Thursday, November 29, 2007

Barry Hemsworth reinstated: Climate Change!

End of an era … Barry Hemsworth's vigil ends.

Barry Hemsworth, a crane driver for Botany Cranes in Banksmeadow, returns to work today after his solitary 441 day protest outside his former employer's gates.

On Tuesday afternoon, 72 hours after the polls closed in an election that brought Labor to power on a promise to abolish the Howard Government's Work Choices laws, the company told Mr Hemsworth he could have his job back.

"I had vowed to stay on the picket line, even if it was just me, until Howard went," he said.

Mr Hemsworth, a 35-year veteran of the construction industry, worked for the crane company - owned by Anne Bradstreet, the sister of former NSW Liberal politician Ted Pickering - for more than a decade.

Mr Hemsworth, a long-time representative of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said the company had realised the unfair dismissal laws were about to change.

Under Work Choices, firms with fewer than 100 staff, such as Botany Cranes, were exempt from unfair dismissal laws.

The prime minister-elect, Kevin Rudd, has pledged to restore unfair dismissal rights to employees of small businesses who have been employed for more than a year.

Mr Hemsworth said he had enjoyed good relations with management until May last year, soon after Work Choices was enacted. "It had always been a great place to work and I had always praised the company," he said. "But then things turned sour. Management believed their authority was absolute."

Mr Hemsworth maintains he was dismissed for opposing inexperienced workers certifying the safety conditions on worksites.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rights at Work: historic campaign

Together we've waved goodbye to WorkChoices after a historic win.

As a memento of the campaign, we've produced some pewter-plated badges, with the Rights at Work logo and the slogan, "We made the difference."

We want to give one to each supporter as a mark of your achievement, so you can wear it with pride and hopefully, one day, show it to your kids and grandkids.

We also want to hear your feedback on the campaign. What did we all do well? What areas can we improve on? And most importantly, where should campaign go to now?

To share your feedback, please go to this secure online survey:

It takes less than five minutes to complete.

To order your badge, fill out the survey and make sure you include your postal address.

We can't wait to get your feedback and thoughts about the future of the campaign,

Many thanks
The Rights at Work campaign team

Monday, November 26, 2007

Diamonds Dust: School of Arts

Friday 30th November and Saturday December 1st 7.30
Wentworth Falls School of Arts

Diamond Dust is an Australian comedy about three very different women who are fired from their jobs working at the local jewellery store of a country town.

It is written by local playwright Jess Brown who was involved in the BM campaign for YR@W and who has just graduated from Charles Sturt University.

Diamond Dust combines witty, fast paced dialogue touched with surrealism and circus to create a humorous Australian play that is moving and magic.

Bookings 0420 733 440 or just turn up

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Howard Thrown Out!

ALP 84

Liberal 47
Nationals 9
Country Liberal 1

Independent 3

Undecided 9

The ABC computer has Labor taking 86 out of the 150 seats.

Labor has taken 23 seats from the coalition and brought down the Howard government, with the icing on the cake being the likelihood that Howard has lost his own seat.

The routing leaves the Liberal Party depleted at every level of government across the nation - Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman now holds the Liberals' highest public office.

Voters ignored the onslaught of massive coalition fear campaigns "Wall to wall Labor", "Don't hand the country back to the unions", "A vote for a change of government a vote to change the country", "70 percent of Labor's front bench are ex-union officials". In a precision voting pattern relying on Greens preferences voters made clear their desire to rid themselves of Howard and his team of yes and yesterday's men.

For the second time in history a prime minister has lost his seat and for the second time in history the revenge was largely due to the prime minister's hatred of unions and his forcing through of extreme industrial relations laws.

The defeat of Howard is a tribute to the broad community based three year Rights at Work campaign and the working relationship with the Greens and other allies that that campaign resulted in.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow says voters have used the election as a referendum on the industrial relations changes.

She says the Labor win comes after a lengthy campaign by both union and non-union members.

"Right across the country for almost three years in the making, we've now had a community campaign and today you saw that array of orange," she said.

"I'm very proud of all those working men and women out there today standing up for a decent Australia, standing up for a Rudd Labor government that will put rights at work back in place."

Bernie Banton

Bernie and Karen Banton on Andrew Denton's 'Enough Rope'

Friday, November 23, 2007

Victory: Tri Star workers redundancy pay

After a campaign lasting more than eighteen months, the last of the Tristar workers has received their full redundancy entitlement.

Three workers were made redundant on Tuesday and the last manufacturing worker will leave the company on 30 November.

AMWU New South Wales Secretary Paul Bastian said that the workers were overjoyed that they would receive their full entitlements after such a long hard battle.

The company ceased operations, but did not make its longest serving employees redundant. Using a strategy based on new technicalities in WorkChoices, the company kept these workers ‘employed’ doing nothing, waiting for WorkChoices to take effect.

“Under WorkChoices the company could simply refuse to negotiate a new agreement and revert back to the award – which enabled them to pay the long serving employees much less money,” said Mr Bastian.

As public sympathy for the Tri Star workers grew, the Howard Government was forced to act.

But Mr Bastian says they can take no credit for the resolution of the dispute.

“The Tri Star situation could occur again because the laws enable it to happen."

AMWU organiser Martin Schutz said the toll taken on the health of the workers and their families can never be repaid.

“I shudder to think what happens to workers who don’t have unions, or the media’s attention,” he said.

“Let’s all remember Tri Star when we vote this Saturday to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Firefighters: Demo against IR laws

NSW firefighters protest against the federal government's industrial relations laws

Howard legacy: Loss of moral compass

Paul Keating:

"The principal reason the public should take the opportunity to kill off the Howard Government has less to do with broken promises on interest rates — or even its draconian WorkChoices industrial laws — and everything to do with restoring a moral basis to our public life.

Without this, the nation has no standard to rely upon, no claim that can be believed, not even when the grave step of going to war is being considered. When truth is up for grabs, everything is up for grabs.

Cynicism and deceitfulness have been the defining characteristics of John Howard and his Government. They were brazen enough to oversee the corruption of a UN welfare program. And when they were found out, not one of them accepted ministerial responsibility. Not Downer, not Vaile and certainly not Howard. What they were doing was letting the cockies get their wheat sold through the AWB while turning a blind eye to the AWB's unscrupulous behaviour — illegally funding a regime Howard was arguing was so bad it had to be changed by force.

John Howard took us into the disastrous Gulf war on the back of two lies. One, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, capable of threatening the Middle East and Western Europe; the other, that Howard was judiciously weighing whether to commit Australian forces against an evolving situation. We now know he had committed our forces to the Americans all along.

If the Prime Minister cannot be believed, who in the system is to be believed?"


Howard legacy: Liberal shame in Lindsay

Outgoing Liberal MP Jackie Kelly, a Howard favorite, says a bogus pamphlet that portrays Labor as sympathisers of Islamic terrorists and was distributed by her husband was just a "Chaser-style of prank".

The Liberal Party was flailing last night after a senior NSW party official and Ms Kelly's husband, Gary Clarke, were implicated in the dirty tricks campaign involving race hate in Ms Kelly's former western suburbs seat of Lindsay.

The ALP has written to the Australian Electoral Commission demanding action be taken after Ms Kelly's husband, Gary Clark, and NSW Liberal Party state executive member Jeff Egan were caught distributing bogus pamphlets in Lindsay portraying Labor as sympathisers of Islamic terrorists.

Speaking on ABC radio this morning, Ms Kelly said she did not approve of the pamphlet, but labelled it a "Chaser-style of prank".

"I think if you read it you'd be laughing.

Labor's national secretary, Tim Gartrell, names Mr Clark, Mr Egan and Troy Craig, president of the Glenmore Park Action Group, in his complaint to the commission, and urges the matter be referred to the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police.


Do unto others

Thursday, November 22, 2007.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Howard legacy: IR changes kept secret!

While the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, insist Work Choices will not change, their lawyers have blocked access to the documents that show they have considered going further.

But a 2½-year freedom of information battle with the Prime Minister's Department has failed to secure the release of details of what those plans might be.

In 2005 the department blocked the release of dozens of documents showing how Work Choices was formulated, and discussing options for more reform.

The Government used "conclusive certificates" to reject the FOI application, saying it was not in the public interest for the documents to be exposed.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Howard legacy: veiled threats

Howard's deputy Mark Vaile of AWB infamy adds insult to injury. Not only are he and John Howard totally unrepentant over the rorts the National Audit Office has confirmed in the controversial Regional Partnerships Program, but the Deputy Prime Minister is hinting at political motivation in the timing of release of the report.

Vaile told the ABC: "The Auditor-General has been working on finalising this report for over 12 months now ... We've been expecting it to have been released before this ... Here we are one week from the election''. He suggested the rules for what happened in the "caretaker'' period before the election should be reassessed. "To have an unelected individual who is a statutory office holder making a decision on the release of a report like this and the timing - maybe that needs to be looked at."


Friday, November 16, 2007

Howard legacy: $328 million grants rorts

The Auditor-General has exposed unprecedented government abuse of a $328 million grants program, undermining the Coalition's credentials as a careful financial manager.

A damning report shows that a third of the money from the controversial Regional Partnerships Program from 2003 to last year was pumped into just 10 rural Coalition seats - including one held by John Anderson, who as minister for transport and regional services had ultimate responsibility for the scheme.

"The manner in which the program has been administered over the three-year period to 30 June 2006 examined by ANAO had fallen short of an acceptable standard of public administration," it says.

It found some ministers were more likely to overrule departmental opposition to specific projects if the applications came from Coalition seats, and more likely to knock back funding for projects supported by the department if they were from Labor seats.

Before the 2004 election, then parliamentary secretary DeAnne Kelly asked the department to compile a list of 100 projects - by electorate and bid amount - for her consideration over a nine-day period. Other grants were being approved up to the 5pm start of the caretaker period, with 16 projects winning funding in the last 90 minutes of the Government's term. New grants were also announced during the campaign - in some cases without the recipients having filled in an application form.

The approval rate for applications jumped to a record 81 per cent in the lead-up to the 2004 poll, compared with one of 57 per cent the year before.

The report also revealed that the introduction of a three-member ministerial committee to oversee the program in November 2005 initially had little effect, with more grants approved by the relevant minister despite departmental opposition. In the past year, however, the Government has made major steps to overhaul the grants process.

Kevin Rudd said he was outraged by the arrogant abuse of the scheme.

"Mr Howard must today explain to the Australian people how this abuse of such a massive amount of taxpayer's dollars occurred. How did it happen on his watch?" he said.

Howard legacy: political donations hidden

In 2006 the Howard Government weakened Australia's electoral laws by raising the disclosure threshold for political donations from $1,500 to $10,000, making it much easier for corporate Australia to avoid disclosing cash donations to political parties.

The previous system was inadequate, but it did expose corporations and political parties to some bad publicity about donations over $1,500. All those donations over $1,500 but under $10,000, which were previously made public, are now exempt from public disclosure. Now big donors can hide the money they give to political parties by making multiple donations of $10,000 to a party without having to declare it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Howard legacy: More ASIO bungles

Ben Saul, the director of the Centre for International and Global Law at Sydney University, says the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security inquiry is necessary.

"It's appropriate for the Inspector-General to look at whether disciplinary proceedings within ASIO itself should be launched, but also even the broader question of whether a criminal prosecution would be appropriate," he said.

The judge in the case did raise the prospect that the ASIO agents had behaved criminally. Dr Saul says a police investigation may follow.

"In this case it would be appropriate for the federal police or the New South Wales police to launch their own investigation," he said.

"Probably the right time for that is after the Inspector-General's own investigation where he can use his special powers to get to the bottom of what happened."

With this case coming hot on the heels of the bungled handling of the investigation into Dr Haneef, Dr Saul says a disturbing trend is emerging.

"It certainly suggests that there's been a kind of cultural and political pressure within the intelligence agencies to get results on terrorism investigations," he said.

"That has seemingly translated into some sloppy intelligence gathering, and in some cases seemingly excess use of statutory power."

Howard legacy: ABC board stacked

Friends of the ABC spokesman Professor Alan Knight writes:

John Howard's legacy will include an Australian Broadcasting Corporation Board packed with rightwing radicals, linked to industry funded think tanks hostile to public enterprise.

Howard's nepotism has encouraged a flowering of a web of influence. loaded information, and jobbery seeking to eliminate perceived leftist influences in the arts, the universities and most of all, the ABC.

His flagrant abuse of power to appoint his political allies to government posts, directly threatens the independence of the national broadcaster as never before.

If a new government is to be elected, it should examine whether its possible to spill the Board, so that a fair and open appointment process might be implemented in the public interest.

Hand's off the ABC, Howard!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Howard legacy: impoverished apprentices

Professor Michael Bittman, from the University of New England, wrote the report "Living Standards of Apprentices". He says most apprentices struggle to buy the necessities of life.

"Particularly a first and second-year apprentice's income is exceptionally low. It's so low that it's, in most cases, below the Henderson poverty line," he said.

About 70,000 young Australians begin apprenticeships every year but according to the professor more than 50 per cent of them drop out, and he says it is because of the money.

"Most of them would get, you know, under $300 a week," Professor Bittman said.

He says they survive by living at home or working second jobs.

Jim Barron, chief executive of Group Training Australia, says given some trainee wages are not much higher than the dole, it is a wonder apprentices are able to survive in cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

"Here in Sydney, a first-year apprentice in the metal trades industry, receives an award wage of something like $13,000 gross a year," he said.

"This translates into an after-tax income of approximately about $231 a week. That's about $46 below the poverty line and about $20 more than the dole.

"So we really do need to make sure that when we are attracting school leavers into the trades we do financially renumerate them properly, in the first couple of years particularly."


Howard legacy: bans on stickers

The building industry watchdog has been accused of acting as John Howard's political policeman by ordering removal from building sites of stickers and posters critical of the Prime Minister.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission has also ordered that a flag advertising a trust fund for brain tumour victims be taken down from sites because it is based on the Eureka flag, which it considers a construction union symbol.

Richard Burke, a union delegate on a city building site, was told by his employer to remove his car sticker, which read "For our kids' sake, Howard has to go!" or he would no longer be able to park his car on the site.

The ABCC, set up by the Government to keep the building union in check, has ordered construction companies to make sure their sites are free of union signs, posters and paraphernalia, saying they "convey a message that union membership is not a matter of individual choice".

But at a Hawthorn site the foreman, who said he was acting on orders from the commission, has gone further by ordering the union to remove stickers that contain no union symbolism but criticise WorkChoices and Mr Howard.

One such offending sticker calls the Prime Minister "Con-Man", with his picture in the O. Another says: "WorkChoices and John Howard? Not my choice!" Neither sticker identifies the union.

Construction union assistant secretary Bill Oliver said the stickers were in the union shop steward's office and the lunch room of the site.

"Workers have been bombarded with $116 million of taxpayer-funded advertising about WorkChoices, but they get ordered to take down a few stickers that advertise their opposition to it," he said. "It's a bit rude."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Howard legacy: more immigration horror

Tony Tran, who was living in Brisbane with his wife and son, was detained in December 1999 when immigration officials told him his visa had been cancelled years earlier.

The Department admitted a mistake and released him after five-and-a-half years, but because he and his son have no permanent resident status they still face possible deportation.

Mr Tran had been in Australia for seven years, and after applying for a spouse visa for his wife he was detained.

This was despite the fact that a letter notifying him of his cancelled visa had never been properly delivered to him.

David Manne, director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, told ABC's Lateline that is illegal.

"He should never have been in there in the first place. He should never have been locked up," he said.

"Under Australian law, if you're not properly notified of a decision, it is unlawful for you to be detained."

Labor's immigration spokesman Tony Burke was not allowed to have an official briefing after Tony Tran claimed he was wrongfully detained.

Mr Burke says Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews is the only minister to block access while the Government is in caretaker mode.

He says it demonstrates a cover-up and Coalition arrogance.

"In terms of incompetence the Government and this Minister have form whether it's the refugee swap, the handling of Dr Haneef's case, there's been a succession of examples of incompetence," he said.

"In terms of arrogance it's once again public servants being viewed as though they're the property of the Liberal Party."

Howard legacy: Executive pay; up wages down

Salary packages for executives have jumped by 28% to an average of more than $2.5 million a year. This is a massive average pay rise of $570,000 for the year, or around $11,000 a week.

At the same time that CEOs are getting outrageous pay increases, hard working Australians have experienced a fall in their real wages under Work Choices says the ACTU.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
"This is another clear sign that Work Choices is taking Australia down the United States path of a small number of executives earning obscene amounts while large numbers of workers are stuck on low wages.

"Last week the head of the Howard Government’s wage setting body, Professor Ian Harper confirmed that more than a million award workers have had a real pay cut of up to $800 a year under Work Choices.

"This week we find that CEOs are getting paid more in a week than most workers get in a year.

"Increases in interest rates, petrol prices, food and other household basics along with the downward pressure on wages from WorkChoices mean more and more working families are struggling to keep their heads above water."


Telstra staff say NO to ‘quick and dirty’ deal

Telstra call centre staff have rejected a management proposal to introduce a five year, non-union agreement. This is a very good outcome and reflects the hard work of many concerned CPSU members and activists in Telstra.

It demonstrates that despite enormous pressure from management, Telstra staff are prepared to stand up for a fairer deal.

The result reflects Telstra management’s failure to address the concerns Telstra workers – union and non-union – had about the proposed agreement. Ever since the proposed agreement was released Telstra workers made it clear they wanted to make an agreement that:

  • covers all staff
  • allows for direct union involvement in negotiations
  • is shorter than 5 years.

Why such a rush?

The low guaranteed pay offer and the potential threat to their redundancy entitlements were also factors. Staff were also sceptical about Telstra’s decision to rush into the agreement 10 months early, and in the middle of a federal election where workplace rights are a key issue. Your union raised these concerns repeatedly on your behalf but Telstra management refused to listen.

What was the result of the ballot?

Curiously, Telstra management are refusing to release the figure from the ballot saying only that a “majority of voting employees voted against the Agreement so this Agreement will not proceed.”

Where to from here?

Telstra unions will be writing to Telstra management seeking commitment to an agreed timetable for a union agreement for all Telstra staff. Defeating this proposed agreement is just the first step to getting a better deal for Telstra workers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Howard legacy: childcare failure

Increasing childcare rebates will ultimately push up the cost of such expense for parents, a new Sydney University study has found.

The Kids Count: Better early childhood education and care in Australia study found the nation's early childhood education and care was falling way behind the world's best practice.

But while such subsidies would improve affordability in the short-term, they would push up the cost of child care in the medium to long term, co-editor Dr Elizabeth Hill said.

"Subsidies simply add to demand when the supply of childcare places remains stable," Dr Hill said in a statement.

"Instead, we should be putting substantial resources into building a high quality national system of early childhood education and care for all Australian children and their families.

"The policy focus needs to be on improving quality as well as affordability."

Fellow co-author, Professor Barbara Pocock, said that at a time of record public surpluses, it was regrettable a larger investment was not being made.

More money would mean Australia could move from the bottom of the developed world's table measuring the investment countries make in children's earliest years.

"It is now well-established that devoting resources to children's first years is repaid many times over in individual education and employment prospects, as well as broader social and economic wellbeing," she said.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

100,000 march for climate change action

Australians in 60 cities and towns have taken to the streets today to ask the major political parties to make a stronger commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The national day of action has tried to draw attention to global warming and pressure the political parties to address the issue.

The Nature Conservation Council says about 100,000 people took part in Walk Against Warming marches across Australia.

In Sydney, a crowd of about 30,000 gathered in the Domain where they were addressed by Greens Senator Bob Brown and Federal Opposition Environment spokesman Peter Garrett.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rudd: IR Laws will go

Kevin Rudd marked the second anniversary of the government's Work Choices laws, saying it was now down to trench warfare until election day.

Mr Rudd said Peter Costello's claims that he had suddenly decided Work Choices should go no further were not believable as they stood against everything he had done in his political career.

"It just ain't right and it is not decent for working people to have to struggle to retain their penalty rates and overtime and some decency in the workplace," Mr Rudd said.

"It is a set of laws which don't belong in this country.

"To get there (to abolishing Work Choices), it is trench warfare from here to election day."

Mr Rudd's comments coincide with media reports that the government's workplaces relations watchdog had rejected half of all Australian Workplace Agreements as being unfair.

Mr Rudd said the Liberal candidate for the Adelaide seat of Makin, Bob Day, was a former office bearer of the HR Nicholls Society, the extreme right-wing industrial relations think tank of the nation.

"It is where Peter Costello learned to read and write," he said, adding that Mr Costello had stated previously that only a minimum wage was necessary in an IR system and all else should be up for negotiation.

"That is the scorched earth policy, that is the law of the jungle on industrial relations that Peter Costello, Bob Day and the HR Nicholls Society stand for."

Labor deputy leader and workplace relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard said figures released on Friday showed a backlog of almost 140,000 agreements in the office of the IR watchdog.

"How many piles of paper is that sitting in the workplace authority," she said.

"Then they can't be clear about the status of lots of these agreements because they are circulating around somewhere between the authority and the employers.

"You imagine being a small business who just wants to know 'Is the agreement that I have given my worker OK?'. You won't get an answer for month and months."

AWAs hurt WA workers

A report by the Western Australia's fair employment advocate, Helen Creed, found that some employers had used AWAs to direct employees when to take annual leave, change their rosters at an hour's notice, cut meal breaks to 15 minutes and remove other basic rights.

Julia Gillard, Labor's Deputy Leader, said many vulnerable workers without bargaining power, particularly the young and the low-skilled, had seen their pay and conditions stripped away in Western Australia.

The report analysed 33 West Australian AWAs and found 64 per cent had "removed or reduced every protected award condition". Thirty per cent did so while providing wages less than or equal to the relevant pay scale.

Ms Creed said the task of analysing the AWAs was hampered by secrecy provisions that denied her office access to individual agreements unless they were pased on to her by concerned employees. Even then, the employer could not be identified without risking a penalty of up to six months jail.

Ms Creed said the Government's fairness test introduced in May had not alleviated her concerns. More than half the contracts she reviewed were lodged after it came into effect.

The report said more AWAs were registered in WA than any other state, with the retail sector most reliant on them, followed by mining and hospitality.

WA State Employment Minister Michelle Roberts said the findings showed the system was fundamentally flawed.

Howard legacy: Free speech whittled away

A culture of secrecy has taken hold in Australia with a new report finding 500 laws now restrict media access and up to 1000 suppression orders control court matters at any given time.

The Report of the National Audit of Free Speech also found Freedom of Information laws were ineffective with one request for the travel claims of MPs resulting in a $1.25 million processing charge.

The report's findings will put fresh pressure on the Howard Government to match reforms promised by Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd before the November 24 election, including the creation of an independent FOI Commissioner.

Former NSW Ombudsman Irene Moss handed her independent audit to the chiefs of major media organisations.

Ms Moss said her findings showed many of the mechanisms vital to a well-functioning democracy were now at risk from secrecy, censorship and lack of transparency.

"The audit would broadly conclude that free speech and media freedom are being whittled away by gradual and sometimes imperceptible degrees," Ms Moss said.

Classic fielding errors!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

MUA safe shipping campaign

Australian seafarers will today call for a ban on unregulated foreign
ships carrying dangerous cargoes into and around Australian ports

The Maritime Union of Australia has called for a ban on Flag of
Convenience ships transporting cargo such as ammonium nitrate,
explosives and Liquefied Natural Gas because of the threat to national

"While Australian seafarers are subjected to full ASIO and Federal
Police checks, foreign seafarers receive only cursory online security
checks by Australian authorities," MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin
said today.

"International terrorism experts have identified Flag of Convenience
ships, registered in tax havens like Panama, Mongolia and Liberia, as a
key target for global terrorism.

"There are thousands of security-sensitive ship movements around the
Australian coast every year - and these numbers are growing.

"For the past 11 years the Howard Government has actively encouraged
the spread of Flag of Convenience shipping - today nine out of every
ten ships off our coast are FOC.

"In contrast the ALP has committed to placing stricter controls on the
transportation of these goods - recognising that Australian seafarers
have all been thoroughly screened by our intelligence agencies."

The MUA will be distributing 100,000 fliers at beaches and in coastal
electorates around Australia in the coming weeks to highlight concerns
about the dangers of unregulated FOC shipping.

"As the grounding of the Panamanian-flagged Pasha Bulker shows, any
Australian coastal community is at the mercy of poorly regulated

"That's the message the MUA will be taking to Australia's beaches over
the coming weeks."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hans Blix: Sydney Peace Prize winner

0521 05Dr Hans Blix was welcomed to Sydney's Town Hall tonight as a hero by a close to capacity audience. He was applauded by the throng for his courageous stand agianst those who derided his investigation that showed Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. These weapons were the reason given by George Bush, Tony Blair and of course John Howard for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. An invasion that tens of millions of people around the world tried to stop by demonstrations their bellicose leaders brushed aside. Howard described the close to million Australian demonstrators as "the mob".

Blix of course has long been proved correct while those who denigrated him remain in power still convinced they can win the war that they started. Blair has had to leave and this month may prove the demise of Howard, while Bush is openly derided in the "super power" United States both there and around the world.

Read Hans Blix speech here

Monday, November 05, 2007

Howard legacy: underfunding TAFE

The simple fact is that it takes years for policy decisions which negatively affect TAFE to impact the broader voting community. So it's more appealing for a government striving to be re-elected to spend public money on areas where the impact will be felt more instantly, health for example.

As a result successive governments have deserted the longer term needs of the communities that have elected them. This year is no exception.

TAFE funding has once again been reduced

The Federal Government's 2007 Budget provided no additional funding for TAFE. As a result, TAFE funding has once again been reduced in real terms.

And this is at a time when the nation faces a severe skills shortage. So why would any government short change the one training organisation that has the ability to help address the skills shortage that's threatening to bring our economy to its knees?

The answer, sadly, is that providing adequate funding for TAFE won't help them get re-elected. It's not high enough on the electoral agenda and it won't have an immediate positive effect on the voting community.

They're relying on voters concerning themselves only with the short-term needs. They're relying on the majority being a silent majority.

Help us fix this problem

Please fill out and submit this form to tell our politicians what you think about the under-funding of TAFE.


Go Now Joe!

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey, who's stint in parliament is looking increasingly insecure, has promised to resign!

Go Now Joe!

Hockey says he would resign as a minister if substantial changes were made to Work Choices laws.

He made the promise after Labor's workplace relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard said it was on the public record that Treasurer Peter Costello plans to take Work Choices further.

"I will resign as a minister in the Howard government if there are any substantial changes or any of the changes that Julia Gillard has just flagged."

Howard legacy: redundancy payments trashed

A thorough analysis of Telstra’s new agreement by CPSU’s (Community and Public Sector Union) legal and technical experts has revealed serious problems for staff in relation to redundancy arrangements.

As Telstra intends to cut a further 6,000 jobs over the next few years, it is crucial that all staff understand the implications these changes will have for them, before they vote.

Retrenchment benefits

The first problem is the introduction of a new clause that will make it harder for staff to access retrenchment benefits. In the new agreement, retrenchment benefits are no longer payable where Telstra obtains…“an offer of alternative employment either within Telstra, or with another employer.”

Your rights or their policy

The second problem is Telstra plan to take most the current redundancy arrangements out of an agreement and recreate them as Telstra policy. At first glance, this may seem like a harmless administrative change. But the reality is Telstra’s new agreement drastically reduces your rights. Under the current union agreement, you have access to enforceable rights in relation to redundancy arrangements including the option of a $4,500 external job search payment, six week internal Telstra job program, guarantee of pay in lieu of notice and others.

Under Telstra’s proposed non-union agreement most of your redundancy conditions become Telstra policy which as we have seen can be changed by management whenever they like. Concerns about Telstra's attitude to policy are strengthened by Telstra's own words: “To avoid doubt, the policies do not form part of this Agreement or the contract of employment for Employees and are not binding on Telstra.”


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Howard legacy: doctors shun Australia

The number of overseas doctors seeking to work in Australia has fallen 90 per cent because of the federal government's handling of the case against former suspected terrorism supporter Mohamed Haneef, a medical association warns.

The Overseas and Australian Medical Graduates Association (OAMGA), in a joint statement with the United Indian Associations (UIA) group, said the massive drop in the number of doctors seeking temporary visas to work in Australia was exacerbating the existing health crisis.

"This spells disaster for an already overstretched and under-resourced medical work force - particularly for rural and regional areas where many of these doctors are posted," OAMGA president Dr Nagamma Prakash said today.

"In the various interviews given by the presidents of UIA and OAMGA to both national and international media, they predicted that overseas doctors planning to arrive in Australia would reconsider their decision ... they have been proven correct."

Dr Prakash also said there was "growing anger amongst Australians of Indian background" over the Howard government's handling of the Haneef's case, adding it had "brought discredit to the Indian Community here in Australia".


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Howard legacy: wages fall

Real wages have fallen under the Howard Government's new wage setting system, with some workers on award pay rates now more than $15 a week worse off in the past 12 months.

Recent higher inflation has overtaken the modest pay rises handed out by the Australian Fair Pay Commission last month, pushing most of the 1 million workers covered by award rates into the red, according to new figures.

The commission confirmed the figures yesterday, saying it had relied on Reserve Bank inflation forecasts, which were too low.

"The … inflation forecast was 1.6 per cent for the period December 2006 to October 2007. We now know the actual outcome for the period was a rate of CPI inflation of 2 per cent," commissioner Ian Harper told The Age.

"Had the RBA forecast been correct, the commission's decision would translate to a real wage increase for the majority of pay-scale-reliant Australians."

The figures, compiled by the ACTU, show the 100,000 people earning the federal minimum wage of $522.12 a week have all but trodden water, with a tiny, six-cents-a-week real increase in their wage.

But at all other classification levels, which cover 1.1 million workers in many industries, pay rates have fallen behind inflation.


Peter Andren dies

Peter Andren, a federal independent MP, died this morning after a short battle with cancer. He was 61.

"He gave politics a good name," Senator Bob Brown said in a statement.

"He brought it fresh air.

"In the conservative electorate of Calare, his vote grew at each election, though he tackled the Howard government on the Iraq war, the Tampa crisis, climate change and its approval of logging Tasmania's forests."

"He worked hard for Calare and the electorate loved him," Senator Brown said.

"His was political representation at its honest best".

Bob Debus Labor candidate for the seat of Macquarie, said Mr Andren will be deeply missed.

"Peter Andren was highly regarded and his loss at such a young age will be deeply felt by the people of the central west," Mr Debus said in a statement.

Since his election in 1996 Mr Andren slowly turned Calare into one of the safest seats in the nation.

"Peter was known and admired in his own community and around Australia because he articulated such admirable values - honesty and integrity in the political system and social justice in the community," Mr Debus said.

Respect for Peter Andren crossed political boundaries, Labor environment spokesman Peter Garrett said.

"Knowing Peter and the contribution that he made and the real struggle that he had with his illness, makes his passing, I think, a very tragic event," Mr Garrett told reporters in his Sydney electorate of Kingsford Smith.

"Peter Andren really did make a distinctive contribution to political life and was well loved and well respected across political boundaries."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Government 'conspired against Haneef'

There were plans to detain Mohamed Haneef under the Migration Act if he was released on bail, his lawyer says.

There were plans to detain Mohamed Haneef under the Migration Act if he was released on bail, his lawyer says.

The lawyer representing former Gold Coast-based doctor Mohamed Haneef, Peter Russo, says he has proof the Federal Government and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) conspired against his client.

Mr Russo used freedom of information laws to obtain copies of emails sent by the AFP before Dr Haneef's bail hearing in Brisbane.

He says the emails clearly indicate Dr Haneef would be detained under the Migration Act if he was granted bail.

Mr Russo says it undermines the assertion of Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews that revoking Dr Haneef's visa was unrelated to the court decision.

"Andrews may say that he didn't take any of that information into consideration to give it some balance, but it doesn't read that way," he said.