Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gunns loses ANZ backing

Sydney Morning Herald
May 28, 2008

THE $2 billion Tasmanian pulp mill has lost its key financial backer, the ANZ bank, finance industry sources confirmed yesterday, but the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has not been briefed by the developer, Gunns.

"He hasn't been formally advised nor would he need to be," a spokesman for Mr Garrett said yesterday. "The financing of the mill is a matter for Gunns, and the minister's role is to ensure Gunns complies with national environmental legislation."

Environmental groups have lobbied ANZ intensely to pull out of the mill, which became a focus of protests during the federal election when both Labor and the Coalition backed the Tasmanian Government's support for the project.

On Monday, the Tasmanian Premier, Paul Lennon, a passionate backer of the mill, resigned but his successor, David Bartlett, has in the past backed the mill.

Yesterday Mr Bartlett told ABC radio: "I believe this project, largely now, will stand or fall on the basis of whether the company can get finance for it. That the Government, in fact the Parliament, through its approvals process, has done pretty much all that it can, some would argue more than it should have, and really it is down to the company and their financiers now."


Sunday, May 25, 2008

ACTU: Time to deliver

Lifelong Liberals, swinging voters, Labor supporters, Greens - this time six months ago we all united around the need to get rid of WorkChoices.

Today the ACTU is launching a new ad to remind politicians from all parties what the nation said loud and clear at the ballot box: our rights at work are worth fighting for.

Just because the Howard Government was defeated at the last election doesn't mean WorkChoices is dead. While the Rudd Government came good on its promise to scrap new AWAs as soon as it was elected, most of the new laws getting rid of Work Choices will not be introduced into Parliament until later this year.

That's only if the Liberals and other parties don't try and hold them up - and big business doesn't try and water them down.

This ad is the first of a new series that supports our ongoing campaign rights at work: the right to bargain collectively, protection from unfair dismissal, the right to be represented by a union, better pay and conditions, and the right for all workers to have a say in the workplace.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cluster Bomb Petition

From GetUp:

As one of the very last acts of the Howard Government, Brendan Nelson bought $14 million worth of cluster bombs - weapons that contain mini-bombs, some of which remain unexploded on the ground for years awaiting innocent civilians. It's the first time Australia has bought such a weapon, and one we would hope the new Government would categorically reject.

But right now, as the international community meets in Dublin to ban them, the new Australian Government is going out of its way to frustrate the process. They're calling for their 'SMART 155' bomb to be excluded, and for rogue nations who persist in using cluster bombs to be permitted to do so. We've got just a few scarce days left before the fragile international agreement is drafted.

Sign the petition today telling Kevin Rudd to ban the bomb: no loopholes, no exceptions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NSW Teachers strike: 22 May

Teachers across NSW will take 24 hours of industrial action as a result of major changes by the state government to the school staffing system and the qualification requirements for TAFE teachers.

Teachers will be holding rallies and meetings across the state. The Sydney rally will be held at:

11am at Farrer Place outside the Department of Education and Training building and Governor Macquarie Tower.

Information about regional rallies can be found on the Federation website.

The State Government has broken a clear election promise made two weeks before the state election by the then Minister, Carmel Tebbutt. Speaking on behalf of the Iemma Government, she said that the changes, if introduced, would allow some schools to "take their pick of applicants" while others would "in many cases not have sufficient staff".

The Iemma Government has now introduced those very changes and they will hurt many schools and communities. The changes will:
  • phase out teacher transfers in practice
  • offload the government's responsibility for finding teachers onto schools
  • lead to larger class sizes or unqualified teachers in some schools because they will find it hard to attract and retain teachers.
The Government has also removed the requirement for TAFE teachers to have teacher education qualifications. This move will lower the standard of educational provision in TAFE.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Combined YR@W Groups 21 May

Unions NSW is holding a combined YR@W Groups Meeting:

Date: Wednesday 21st May at
Time: 6:30pm
Where: Unions NSW,
Trades Hall Auditorium
377-383 Sussex Street, Sydney.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss:
  1. The next phase of the Stop the sell off
  2. Paid Maternity Leave Campaign.
For further information please contact Mary Yaager on 0408 931 899

Sunday, May 18, 2008

MUA proposal for Australian Shipping

The Maritime Union of Australia is calling on the Rudd Government to use part of the Building Australia Fund to support the revitalisation of Australian shipping.

The call is part of a five step plan to halt the decline of Australian shipping following a decade of neglect by the Howard Government which saw the fleet shrink by a staggering one third. MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin presented evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Coastal Shipping Policy and Regulation in Canberra today and call on the Rudd Government to:

  1. Close current loopholes that allow foreign vessels to replace Australia ships on domestic routes
  2. Provide financial incentives for Australian companies to operate Australian flagged vessels including accelerated depreciation
  3. Fund maritime infrastructure improvements to bring support for shipping into line with support for road and rail, and promote the greenhouse benefits of maritime transport
  4. Review the tax system to provide incentives for Australian operators with foreign vessels to reflag ships locally
  5. Invest in an Australian maritime workforce to meet the demand for skills and labour in the industry.

"Australia is an island nation at the far end of the global supply chain - this simple proposition explains why a national shipping industry is vital," says Mr Crumlin.

"In an era of heightened terror threats, Australians are demanding standards of maritime security that only a national fleet can provide.

"And in addressing the global challenge of climate change shipping will play an important role in reducing greenhouse emissions."

Between 1996 and 2006 the number of Australian registered trading vessels fell from 75 to just 46.

"The Howard Government legacy in shipping means that for as little as $22, an Australian vessel can reflag, avoiding Australian labour and tax laws, while continuing to operate on the Australian coast.

"The surprise is not that Australian shipping has declined in the last ten years but that any Australian vessels remain at all.

"The Rudd Government now has an opportunity invest in the maritime industry and its infrastructure - neglected for so many years under the Howard regime," said Mr Crumlin.


Construction commission given notice

The AMWU joined with other unions in the construction industry last week to discuss a national campaign for the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – a body set up by the Howard Government to restrict the ability of unions to do their job in the building industry.

The Rudd Government has pledged to scrap the ABCC by 2010, but unions are calling for it to be scrapped immediately.

The unions met after several workers were interrogated about what was said and took place at union meetings. An official of the CFMEU in Victoria is facing jail after defying an ABCC order to attend a meeting and answer questions relating to union activity.

AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson said that there was no reason for the Rudd Government to hang onto the ABCC since they had promised to scrap WorkChoices.

“The ABCC and the special laws for the building industry are part of Howard’s IR laws and they should not remain in place.

“The government should not be keeping laws that single out workers in the construction industry for restricted activity and harsh penalties. Construction workers are like workers in any other industry – there should be no discrimination.”

The AMWU has long been a critic of the ABCC and the special powers of the organisation.

“It’s totally unacceptable to us that any organisation has the ability to summon people to compulsory ‘interrogations’ with the threat of fines or jail and to make it illegal to discuss what was said there,” said Thompson.

“The laws have made construction workers nervous about raising health and safety matters or taking action to protect themselves.”

A number of workers around Australia have been questioned and fined by the ABCC for taking action on safety, for attempting to secure a placement for an apprentice and in one well known case, 107 workers in West Australia were threatened with $28,000 fines for taking industrial action in response to the sacking of their delegate.

Representatives from the International Labour Organisation have also intervened in this matter, calling on Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard to get rid of laws that contravene international workers’ rights.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Paid Maternity Leave Campaign

Paid Maternity Leave Campaign at Penrith on Monday 19 May.

The launch will be held:

Time: 10:00am
Date: Monday 19th May 2008
Venue: South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre
Trent Street, South Penrith (behind Southland shops)

Parking is available.

Please contact Robyn Griffith if you have any further queries regarding the launch on 9881 5999.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Premier short-circuits ALP over privatisation

Australian Manufacturing Workers' UnionDespite a humiliating defeat of his electricity privatisation proposal at ALP State conference last weekend, NSW Premier Morris Iemma insisted that the sell off would go ahead.

AMWU NSW Secretary Paul Bastian said despite the fact that 702 delegates voted against privatisation, the Premier was dogged in his determination to push on with the sale – the conditions of which do not address any of the issues of concern for workers in the industry. Only 102 delegates voted in favour of the sell-off.

"The sale means that there is no public control or scrutiny over crucial issues whether they be social, industrial and environmental.

"It means that everything is left up to the market. There is no commitment to deliver new base load power, there is no commitment to environmental considerations and nothing about keeping a cap on costs to the consumer."

Mr Bastian said that the AMWU along side other unions in NSW are committed to keep fighting.

"All the unions are united in their opposition to this and we know we have the support of the public. Eighty five per cent of the people of NSW are opposed to this sale."

In an address to the conference on the weekend, Mr Bastian called on all ALP Members of Parliament to respect the democratic vote of the conference.

"This is only the second time in history that an ALP Premier has openly defied the wish of the conference. The first time was over the issue of conscription in World War 1.

"People know that this sale is not a good idea. The evidence from places where it’s already happened like Victoria is that it has destroyed communities, cost jobs, raised prices and compromised service to the community."

Mr Bastian said that nothing was included in the NSW government's proposal about protecting the conditions and job security of workers in the industry.

"There’s nothing in it for the workers, for the community and in the long run, for the government."


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Save Our Nurses

Our State Government has a chance to save our nurses

Our nurses are at breaking point. Exhausting workloads, long hours, and unfair pay. Soon, our State Government will have a chance to save these nurses, and that means saving our hospitals. If our nurses get the fair pay and fair conditions they deserve, they will stay. If they are ignored, thousands could leave.

How can I do more more at

Tough Budget test ahead

The 13 May Budget will be the toughest in a decade. But what does it mean for public sector workers, asks CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones.

CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones.The 13 May Budget will be the toughest in a decade and is seen by many as the first real test of the Rudd Government's economic credentials.

With inflation and interest rates on the move and continuing global instability, there is growing pressure from commentators and business groups for large scale cuts to government spending and public services.

At the same time we are looking to the Rudd Government to use its first Budget to deliver the compassion and decency the Australian community voted for at the election.

We know the Government's 'razor gang' will be imposing a one-off 2% extra efficiency dividend on top of the 1.25% dividend already in place. These cuts were announced pre-election and are already locked in.

But this has not stopped us taking up the case for a new approach to PS finance.

In our view, blunt arbitrary measures such as the 2% extra dividend do nothing to improve public sector productivity and damage the capacity of public service agencies to deliver services effectively.

Arbitrary cuts inevitably lead to 'false economies' which cost taxpayers more in the long run.

Put simply, if you cut staff in Centrelink or Medicare offices you will effect the quality and timeliness of the service clients receive.

Is it really a saving to reduce the quantity, quality and scope of ABS surveys that are used by businesses and Governments to plan future developments? A reduction in ATO staffing undermines efforts to minimize tax avoidance and maximize revenue collection.

Our ability to respond to the challenges of climate change will not be enhanced by cutting programs in CSIRO or the Bureau of Meteorology.

At a time when the public service is struggling to attract and retain experienced and talented employees, short term measures won't help.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Oil War-driven Recession We Had to Have

ABC Unleashed
Bob Ellis 05/05/2008

An employee of the Kuwait Oil Company looks at a Gathering Centre at the al-Rawdatain field, 100 kms north of Kuwait City, January 25, 2005.

Oil now costs $112 a barrel, up from $30 a barrel five years ago and this has caused inflation. The ARB has responded to this inflation in this past year by putting up the cost of living by $80 a week on average, thus causing more inflation. People are responding to this Reserve Bank-driven inflation by becoming 'stressed', becoming drunk, beating their wives and committing suicide. Noting this harmful effect, Glenn Stephens has signalled he won't put up interest rates any more.

Why did he put them up in the first place? Why did he and his Board do such harm to the economy, to shoe shops, toy shops, bookshops, bars, motels and cineplexes when they must have known ordinary working Australians don't put oil prices up, Americans Presidents and their Middle East wars do. They must have suspected what they should have been doing - the Bank of England and the Fed are doing it - is bringing interest rates down. But they've been putting them up instead and so increasing the cost of living and much adjacent suburban misery in order, they think, to 'fight inflation' - by raising the cost of things.

Why do banks and economists so often get it wrong when ordinary people queuing for petrol can see what the trouble is - the war, the greed of Big Oil, the shareholders, the CEOs, the banks, the craze for privatisation, the mania for water views - and usually get it right? Why are people better economists than economists? Why is it clear to them that putting the cost of living up causes inflation, but not clear to Glenn Stephens?


Monday, May 05, 2008

Costa loses plot!

Enraged by the dramatic lose of support of the ALP conference NSW Treasurer Micheal Costa stormed across the room - his face flushed, his hands clenched - towards John Robertson, the secretary of Unions NSW. "You blokes can get f---ed," he screamed. "You're going to look like dickheads on Monday morning."

If any other delegate had behaved in such a manner no doubt they would have been ejected from the conference ... special license for upset ministers?

What Costa's behavior clearly shows is how much his ego is tied up with the proposed sell-off of NSW electricity. Having lost support of the unions, the NSW electorate (80% oppose the plan) the majority of ALP branches and now the ALP conference (85% oppose the plan), it appears that Costa now imagines that the belated support of newspaper editorials writers and various business leaders (who would be the main beneficiaries of the privatisation) will somehow help the plan get through.

Is Costa's behaviour a signal that he knows the plan is done for? Or did he swallow one too many hamburgers?

Sydney's working harbour, 1840-1875

Dockside: Sydney's working harbour, 1840-1875

When: 5 May 2008 – 10 August 2008
Where: State Library of NSW - Picture Gallery

This exhibition will celebrate Sydney's once central, but now declining, role as a commercial harbour. A selection of watercolours, oils and photographs will reveal the animated fabric of Sydney's waterside. Drawn from the Library's collections, works by renowned artists such as Conrad Martens and Frederick Garling will be displayed.

Image: Patent slip belonging to the Australasian Steam Navigation Co., c. 1855, watercolour, Frederick Garling

Saturday, May 03, 2008

NO! power privatisation rejected 7 to 1

Delegates at the New South Wales Labor Party Conference in Sydney have overwhelmingly rejected a State Government proposal to privatise the electricity sector.

Premier Morris Iemma wants to sell electricity retailers and lease power generators, but an amendment to Labor Party policy moved at the conference which rejected privatisation was supported.

The final vote was 702 against electricity privatisation and 107 for it. The vote came after a lengthy debate where speakers, including union officials and Government ministers, outlined their positions on the proposed power sector reforms.

The reception was hostile for all pro-privatisation speakers, but the most raucous response was reserved for Treasurer Michael Costa, who passionately argued the Government's case.

"This policy is sensible, we shouldn't allow a bunch of egos and a bunch of people that are looking at their future careers to de-rail a Premier that won the unwinnable election," he said.

Mr Costa has indicted the Government will push ahead with the plan, in spite of the conference decision.

Mr Iemma earlier told the conference that private sector involvement was necessary because the Government on its own could either fund electricity or services - not both.

It is an argument Unions New South Wales spokesman John Robertson rejected.

"We shouldn't have to make a choice. This Government should fund both," he said.

Former premier Barrie Unsworth urged conference to support the plans.

A spokesman for Mr Iemma says he will weigh up the views of 700 delegates against the future needs of seven million people.