Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stolen Generations apology

The new Labor Government has set February 13 as the day for a formal apology to the members of the Stolen Generation.

The apology will be the first item of business for the new Federal Parliament and will be delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says the content of the apology is still subject to widespread consultation, but she says it will form a necessary step to move forward.

A traditional Welcome to Country will be held as part of the Parliament's opening ceremony by members of the Ngunnawal people.

Indigenous groups have warmly welcomed the announcement of a date for a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.


Hi Tech Telstra: tape to fix phone lines

Plastic bags and tape are being used to waterproof phone lines across Sydney, as a union blames Telstra's move to slash thousands of technicians' jobs.

The remaining workers have resorted to using temporary patch-up measures as they try to cope with a surge in phone-line faults, the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) assistant secretary Steve Dodd said.

"These rising volumes of faults are caused by Telstra's ongoing program of retrenching skilled communications technicians and major cutbacks to the maintenance of Telstra's copper cable network.

"Hundreds of skilled communications technicians have been made redundant in Sydney over the past 18 months following Telstra's CEO Sol Trujillo's announcement in 2005 to reduce its workforce by 12,000."

Telstra posted a $3.3 billion profit last year.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Border patrol vessel sacks union workforce

HANGING IN: The crew of the Triton demonstrating on deck yesterday. They are refusing to leave despite being ordered off by the captain

A merchant vessel with a Federal Government contract to patrol northern
Australian waters for illegal fishing has sacked its crew of unionised

Gardline International, owners of the Triton, has informed the 20
Maritime Union of Australia members that their contracts will not be
renewed when it leaves Darwin port after maintenance work next week.

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the seafarers believed their
places will be taken by non-union, foreign workers.

"What we do know is that this shipping company predominantly uses
foreign crews employed under unregulated Flag of Convenience
agreements," Mr Crumlin said.

"It is outrageous that a vessel that has won a government contract to
patrol Australia's water and protect our border security can dump their
unionised workforce - all of whom have passed the nations highest
security and Customs clearance.

"We believe Gardline will replace the Australian unionised workers with
UK seafarers unchecked by our Government and who do not hold Maritime
Security Cards."

MUA crew members onboard the Triton in Darwin are refusing to leave the vessel.

Bob Debus "World has changed"

Gardline International formally ordered 11 of the workers to immediately leave its 98-metre three-hulled Triton or else face legal action.

As the men refused, the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, warned Gardline that the Government was unhappy about the company's industrial tactics and asked the Workplace Ombudsman to investigate.

"They appear not to understand that the world has changed - the present government does not support the kind of industrial behaviour we are seeing here," Mr Debus said.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Opposition to power sell-off grows

Green Left Weekly
26 January 2008

The Iemma government’s problem is that the proposal comes very late in the privatisation cycle that began in the mid-1980s in NSW under the government of Neville Wran. It reached a climax with the privatisation projects of Jeff Kennett’s Victorian government in the mid-1990s.

Since then we have seen:
  • The greatest increase in retail electricity prices in the two states that have most privatised electricity generation and distribution (Victoria and South Australia);
  • Manipulation of electricity markets via uncompetitive bidding to produce the highest possible profits for the private corporations;
  • A decline in expenditure in electricity generation capacity;
  • Government (taxpayer) subsidisation of private corporations who refuse to take over the cost of the unprofitable parts of previously public operations (like subsidised electricity prices and infrastructure maintenance in remote regions); and
  • Privatisation fiascos like Sydney’s cross-city tunnel and airport rail link.
As a result, the Costa-Iemma argument that privatisation provides governments with increased income to spend on “core activities” like health, education and transport has become totally shaky.


Iemma rushing power sell-off

Unions are accusing the New South Wales Government of inadequate community consultation on a plan to privatise electricity assets.

A call for public submissions will be made this week and they are due by February 8.

United Services Union spokesman Ben Kruse is on a committee set up to assess the plan and says the deadline gives people less than a fortnight to respond.

"The advertisement for the public submissions will only be published in Tuesday's paper," he said.

"Indeed the criteria the committee is using isn't even included in that advertisement. You have to go to the Government's website to find it."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Report: Stop the Sell-Off meeting

Unions NSW held a very positive report back meeting on Thursday January 21, advising of progress in the campaign and the next directions to be taken.

Over 1200 people have now signed up the email newsletter from the campaign website with the first message expected to go our today. The petition campaign has done very well; the petition can be downloaded from this blog.

As well as the Blue Mountains, the campaign is off and running in Lithgow, Bathurst, the Central Coast and Newcastle. The 46 'Your Rights At Work' groups across the state are also getting involved in the campaign, including in Western and South Western Sydney.

On the 17th of January Unions NSW met with community groups to build a coalition against the proposed sell off. Groups supporting the campaign include:

  • The Nature Conservation Council
  • Public Interest Advocacy Centre
  • Uniting Care
  • Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association
  • Cables Down Under
  • Returned Services League
  • St Vincent De Paul
  • Blue Mountains Unions Council

An anti-privatisation forum in Newcastle on the evening of Wednesday January 23 attracted over 600 people with limited publicity. Local media provided extensive coverage following the meeting, which was also attended by some local ALP MPs.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ACTU: Don't punish workers for inflation

ACTU president Sharan Burrow says there must be no cut to real wages. (File photo) (AAP: Maria Zsoldos)The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has rejected any call for real wages to be cut to curb inflation.

Instead, the ACTU says companies should accept profit cuts.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow says "You can't put the blame for an overheated economy at the door of working families struggling to pay their bills.

"While it's important to get the balance right, while it's important that inflation is controlled, we would reject any notion that you'd have a real wage cut for working families.

"The critical piece is that the balance is there, and that working families maintain their capacity to pay their mortgages.

"We don't want to see the economy that the US has where more and more families are defaulting on mortgages, where credit institutions are absolutely at the brink of collapse."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sydney Ferries - Day of Action 26 Jan

By Warren Smith

MUA Sydney Branch members will be gathering at Circular Quay on Saturday 26th January in an effort to raise community support for the maintenance of Sydney Ferries in public ownership.

Come along and help hand out our latest leaflet.
Balloons and Tattoos for the kids.

Time: 9am
Where: No.3 Circular Quay
Date: Saturday January 26th

All welcome.

For further information

Contact : Maritime Union of Australia - Sydney Branch
Phone : +61 2 9264 5024
Mobile : 0400 368 945
Fax : +61 2 9261 4548

Fines for AWA duress

The Workplace Ombudsman has fined a number of companies and launched investigations into others following allegations that their employees are being forced onto Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) ahead of new laws expected to be tabled next month in federal Parliament that will ban AWAs.

Zinifex Australia is being prosecuted by the workplace regulator in the Federal Court of Australia for allegedly applying duress to four workers in connection with an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) at the company’s former Hobart smelter.

“Duress to a worker by anyone in connection with a workplace agreement is intolerable and utterly unlawful. We have warned all participants in the workplace many times that we will prosecute those we allege to have engaged in such conduct as with Zinifex and we will continue to do so,” said Workplace Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson.

Wilson has also confirmed that it recently commenced an investigation into allegations that duress was being applied to Telstra workers to re-sign AWAs.

At the commencement of the investigation, meetings were held with both Telstra and senior representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and unions from which allegations were received from the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

The CPSU spokesman said that Telstra has been giving employees inaccurate and incomplete comparisons between what they would stand to get under an AWA and a collective agreement.

“There is a climate of fear and people feel as though they’re being strong-armed into locking into these five-year contracts … People are being told that if they don’t sign AWAs they could potentially lose their redundancy entitlements,” the CPSU spokesman said.

The Workplace Ombudsman has also launched an investigation into allegations made by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) that the University of Wollongong has also been trying to lock staff into AWA individual contracts before the Labor Government’s legislation takes effect.

New staff members at the university’s medical school are being asked to sign AWAs that are inferior to the collective agreement negotiated by the NTEU, according to the ACTU.

The university’s AWAs run for five years without guaranteed annual pay rises. They also remove significant employment conditions compared to the collective agreement, including some allowances, leave provisions, levels of redundancy pay and protections for academic freedom, the ACTU said.


Power sell-off: Not done deal

The State Government and unions are at loggerheads over the role of a new committee that will examine plans to privatise the state's electricity industry.

The committee will be headed by former NSW premier Barry Unsworth and include Matt Thistlewaite from Unions NSW, executive director of UnitingCare NSW/ACT Reverend Harry Herbert, Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre, director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Robyn Kruk and coordinator general of NSW David Richmond.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma says the Government has made its decision on privatisation and will not back down.

But Matt Thistlewaite, from Unions NSW, says the group will assess the merits of the plan.

"We have a different view to the Premier," he said.

"The committee will be assessing the impacts and if those impacts are not in the interests of the people of NSW, we would expect the Government to listen to the outcomes of this committee and pull the plug on electricity privatisation because it is not in the interest of the people of this state."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NSW Power sell-off: $15 billion sting

NSW taxpayers could be forced to pay more than $15 billion to indemnify private companies bidding for the state's power assets, a report has found.

The indemnities - against losses that privatised coal-fired power stations would face under a new national carbon trading scheme - would wipe out the $15 billion revenue boost the Iemma Government expects to gain from the privatisation.

An analysis by the independent think tank the Australia Institute has revealed the carbon trading scheme the Federal Government intends to introduce to combat global warming would dramatically reduce the value of coal-fired generators.

According to the author of the report, economist and institute director Clive Hamilton, the cost of the indemnity could reach $15.4 billion.

"This amount would be the cost borne by NSW citizens if the NSW Government indemnifies private buyers against future carbon liabilities," he concludes.

"The Government has form on this issue," Dr Hamilton said. "And they will come under even greater pressure from potential buyers to offer them indemnities, too. There is nothing to say the Government could not, and would not, do this in secret, using all sorts of commercial-in-confidence provisions, and the public may know nothing about it for 20 years."

"It's a bad time to be selling electricity assets when there is so much uncertainty about the carbon liability of coal-fired power plants," Dr Hamilton said.

The institute's report warns that no prudent investor would commit to major expenditure in such a risky commercial environment, predicting that "carbon liability and the indemnity issue will dominate negotiations in the sale process".

Download report
Carbon liabilities devalue NSW power plants

Monday, January 21, 2008

UnionsNSW: Power solution

Unions NSW has developed a plan to meet our power needs by upgrading existing power stations while moving urgently on renewable energy sources.

The solution lies in upgrading our existing power stations now so they can generate more power than they currently do.

Meanwhile, the government can encourage renewable energy providers to feed power into the grid, to reduce our long-term reliance on coal power.

The NSW Government can meet our power needs by upgrading our existing power stations such as Mount Piper and Bayswater.

When these power stations were first designed they were intended to produce double the electricity they do now. However, because electricity demand did not grow as fast as expected they were never fully completed.

Upgrading Mount Piper and Bayswater power stations could be done faster than building new ones and would mean that more money could be put to encouraging renewable energies.

Selling-off our power is not the solution to NSW’s future energy needs. The evidence shows that all it leads to is less reliable service and high prices.

The NSW Government needs to make better use of what we already have while investing in a green cleaner energy future.

More information:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Economic challenges facing Rudd government

The economic challenges facing a Rudd Labor government
Where: Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
When: 20 February 2008
Start time: 6pm

The American economy is on the edge of an economic slowdown, recession is possible. Petrol prices are moving towards the threshold of US$100 dollars per barrel. The Rudd Government appears fatally committed to significant Australian tax cuts mid year while interest rates in Australia move ever upwards, inflation is moving, personal debt is skyrocketing. The NSW Fabian Society has invited three serious economic commentators to speak on the internal and external economic challenges facing a Rudd government.

Saul Eslake is the Chief Economist for the ANZ Bank. Saul began his career in the Commonwealth Public Service. Prior to joining the ANZ he was Chief Economist at National Funds management (now part of AXA insurance group) and before that Chief Economist of the stock broking firm McIntosh Securities (now part of Merrill Lynch).

Dr John Edwards is the Chief Economist at HSBC Australia. From 1991-1994 he was the Senior Adviser (Economic) to the Treasurer and then Prime Minister Paul Keating. Dr Edwards wrote a biography of Paul Keating, one of the best Australian biographies. He was a political journalist in Canberra and Washington. In another life Dr Edwards was the candidate in 1969 of the ALP Left for President of NSW Young Labor. The incumbent he challenged was Paul Keating.

Dr Steve Keen is an Associate Professor in economics and finance at the University of Western Sydney. Dr Keen has published a book, Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences. In recent times, Dr Keen has gained national prominence as a commentator on the crisis of Australian personal debt.

The moderator is Hon Dr Geoff Gallop, former Premier of WA.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Power sell-off: Neolibralism in NSW

John M. Legge, Dissent, Summer 2007-2008

NSW provides a couple of current examples of neoliberalism at work.

One is the push to privatise the NSW electricity supply industry and the other is to reconstruct the Royal North Shore Hospital under a public-private partnership agreement.

The current basis of the case for privatising the NSW people's electricity assets is the report by Curtin University energy economics professor, Anthony Owen. Owen argues that NSW will need a new base load electricity generating station in the next five to ten years (which it will, if greenhouse gas issues are ignored and nothing is done to encourage energy conservation) and the NSW Government 'can't afford' the $5 billion to $7 billion that such a station may cost.

The assertion is absolutely without foundation: the government-owned NSW electricity corporations could borrow anything they needed at the government's AAA credit rating and pay the interest and a dividend to the government as well. There is no need for this investment to even appear as a government budget expense, much less for it to get in the way of programs for schools, hospitals and public transport; the dividends would allow the government to spend more on these services.

The real agenda is almost wholly transparent: the government-owned stations set an effective cap on the wholesale price on the Australian east coast, preventing the owners of the privatised Victorian assets getting the returns that were expected when they were sold. Privatising the NSW system will make electricity on the Australian east coast more expensive, the supply less reliable and the whole operation far more profitable.

Instead of borrowing the money needed to rebuild the Royal North Shore Hospital or using the current budget surplus to pay for it the NSW Government will enter a public-private partnership, under which a private consortium will rebuild the hospital and provide all non-clinical services in return for an annual payment. While the details are likely to be buried in 'commercial confidentiality' we know that listed companies expect to earn at least 12 per cent on funds employed while taxation revenue requires no commercial return and government borrowing will not cost more than 7 per cent.

The project is described as a $703 million one: if this is the initial capital cost the difference between the public and the private cost of funds will approach $40 million per year. This is real current expenditure that really does affect the government's ability to provide schools, hospitals and public transport.

The people of NSW will get one hospital but they will pay for two and a half of them.

It isn't even voodoo economics: it is rape and pillage of the public purse.

Power workers vote no confidence in Iemma

More than 200 power workers have moved a motion of no confidence in Premier Morris Iemma and the New South Wales Government over the planned electricity industry sell-off.

The workers from the Vales Point and Lake Munmorah power stations at Lake Macquarie, in the Hunter Valley, met yesterday at lunchtime and did not return to work after the meeting .

The maintenance and administration workers returned at 7:00am (AEDT) today.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) spokesman Allen Drew says the workers have also signed a petition organised by the Newcastle Trades Hall Council.

"The workers moved a motion ... of no confidence in Morris Iemma, [Treasurer] Michael Costa and the Iemma Government in the way they are handling this process and the lack of consultation," he said.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

ETU letter to members

The trouble with the NSW Government’s announcement in relation to electricity privatisation is that it proves that they don’t understand how the sector operates.

I have never heard of a privatisation or long term lease of any electricity industry in Australia, or anywhere in the world, which has resulted in more jobs, lower prices or better service. NSW will not break this trend.

The majority of the ETU’s members employed in the electricity industry will not be affected as this proposal only applies to ETU members employed in the generators or who perform a retail function in the Distributors. All up, this involves approximately 300 ETU members. It is fair to say that the Government has come up with a number of innovative ways to buy their silence, but I think most members will see this bribe for what it is – a bribe of some 40 pieces of silver.

The State Council of the Union unanimously passed a resolution opposing the privatisation proposal and committing the Union to a vigorous campaign of opposition.

The ETU’s anti-privatisation campaign in 1997 wasn’t focused on employees - - - job losses were simply going to be a by-product. Our campaign was based on the long term effects that the Carr/Egan proposal would have on the wider community.

The Iemma/Costa proposal will have the same detrimental effect on NSW families and consumers.

The Premier has offered price regulation for the next five years through IPART. In the state of Virginia in the USA recently, a five year price cap expired. The following day, the privately owned supplier put up prices by a massive 78%!!!!!! Last month, Victorian consumers were slugged with a 17% price hike. The reason is apparently the drought. What a load of crap. Victoria’s major generating source is brown coal. Water is used for cooling purposes only. Obviously the easiest excuse for any politician at the moment is to blame climate change or the drought.

Currently, price spikes from the generators can be absorbed by the retailers because they are both Government owned. Therefore, if a retailer pays more to a generator than they have budgeted for, it doesn’t really matter because the profit of the retailer will fall but the profit of the generator will rise. However, this scenario goes pear shaped once you sell one or the other functions. The Government loses its capacity to “flatten” the market – the result being that consumers will have to pay the real cost, plus profit, of the privatised generator and the privatised retailer.

No matter how you look at it, prices will rise.

I read an article in today’s paper written by Michael Costa where he argued the success of past micro-economic reforms such as the sale of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank. He claimed no one would support keeping these businesses in Government hands these days.

Every consumer in NSW will suffer if Iemma and Costa succeed. This is a bad idea – it’s bad policy. There is little or no detail, simply headlines and press releases.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Katoomba: meeting to oppose power sell-off

A meeting of people interested in getting the campaign against Power
Privatisation up and running will be held this coming Thursday
evening. Details are below:

PeoplePower Blue Mountains Meeting
8PM Thursday January 17
Upstairs meeting room
Blackburn's Family Hotel
15 Parke Street (next to the fire station)

Items to be discussed at the meeting include planning for:

- Street Stall in Katoomba (and elsewhere?) on Saturday January 19
- Local meeting tentatively planned for Katoomba in February
- Rally in Sydney scheduled for late February
- Local wobble boarding protest
- Letterboxing
- Politics in the Pub event planned for early March

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unions rally against NSW power sell-off

NSW unions and a host of community groups are organising a protest outside Parliament House on February 26, in scenes reminiscent of the infamous 2001 blockade.

Organisers said they would not be seeking to ban MPs from entering the Parliament but would instead be pressuring anti-privatisation backbenchers to speak out publicly against the $15 billion electricity sale.

Despite being opposed to privatisation, MPs failed to force a vote on the matter when it came before caucus because it would have shamed Deputy Premier John Watkins - a left-wing touchstone who would have been forced to vote against his faction because of Cabinet solidarity.

Mr Thistlewaite said MPs would not be barred from entering the building as they were during the 2001 protest against workers compensation reforms.

However, he said they would be pressured to publicly declare their stance either to the crowd outside or to the House.

Mr Thistlewaite will also be meeting community groups as early as next week in an effort to generate a critical mass of mainstream opposition to the sale.

"We've been overwhelmed by the response we've received from members of the community and a number of community organisations," he said.

Power workers take action

Determined opposition to NSW Premier Morris Iemma's plan to sell the state-owned electricity assets has begun, with mass walkouts at four power stations.

Workers at the Vales Point and Munmorah power stations on the NSW central coast, and at Bayswater and Liddell stations in the Hunter Valley, yesterday rejected the $10 billion sale announced by Mr Iemma on Monday.

The NSW secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, Bernie Riordan, said the strikes would not cause power shortages for consumers because skeleton crews had agreed to maintain operations.

He said the decision by the workers to strike with no union officials present sent a strong signal to the Iemma Government about the intensity of the opposition to the Government's privatisation plans.

Workers at two more power stations, Wallerawang and Mt Piper at Lithgow, west of Sydney, are expected to hold meetings and could follow their colleagues out on strike.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wages: unions doing their job

'There is no national union push for a wages 'breakout' in the building industry, nor are there plans for mass strikes,' said Dave Noonan, National Secretary CFMEU.

'These ridiculous claims in the Fairfax press of impending widespread industrial action have been generated by a few mischievous employer groups indulging in union bashing.

'The Australian people made it very clear at the last election that they want rights at work and see unions as having an important role in their workplaces.

'The bulk of building industry agreements in NSW and Victoria due to expire this year already have wage increases guaranteed for 2008.

'So the suggestion that widespread industrial action will arise to secure wage increases is a fallacy.

'Where agreements are due to expire, the CFMEU will consult with its members and then sit down with employers to negotiate the best possible outcome.

'The Master Builders Association is once again peddling untrue statistics and unsupported claims as part of its smoke and mirrors campaign against unions and workers' rights.

'The MBA should accept that the Australian people voted at the last election for rights at work and this union bashing has got to stop.

'The CFMEU calls on employers to instead work with the union to increase apprenticeships and training, deal with skill shortages where they occur and provide decent jobs and career paths for construction workers,' said Mr Noonan.

PSA slams State Government

The Public Service Association of NSW has slammed the Iemma Government for failing to consult with Unions or the public on plans to privatise the State's electricity industry.

Assistant Branch Secretary Steve Turner said members would refuse to co-operate with outside consultants hired by the State Government to fast track plans to sell the industry's retail business arm and lease generators.

"We had an agreement with the Government that there will be proper community consultation," he said.

"If we become aware of any fast-tracking of the process that undermines such consultation and review, then we will be asking our members not to participate."

The PSA represents administrative staff in the power generation plants.
Members have asked the Union if they should provide highly paid consultants with information about the business operations of the Delta and Macquarie generators.

Newspaper reports state that Delta Electricity chief executive officer Jim Henness had written to staff informing them of a NSW Treasury directive to provide a collection of expensive law, accountancy and public relations firms and merchant banks, with financial and other technical details of the plant's operation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MUA hails shipping reform

The newly elected Rudd Government has made good on its pledge to unions and local ship owners to reinvigerate Australian shipping and put a stop to rampant exploitation of third world crew by rogue shipping operators in Australian waters.

There will be a clamp down on overuse of foreign-owned ships to transport freight around the nation's coastline in a bid to bolster the shipping industry.

There will be a review of coastal shipping laws to uncover ways to lift the domestic shipping fleet's share of the domestic freight market from its current level of about 80 per cent.

Foreign vessels in Australian waters will be required to observe an International Labour Organisation Convention (The Seafarers' Bill of Rights) guaranteeing fair pay and conditions for all seafarers.

The Maritime Union of Australia met with the minister after the election calling on Labor to deliver on its policy platform, requiring stronger laws to protect cabotage - the principle that nations should protect domestic shipping routes for domestic shipping fleets.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin accepted the need for foreign ships to ply domestic freight routes as long as no Australian vessels were available.

"But there should be a transparent process to how those permits are awarded," he said.

"Under the Howard government, permits were issued without due diligence. We've met with Anthony Albanese. He said that we'd be going back to the (Labor) platform."

In a letter to the International Transport Workers' Federation he thanked international colleagues for their support in the protracted battle to secure rights for both Australian and world seafarers.

"It could not have been achieved without the constant support of the ITF and it's many affiliates through hard times," he said.

"We are working hard on our work plan for the new government in maritime policy areas and all responses have been very supportive. What a difference a government makes. There is plenty to be done and as we all know political work can be frustrating, but after 12 years of criminal conspiracy and harassment, every day is a bright one!"


Monday, January 07, 2008

Unions oppose bank rates hike

Unions have urged the remaining of Australia's major banks not to raise interest rates.

National Australia Bank (NAB) and ANZ Banking Group were the first to raise their variable home loan rates last week ignoring the rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The ACTU wants the remaining banks to put working families ahead of annual profits.

"ANZ and NAB's decisions to raise interest rates were simply greedy," ACTU president Sharan Burrow said in a statement.

"The top five Australian banks combined made nearly $18 billion in profit last financial year, and NAB alone made $4.4 billion in profit."

Ms Burrows said an increase in bank rates will further stress family budgets.

"Working families are struggling with increased petrol and food costs and many are already experiencing housing stress," she said.

"There were a record number of mortgage defaults last year and any further increases to interest rates will only make it harder for people to meet payments."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Privatisation's poor track record

Lithgow Mercury 03 January 2008

Selling off the State’s electricity industry will serve only to raise prices and reduce services in regional and rural New South Wales, according to local government advocacy group, the Shires Association of NSW.

The warning comes as opposition grows even from within Labor ranks on the Iemma Government’s controversial plan to privatise the industry through a 99 year lease of the generators including Mt Piper and Wallerawang power stations and the sale of the retail arms that include Integral Energy.

President of the Shires Association, Cr Bruce Miller, went even further in his criticism when he warned the government to learn from past misadventures in privatisation.

“Privatisation of essential services has never achieved the promised benefits,” Cr Miller said.

“Wherever privatisation has occurred we have seen loss of jobs and increases in prices over time.”