Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stella Miles Franklin book launch

Stella Miles Franklin book launch a great success

Jill Roe [Photo courtesy John Hockney]

Listen to author Jill Roe "Miles Franklin and politics"

[Recording courtesy Nick Franklin]

Paul Brunton, Jill Roe and Adam Searle [Photo courtesy John Hockney]

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Save money: ditch ABCC

Julia Irwin: Federal Labor MP
House of Representives 25 May 2009

I want to turn to one budget item that I regard as a disgraceful waste of public money, one which represents a continued attack on the rights of a group of Australian workers. Under the portfolio of the Minister of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations we have an appropriation of $33,446,000 for the office of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Some of us, especially on the Labor side, recall that at the time of the last election Labor promised to allow the ABCC to continue until 2010 and that a review would be conducted, and I for one would have expected this budget item to be much reduced because it is for only half a year. We have of course had the Wilcox review, which recommended the extension of the ABCC for some time, but what staggers me about the ABCC is the size of its funding. It is more than $33 million a year. I am sure it is great at job creation for union-bashing lawyers, but that is one group of workers I would like to see retrenched.

The ABCC is limited to building and construction industry workplaces, but its budget is almost half that of the former Office of the Workplace Ombudsman, who was responsible for all other Commonwealth workplace laws. Comparing the ABCC with Comcare, the government’s workplace safety and rehabilitation body, which gets $5 million this year, the ABCC gets six times as much. Here we have a situation where on average one construction or mining worker dies from a workplace injury every week, but this government spends six times as much on union witch-hunts as it does on workplace safety for its employees. It is when you put the appropriation for the ABCC into context by comparing it with other government agencies that you see that it is a very well fed monster. If you compare the ABCC’s appropriation with agencies in the Attorney General’s portfolio, you see that it receives more than twice the $13 million allocation to the Australian Human Rights Commission, more than the $28 million going to the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and more than twice the $16 million appropriated to the High Court of Australia, the body whose responsibility is ‘to interpret and uphold the Australian Constitution and perform the functions of the ultimate appellate court in Australia’.

If you look at the appropriation of the Australian Crime Commission, it receives $95 million and is responsible for reducing the impact of serious and organised crime in Australia, yet the ABCC gets more than one-third of the amount that goes to fighting serious and organised crime in Australia. I am sure that all Australians can sleep safe in their beds knowing that the government spends so much on chasing a few union members while drug rings and bikie gangs can run riot in our community. But looking at the real concerns of ordinary Australians, in the face of losses of more than $30 billion by 200,000 Australian investors and the collapse of companies like Storm Financial, Great Southern and Timbercorp, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission will spend an extra $20 million this year chasing corporate crooks. That is $33 million to chase building workers and $20 million to chase real criminals in business suits.

How does the ABCC’s appropriation compare with the total appropriation for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority? It gets $23 million, $10 million less than the ABCC. Just what are the priorities of this government—protecting the savings of ordinary Australians or threatening building workers? It is like the Keystone Cops going after the wrong guy. And what is that $33 million worth to the Australian economy and improving productivity? It should be working wonders, because the ABCC gets only a million dollars less than the Productivity Commission.

But, to really understand how much is wasted on the ABCC, we should compare its appropriation to the salaries of members of this House. The ABCC gets more than the combined base salaries of all 150 members of this House as well as the 76 senators, and what has the ABCC achieved? That is a question that will have to be answered. If I could send a memo to the razor gang working on next year’s budget, it would say to save the people of Australia $33 million and axe the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Thanks for the blast, North Korea

New Scientist
Editorial 30 May 2009

It may sound perverse, but the maverick nuclear state could have done us all a favour

Is a nuclear explosion ever good news? Well, the test in North Korea this week might just be something to celebrate. Hard to swallow, perhaps: the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is tottering, countries all over the world are acquiring nuclear technology, and Iran is enriching uranium. So North Korea tests a second nuclear bomb, and this is a good thing?

In a way, yes. For one thing, it was an unmissable reminder that we need to call off the new nuclear arms race that is developing. And paradoxically it was also a bang-up demonstration that we have technology that might coax the runners off the starting line.

The world can't put off action much longer. The 1968 NPT asked countries without nukes to forgo them, and in return the five countries that already had them promised to give them up - eventually. That second promise has obviously not been kept, and after 40 years nuclear have-nots are reconsidering the deal especially as Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have demonstrated that joining the nuclear club gets you respect. If the NPT review conference next year falls apart like the last one did, the arms race could be unstoppable.

The risks are huge. Some bomb would inevitably blow up somewhere, by accident or by design, and meanwhile we need money for schools, farms, clean water and energy so We'll be lucky much more than for bombs. How, then, can we curb proliferation?

Revive the NPT, for a start. That means the nuclear states must keep their side of the bargain. Encouragingly, Russia and the US are already talking about cutting missiles and fissile material.

But the clearest signal would be to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force. New nukes need testing, and a test ban would mean that existing nuclear powers are serious about disarmament. The treaty languishes because the US signed but failed to ratify it. Congress was convinced both that the US needed tests and that other countries would secretly break the ban.

The scientific community has already disproved the first argument. Now the North Koreans have reminded us what the treaty's verification network long ago proved: we can prevent cheating. Dedicated seismographs relayed the test's giveaway vibrations to the state-of-the-art CTBT lab in Vienna in milliseconds. Detectors are even now sniffing for telltale gases. If someone had tried this in water or air, CTBT sensors would spot it.

No more excuses. We need this treaty to deter anyone else tempted to go nuclear - and even more, so that countries might again take the NPT seriously. Feel the shock waves from North Korea. Ratify the test ban treaty.

Stella Miles Franklin - a Biography

Listen to Jill Roe "Miles Franklin and politics"

Sponsors: Katoomba Branch ALP and Blue Mountains Union Council

Come and celebrate the astonishing life of Australian icon
Miles Franklin (1879-1954)
her international achievements in literature, politics and human rights.

will discuss
in areas as diverse as

Votes for Women
The women’s trade union movement in the USA
Public housing in the UK
Australian literary and cultural activism

Katoomba RSL Club
Cnr Lurline & Merriwa Sts, Katoomba
Saturday 30 May 2009
2.00 - 4.00pm

CHAIR: Dr Neal Blewett with guest Mr Paul Brunton, Snr Curator, Mitchell library

COST: $15.00
Concession Unwaged $10.00 includes a sumptuous afternoon tea. Bar open.
BOOKINGS ADVISABLE All Credit Cards accepted.
Info & Booking Form: Kathie Herbert 4782 3384

Paid Tickets will be mailed or will be available for collection at
Megalong Books, The Mall, Leura
Chekov’s Three Sisters Bookshop, Katoomba
ALP State Member’s Office, Springwood

Friday, May 29, 2009

Community outrage over Bonds betrayal

Joint MUA/TWU/RTBU media release
29 May 2009

A community assembly was set up outside West Swanson Dock in Melbourne over night after word got out that Pacific Brands, manufacturers of the iconic Bonds label, was attempting to ship tax payer funded equipment out of the country.

Transport workers have come together to call on the federal government to step in and save the jobs.

TWU federal secretary, Tony Sheldon, said the government could prevent the job losses by using its buying powers to secure Australian jobs.

"What we have here is policy which exports Australian jobs and imports unemployment," Mr Sheldon said.

"The union completely understands the public outrage," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "They've taken taxpayer-funded machinery like thieves in the night. It's an outrage."

RTBU National Industrial Officer Andrew Thomas said workers would be gob smacked at Pacific Brand's action.

"Does Pacific Brands really think that Australian workers would enjoy standing on the shoreline waving their jobs good bye?" he said.

"We need governments at all levels to put in place conditions which ensure Australian workers are looked after when they spend our taxpayers dollars, " said Mr Sheldon.

The truck loaded with a 40-foot container was secretly delivered to the Melbourne wharves this morning and community protestors have assembled outside the gate.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Telstra changes course

26 May 2009

The announcement by Telstra’s senior managers that the company will abandon its aggressive industrial relations policy and restart negotiations with unions over a new collective agreement is a major win for Telstra staff, says the ACTU.
It shows workers must always be treated with respect, said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.
Mr Lawrence said the decision by Telstra management was long overdue and an admission that the aggressive and confrontational strategy of the previous Telstra management headed by Sol Trujillo and Donald McGauchie had failed dismally.
Telecommunications unions have welcomed the announcement to staff as a first step by management towards restoring a constructive and co-operative relationship with workers.
"Telstra is a major Australian company and yet its standing in the community and its performance as a business have both declined significantly in recent years as a result of the company’s belligerent approach to all and sundry.
"The decision to acknowledge the right of employees to be represented by their union is a vindication of the stand taken by staff against the company’s unethical behaviour in negotiations.
"Thousands of Telstra workers stood up to defend their rights and voted to reject the repeated attempts by management to pressure them into sub-standard job contracts.
"Telstra management broke off all negotiations with unions in August last year, and subsequently embarked on a blatant strategy to divide its workforce into different classes of employees.
"It was only a matter of time before management would realise its hardline stance was untenable, and the only surprise is it has taken so long.
"This is only a first step towards a fair and rewarding agreement for all Telstra employees.
"Thousands of Telstra employees have not had a pay rise for almost two years and we look forward to sitting down with the new management as soon as possible.
"A new enterprise agreement must be an option for all staff, including those on Australian Workplace Agreements that are yet to expire, and those who had been forced onto non-union agreements in recent months.
"New federal IR laws which begin in July will strengthen workers' rights to collective bargaining and outlaw bad faith and capricious behaviour – so clearly the writing was on the wall for Telstra.
"This decision sends a clear message to employers all around Australia that they must respect fundamental workers’ rights to collective bargaining and union membership."
There are 31,000 staff at Telstra represented by the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA).

Friday, May 22, 2009

National Public Education Day

On Thursday, May 21 public schools across the country celebrated National Public Education Day.

"Public schools are a foundation of our society. They are places of learning, of inspiration and opportunity where every Australian child can get the education they deserve,” AEU Federal President, Angelo Gavrielatos said.

"National Public Education Day provides an opportunity for school communities to showcase their wonderful achievements and to celebrate the values and traditions of public education in Australia.

"Nothing is more important for our future than strong public schools. We owe the success of our nation to the work of public schools, which through history, have provided every child with an equal opportunity to succeed regardless of their background.

"Australia’s public education system is underpinned by the values of tolerance, acceptance, and the celebration of diversity and the pursuit of excellence for all.

"The 2009 school year began with the great news of a dramatic boost in funding for public schools by the Rudd Government.

"The Government has also announced a review of schools funding which will commence in 2010. The outcome of this

review must deliver a fairer funding system that reflects governments’ primary obligation to properly and adequately fund public schools.

"In addition to emphasising the importance of high standards of achievement, reforms to education must also aim to achieve the building and maintenance of a socially cohesive, prosperous and democratic society.

"The role of public education in achieving this must be acknowledged and fostered by government,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jobs, jobs, jobs Budget

Responding to the 2009 Federal Budget, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

"For working Australians and their families this is a Budget for jobs, jobs and jobs with a bit of tough love on the side.

"It takes the hard decisions that are needed now to safeguard jobs and protect Australians from the global recession. At the same time this Budget sets our economy up for the recovery.

"It is a Budget that takes big strides towards fixing the problems left over from the Howard-Costello years, reversing the Coalition’s chronic lack of investment in economic and social infrastructure with massive spending on nation-building projects.

"Australian companies must now get a fair go with access to these dollars to ensure jobs are kept right here in Australia and enable competitive capacity in local industries for a recovering global economy.

"The Budget provides a strong plan for creating jobs now and in the future by supporting climate-friendly industries and giving extra funding for the critical role of research and development and higher education in generating innovation.

"The Budget also brings more equity and compassion into the heart of the nation and buries WorkChoices by setting up a new system of workplace relations.

“Unions strongly welcome the massive commitment to support and create jobs by fast-tracking upgrades to schools, public housing, hospitals, roads, ports, rail and to build a new national broadband network.

"It will be essential that the Government uses these projects to maximise the creation of local jobs, provide apprenticeships for young Australians, and strengthen local industries.

“Australian companies and local suppliers have to get a fair go when it comes to tendering for these projects. Businesses that get public funding should be required to respect workers’ rights, curb executive salaries, and commit to providing apprenticeships and training.

"This Budget confirms the biggest upgrade of schools in Australia’s history and contains a big boost to skills development and training, which will help strengthen Australia as an internationally competitive and productive economy for the future.

“It also continues to meet the challenge of climate change and positions Australia to grow jobs when the downturn is over by supporting the development of local renewable energy, carbon-capture technology and climate-friendly industries.

"On top of the support that working families have already received in recent months, this Budget gives extra support to older Australians and victims of the global economic crisis, spreading the load more equitably across the community.

"The economic growth and employment forecasts in the Budget provide clear evidence that the Government is headed down the correct path of investing responsibly in jobs now to prevent a worsening outcome later. This is sensible economic management that will pay-off in future years.

"Unions are also delighted that this Budget contains an historic commitment to a national, government-funded 18-week paid maternity leave scheme for working mothers.

"Looking ahead, further steps are needed to protect jobs and workers' rights, including equal rights for construction workers, lifting health and safety standards through new national laws, and ensuring low paid workers get a decent increase in minimum wages. This will help maintain their living standards and provide a further boost to the economy," said Ms Burrow.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Emission Trading Scheme delayed

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the Government's emissions trading scheme is being delayed until 2011.

The Government has also cut the price of carbon from $40 to $10 for the first year of the scheme and has increased the range of its emissions reduction target to up to 25 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020, if an international agreement is made later this year in Denmark to keep global emissions under 450 parts per million (ppm). 

The Southern Cross Climate Coalition a national group that includes the Australian Conservation Foundation, ACTU, the World Wildlife Fund and Australian Council of Social Service has called for unions, environment and social welfare groups to support the scheme.

But it warned extra investment in renewable energy technologies like solar thermal, and extra incentives for retrofitting commercial buildings were important next steps.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said Australia would be ''behind the eight ball in the global race for climate-friendly jobs and industries'' if the scheme was not supported.

"The reforms announced today will provide the certainty needed for industry to begin investing in renewable energy and solutions to climate change so that Australia can create up to 1 million climate-friendly and green jobs over the next two decades..
"This proposal acknowledges the harsh economic realities facing the nation and the necessity to carefully assist exposed industries during the transition so that jobs are protected.
"It also establishes a more ambitious longer term target that can be achieved by substantial investment in renewable energy, efficiencies in households, businesses and industries, and new technology such as carbon capture and storage.
"It is time for all sections of the community to move forward with real action on climate change. The looming environmental catastrophe from doing nothing is too serious for further squabbling."

Unions growing

There is a greater need for working Australians to be members of a union to protect their jobs, wages and conditions in these difficult economic times.

New ABS data released 17 April shows there has been a lift in union membership of more than 56,000 workers and that, excluding casual workers, almost one in four (24%) employees in Australia are members of a union.

The data shows there are more than 1,750,000 workers that are members of a union and that union members earn, on average, $96 a week more than non- members.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the new data was positive considering most of the Howard Government’s WorkChoices IR laws were still in place when the ABS survey took place.

"This data shows unions are still relevant and strong.

"In these tough economic times it is especially important for workers to be members of a union.

"Unions help protect jobs as well as workers' wages and conditions.

"In the economic downturn, it is all the more important that workers support each other through their unions.

"We are working hard to protect as many jobs as possible and to safeguard the wages, conditions and entitlements of employees affected by the crisis.

"The lift in membership shown in today’s ABS data is welcome considering many union members are excluded from the results because they are deemed to be contractors rather than employees.

The ABS data shows that the average earnings of a union member is $1026 a week, which is $96 a week more than non-union members ($930). (Source: Table 14, p42 ABS 6310.0 Aug 2008)

"Despite the tough economic times, it is a very good time to join a union," said Ms Burrow.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Currawong victory

The proposal for a residential development at Currawong has been refused, the entire site will be State Heritage listed, and any future proposals for the site will go before Pittwater Council.

Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, said she has refused a project application which would have allowed a 25 lot residential subdivision at Currawong Beach, in Sydney’s North.

“I received the best expert advice and detailed comments from the community, I went and saw the site, and based on that I have decided to refuse the application,” Ms Keneally said.

“My decision followed thorough and considered canvassing of the facts and local community opinions,

including more than a year of rigorous assessment and community consultation.

“This was a development proposal for a unique and pristine area which warranted the significant review process it went through.

“The process included an extended period of community and stakeholder consultation, and review by an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP) and a Ministerial Review Panel (MRP).”