Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Howard legacy: narrower broadband!

The Howard Government's broadband plan offers sparse coverage and in some cases is less than half as good as the Government claims.

The Institute of Public Affairs says the Government's plan for rural Australia is likely to cover ten kilometres from a transmitter rather than their target of up to 20 kilometres.

The report states there is a need for a fibre-optic network as Labor proposes, but it criticises both parties for failing to adequately plan for the future.

Labor's communications spokesman Stephen Conroy says the Coalition's plan is a scandal.

"No matter how hard John Howard and Helen Coonan try to rewrite the laws of physics they just can't," he said.

"This is the second independent report that has stated that you can not transmit broadband to nearly half the places using the Government's wireless broadband that John Howard claims."

Mr Conroy says the objectivity of the report further proves the Coalition is promoting something it cannot deliver.

"This isn't a Labor Party think tank, this is the conservative Institute of Public Affairs who have supported the Howard Government through 11 long years," he said.

20 per cent renewable energy by 2020

Kevin Rudd has announced Labor's renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020.

Green groups have welcomed the announcement and say Labor's target is better than the Coalition's, not only because it is 20 per cent not 15 per cent but also because it does not include clean coal.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says the target will not cost jobs.

The CFMEU's Tony Maher says employers are relaxed about the Opposition's plan.

"That's what they tell us privately, they're relaxed about emissions trading. Really it's political scare campaigning by the Government," he said.

"You've got to bear in mind the energy growth between now and 2020 will be between 30 and 40 per cent so there's plenty of room for various energy sources."

Chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Dominique La Fontaine, says there will be more industry development under Labor's target.

"It's 15,000 gigawatts more than Liberal Party policy, that's a significant difference and it's the kind of economy of scale that we need to develop the industry and to bring the cost down so that the technologies can compete. Good cheap clean power for Australia," she said.

Howard legacy: run down education

"The legacy of the Howard/Costello partnership is one of broken skills and wasted opportunities," said AMWU National President, Julius Roe.

"We trail the OECD on many key indicators relating to education and training. The last decade has been a decade of neglect.

"The proportion of Australian adults with at least upper secondary education is now below the OECD average;

  • A very high proportion of the existing working age population (50.1%) have no post school qualifications and that proportion is higher than the most productive economies;
  • Australia ranks near the bottom of the OECD in terms of the growth rate of science and engineering graduates;
  • Our national investment in early childhood education is well below the OECD average.
  • Despite the long economic boom, participation rates in Australia are far too low when compared to the most productive economies;
  • There are still more than 11% of the workforce who are either unemployed or underemployed;
  • The number of existing workers completing higher level VET qualifications has declined significantly in the recent years.
  • Despite the millions of dollars that have been ploughed in to VET the qualification completion rate in the 15-24 cohort is estimated to be 23.7%;
  • Completion rates for traineeships are very low and completion rates for apprenticeships in the key trades have declined significantly during the last decade;
  • Levels of public investment in all levels of education and training are well below the leading economies and have been declining at the very time that other leading economies have dramatically increased their investment.

"We call on Mr Howard to put the interests of Australia first and to stop undermining state based public training institutions such as TAFE. He should be reversing the funding decline that he has been responsible for now that he is apparently awash with taxpayers money.

"An investment in TAFE education and training infrastructure would be less likely to put upward pressure on interest rates and would be a far more effective contribution to alleviating skills shortages than this drip feed of Technical Colleges and American style Military Academies." Mr Roe said


Howard legacy: destruction of manufacturing

An official Federal Government briefing paper predicts that an extra 33,000 jobs will be shed from manufacturing over the next five years (source: Australian Jobs 2007, DEWR).

This is on top of the 108,000 jobs the sector has already lost under the Howard Government since 1996.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence will meet with workers at the Holden plant in Elizabeth, SA. He said:
“John Howard and Peter Costello have a terrible record of failing to support Australian manufacturing.

“More than a hundred thousands jobs have gone from the industry under their watch and 33,000 more are set to go in the next few years if the Liberals and Nationals are re-elected.

“South Australia alone has lost nearly 11,000 manufacturing jobs under the Howard Government.

“Instead of providing secure, well-paid jobs for Australians in a globally competitive manufacturing industry, the Howard Govt has focussed on slashing workers’ wages & conditions through Work Choices.

“John Howard and Peter Costello have stood by while local businesses have gone broke or have been forced to move offshore.

“If the Coalition is re-elected there is a real danger that Australia’s manufacturing industries including the all-important car and auto component sectors will lose critical mass and shrink to an unsustainable level.

“Communities that have relied on manufacturing to provide decent job opportunities for local families need to stand up in this election and vote to prevent the rising tide of job cuts and gradual loss of Australian businesses overseas.

“Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s unequivocal commitment to saving and extending our national manufacturing capacity, including a green car innovation strategy, is very welcome,” said Mr Lawrence.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Howard not trusted on IR

John Howard cannot be trusted on industrial relations and there is no doubt the Liberals will take Work Choices further after the election, the ACTU said today.

Mr Howard’s statement today that the Govt has ‘completed the process’ of Work Choices is simply not believable.

A Government document prepared by the Department of Workplace Relations (DEWR) shows that a re-elected Howard-Costello Government would expand the Work Choices system to the entire workforce.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
“John Howard didn’t tell the Australian public about Work Choices before the last election and he cannot be trusted on industrial relations in this one.

“Peter Costello is on the record as saying he wants to make further cuts to workers’ unfair dismissal protections — beyond the 4 million workers who have already lost protection under Work Choices.

“Major business groups, including the National Farmers Federation are also calling for the ‘fairness test’ to be scrapped after the election,” said Ms Burrow.

Howard legacy: 2.2 million in poverty

Australia has recorded 15 years of almost unbroken economic growth. In fact, from 2001 to 2006, growth averaged 3 per cent a year — well above the average rate of economic growth in the OECD. Yet new figures released recently by the Australian Council of Social Service reveal that a staggering 11 per cent of Australians live below the poverty line set by the OECD. This equates to about 2.2 million Australians (including 412,000 children).

Disturbingly, the data shows that over time the divide between the "haves" and "have nots" has become a gulf. In 2003-04, there were 9.8 per cent of Australians living below the poverty line. Ironically, for a country that prides itself on a "fair go", our nation is becoming more unequal as each year passes.

Sadly, this latest data comes as no surprise to the Victorian Council of Social Service, Melbourne Citymission or other community service organisations across the country. Research published this year as part of the Australia Fair campaign found one in 10 Australians struggle to make ends meet.

Howard's scare campaign failing

Voters in critical NSW marginal seats are ignoring the Coalition's expensive anti-union fear campaign.

They are moving to Labor, even when they have respect for their sitting Liberal MP.

In NSW Prime Minister John Howard stands to lose Lindsay and Dobell, and is in danger in Robertson and Paterson, an exclusive Galaxy survey has found.

Galaxy found the Liberal primary vote in the four marginals had fallen 8 per cent since the 2004 election, while Labor's support had risen by 9 per cent.

The two-party preferred vote, after preferences were allocated, was 54 per cent Labor and 46 per cent Liberal.

The Liberals may need to retain all of their 21 NSW seats to ensure Labor's Kevin Rudd does not get the 16 extra required nationally to take government.

The results also showed that electors in two seats in which former trade union officials are running were not bothered by the Coalition's warning about union influence on a possible Labor government.

Only 27 per cent said the ex-union leaders were poor choices as candidates, while 45 per cent said they were good choices and 28 per cent were uncommitted.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bob Gollan 1917 - 2007

By Jack Miller

Emeritus Professor Robin (Bob) Gollan died in Canberra on October 15.

In a long and distinguished career he taught and lectured in NSW schools and at Sydney Teachers' College before being appointed Manning Clark Professor of Australian History at the Australian National University from which position he retired to Armonds Beach (Bermagui) in 1982.

Flight Lieutenant Bob Gollan also served in the Royal Australian Air Force during served in World War 11 as a navigator in Beaufort reconnaissance bombers.

His war experience no doubt helped shape his later work for peace.

Writing in 2005 of the death of an RAAF mate in 1944, Bob explained his reasons for handing back a commemorative medallion awarded by the Prime Minister to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War 11:

"I wondered what (my mate) and the more than 40,000 men and boys who died defending our country would feel about John Howard's Australia.

“Certainly most people are materially better off.

“We have shared in the bounty of the one-fifth of the world which has become rich.

“But we have become a country governed by lies and fear.

"John Howard has surrendered the self-reliance for which we fought, to curry favour with the most dangerous military power in history.

“He has stoked the fear of terrorists who may target us because of his fawning subservience to US President George Bush.

“He boasts he stands for mateship and egalitarianism at the same time he attempts, by his industrial relations 'reforms', to destroy the institutions on which those qualities have been nurtured."

In retirement near Bermagui in the 1980s Bob and his wife Anne were active members of that community.

They, with others, founded the Bega Peace Group which later resulted in Bega Valley Shire Council proclaiming the shire 'Nuclear Free'.

Bob and Anne supported moves to conserve the coastal landscapes and forests locally.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Unionists in Parliament

Anna Bligh Queensland Premier responded to a question asked of her in parliament recently.

“I believe the question was whether 90 per cent of the members of my cabinet are union members. I think the answer to that is no. I believe that 100 per cent of my cabinet are members of relevant trade unions.

Not only are they members of their relevant trade unions; they are proud members of their relevant trade unions. They are proud of that, because trade unions have been one of the organisations that have built this country.

They secured the eight-hour day. They secured decent working conditions so that people could feed their families and be safe in their workplaces. There is no shame in it — none whatsoever.

The member wants to come snivelling in here doing the dirty work of John Howard. We do not resile for one minute from the fact that people on this side of the House care about the interests of working people. In terms of the talent of my cabinet, I will stack them up one by one against every runt of the litter that the other side lines up.”

Nurses victory

After nine days of industrial action more than 5000 public sector nurses have accepted a new agreement that maintains nurse patient ratios and improves nurse patient ratios in areas under pressure such as emergency departments and post- and ante-natal areas.

It has also been agreed that additional nurses will be employed in other areas under pressure in the Victorian health system such as aged care, palliative, geriatric evaluation (GEM) and management and smaller country hospitals.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "This has been an unprecedented dispute that was unnecessarily exacerbated by the Brumby Government's enthusiastic embrace of the WorkChoices laws. This has been an extremely distressing time for nurses, their patients and the Victorian community with nurses forced to defend nurse patient ratios and to fight for reasonable and fair wages and employment conditions.

"This dispute was never just about the money, it was about staffing our hospitals safely by maintaining and improving nurse patient ratios so that nurses can provide safe patient care. Nurses are there when your children are born and they are there when you die. Nurses become nurses because they want to make a difference and care for the ill, the injured, the elderly and the frail. Only nurse patient ratios allow nurses to deliver this level of care and the Victorian community is the winner from this agreement.

"The ANF is confident that Victorians requiring care throughout the nine days of industrial action received that care. There should be no doubt, the level of care throughout the industrial action would have been higher had hospital administrators and executives focused on managing the impact of the bans rather than targeting and bullying individual nurses," she said.

"The ANF office has been overwhelmed by the community's support and we've been unable to respond to everyone individually. Thank you for every phone call, every fax, every email and every post on our campaign website which made us more determined to fight the Government to fund nursing properly," Ms Fitzpatrick said.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Economic management for whom?

The Consumer Price Index figures released today show there have been big rises over the year in the cost of housing (4.2%), health (4.3%) and education (4.1%) and a big increase in food prices in the last quarter with fruit rising nearly 10%.

The figures also reveal that the Howard Government’s Fair Pay Commission underestimated the level of inflation, predicting 1.6%, when today’s data shows the actual figure was higher — leaving more than a million award workers worse off in real terms.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“John Howard and Peter Costello can no longer say they are good at managing the economy when the living standards of working Australians are falling in real terms.

“Today’s lift in inflation confirms that the measly pay rise of up to $10 a week that the Howard Govt’s Fair Pay Commission gave award wage workers at the start of this month (1 October 2007) was not enough to cover the cost of living.

“It shows that under Work Choices the incomes of more than a million working families are not keeping pace with inflation and that their living standards will fall further if the Liberals are re-elected and they go further with Work Choices.

“The prospect of another interest rate rise later this year is also very worrying for working families already struggling to keep their heads above water,” said Ms Burrow.

Beware Hockey, cyberstalker

There is an astonishing article in The Australian newspaper today. Joe Hockey and his staff have reportedly cyber-stalked hundreds of citizens concerned about the Howard Government's IR laws.

Using taxpayers' time and money, Joe Hockey and his staff are reported to have compiled a dossier about people who oppose WorkChoices.

They have trawled through newspapers over recent months, Googling the names of people who exercised their democratic right to write letters to the editor. The article says Mr Hockey has then shopped this 20-page dossier to national newspapers.

Read the article exposing Hockey's smear campaign and watch our newest ad.

This is just the latest in a long line of Howard Government fear and smear campaigns. We in no way apologise for encouraging people to democratically express their opinion in their own words.

Mr Hockey wasted $121 million dollars of our money promoting these extreme IR changes. No amount of stalking, smear campaigns, and demonising of unions and rights at work supporters will change the fact that these laws are hugely unpopular and hurt working people.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cheney Howard deal revealed

Did Cheney and Howard do a deal on David Hicks?

Yes according to a report in the latest Harper's magazine.

The report quotes a US military officer as saying Hicks' freedom was negotiated directly by US Vice President Dick Cheney and Prime Minister John Howard.

“One of our staffers was present when Vice-President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks' plea bargain deal,” the unnamed officer told today's edition of Harper's magazine.

“He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with Howard.

“I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America.

“And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade.

“It's demoralising for all of us.”

A month before the plea deal, Cheney visited Australia and met Howard. Hicks had been incarcerated at the US military prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for five years. It was a big issue in at the time and there were concerns that it could become an election issue!

WorkChoices to gatecrash Cochlear AGM

Cochlear shareholders and board members will get an unexpected dose of the federal election campaign today as workers from the Cochlear manufacturing facility in Lane Cove bring their campaign for union representation to the AGM floor.

“Cochlear workers have voted again and again to have the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union represent them in wage negotiations but under WorkChoices they have been given no choice,” said Tim Ayres, NSW Assistant Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.

The company is refusing to negotiate a union collective agreement and the mainly female migrant workforce have been told they must accept individual contracts by November 6 or not to turn up to work on November 7.

“It is astounding that Cochlear would be so quick to negotiate massive pay rises with its board members as announced at today’s AGM but deny its workers the same right.

“Our call to Cochlear is to explain to shareholders why they have one set of rules for its high powered directors and another for its workers on the production line helping the company reach record profits every year.

“Today’s proposal to shareholders to increase the maximum remuneration for board members from $500,000 to 1500,000 smacks of hypocrisy.”


From Harvester to Harvey?

The extent of the Howard Government's plans to take the IR laws further is frightening.

Yesterday billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey said a "second tier" of foreign workers should be created in Australia, paid fifty percent less than local workers, undercutting local wages and conditions.

According to Mr Harvey, Mr Howard and the Liberal party are in total agreement with him. "You won't get politicians saying what I'm saying, but privately they know this sort of thing is a reality in the future."

Read more about Mr Harvey's demands to the Howard Government, and use our website to write a letter to the editor of your local paper now.

WorkChoices has already cut wages and conditions for Australian workers by making it easier for business to get rid of conditions like penalty rates and overtime.

Now big business wants to go a step further, driving down Australian employees' wages by taking advantage of overseas workers desperate for a new life in our country. Like Australian workers, people from overseas deserve rights at work too. One of these rights is a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

Monday, October 22, 2007

457 Visa: Cheap indentured labour

The passport to misery
Sydney Morning Herald Oct 22

Eighteen Chinese Mongolians face deportation, and financial disaster, because their Queensland employer has been found in breach of the conditions of the 457 visa scheme for skilled workers under which they were brought to this country. The far from draconian penalty imposed by the Immigration Department on the firm, N.K. Collins, of Toowoomba, is a ban on its using the 457 scheme for three years.

... recently, the number on issue has blown out to more than 100,000. Due to various factors - labour shortages in a booming economy, ruthless exploitation by some agents and employers, inadequate departmental monitoring and enforcement of seemingly strict regulations - the scheme is no longer limited to elite employees. It is a de facto cheap indentured labour scheme.

... the 18 Chinese Mongolians should be allowed to remain here while they pursue legal redress. Beyond that, whichever party wins this federal election must urgently review the 457 scheme. Amendments introduced in the last parliament - employer groups complained they were draconian - never did become law. The review should cover tougher visa criteria, fair sharing of relocation costs, and more effective departmental supervision.


Fair treatment for Victorian nurses

The ANF (Australian Nurses Federation) today urged Premier Brumby to begin negotiating in good faith with the Victorian Branch of the ANF to end the current nursing dispute.

ANF Assistant Federal Secretary Ged Kearney said the ANF is “appalled” by the Victorian Labor Government’s use of the harsh WorkChoices legislation to punish nurses.

The ANF says Mr Brumby is aware that nurse patient ratios are the most important issue at stake in the dispute and he also knows that the AIRC cannot rule on this issue.

“This is a blatant attempt to get rid of ratios,” Ms Kearney said. “It is ratios in Victoria that have attracted so many nurses back into the public system and allowed nurses to provide a high quality of patient care. If ratios are cut nurses will leave the profession and the level of patient care will deteriorate. Surely the Brumby Government understands this.”

Research by the University of Sydney, completed earlier this month, confirms two thirds of nurses would consider cutting their working hours or leaving the public health system or nursing altogether if nurse patient ratios were scrapped.

“The research by the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney revealed 73% of nurses’ workload had increased every year for the past three years, compared to 56% who were surveyed in 2003,” Ms Kearney said. “Nurse patient ratios mean that nurses can, to an extent, manage to provide safe quality care in a high pressured environment.”

This dispute shows that WorkChoices is not about resolving disputes.

“The Federal ALP is campaigning against WorkChoices in this election so it must be very disappointing to see the legislation being used against nurses in Victoria,” Ms Kearney said.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Bernie Banton: "Where was Hockey?"

Asbestos disease sufferer and activist Bernie Banton has attacked federal Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey's comments that the role of unions in the Australian workplace is over.

He said Mr Hockey's comment today was wrong and that, without the unions, asbestos victims would never have received justice.

"Where was Joe Hockey when we were fighting against James Hardie? He was nowhere to be seen.

"Without their support and their absolute total commitment to getting that deal done, we wouldn't have a deal for all those thousands of future victims.

"Without the union movement, we would have been getting absolutely diddly-squat for all those victims."

Mr Banton said another 53,000 people were going to be affected by asbestos-related disease by 2020, and 13,000 of those people would die due to mesothelioma.

"He says that unions are irrelevant? I think Joe Hockey is irrelevant, totally irrelevant to this election,'' he said.

Combet proud of his union history

The latest Liberal Party attacks on Labor's "trade unionists" had been scorching across Australia's radio airwaves for nearly two hours yesterday morning before Greg Combet got his chance to reply.

"Peter Costello was particularly nasty yesterday about union people, including me. They are attacking us just because we've been associated with unions, but I've spent the best part of 25 years trying to help people and I don't see why that is so bad frankly," he said.

"I'm proud of what I've done in my working life and I can point to demonstrable things that I am pleased to have been able to achieve," he said, before running through the highlights of his career: the Waterfront dispute, the Ansett Airlines collapse and the James Hardie asbestos disease compensation case.

Mr Combet says the Howard Government's heightened focus on Labor's union links is reminiscent of the Menzies era, and indicative of a desperate Government.

As a man who has helped manage $26 billion worth of workers' superannuation funds and been the director of Member's Equity bank, Mr Combet is bemused by Liberal claims he is anti-business.

"I am not anti-business, I understand how important it is to have a good environment for investment because that's what generates jobs and helps lift living standards, and I'm very supportive of sensible business investment," he said.

"In all the work I've done in the past I've tried to stand up for people who don't have much of a voice and need the help the most, and that was certainly part of my motivation for coming here," he said. "There are things here to do, it needs health services, it needs investment in education, it needs big investment in infrastructure to help people and create jobs."

"Any self-respecting decent democracy around the world respects the right of individual employees to be a member of a union if they wish, and respects their right to join together as a group to cooperate and negotiate collectively," said Mr Combet.

When asked about Workplace Minister Joe Hockey's claim that the union movement was dead, Mr Combet labelled the suggestion "silly".

"Last I checked there was a living breathing heart in the unions, there's two million members and in fact the number of union members has grown over the past five years," he said.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Howard's Tax Chimera exposed

Howard's $34 billion tax cut is neither a fistful of dollars nor tax reform. It is a chimera designed to give back to wage earners the growth in the tax burden as wages rise with inflation, pushing workers into higher tax brackets.

Malcolm Fraser introduced income tax indexation in 1976 to impose discipline and honesty on government financial management.

The automatic indexation of income tax scales in line with inflation was taken for granted by taxpayers. It was quickly abandoned so that the Fraser (and subsequent) governments could get the credit for tax cuts legislated in parliament in a blaze of publicity.

But nobody has tried this old ploy on the scale of the Howard Government, apparently building the strategy for the six-week election campaign around it. Nevertheless, if the headlines are any guide, the media have taken the bait. They all stressed the total $34 billion tax cut. It looks huge — because it aggregates four years' worth of cuts.

Canberra economist Ian McAuley has crunched the Coalition's tax cuts in real and nominal terms, based on Treasury's inflation rate assumption of 2.75 per cent for 2007-08 for the four-year period.

The figures — online at the Centre for Policy Development website — show that the so-called tax cuts of $34 billion are about equal to the cost of full tax indexation over the period.


Workers Who Care Day

On 18 October, health care workers who care for our community throughout Australia are being encouraged to celebrate Workers Who Care Day

Why have a Workers Who Care Day?

Nurses and health care workers are coming together because they are concerned about the impact of the Howard government's IR laws on the care they are able to provide to the community - without fair wages and working conditions they could have no choice but to leave the profession.

Things you can do to celebrate the day

  • Wear a Your Rights at Work t-shirt
  • Wear a badge or armband
  • Organise a morning tea in your workplace
  • Talk to your colleagues, family members and friends about how the IR laws are bad for workers who care

Tax: featherbedding the richest

Australian National University economist Andrew Leigh said the tax cuts announced in the 2005 and 2006 federal budgets had been “extremely regressive”, with half the benefits flowing to the richest 10 per cent.

“Surprisingly, the new tax cuts announced this week are even more skewed towards the top end,” Dr Leigh said. “For example, a federal backbencher will receive a tax cut that is three times as large as a full-time minimum wage worker.”

Hockey's IR stick!

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey has today confirmed the Howard Government's intention to go further on industrial relations and get rid of trade unions altogether if re-elected.

Speaking on ABC radio this morning, Mr Hockey boasted: "The days of unions are essentially over."

The Howard Government has already cut workers' protection from unfair dismissal and allowed penalty rates, overtime, and redundancy pay to be reduced. Now they plan to get rid of all protections for working people, including unions.

Listen to Mr Hockey's admission here:

A Government document already shows that John Howard wants to push an extra 1.5 million workers onto AWAs. Peter Costello has previously admitted he wants to further cut workers' protection from unfair dismissal.

View the leaked documents and the quotes from Costello here:

Now Hockey has revealed the Government wants to get rid of Australians' right to be represented by unions altogether. This is a stunning admission of the Liberal Party's future agenda on industrial relations.

You'll recall Liberal Finance Minister Minchin said in a leaked recording last year that the Government intended to undertake a "new wave" of extreme industrial relations changes if elected.

The stakes for working Australians have never been higher. We must make sure that the Howard Government is not re-elected. Please take every opportunity to inform everyone you know about these facts.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Howard's new reconciliation

A Poem by John Tomlinson©John Tomlinson 2007

I live in a land of the deaf where the one-eyed king is blind:
blind to the suffering of the original owners of country
blind to the erosion of hope and aspirations of workers
insightful of every opportunity to divide the nation
blind to the destructiveness of his racist ideology
blind to the lies he tells about African refugees
awake to opportunities his twisted mouth conveys
blind to the possibilities of a peaceful future
blind to the war crimes he commits in Iraq
sure sighted about the need for mutual obligation
blind to the needs of young unemployed people
blind to the fears of lone parents and their children
clear sighted about the ruthless greed in leafy suburbs
blind to the future possibilities for all humanity
blind even to his own indifference towards Indigenes.

Election: Howard Out!

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The Howard Government's WorkChoices laws have taken away important rights and conditions such as public holiday pay, penalty rates, redundancy pay, overtime pay and protection from unfair dismissal.

“This election is the first chance for the Australian public to tell John Howard and Peter Costello what they think about their unfair WorkChoices IR laws.

“WorkChoices has already hurt hundreds of thousands of working families, including:

Workers in small and medium sized businesses that have lost protection from being sacked unfairly (nearly 4 million workers).
Low skilled employees on AWA individual contracts that earn on average $106 a week less than workers on collective agreements.
Workers in cafes, shops and restaurants including large numbers of young workers that have been hit hardest by WorkChoices and have lost up to a third of their take home pay (1.7 million workers).
Low paid workers that have experienced a cut in real terms to their minimum award wages under the Howard Government’s new pay commission (1.5 million workers).
Women who now earn less, on average, compared to men than they did when John Howard was elected eleven years ago.

“This election is a very important opportunity to stop the Coalition from going further on industrial relations if it gets re-elected,” said Ms Burrow.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Desparate Howard feigns sorrow

Howard's desperation about the the election he is so terrified to call has not affected his long history of a self seeking twisting of every issue. Today he claims to want reconciliation in the last ditch hope he might not be ditched. He claims it in front of his remaining clack the 'don't think tank' Sydney Institute.

He admits he hasn't changed at all:

He says while he now sees the need for symbolic measures he will not change his view on saying sorry for past injustices.

"It would, I believe, only reinforce a culture of victimhood," he said.

His final declaration is that he belongs to 'one tribe' with its echoes of Hanson's 'one nation'. Not only does he try to abolish tribal ownership he now wants to be adopted as a leading member of the tribe!

We all know Howard's tribe: non stop diatribe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MUA: Shipping and Climate Change

A national carbon-pricing scheme would result in fewer freight trucks on the nation's roads, an independent report into the greenhouse impact of Australian transport has found.

The Australia Institute study found that a shift from roads to sea freight would deliver cleaner environmental outcomes and assist Australia meet Greenhouse reduction targets.

The report found that road transport accounts for less than 40 per cent of the domestic freight task, but is responsible for over 80 per cent of freight emissions.

In comparison, shipping accounts for 22 per cent of the freight task and only four per cent of emissions.

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the report shows that Australian shipping should be part of the solution to meeting the challenges of climate change.

"The Howard Government's neglect of Australian shipping is yet another example of this Prime Minister failing to address and plan for the inevitabilities of climate change," said Paddy Crumlin.

"Instead, this Government has undermined shipping - by far the most environmentally friendly transport mode - for more than a decade.

"As a result Australia's shipping fleet is aging, its market share has been depleted and the potential for emissions reductions has been severely hampered," said Mr Crumlin.

"The environmental advantages of getting freight off our roads and onto ships are clear - not to mention the obvious safety benefits for road users."

Australia at Work - The Benchmark Report

Australia at Work is a five year study of 8,343 participants in the Australian labour market which will assess the impacts of these changes and their perceptions of working life. It has been funded by the Australian Research Council and a network of unions coordinated by Unions NSW. Australia at Work: The Benchmark Report provides an overview of results from the first survey that gathered data on working conditions in March 2006 (before the implementation of the WorkChoices legislation) and 2007.

Download Report

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turnbull's 'world's best practice' misleading

Malcolm Turnbull's "world's best practice" label for the Gunns pulp mill's environmental standards has been attacked as misleading by scientists.

Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, an international chemicals expert, said the federal Environment Minister was using World Bank standards, applied to projects in developing countries, as the benchmark for world's best practice.

"He is comparing Tasmania's pulp mill with projects in developing countries and there are mills in Sweden that have higher standards," Dr Lloyd-Smith said. "If you are comparing it to a World Bank standard, any argument about world's best practice goes down the drain."

The World Bank supports and funds projects in developing countries and last year approved funding for two controversial pulp mills in Uruguay.

Dr Lloyd-Smith, co-ordinator of the National Toxics Network and a pulp mill opponent, said there was no set of world standards for mills.

"It is a political throwaway line that gets used all the time and means nothing," she said.

Dr Warwick Raverty, a pulp and paper scientist, also criticised Mr Turnbull's label. "I think with regard to the marine discharge limits (of dioxins in effluent), he is correct in saying they are the tightest in the world.

"But across the board, it is highly questionable to say it is world's best practice."

Gunns will have to limit dioxin levels in effluent at 13 picograms per litre of effluent.

But, while many pulp mills in Sweden and Canada imposed the same limits, in practice they had reduced operating levels to only one picogram per litre, Dr Raverty said.

Petroleum engineer Dr Andrew Wadsley also criticised the separate limit of 850 picograms of dioxins per kilogram of sediment.

"That is definitely not world's best practice," Dr Wadsley said.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Howard’s hospital plans a step back

Howard’s “local hospital boards” are a step back, not forward

We need to fund more staff and new models of care
1. For example, maternity cases shouldn’t be at emergency departments
2. We also need to get registered nurses and GPs back into aged care to reduce hospital readmissions

QNU (Queensland Nurses Union) secretary, Gay Hawksworth, said simply having another level of government meddling in the administration of hospitals does nothing to deal with pressure situations like that experienced by a pregnant woman at Royal North Shore Hospital last week.

“The real way forward is to ask ourselves why so many women with pregnancy-related issues are forced to go to a hospital emergency department in the first place. That is an issue the QNU will be discussing with Queensland Health as part of our campaign for improved midwifery services around the State.

“We need to find and fund creative solutions to these types of situations. Pregnancy is a life event, not a disease. As midwives have been saying for years, it needs to be managed differently and all its up and downs, including miscarriage, should be dealt with in a maternity-based system, not the accident and medical emergency system. Developing and properly funding such an approach will take pressure off the general hospital system and provide a more focused service for pregnant women and their families.

“These are the types of creative solutions we need. Not a back-to-the-future approach such as reinstating local boards, with all the local politicking, narrow-mindedness and parochialism that goes with them. There needs to be genuine community input into health decision making at all levels. These boards, with all the local patronage and politics they entail, will not achieve that.

“Disconnecting individual hospitals from the broader health system in this way, would also be a disaster for the quality of care and range of safe services in many regions. The fact is, for a variety of reasons not every hospital can provide every service. It is not in the interests of stronger health care to have individual hospital administrators deluding themselves and their local communities that they can.

“The dash-for cash approach that also seems to be part of this funding proposal, should also send shock waves through the community. Let us never forget it was this type of management approach at Bundaberg Hospital that led to the Dr Patel scandals of recent years. Elective surgery was being forced through, without due consideration for patient safety, so the hospital could secure extra funding. What is to stop John Howard’s local boards doing the same thing in their rush to secure extra federal funding?

“The QNU is also very concerned about the prospect of the Howard Government, if it is re-elected, using these boards to meddle in the employment conditions of nurses and other hospital staff. This is code for forcing WorkChoices and AWAs on public hospital nurses, just as they have used funding negotiations to force them on other sectors such as higher education.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Hold the Line: Joan Robinson film

"Hold The Line offers a rare and insightful look into a union, at an profoundly important and controversial time in Australia's political history. As ETU Southern States Branch Secretary, Dean Mighell, points out 'It's been pattern bargaining that's delivered the increases, the benefits and the shorter hours. If we break that pattern - if we do lesser deals at an enterprise - it'll all unravel. You've got to hold the line.'

This is a documentary for the times. It's a film for Julia Gillard and those in the ALP who oppose pattern bargaining. It's a film for those who paint unionists as bullies. In this documentary we see the real face of unionism. And what a beautiful thing it is!"