Thursday, October 30, 2008

Green car for South Australia?

South Australia should aim to manufacture a new "green car" the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union believes.

AMWU secretary John Camillo said the state should focus on how to win a slice of up to $1 billion which could be up for grabs for fuel efficient or alternative fuel car manufacturing, after the Federal Government releases its response to the industry review by former Victorian state premier Steve Bracks.

Mr Camillo said he expects the response to be released next Monday, including acceptance of a recommendation to bring forward Labor's $500 million "green car" innovation fund from 2011 to 2009, and doubling that figure if it was successful.

He maintained that the industry should not only focus on possible job losses from a recommendation to cut tariffs from 10 to 5 per cent in 2010.

"There will be a hell of a lot of money available and this is a great opportunity," Mr Camillo said.

"The Australian public are telling us they want a clean, green, locally manufactured vehicle and the opportunity is there with this money to deliver that."

Mr Camillo said he had met an electric engine manufacturer who could apply to use the former Mitsubishi site and some of the $1 billion green-car funding for a joint venture with a car manufacturer.

The vehicle manufacturing industry employs 8000, including 4000 workers in the components industry, which is expected to benefit from a rescue package of between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.

TAFE’s Funding Crisis

Since 1997, Commonwealth funding has decreased by 26%, and state/territory government funding has decreased by 16%.
  • 1996 – 1997 Howard government cuts funding, reduced base for 1998-2000 ANTA Agreement.
  • 1998 Commonwealth funding freeze, “Growth through Efficiency”, de-regulation of the training market.
  • 1997 – 2001 16.3% decrease in per unit funding, 16.3% enrolment growth.
  • 2001 – 2003 limited growth funding restored, total growth funding $460m over three years, about a half of what was required.
  • 2004 rollover of 2003 funding with no indexation of 2003 “growth” funds and Commonwealth direct purchase of Australians Working Together programs ($20.5m).
  • 2005 ANTA is abolished, WorkChoices and Skilling Australia’s Workforce Act – forces states to comply with Howard government’s industrial agenda to maintain funds.
  • 2007 Rudd government elected on Education Revolution platform.
  • 2008 Release of Boston Consulting Group Report. Rudd announces 450,000 Productivity Places to be delivered contestably.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ACTU: Millions working under ‘precarious’ conditions

Tougher safeguards and new industrial relations laws with a strong independent umpire are needed for workers exposed to the global financial crisis say unions.

A new report released today by the Workplace Research Centre shows millions of workers remain vulnerable to the former Liberal Government’s harsh WorkChoices IR laws and are working under ‘precarious’ conditions.

The report finds around one in three workers are without access to redundancy payments if they lost their job tomorrow.

It also finds there has been a rise in the number of working families who are struggling to pay their bills and are falling behind in mortgage and credit card debts.

The report finds nearly 900,000 workers are currently not a member of a union but want to join.

Meeting with workers and unions in Brisbane today, ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the new report underscores the urgent need for the Rudd Government to scrap the rest of the Coalition’s WorkChoices laws.

“This report shows working Australians and their families are feeling the pinch and need tougher safeguards to protect their jobs and incomes in the face of a possible downturn.

“It is vital that the Rudd Labor Government’s new IR laws — which are expected to be publicly released in the next few weeks — give workers strong collective bargaining rights and the protection of an independent umpire with the power to settle disputes.

“Getting rid of WorkChoices and restoring collective bargaining rights will protect incomes and jobs for working Australians.

“It will also help the economy by growing workforce skills, driving productivity and ensuring working Australians have stable and secure jobs in these uncertain times,” said Mr Lawrence.

WorkChoices took away workers’ right to redundancy pay and removed protection from unfair dismissal for more than three million employees in small and medium businesses.

TAFE Privatisation plans?

The New South Wales Greens say they have obtained documents which show state governments are planning to privatise the TAFE system.

Greens MP John Kaye says the Council of Australian Governments discussion paper reveals a plan to abandon $4 billion in guaranteed funding for TAFE and instead force it to compete against the private sector.

"The future of skills formation in Australia is at risk. This is a lousy time to be doing this," he said.

"On the cusp of a global recession and with a skills shortage this is no time to be experimenting with market-based solutions to making sure we solve the skills crisis."

Dr Kaye says the documents show the plan is alive at the highest levels.

"The state Premiers and Prime Minister are colluding in secret to push through one of Australia's biggest privatisations since Telstra," he said.

"About $4 billion a year currently provided by state and federal governments to TAFE colleges is about to be taken away and put out to competitive tender."

The Australian Education Union federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said proposals to force TAFE to compete with low-quality private training facilities for all funding would undermine its ability to provide community services such as quality low-cost training and libraries.

"Recent global events show how dangerous it is to hand crucial parts of the economy like education and training over to an unfettered market," said Mr Gavrielatos.

download Blue Mountains Union News Oct 2008

TAFE - Government sellout?

NSW Teachers Federation

The Federal government is proposing changes to the TAFE system that will redirect funding to private providers and result in significant increases in fees and charges for students.

"Such changes will have a severe effect on the TAFE system, effectively placing it out of reach of many students," said NSW Teachers Federation Acting President Bob Lipscombe.

"The changes proposed by the government will make funding for vocational education provided by the state contestable.This means that for-profit private providers will have a competitive advantage over their TAFE counterparts. Private providers pick and choose the most lucrative course whereas TAFE delivers a variety of courses across the breadth of the state, ensuring that regional areas and disadvantaged students have equitable access to quality vocational education and training.

"The Teachers Federation calls on Premier Rees and Minister for Education and Training Verity Virth to to reject these changes and defend the TAFE system. It is vital that the integrity of a TAFE system that has served this country soundly for many years is upheld.

"Federation also calls on the Rudd government to suspend proceeeding with the changes, to ensure that that there is full public consultation and broad community debate about the future of the TAFE system."

download Blue Mountains Union News Oct 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

"The Intervention": ABC 30 Oct

A record of the first year of the Emergency Intervention in the Northern Territory region of Katherine and the surrounding communities. Thursday, 30th October 9.30pm on the ABC.

" insightful, if dispiriting, vision of the bureaucratic dysfunction, endemic poverty and alcoholism that still plagues parts of central Australia and how the Intervention, despite some improvements, made some people's difficult lives even more so. The film poses the question of whether the Intervention was really worth it, given so few convictions for sexual abuse have been recorded. Decide for yourself."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lobby for Public Schools

Want the best public schools for our children?

Public schools have a vital role in ensuring every child gets a high quality education. But they are under-resourced. Teachers and parents are joining together to convince the Federal Government to invest more in our public schools. The Federal Government is in discussions with the state and territory governments about the development of a new National Education Agreement. This agreement provides an opportunity for an increase in the general funding for government schools and the development of new targeted programs to address disadvantage and issues associated with quality teaching.

Let's work together to maximise the opportunity this presents for further funding for government schools.

Visit to lobby Members of Parliament.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

GM food danger exposed

The food authority responsible for approving genetically modified products has been accused of pandering to agrochemical giants at the expense of consumer health, in a report released today analysing the authority's recent decisions.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is gambling with the health of consumers, the director of the University of Canterbury's Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, Professor Jack Heinemann has warned, and is one of only a few regulators to have approved every application for genetically engineered food products.

"Many other regulators have at least stood up once where FSANZ appears to have cowered under industry or political pressure," Professor Heinemann said, describing the authority as the victim of "flawed legislation that mixes the goals of trade and public health".

Over the past 12 years the authority has approved more than 50 varieties of genetically engineered crops, from corn and soy to potato and sugar beet, the report, compiled by Greenpeace, found. Among the products approved despite what the organisation described as a weight of harmful evidence were:
  • A strain of corn (MON863) by Monsanto found to cause liver and kidney toxicity when fed to rats in a peer-reviewed French scientific study last year.
  • A Syngenta-manufactured corn (GE alpha-amylase) specifically designed to be used in bioethanol production and not intended for human consumption, yet with the potential to enter the human food chain through unchecked US imports.
  • Another Syngenta corn (GE Bt10) approved by the authority despite being banned by the European Union and Japan because no safety assessments have yet been conducted.
  • A Monsanto canola, still the subject of debate in the European Union and banned outright in Austria, after Monsanto's own testing found increases in liver sizes in rats by up to 16 per cent.
Endorsing the report, Professor Heinemann said many of the authority's decisions on genetically engineered food were based on assumptions, and "picking and choosing only the science [the authority] wants to believe". Moreover, while in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South Africa more stringent food labelling laws are being passed, in Australia genetically engineered products such as oils, starches and sugars as well as meat, milk, cheese and eggs produced by animals that have been fed genetically engineered crops still require no labelling. Food from restaurants and takeaway outlets is also exempt.


Monday, October 20, 2008

ACTU: Paid Maternity Leave a must

A government-funded paid maternity leave scheme is more important then ever with Australian families now facing great economic uncertainty in the wake of the global financial crash, unions say.

"Most families instantly lose one entire salary when a child is born and the mother takes maternity leave," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow in a speech to a Paid Maternity Leave Forum at the Hobart Convention Centre today.

"Despite the economic prosperity of recent years, this loss of salary has proven more and more difficult for families to cope with. In the current climate, it’s about to become even tougher.

"The ACTU says it is imperative that the Productivity Commission’s recent recommendation that the Rudd Government introduce 18 weeks paid maternity leave for all Australian women be included in the 2009 federal budget.

"A paid maternity leave scheme would provide real security at a time when Australian families need all the help they can get to weather the effects of the financial crisis," said Ms Burrow.

Without such assistance, the ACTU believes there could be a sharp increase in the number of women unwillingly returning to work soon after the birth of a baby because of financial stress and uncertainty.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sydney cleaners: Anti-poverty Day

Sydney’s office cleaners celebrate International Anti-Poverty Day as contractors sign on to reform the contract cleaning industry

After a two and a half year battle Sydney cleaners watched a majority of NSW contractors commit to implementing the Clean Start Union Collective Agreement to reform the contract cleaning industry.

Nine contractors signed on to implement the Agreement at a function organised by the LHMU – The cleaners’ union. They are:

ISS, Solutions, Swan, BIC Services, Glad Group, Quad, Baytons, Ezko, Heba.

"By signing on to the agreement, contractors formally accepted what cleaners have been saying for years: the industry is in crisis and unsustainable. Cleaners have borne the brunt of their vicious price-cutting war and the only viable solution is for us to work together to create better jobs and a better industry," says Mark Boyd, Secretary of the NSW Branch of the LHMU.

"The Clean Start Agreement will secure a better future for contractors, as well as better services for tenants and better maintenance of property owners’ valuable assets. This is good news for the whole industry."


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Limits to growth

The economy is killing the earth

A growing band of experts are arguing that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.

This, of course, is economic heresy. Growth to most economists is as essential as the air we breathe: it is, they claim, the only force capable of lifting the poor out of poverty, feeding the world's growing population, meeting the costs of rising public spending and stimulating technological development - not to mention funding increasingly expensive lifestyles. They see no limits to that growth, ever.

In recent weeks it has become clear just how terrified governments are of anything that threatens growth, as they pour billions of public money into a failing financial system. Amid the confusion, any challenge to the growth dogma needs to be looked at very carefully. This one is built on a long-standing question: how do we square Earth's finite resources with the fact that as the economy grows, the amount of natural resources needed to sustain that activity must grow too? It has taken all of human history for the economy to reach its current size. On current form it will take just two decades to double.


Politics in the Pub: The Future of TAFE

Saturday, 18th October 2008, 3.00 pm
Family Hotel, 15 Parke Street, Katoomba
(download small flyer | BM Union News Oct 2008)
Rod Brooks Memorial Forum
The political climate underwent what appeared to be a massive change at the last election.
What plans has the Rudd Labor Government for TAFE?
What has changed in attitudes to education and training?
How will the models of funding for schools and TAFE be affected by the Education Revolution?
How will attitudes to the teaching profession be affected by the Education Revolution?
How will TAFE's Outreach Programs and community access to TAFE be affected?
Dr Peter Kell, Professor of Education, Wollongong University
Phil Bradley, Assistant General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation

Phone 0413866520 or email BMUC

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ABC Radio: 'Death of religion'

Yesterday the ABC released its 2009 Radio National schedule, confirming that eight specialist programs would not be returning. The programs are the Media Report, Religion Report, Sports Factor, Perspective, The Ark, In Conversation, Radio Eye and Street Stories.

Today, the Senate supported a motion from the Greens calling on ABC management to explain why the programs have been axed.

Religion Report presenter Stephen Crittenden criticised the decision.

"The ABC specialist units have been under attack for years but the decapitation of the flagship program of the religion department effectively spells the death of religion at the ABC," he said.

"That such a decision has been taken in an era when religion vies with economics as a determinant of everything that is going on in the world it almost beggars belief, but you have to remember that just a couple of years ago they axed the Environment program.

"The ABC Religion Report has always been fearless and I don't have to tell you that it has put many powerful noses out of joint. This is a signal to the churches that the ABC has decided to vacate the field."

Former ABC religious broadcaster Paul Collins told Crikey the move is a "dumbing down" of Radio National content.

"Nowadays religion is a mainstream political, cultural and socio-economic issue with enormous impact on world affairs. To cover it adequately you need specialists," he said.

"That is precisely what Stephen Crittenden has done on the Religion Report. He knows what the issues are and where the bodies are buried. Sure, he's upset some powerful people but that's the nature of a free media.

"I'm not paranoid. I don't see this as an attack on religion. It's more a lack of appreciation of specialisation, derived from the half-witted, post-modern conviction that everyone can do anything. Sure, they can ask a few prosaic, 'man-in-the-street' questions. But that's not the task of Radio National. If you think it is, get a job with the commercials."

'Extreme Capitalism' plan for TAFE?

The Federal Government is planning to make far reaching changes to the funding and organisation of the TAFE and VET in Australia. In summary, these changes will:
  • reduce government funding allocated to vocational education and training
  • increase the amount of money students will have to pay to study at TAFE
  • reduce the range of courses available for students
The Federal Government is intending to use its estimated 30% share of VET funding to “reward” states for implementing a range of marketisation strategies.
These include:
  • full competition for all government (federal and state/territory) VET funding between public (TAFE) and private providers, and between TAFE Institutes as well
  • a significant shift of costs for training from governments to individual students, masked by the introduction of a deferred payment loan scheme (HECS)
  • penalising TAFE Institutes for the funding they have received in the past for capital and infrastructure through the implementation of competitive neutrality principles
When the Howard government tried to force its industrial relations agenda on TAFE and the VET system, they used the threat of withholding federal VET funding from the states and territories to coerce them into compliance. The Rudd government is using exactly the same strategy to implement its marketisation agenda in TAFE.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Up uncharted waters - without a paddle

October 13Illustration: Petty

Sydney Peace Prize: Patrick Dodson

Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson is the recipient of the 2008 Sydney Peace Prize for his “courageous advocacy of the human rights of Indigenous people, for distinguished leadership of the reconciliation movement and for a lifetime of commitment to peace with justice, through dialogue and many other expressions of non violence.”

Lecture by Patrick Dodson

Including appearances by singer/ songwriter Archie Roach and the children’s choir Moorambilla Voices

Wednesday, 5 November Concert Hall,
Sydney Opera House: 6.30 pm for 7 pm

The Sydney Peace Prize is the only international award for peace in Australia.

Tickets: Adult: $25 Concession: $20
School group concession available
Bookings through the Sydney Opera House
phone (02) 9250 7777 or online at

Enquiries: Sydney Peace Foundation
(02) 9351 4468 website:

Friday, October 10, 2008

ABCC preliminary findings

A paper by Murray Wilcox, the former Federal Court judge who is reviewing the role of the body to replace the Australian Building and Construction Commission after early 2010, makes a number of preliminary findings.
  • Building workers were treated more harshly by the law than other workers.
  • There was powerful evidence that a culture of lawlessness by some building union officials and workers existed before 2003.
  • An economic analysis trumpeted by the former government and employers of improved productivity was deficient.
The Government has vowed to keep the commission until the end of January 2010, when it will be replaced by a special division within Labor's new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia.

Mr Wilcox's review, which has involved meetings with more than 100 stakeholders, said the most controversial decision was whether the Government should keep the building industry legislation.

Mr Wilcox said if the watchdog kept its special powers then safeguards to monitor it would be desirable.

"These rules treat building workers more harshly than workers in other industries," Mr Wilcox said.

"However, many employers argue they are necessary in order to maintain industrial peace and high productivity in the building industry. I am looking for hard evidence about that."

Under current laws building workers can be jailed for up to six months for refusing to give evidence to the commission.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union said Mr Wilcox had also demolished an Econtech report relied upon by employers to justify the existence of the ABCC. That report had attributed the boost in productivity in the construction industry to the ABCC and associated laws. It also found the regime had resulted in a big fall in industrial action on building sites.

Mr Wilcox found the reduction in time lost in the building industry between 1996 and last year was not necessarily attributable to the ABCC.

He said ABS statistics showed there was also substantial reduction in time lost in other industries during the same 12-year period and "community-wide" factors may have been responsible for most, if not all, of the reduction in lost time in the construction industry.

ABCC: Blind eye to employer unlawfulness

The anti-worker bias of the Australian Building and Construction Commission has again been exposed by the acting chief justice of the Federal Court who has found the ABCC turning a “blind eye” to dishonest employer behaviour.

In scathing comments issued from the bench this week, Justice Jeffrey Spender said the ABCC had failed to act in an even-handed way in its pursuit of the Plumbers Union and its Queensland secretary, Bradley O’Carroll.

Justice Spender said the case should never have been brought by the ABCC and rather than prosecuting the union, it should have been investigating the employer, a company called Underground, and its “foul-mouthed industrial cowboy” boss.

The ABCC must now pay the costs of the Plumbers Union for its misguided decision to seek a prosecution.

The humiliating result for the ABCC follows this week’s report by former judge Murray Wilcox, QC, that the building industry watchdog discriminates against construction workers and infringes on their rights.

In his comments, Justice Spender said that rather than waste resources on an unfounded coercion case against the union, the ABCC should have been investigating “sham” independent contracting operations and tax and superannuation evasion by Underground.

Justice Spender also said that if the “foul-mouthed” language used by the managing director of Underground had instead been used by a union official it would probably have been the subject of a prosecution.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the case confirmed that the ABCC was biased against workers and unions and should be scrapped.

“The ABCC has focused its resources on attacking workers’ rights, but has turned a blind eye to unlawful acts by employers such as tax evasion, sham contracting and intimidation of workers,” Mr Lawrence said.

“There is scant evidence that the ABCC’s taxpayer funded activities have led to any improvements in the construction industry, and its bias has now been exposed by the Federal Court.

“Workers have been subjected to secret interrogations and threats of jail from the ABCC simply for maintaining their right to silence.

“No group of workers should have fewer rights than others, and the ABCC should be abolished immediately.”

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sarah's Hard Rock Candy

A song by Peggy Seeger©Peggy Seeger 2008
administered by Harmony Music Ltd.

Johnny needs a running mate
His campaign is failin'
Let's get someone no one's heard of
Hello Sarah Palin

John's a weary weather vane
Sarah's hard rock candy
If they win they'll stop the clock
Keep your passport handy

Now Washington's a stormy sea
The hope for Sarah Palin
Johny's ship is full of cracks
Sarah's boat needs bailin'

Global warming, evolution
Human rights and all
On every issue on the table
Sarah's off the wall

Suppose they win and then oh oh
His heart comes to a stop
Then presto, bingo, "what do you know?"
Sarah's at the very top

In the Hard Rock Candy Mountains
You always watch your stocks
And streams of campaign double talk
Are bubbling down the rocks

Now if you wanted Hilary
How could you vote for Palin
Either you have changed your mind
Or else your mind is failin'

She lives with guns, runs with hogs
Loves a corporation
All of them will be involved
If Sarah runs the nation

Goodbye Sarah, goodbye John
And all the media drama
Time to move our country on
Vote Barack Obama
Time to move our country on
Vote Barack Obama

Visit Peggy's websites at: &

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

World Day for Decent Work

Global economic turmoil has made the right to decent work and full employment more essential than ever, Australian unions say.

For workers around the world, organising and collective bargaining rights are crucial to giving workers real influence over their lives for job security and a fair share of wealth, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said on the inaugural World Day for Decent Work.

The global call to action has been organised by the world trade union movement and could not be more timely given the economic uncertainty created by the financial crisis emanating from Wall Street, said Ms Burrow, who is also President of the International Trade Union Confederation.

"We are living in an increasingly globalised economy, where decisions made on Wall Street have a palpable impact on workers throughout the world," Ms Burrow said.

"As the world economy evolves and becomes interlinked, we need to ensure that the principles of decent work and full employment are protected.

"Today is about standing up for decent work, for job security, for a fair globalisation, against poverty and in the interests of much greater equity and justice.

"We have seen the global economy go off the rails because of corporate investor greed.

"Real wages fell or stagnated while profit shares have reached record levels.

"We have an opportunity now to relaunch globalisation along a path of sustainable and just development with fairness, equity and rights at work at the centre of public policy so globalisation works for all, not just a privileged few."

In Australia, the focus for unions is the right to collective bargaining laws that can deliver fair wages and conditions for working Australians.

In addition to a safety net, unfair dismissal rights and dispute settlement procedures, it is collective bargaining that will deliver not just wage justice but a more equitable society.

"We will see laws that will return rights at work to working Australians back in the Parliament in the next few weeks," Ms Burrow said.

"This is the culmination of a determined struggle over three years by working Australians to have rights restored and hand on a legacy of decent work to their children and their grandchildren."

Tale of 2 puppets: 2003

Howard for Australia, Harper for Canada

Who wrote the speech?