Thursday, February 25, 2010

News from Spain

Workers took over cities across Spain on Tuesday to press the social democratic government not to go ahead with plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67.

Some 70,000 took part in a demonstration in Madrid, while 50,000 rallied in Barcelona and thousands more took to the streets in other cities across the country.

Addressing a massive crowd in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square, Comisiones Obreras union confederation general secretary Ignacio Fernandez Toxo urged Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero "not to play around with pensions, with the future of millions and millions of people in our country."

The Spanish government is currently seeking to satisfy the European Union's diktat that the "sovereign" eurozone governments cannot allow public deficits to exceed 3 per cent of GDP.

The economic crisis has resulted in Spain's deficit exploding to 11.4 per cent and unemployment is running at 19 per cent - the highest in Europe.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

QLD Poll: Majority oppose privatisation

A new Queensland poll confirms the State Government’s privatisation plans will severely affect Federal Labor’s chances in Queensland in this year’s election.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ron Monaghan said the poll proved privatisation was still deeply unpopular and that it had now become a federal election issue.

“This is an extremely sobering result for the State Government and it’s now time to resolve the privatisation issue once and for all.

“There can be no hiding behind cancelled state conferences and the like – the polling figures speak for themselves.

“It’s not too late to save these important assets and keep the jobs and services these assets provide in regional Queensland.”

Key poll findings include:
  • Just one in 10 Queenslanders supports privatisation;
  • 59% of voters say the asset sales program makes them less likely to vote for the Labor Party in the next state election;
  • 66% will not forget the asset sales issue at the ballot box even if it has been resolved by then;
  • 80% of those polled think the government has underestimated public opposition to asset sales;
  • Almost 70% do not agree with the share float of Queensland Rail.
Mr Monaghan said another significant finding from the poll was that Queensland voters believed they had been misled on the government’s privatisation plans.

“74% of Queenslanders surveyed think the Bligh Government lied to the public by keeping secret its plans to privatise prior to the March 2009 state election.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bible bashing the homeless, Abbott style

Michael Perusco
Wednesday, 17 Feb 2010
Anglican Media, Melbourne

I was in Canberra last week and had the opportunity to ask Opposition Leader Tony Abbott whether a government under his direction would continue with the Rudd government's goal of halving homelessness by 2020. His answer was no.

In justifying his stance, Abbott quoted from the Gospel of Matthew: ''The poor will always be with us,'' he said, and referred to the fact there is little a government can do for people who choose to be homeless.

While it is healthy for an opposition to challenge government policy and propose alternatives, Abbott's view was surprising and more than a little troubling.

The Gospel quotation Abbott referred to is often misused. Like many verses in the New Testament, it should not be taken literally and ought to be considered in context. While I have no intention of examining the theology behind the statement, it would be fair to say that theologians would agree that Jesus' words cannot be used to defend inaction on poverty. Quite the contrary, there is almost universal agreement that the whole thrust of the New Testament is an expression of precisely the opposite.

Abbott's comment about people choosing to be homeless is another old and inaccurate cliche. It is a convenient myth that continues to be perpetuated by those who wish to avoid taking appropriate action to reduce homelessness.


Union Rights and Workplace deaths

Letter to SMH

More than 150 Australians have died in each of the last four years in workplace deaths so it is somewhat ironic listening to Liberal Party figures who have suddenly discovered these tragedies, having ignored workplace safety in years of government. According to media reports, none of the young men who have paid the ultimate price for business greed in ceilings recently were union members, a characteristic of work place deaths in general. The Howard Government legislated against union rights to inspect unsafe work places. Whilst the current government has somewhat improved much of Howard's laissez faire regulatory regime remains in place. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must act now to re-regulate those industries that account for most workplace deaths. He must restore the rights of unions to examine and expose shonky companies and practices before they do any damage. It's time for anti worker safety laws to be buried before one more worker suffers that literal fate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Students still waiting for allowance

There is plenty of evidence to show students are struggling. Government statistics released at the end of last year show that almost 20 per cent of first-year students drop out of study by the end of the year. Past reports on student finances by Universities Australia, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and the National Union of Students suggest one of the reasons for the drop-out rates is student financial hardship.

The reports also show how students are becoming increasingly disengaged from their studies and campus life because of the number of hours they have to work to support themselves through university.

Now there is the ridiculous situation where students are about to begin the academic year but still don't know if they qualify for government support under Youth Allowance.

Last November, the Coalition and Family First senator Steve Fielding blocked the government's proposed changes to Youth Allowance, saying it disadvantaged regional students.

Hockey: "Hock Medibank"

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said the sale of Medibank Private could raise between $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion. Mr Hockey said there was plenty of competition in private health insurance, listing a range of organisations, and said some activities were best left to the private sector.

"There is no longer a need for government-owned health insurers to ensure competition in the market. Medibank Private operates as if it is in the private sector so it should be sold to the private sector," he said in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra today.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner today dismissed the Liberal promise to sell Medibank Private to pay off debt, arguing a "fire sale" was not sound policy.

Mr Tanner said selling the insurer would do little to help the budget bottom line while removing downward pressure on health premiums.

"Privatising Medibank Private would cost the budget millions of dollars in forgone dividends, offsetting any public debt interest effect from proceeds of the sale," Mr Tanner said.

Fair society better for all

New Scientist Editorial: 11 February 2010

"Many rightly assume that the poor are relatively unhealthy. But the same goes for almost everyone, save the richest, according to a key review of the effects of health inequalities in England ... the quest for social fairness should begin with child development.

The implications are radical. Based on the knowledge that people with degrees have lower mortality rates than those without, Michael Marmot's team asked what would happen if everybody in England, aged 30 and over, had the mortality rate of graduates. The answer was there would be 202,000 fewer premature deaths each year, accounting for 40 per cent of all deaths. Levelling health disparities in rich nations will have a much bigger impact than focusing on the worst off."

Not WorkChoices again!

In the speech, delivered to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Brisbane last Friday, Tony Abbott boasted "You know, at four elections running we had a mandate to take the unfair dismissal monkey off the back of small business and we will once more seek that mandate, at four elections running, we had a mandate to introduce statutory, non-union contracts and we will seek to renew that mandate."

Julia Gillard said that Abbott wanted to reinstate the "most hated aspects of Work Choices", including Australian Workplace Agreements.

"AWAs will be back, unfair dismissal laws will be scrapped and, according to Julie Bishop today, penalty rates are under threat," the Workplace Relations Minister said.

"The opposition mantra appears to be 'Work Choices is dead' but the fine print shows that, if elected, they'll simply return the same laws, just under a different name."

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said unions were finalising a pre-election strategy that would seek to stop the return of the Coalition while extending the gains made under Labor.

She nominated superannuation, job and income security, pay equity and extending the right to request more flexible working hours to care for grandparents as key priorities.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jock Ferguson 1946-2010

pn news image jock ferguson
WA LABOR MLC Jock Ferguson has died.

The former WA Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

Jock Ferguson was elected state secretary of the union in 2000.

"It has been a great honour to serve in various positions with the AMWU, which is one of the most progressive unions in Australia," Jock Ferguson said in his inaugural speech in parliament last year.

Jock Ferguson was elected to the legislative council in 2008. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland and begun working in the union movement there at the young age of 17 as a fitter's apprentice delegate to the Boilermaker's Union. He served in the British Merchant Navy before coming to Western Australia to work as a fitter in the Pilbara and Gascoyne Region.

Mr Ferguson quickly became a shop steward within the AMWU and steadily rose through its ranks to become Western Australian State Secretary in 2000, a position he held until his election to Parliament in 2008.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

NSW TAFE: thousands strike

NSW Teachers Federation 11 February 2010

A packed meeting of over 3000 striking TAFE teachers at Sydney Town Hall today unanimously declared their willingness to continue industrial action in support of their campaign against the state government's attempt to introduce WorkChoices style changes to their working conditions.

Representatives of many other unions also attended the rally. Mark Lennon, Secretary of Unions NSW addressed the rally, providing support from the wider union movement. He said NSW workers, no matter who they are "are sick and tired of being told that in order to get pay increases, they have to find savings."

NSW Teachers Federation President, Bob Lipscombe said:

The NSW Labor Government has attacked the delivery of quality TAFE education and sought to undermine the working conditions of TAFE teachers by seeking to implement WorkChoices style changes to their working conditions.

These attempted changes include
  • A 20% increase in workload in return for an average 1.5% salary increase
  • Being paid less for an hour's work today than they were last year
  • Additional teaching and attendance hours
  • Not being paid for overtime worked for six months or more
"The Premier made a commitment on 18 December last year to continue discussions. We call on the Premier to honour this promise - to meet with the Federation to resolve this dispute."

"TAFE teachers have vowed to continue the political campaign, and are prepared to take further industrial action in support of the campaign."

Home Insulation Deaths: Tighten Safety and Training

ACTU 11 February, 2010 | Media Release

The deaths of young workers installing home insulation are unacceptable and the program should be halted until it can be demonstrated to unions that much tighter safety and training standards are in place to properly protect workers.

Unions have consistently raised concerns about safety and training standards in the program and have complained directly to the Federal Government.

The ACTU called for a halt to the program in November 2009 after three tragic deaths but withdrew our call following assurances that new procedures would protect workers.

The electrocution of another young worker clearly shows that these new procedures were not sufficient, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

"The Home Insulation Program has not been up to scratch and four young Australians have paid for its failings with their lives.

"From the outset, unions have called for improved safety standards, better training to ensure workers are able to identify risks such as faulty wiring, and a bigger role for qualified tradespeople such as electricians to oversee the work.

"Any recently installed insulation that does not meet acceptable standards of quality, workmanship or safety to the public needs to be re-examined.

"Shonky operators that have put lives at risk and ripped off the taxpayer should be prosecuted and driven out of the industry.

"The program is due to run for another two years, funding the insulation of more than 2 million homes and there has been a flood of new companies rushing to take advantage of the multi billion dollar program.

"Unions recognise that this and other Federal Government stimulus and infrastructure investment programs are important to save jobs and help the economy recover from the Global Financial Crisis.

"But unions have said from the outset that businesses that get stimulus funding from the Government must respect the rights of their workers, provide adequate training and ensure a safe workplace,” said Ms Burrow.

"Other programs, including the upgrades to schools as part of the Building the Education Revolution investment program, also need to be carefully monitored to ensure there are adequate health and safety and training standards to protect workers.

"It is also essential that Australian workers have the highest possible legal protection and that employers face a rigorous enforcement regime under the Government’s proposed new national health and safety laws," said Ms Burrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Steel import steals 2000 jobs!

Manufacturing Alliance
Date: 10 February 2010

The announcement that Chevron intends to import 25 000 tonnes of steel for the Gorgon Project in Western Australia means an opportunity for 2000 jobs including 300 apprenticeships will be lost.

The Manufacturing Alliance today expressed outrage at the lack of action from the state and federal government to ensure the Australian bid for the work was successful.

Major lost opportunity to boost local job creation

"This is a significant setback for Australian industry and a major lost opportunity to deliver a real boost to local industry and literally thousands of jobs", said Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union National Secretary, Dave Oliver.

"We should not allow steel of this volume to be imported while Australian workshops sit idle. The next resources boom will not benefit Australians if we allow companies to source so much work from overseas."

Project should have had conditions supporting local content

Australian Workers Union National Secretary, Paul Howes, said that other governments around the world would not allow such a significant project to import such huge amounts of content when it could be sourced locally.

"It is a major failing for a project of this size to go ahead without conditions on local content and for so many job opportunities to be lost."

The Manufacturing Alliance called for upcoming projects to have much stricter conditions, including guarantees on local content.

TAFE Teachers strike: Thursday 11 February

Meetings of teachers will start at 11am.
In Sydney, a meeting will be held at Sydney Town Hall.

Regional venues are shown below.

Teachers Federation President, Bob Lipscombe said:

"TAFE teachers are striking in protest at the imposition of Workchoices type conditions on TAFE teachers, and Premier Keneally's unfilled promise from 18 December last year to meet with the Teachers Federation.

"I call on the Premier to meet with us immediately to negotiate a settlement to this dispute."

Regional Meetings will be held at:

  • Albury - SS and A Club
  • Armidale - Armidale Ex-Services Club Function Room
  • Bathurst - Panorama City Hotel / Motel
  • Bega - Bega RSL Club
  • Broken Hill - Musicians Club
  • Coffs Harbour - Coffs Harbour Ex-Services Club
  • Cooma - Cooma Ex-Serviceman's Club
  • Dubbo - Dubbo RSL Club Jacaranda Room
  • Griffith - Gemini Comfort Inn
  • Inverell - Royal Club Hotel
  • Kingscliff - Cudgen Leagues Club
  • Lismore - Lismore City Hall Dance Studio
  • Moree - Post Office Hotel
  • Orange - Ophir Tavern
  • Port Macquarie - Panthers
  • Tamworth - West Diggers Long Tan Room
  • Taree - Taree Railway Institute Bowling Club
  • Wagga Wagga - Wagga Commercial Club
For further information

Contact :
NSW Teachers Federation

Phone : 02 9217 2100
Fax : 02 9217 2470
Email :

Kookaburra sits ...

ABC Radio National interview with Warren Fahey

The Federal Court found that the flute solo in Men At Work's 'Down Under' infringed the copyright of Larrikin Music Publishing, the current owners of the song 'Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree'. Blogs, letters to editors and Facebook sites are full of angry musicians and fans who feel that the ruling is wrong, and that the breach of copyright was insignificant if not non-existent.

Parental leave - Abbott's track record

ACTU 09 February, 2010 | Media Release

Reports that Liberal leader Tony Abbott is considering a taxpayer-funded paid maternity leave scheme must be treated with extreme suspicion given his track record as a supporter of WorkChoices and previous hardline opponent of helping working mothers, say unions.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the Howard Government's WorkChoices had undermined pay and conditions for women, and it was simply not credible that Mr Abbott believed in supporting working mothers and would actually deliver on such a scheme.

She said that when it came to women in the workforce, Mr Abbott was an unreconstructed traditionalist who was now attempting to court the female vote.

"After years of entrenched views antagonistic to the interests of women, Tony Abbott is now trying to con the electorate," Ms Burrow said.

"His real views are contained in comments he has made in recent days that housework and ironing are the role of women.

"During his years as Employment Minister under John Howard, Mr Abbott never made any attempt to introduce a paid parental leave scheme. He is on record as opposing it."

In 2002, he told a Liberal Party function in Victoria:

"Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government's dead body, frankly."

Ms Burrow said women fared extremely badly under WorkChoices, which took away job and income security, and made it harder for mothers to balance their work and family responsibilities.

"To its credit, the Rudd Government has committed to a fully-funded, universal scheme that will start next year," Ms Burrow said.

"Will Mr Abbott support this legislation – or block it, like he does with every positive initiative from the Government?

"We already know that Mr Abbott wants to re-introduce WorkChoices policies into Australian workplaces.

"Working parents simply cannot trust him to do the right thing."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Iraq war enquiry needed

Age Editorial: 30 January, 2010

No act of a national government is more momentous than the decision to commit the nation to war. That is why the constitutions of many countries - though not of Australia - require the government to obtain the consent of parliament before doing so. And in the past decade, no military action has aroused more opposition within the countries supporting it than the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US-led ''coalition of the willing''. In Australia, the Howard government's decision to participate in the coalition sparked rallies and street marches on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War.
The remarkable thing about the Chilcot inquiry for Australians, however, is that it is being held at all. Australia has not conducted its own inquiry and does not seem likely to do so, yet the war was as divisive here as it was in Britain. The questions raised at the time about the evidence on which the Howard government relied in making its decision, about the kinds of pressure that may have been exerted on it by the Bush administration, and about its readiness to accept US assurances of the war's legality have never been satisfactorily answered.

The Rudd Government's lack of interest in allowing the record to be set straight publicly cannot arise from any bipartisanship about the war, because Labor opposed the invasion. Trade Minister Simon Crean, who was opposition leader in 2003, was criticised at the time for telling troops about to leave for the Gulf that the opposition did not believe they should be going. Such criticism now seems like one more attempt to stifle debate about the war, and Mr Crean's remarks are acknowledged as a brave refusal to be browbeaten into silence.


Monday, February 08, 2010

RadioLabour: Solidarity News

The labour movement has created a new tool in its efforts to build national and international solidarity: an audio news show on the Internet.

The show, called Solidarity News, is available on

It is 20 minutes of news about workers and their organizations from all around the world.

The newscast is made available every Sunday morning and is kept on the RadioLabour website throughout its current week.

Solidarity news is both a journalistic and educational project.

In terms of labour journalism, it reports news about unions using its own team of reporters.

But, also, it encourages anybody related to the labour movement to contribute audio reports.

These reports could cover particular events, such as a strike or convention, or the point of view of labour organizations on particular issues.

People wanting to contribute audio reports can do so by using inexpensive recording equipment (usually just a headset) and editing software that is available free of charge.

Even more easily, people can supply reports by leaving a message on RadioLabour's voicemail box on Skype, a voice-over-Internet service.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

ACTU: Abbott's flimsy excuse for a policy

ACTU 02 February, 2010 | Media Release
The federal opposition’s response to climate change fails to grasp the enormous challenge of moving Australia onto a cleaner energy footing, and ignores the economic and environmental risk of doing too little too late.

"Mr Abbott is kidding himself if he thinks he can tackle the transformation of Australia's industries with a $3 billion dollar pot of government money," says ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Ms Burrow says Mr Abbott's voluntary scheme invites "industry" to offer up ideas that might cut carbon emissions, some of which might then be granted a government hand-out.

"This is not a plan. Business is not required to make any contribution, financial or otherwise.

"There is no imperative to cut emissions in existing industries on a uniform national scale to meet Australia's modest targets or keep pace with improvements in competing economies.

"There is no policy setting to attract the billions of dollars required to create jobs and build our new renewable energy industries.

"This flimsy excuse for a policy will actively stifle the creation of thousands of new jobs and threaten existing jobs as the rest of the world moves fast on investing in clean energy technology and modernization to put existing industries on a sustainable footing."

"He ignores the reality that we are being left behind as the US, China, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan, and other nations aggressively pursue clean-tech job creation," says Ms Burrow.

The clean-technology sector is now one of the largest recipients of venture capital dollars globally with clean energy alone attracting $US3.35 billion in the U.S. in 2008 and $13.5 billion worldwide in 2009 (source: New Energy Finance). Australia needs to join the race or we will continue to miss out.

"Mr Abbott's lack of a serious plan reflects his belief that climate change is "crap", and today, he has taken the Coalition further into fantasy land.

"Pulling weeds and planting trees is not enough to attract the investment Australia needs to drive the biggest economic change in our history," says the ACTU President.