parliament Kim Beazley mounted a spirited defence of the role of the union movement.

"The union movement's now being abused up hill and down dale by employers in advertising that you see on your television every night and it's being abused up hill and down dale by our political opponents in this place," he said.

"But understand this: when you wish to assault democracy, first you attack the unions. When you wish to restore democracy, first you start with the unions.

"It is no accident that the opposition in Zimbabwe now is led by the unions.

"When you undermine unions, you undermine democracy in the workplace, then you will undermine democracy in the nation overall.

"First you destroy the unions, then you destroy democracy."

Kim Beazley's Labor colleagues, some of whom were moved to tears by the speech, gave him a standing ovation.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and former Liberal Party director Andrew Robb watched the speech from the government benches, which were otherwise almost deserted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Unemployed or out of work?

The statistics reveal that we have half a million young Australians with no full-time job or full-time course of study. These are Bureau of Statistics figures. By August, the number had edged down to 492,000. But that means one in six of our young people, 17 per cent of the rising generation, have fallen off any career path into a more uncertain future.

Of them, 221,000 are working in part-time jobs, and half of them want full-time work. Another 98,000 are unemployed. And 173,000 are outside the labour force: two-thirds of them are women, and one assumes, mostly mothers. For some, falling off a career path will be the best thing that ever happened to them. In adversity, they will find themselves and come out stronger, more mature and motivated. But they are a minority.

It began in 1996, when the Coalition cut more than $1 billion a year from labour market programs, taking the axe to Working Nation, the network of training schemes set up by Mike Keating, former head of the Prime Minister's Department (no relation to former prime minister Paul). Even in 1993, Keating was thinking ahead to the time when Australia would be held back primarily by a shortage of skilled workers. Working Nation was designed to retrain the long-term unemployed with the skills the country would need when good times returned. But the Howard Government scrapped them.

Its own initiatives had little or no training content. It relabelled trainees as "new apprentices" and for years engaged in futile spin to hide the fact that trade apprenticeships were stuck at low levels as the trades workforce aged. It introduced work for the dole on the cheap as a program with no training; its participants saw little improvement in their job prospects. In this decade, skills shortages have spread, as Keating foresaw, and the Government has gradually introduced reforms to encourage trade apprenticeships, and employers have had to swallow their reluctance to hire. Between 2001 and 2006, the numbers entering trade apprenticeships swelled by two-thirds, from 36,000 to 60,000. But the pay is still lousy, the image is not the best, and half of those who start don't finish. Only 25,000 graduated last year. The problem is that federal spending has not targeted areas of skills shortage.

Rather, "training" supermarket checkout operators was given equal priority with training plumbers. Similarly, its spending on schools is not going where it is needed. This year $5.8 billion will go specifically to independent and Catholic schools, but only $2.5 billion specifically to government schools, where two-thirds of students go, and which have most of the problem children.


Wattyl be our Rights at Work?

"The workforce at Wattyl's plants in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth have told management they want them to show they respect their workers - but the company just doesn't want to listen," LHMU Assistant National Secretary, Tim Ferrari, said today.

"Wattyl is insisting on AWA individual contracts for all new starters. It seems to be a take it or leave proposition.... they have no choice as to whether they do or do not accept . It is probably a condition of employment that they sign AWAs."

Long standing union collective agreement rights threatened

Tim Ferrari pointed out that Kenny Caines, a longstanding Wattyl paint worker in NSW, told the Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey at a face-to-face meeting in the Minister's Canberra office that paint workers are angered by these AWAs being forced on new employees,

"Kenny told the minister that not one member of the current workforce was happy with the introduction of AWAs because they fear that it will undermine the long-standing union collective agreements with the company, which have been in place since for at least the past decade, " Tim Ferrari said.

Wattyl joins militant minority of employers running over the rights of working Australians

"Resolutions have been passed by union members asking Wattyl to withdraw the AWAs. LHMU members believe that this is a breach of good faith by Wattyl when there was a longstanding union collective agreement in place."

"Wattyl has been a traditionally strong union workplace with good management-employee relations but - in an atmoshphere created by a hostile Federal Government - now the company has decided to join a minority prepared to use tactics to run over the rights of working Australians," Tim Ferrari said.

Protecting our children and grandchildren

"No wonder we're asking Wattyl be our Rights at Work - and what will be the rights at work for our children and grandchildren if these tactics spread to other workplaces."


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Climate Change & the Nuclear Option

Professor Ian Lowe:

"Energy is essential for civilised living, but the current approach of basing our energy-intensive lifestyle on fossil fuels is unsustainable. We need to make fundamental changes if our society is to survive.

The nuclear option does not make sense on any level: economically, environmentally, politically or socially. It is too costly, too dangerous, too slow and has too small an impact on global warming.

That is why most of the developed world is rejecting nuclear power in favour of renewable energy and improved efficiency.

We should be a responsible global citizen and set serious targets to reduce our greenhouse pollution, but we should not go down the nuclear path.

The rational response to our situation is to combine vastly improved efficiency with an investment in renewable energy technologies."


Professor Ian Lowe is the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation and author of the latest Quarterly Essay, Reaction Time: Climate Change & the Nuclear Option.
The essay will be launched by Robyn Williams at the Brisbane Writers' Festival on Saturday September 15.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sign AWA, lose third of pay!

A new government-funded report released today confirms that Australia's 1.7 million retail and hospitality workers have been hit the hardest by the introduction of the WorkChoices IR laws, with some workers losing up to a third of their incomes.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“This report is further proof that ordinary working Australians have suffered massive cuts to their pay and conditions under the WorkChoices IR laws and it underlines the importance of voting to get rid of the Coalition Government at the coming federal election.”

The study by the University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre found that some liquor store employees had lost up to 31 per cent of their take home pay, while many who work in bakeries and fast food outlets had seen their wages fall by up to 25 per cent.

The report analysed all 339 collective agreements in hospitality and retail from Victoria, NSW and Queensland that were lodged with the Office of the Employment Advocate between ‘WorkChoices’ taking effect on March 27 last year and December 8.

It found the big losers under WorkChoices were workers on non-union job contracts in the retail and hospitality sectors, with:
  • 80 per cent of these agreements removing annual leave loadings,
  • 79 per cent dropping laundry allowances
  • 76 per cent no longer containing Saturday penalty rates
  • 71 per cent removing Sunday penalty rates.
  • 68% removing overtime rates,
  • 60% axing public holiday penalty rates
  • 55% removing paid meal and rest breaks.
The study found that workers in retail had their pay cut by between 2% and 18% on average and hospitality workers lost between 6% and 12% on average.


Master Builders' Association's IR madness

The CFMEU dismissed the Master Builders' Association's (MBA) construction industry IR blueprint as the work of extremists.

Under the plan, the Howard Government's extreme Australian Building and Construction Commission would be given new powers to arrest construction workers.

CFMEU construction division national secretary Dave Noonan said that the industry blueprint was further evidence that the Master Builders' had moved to the fringe of the IR debate.

'It is plain that this so-called blueprint will hand employers the tools to slash construction workers' wages and conditions through intimidation and stand over tactics,' Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan said that if the MBA were serious about the future of the construction industry, they would tackle the outstanding problems of safety, training and the lack of worker entitlement protections.

'In an industry where a worker dies on average every week, threatening workers with fines and imprisonment is not the way to create a safer and more productive workplace.

'It's time that the MBA start getting serious about collaborating with workers to address the real problems in safety, training and worker entitlement protections to shape a better future for the industry, for workers and employers.'

Nurses campaign against WorkChoices

As part of their Nurses Rights at Work: Worth Fighting and Voting For campaign, the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA), Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) and Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) branches in Victoria, South Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory has, in Sydney, launched a hard-hitting series of new television advertisements outlining the negative impact of the Howard Government's industrial relations laws (so-called WorkChoices) on aged care nurses and services. ANF Tasmania will launch in Hobart.

The WorkChoices laws now cover more than 100,000 nurses in nearly all aged care facilities, private hospitals and private practices around the country. They also cover public hospital nurses in Victoria, ACT and the Northern Territory. The Howard Government is now also seeking advice on bringing all State government employees, including public hospital nurses, under WorkChoices.

The TV-ad launch will be part of the NSWNA's Aged Care Nurses Forum, being attended by more than 50 aged care nurses from across NSW and senior nursing union officials from around the country.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Howard tries to block broadband plans

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Protecting Services for Rural and Regional Australia into the Future) Bill is set to be passed by the Senate this week, and will prevent Labor from accessing the AU$2 billion Communications Fund.

Under the legislation, political parties will only be able to spend the interest on the fund -- estimated at around AU$400 million every three years. If the present government retains power, the sum will be used to implement responses to the government's telecoms review board.

Labor plans to spend $4.7 billion on a fibre-to-the-node rollout, which it says will cover 98 percent of Australians.

Shadow Minister for Trade and Regional Development Simon Crean recently described the Howard government's decision to lock down the Communications Fund as "desperate" and "a cheap political stunt".

"The government's plan to use just the interest from the Fund will not secure fast, affordable broadband for regional Australia. The government's Bill will deny the full use of the Fund for the purpose it was intended. It will only hide their own incompetence in securing regional broadband," he said in a statement.


Privatization: Plunder dressed as common sense

coming up:

The right-wing ideologues ... have been in the ascendant for 30 years. This has led to a constant pressure to sell off basic public infrastructure, assets and services. These had been created over a century of nation-building by earlier generations of politicians who regarded their obligations to the citizen as more important than commitment to the currently fashionable economic ideology.

Unlike new industries that involve a measure of risk-taking, these industries are mature, already well-run and very low risk because they involve necessities and are often monopolistic in character, and offer huge opportunities for exploitation.

The object now is for managerial capitalism to provide princely rewards to its participants for such services, while convincing the rest of society that these rewards are appropriate compensation for their fictitious risk-taking. This and subsequent generations will pay the price for this triumph of vacuous ideology over common sense.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ear infections destroying Aboriginal children

coming up:

Widespread ear infections among Aboriginal infants is creating "catastrophic" learning and development problems that have been largely ignored for 50 years, a surgical leader, Chris Perry, said.

More than 90 per cent of Aboriginal children suffered from ear infections, which often caused hearing problems leading to illiteracy, truancy and unemployment and in turn triggered drug abuse and violence, Dr Perry said.

Dr Perry, who is the chairman of the Queensland branch of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said the incidence of ear infections among Aboriginal children was the worst in the world.

Despite this, he said, there had been no commitment of sufficient long-term funding to combat the problem - which he said was "widespread, catastrophic socially and an indication of poverty".

The failure to deal with the problem, which could be easily fixed, was "a national shame", Dr Perry said, urging Labor, if it won federal government, to commit to combating the disease.

"What we have found … is that close to 100 per cent of Aboriginal children have ear infections by three months of age and in Caucasian children you almost never see them starting so young."

ACF & CFMEU tell Howard: sign Kyoto

coming up:

Australian Conservation Foundation Executive Director Don Henry and General President of the CFMEU Mining and Energy division, Tony Maher, today called for Government and Opposition to commit to:

1 Set science-based, legislated targets to cut greenhouse emissions
2 Substantially increase the existing mandatory renewable energy target
3 Join the international effort by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol before the end of 2007

“It’s taken an issue as pressing and potentially devastating as climate change to get ACF and the CFMEU to stand together on the same platform,” said ACF’s Don Henry.

“Strong binding targets, guided by the best available science, are vital if we are going to protect future generations from dangerous climate change. Australia can show leadership by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol before the end of this year – and encouraging the USA to do the same. Australia is missing out on billions of dollars because it hasn’t ratified.”

“Emissions trading will not be enough on its own to drive the scale of investment that is necessary to clean up our energy economy and address the threat of dangerous climate change,” said the CFMEU’s Tony Maher.

“A regulatory mechanism is essential to secure sufficient investment. Substantially increasing the mandatory renewable energy target will lower average emissions – it’s critical and it’s supported by mineworkers.

“The Government’s decade of denial and inaction is the real threat to coal miners job security. The coal industry is going to have to clean up its act if it is going to have a future in a low carbon economy. That means billions of dollars of investment by mining companies in new technologies. We’re ten years behind where we should be.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

Politics in the Pub: 2 films

Blackburn’s Family Hotel, 15 Parke Street, Katoomba
Sunday, 23rd September 2007, 2.00 pm

(download A4 Flyer) (download small Flyer)

This Politics in the Pub sees the launch of two documentary films:

"In 1929 one of the darkest chapters in Australian industrial history was written in blood and bitterness on the Northern Coalfields of NSW …"

Presented by award-winning actor Chris Haywood, LOCKOUT re-tells the miners' story and how community anger lead to the violent battle of Rothbury, when police fired on unarmed miners, killing one and wounding many.

The film you must see before the next election!

A documentary exposing the activity of an industrial inquisition targeting building workers across Australia. "Constructing Fear" shows how these workers are the front line in an attack on civil liberties that has implications for every Australian.

Guest Speakers include:
Bob Debus, Labor Candidate for Macquarie
Greg Hall, Producer of Lockout

Further information:
Brett O’Brien 0413866520 or

Friday, September 07, 2007

Postal workers get say on EBA

On Monday, 3 September, The Australian Industrial Relations Commission approved the CEPU's application for a Protected Industrial Action ballot.

The Union has gone to great lengths to genuinely negotiate with Post management. In the end, this ballot for industrial action is the last step our members can take to get heard. By taking action, we want to secure an improved offer that: Sees a lift in the first year wage outcome - reflecting the fact that Post has dragged out the talks while our members have had to deal with rising costs of living and interest rate increases

  • Saving penalty rates and protecting members' take home pay by providing an enforceable solution to Post's manipulation of member start times to avoid paying penalty rates
  • Arbitration-protection for all of EBA7, not just the parts that management allows arbitration on
  • Stopping Post's selective interpretation of WorkChoices that remove job security clauses on franchising and contracting out.
  • The secret ballot of all Australia Post EBA CEPU members nationwide will be the first major test of the Howard Government's IR Laws' ability to allow concerned workers to take protected industrial action in favor of a new collective Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

    The ballot will be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission.

    The ballot will open on the 14th September 2007 and close on the 26th September 2007.


    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    Report fingers ideology in WorkChoices

    Workplace Industrial Relations on the Eve of Work Choices, a national survey of 2170 enterprises by Sydney University's Workplace Research Centre, found 3 per cent of businesses experienced industrial disputes in the 12 months to April 2006.

    In workplaces with more than 100 staff, 13 per cent reported industrial trouble. The study also found 64 per cent of managers and proprietors had "good" or "very good" relations with unions, while 4 per cent were dissatisfied.

    "The obvious conclusion to draw is that Work Choices is driven less by concrete problems and more by ideology," the report's co-author, Dr John Buchanan, told the Herald. The study, conducted with the business rating agency Dunn & Bradstreet, found that 87 per cent of all workplaces and 50 per cent of workplaces with more than 100 employees were non-union.

    Dr Buchanan said Work Choices had benefited mainly executives, restoring their "managerial prerogative" by reversing a 100-year trend in which managers and staff shared authority.

    "Once employers have experienced power in the form of increasingly unrestricted managerial prerogative," the report says, "this support [for Work Choices] is likely to solidify."


    APEC fencing

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    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    No to AWAs: Foster's brewery

    On September 3 a large majority of the 280 workers employed by Foster's Yatala brewery near Brisbane, Australia voted to reject the non-union agreement that the company is trying to impose using the Howard government's anti-labour WorkChoices legislation.

    Besides denying workers their fundamental right to be represented by their unions for collective bargaining, Foster's non-union contract would pay Yatala workers up to 35%
    less than their colleagues at unionized Fosters facilities in Australia.

    For more information, and to send a message in support of the union struggle, click here

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Kath and Kim take on WorkChoices

    Protest at APEC: STOP BUSH

    When: Saturday 8 September 2007
    Time: 10 am
    Where: Sydney Town Hall

    Rally against the war, APEC, global warming and war criminal number one: George W Bush. Stand up for civil liberties, human rights, and social justice.

    This is a major opportunity for anti-war activists and campaigners, for ALL who participated at the largest anti-war rally in Feb 16 2003, to come on board and join this major protest.

    Join the Anti-War Block, bring your placards, banners, drums, and voices. Lets make the ANTI-WAR BLOCK the major force behind this protest, one that the global anti-war movement can feel proud of!!

    For more info: -
    For publicity material - posters, flyers; and media: Alex 0413 976 638


    Blue Mountains action Sunday, September 9

    Civic Place North Katoomba, outside Blue Mountains Council offices, - just over the highway from Katoomba railway station. 12.30pm till 4pm. Alternative wet weather venue in the nearby Masonic Hall. 12.30 pm: free entertainment and open microphone - have your say.

    2.30 pm to 4pm -- Showing of the film "Think About It" (for those who are worried about where the world is headed) at the Masonic Hall followed by discussion with the filmmakers.