Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tough for mining billionaires!

Stiglitz exposes mining companies

Nobel Prize-winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz has warned that the mining sector has too much influence on the political debate on Australia's mining tax.

The former World Bank chief economist drew parallels between the advertising campaign run by the Australian mining industry on the resource rent tax and the US finance industry's ability to water down finance-sector reforms passed by Congress.

"[Australian miners] have been overly influential in shaping the debate," Dr Stiglitz said.

He said that to date the windfall gain from the rise in iron ore had gone disproportionately to the companies, while a disproportionately small fraction had gone to Australian citizens.

''The natural resources belong to the people,'' he said. ''You need to have a well-designed competitive auction to have different companies compete so that companies get the necessary returns to do the investment - but the surplus goes to the Australian people.''

Dr Stiglitz compared efforts by the Labor government to gain a better share of wealth from commodities extracted from Australian soil with a plan proposed in the US when he was lead economic adviser to President Bill Clinton.

His warning comes as the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies restarts an ad campaign aimed at forcing the government to revise its minerals resource rent tax.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Abbott silent on Pay Equity

The pay equity gap between men and women would not be closed by a Liberal Opposition which is more interested in exploiting it to reduce the cost of its unrealistic paid parental leave scheme.

Rather than suggesting how to raise the average pay of women to the same level as men, Tony Abbott and the Liberals would prefer to keep women’s pay low to reduce the cost impact of their PPL proposal, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

Today, the Liberals' Finance Spokesman Andrew Robb has admitted there is a gender pay equity gap, but there is total silence from the Opposition about how to close it, Ms Kearney said.

"Across the average of men and women, men do typically earn more money." (Andrew Robb quoted on ABC Online, 27 July 2010).

"Under the former Liberal Government’s WorkChoices laws, pay inequality grew for the first time in 25 years, with cuts to real minimum wages, the removal of the award system that allowed for test cases to lift basic conditions, and the use of individual contracts," Ms Kearney said.

"Today, as a consequence, the gender pay gap is 18%, with the average woman worker earning $239 a week less than the average male. Women earn $1 million less than men over their working lives.

"Labor's new Fair Work laws for the first time provide an avenue for cases to be launched on pay equity grounds, and unions are currently pursuing a landmark test case to lift the pay of workers in the female-dominated social and community services sector.

"The Labor Government has been supportive of this case, but typically, Tony Abbott and the Liberals have been silent on how to close the pay gap for women.

"Despite his apparent recent conversion, Tony Abbott has a lifelong record of disdain towards the issues that matter to working women.

"He famously said a national paid parental leave scheme would only be introduced his 'dead body'. He begrudgingly allowed Labor’s scheme to pass into law – an historic reform by the Labor Government that follows decades of campaigning by unions and women's groups.

"Tony Abbott knows his own parental leave scheme has no chance of ever becoming reality, but he continues to mislead working women.

"Tony Abbott simply cannot be trusted by working women."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Xtrata: Tahmoor Colliery strike

Sadly, the basic instinct of Xstrata Coal Management is as it always has been. Supress all honest workers. First, they begin by trying to beat you up. If this fails, they will even try to poison you and your families with hate mail sent to your private homes. Fear not for their war chest is full of nothing but educated insolence. First Xstrata will ignore you, then they try to humilate and laugh at you, then they fight you tooth and nail, and then, in time, you will win. I've learned over the years that workers will in time forget much of what Xstrata said to them, workers may even in time forget what Xstrata did to them, but the workers will never forget how Xstrata made them and their families feel during their struggle for nothing more than a fair outcome. It has become appallingly obvious to all of us that Xstrata's corperate strength, technology, and wealth gained by them through the sweat of their own workers has exceeded their tragic lack of all humanity, if they indeed had any at all to begin with.


Abbott's childcare plan exposed

Tony Abbott has promised to delay introducing new rules requiring childcare providers to hire more teachers with better qualifications.

He argues that the planned changes would spark fee increases for parents.

The Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, which represents 110,000 childcare workers, said Mr Abbott's plan threatened the future of quality childcare.

Assistant national secretary Sue Lines said parents should be deeply concerned by his plans to remove and delay quality childcare reforms.

"In making this promise, Tony Abbott is ignoring the fact that the childcare quality reforms have already received a glowing endorsement following a mammoth consultation process with all stakeholders across the country," Ms Lines said.

A Decade of L.E.A.D.

Human resources departments have emerged as a powerful force in big organisations, but a new book suggests they fail in their most crucial function - helping humans.

A Decade of L.E.A.D. (the Leadership, Employment and Direction survey), which charted workplace attitudes in Australia in the past decade, revealed that while the ranks of HR managers had swollen, the number of staff who believed their needs were being met by them had fallen.

Researchers, analysing data from four big workplace surveys dating to 2003, found the proportion of employees who believed the HR department was addressing their concerns had fallen from 60 per cent to less than 50 per cent.

In the most recent results, about 40 per cent of employees said HR had a poor or very poor awareness of what their issues actually were.

"HR departments are plagued by contradiction - they are trying to meet employee needs and expectations on one hand, and the needs and expectations of managers and shareholders," Sydney University workplace expert Professor John Shields said.

A Decade of L.E.A.D. suggested human resources departments were leaning more towards their paymasters than general employees, and a much larger proportion of managers professed to be happy with their activities.

The chairman of the Human Resources Institute of Australia, Peter Wilson, said human resources departments were not meant to be trade unions.

"HR is about reconciling the interests of staff and management and in our view they do that very successfully," Mr Wilson said.


Ark Tribe Trial - Adjourned Again

On Thursday 22 July, Ark Tribe's trial heard all the evidence from key witnesses and will now be adjourned until September 13.

Magistrate David Whittle will receive written and oral submissions on the day. He’ll announce his findings after that on a later date to be determined.

Ark’s lawyers throughout the three day hearing have continually objected to the evidence brought forward, maintaining the case is not only unlawful and illegal but outside of the powers of the ABCC.

It was also revealed during the course of proceedings, that Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) inspector Seamus Flynn admitted he had no evidence that Ark Tribe even attended the union meeting in question. Yet the ABCC’s coercive powers were used anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Politics in Pub - Gazette report


Susan Templeman and Carmel McCallum

Labor has officially commenced the battle to retain its tenuous hold on Macquarie by going cap-in-hand for Greens preferences and accusing Liberal candidate Louise Markus of being a “seat shopper”.

As media speculation this week centred on preference deals between Labor and the Greens to help the former keep government and give the latter the balance of power in the Senate, Labor candidate Susan Templeman admitted she needed every preference she could get to hold onto the party’s 0.3 per cent majority in Macquarie.

Only three hours after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Australians would go to the polls on August 21, Ms Templeman and Green Party candidate Carmel McCallum faced off in front of about 70 locals at the Blue Mountains Unions Council’s Politics in the Pub last Saturday, July 17.

Ms Templeman urged Green Party voters in attendance to preference Labor and said the two parties could “work together to achieve things”.

“I recognise some people will obviously choose to vote Green first and the next choice is do you want Tony Abbott or a Labor government?” she told the audience.

“For me to hold [Macquarie] there’s about 80 votes in it.

“I will only hold it if you get very strong Green preferences. I urge you to give your preferences to Labor and that ensures Tony Abbott does not get a look in.”

Liberal candidate and current Member for Greenway Ms Markus had been invited to the event, however was unable to attend.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ABCC: Ark Tribe hearing protests

A trial has resumed in Adelaide of a construction worker charged under federal industrial laws.

There was a protest outside Adelaide Magistrates Court as the case resumed after a month-long adjournment.

Hundreds of unionists offered vocal support for Ark Tribe, who is charged with failing to answer questions about a stopwork meeting at a building site.

The protesters marched from the courts to the Australian Building and Construction Commission premises.

CFMEU secretary Dave Noonan says he hopes the message that laws should be scrapped will get through during the federal election campaign.

"We say that it's a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs in a democratic country that a worker could be imprisoned for standing up for their rights in this way," he said. "Tony Abbott boasts about the fact that he created these laws, Mr Abbott supports workers being fined and imprisoned for standing up for their rights."

Inside the hearing, a Commission inspector Seamus Flynn was in the witness stand.

He was cross-examined by Tribe's lawyer about his authority to investigate the stopwork meeting held at a Flinders University work site in 2008.

Election and WorkChoices

20 July, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

The worst of WorkChoices could return to Australian workplaces through changes to regulations and 'tweaks' that do not require legislative amendment.

Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s statement that changes to regulations will not bring back WorkChoices are deceptive and misleading says ACTU President Ged Kearney.

The fact is that two million workers could lose protection from unfair dismissal through changes to the 'Small Business Fair Dismissal Code' said Ms Kearney.

"Other changes to regulations could effectively reintroduce individual contracts for millions of workers.

"This would mean cuts to workers’ take home pay and basic award conditions such as overtime pay, penalty rates, public holiday pay, allowances and leave loading — the same as occurred under WorkChoices.

"Tony Abbott is trying to be too clever by half by attempting to make Australians believe he won’t bring back WorkChoices.

"The truth is there is enormous scope for the Coalition to alter the operation of the Fair Work Act simply by regulation.

"He has left a back door open for the return of WorkChoices.

"Without an absolute guarantee in relation to the legislation as well as the regulations and other Ministerial powers, Australian working people can have no confidence that a Liberal Government would not return to WorkChoices.

"A preliminary analysis by the ACTU shows there are at least 198 separate sections in the Fair Work Act and the three related Acts which enable the Minister to enact changes by regulation. (A selection of these are shown overleaf)

"Many of these would severely curtail the rights of millions of working Australians.

"The Liberals have tried this sort of action before. The Howard Government, prior to having a Senate majority, attempted to change regulations so as to strip unfair dismissal rights from a large number of Australian employees, only to be frustrated by the then Senate.

"Mr Abbott should be judged on what he and his Party did when they were in government not on meaningless scraps of paper signed during media interviews.

"When the Coalition was last in power they secretly brought in WorkChoices and did all they could to deprive working Australians of their rights.

"WorkChoices is what the Liberals believe in, so why would working people think they would do otherwise if they are elected?"

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Asylum seekers: ACTU

06 July, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

Asylum seekers should not become a political football, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

Ms Kearney said unions welcomed the lifting of the suspension on the processing of Sri Lankan refugee claims.

Unions note that the Government is in talks with other countries about hosting regional processing centres. Unions are yet to be convinced this is appropriate or necessary. Care must be taken to ensure Australia's international obligations are not breached.

"Unions strongly reject any attempt to demonise asylum seekers for political gain," she said. "Migration – including the humanitarian and refugee program – has played a great role in Australia's growth and prosperity and will continue to do so.

"Australia has long been seen as a safe haven from troublespots, war zones and persecution around the world, and Australians are regarded as compassionate and generous people willing to provide shelter to vulnerable people seeking protection. This is something of which we should be proud.

"We cannot allow our nation to be driven down a path of division and conflict in which asylum seekers become the victims."

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said unions have long supported a rational and informed public debate about immigration, population and asylum seekers based on facts.

"Politicians have a responsibility not to inflame division or misrepresent the facts, and to show leadership to counter views that would demonise asylum seekers or abrogate Australia's international obligations," he said.

"The facts are that Australia's current refugee intake of about 13,750 a year is small by international standards and forms less than 10% of our total permanent migration intake. Boat arrivals deemed to be refugees make up an even smaller proportion of that – less than 2% of all migrants to Australia.

"The security situations in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are constantly changing, and the Government must release all the information available.

"Australia has a responsibility under the international Refugee Convention to assess the claims of any asylum seekers who arrive on our shores.

"If their claims are unsuccessful or their country of origin is deemed safe, Australia has a right to seek their return. But genuine refugees should be accepted and entitled to the same rights as other Australian residents."


The full address given to the Lowy Institute by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, may also be of interest. It can be read at:

Asylum seekers: Ethnic Communities view

The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA) has welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's attempt to tone down the unwarranted political frenzy which has surrounded asylum seekers in recent weeks.

"Julia Gillard's overt rejection of 'inflammatory politics' is to be commended," said FECCA Senior Deputy Chair, Dr Sundram Sivamalai. "The government's new border security policy (released 6/7/10) is also commendable in its clear recognition that asylum seekers are people who deserve to be treated with decency and humanity.

"The government's decision to lift the suspension on the processing of Sri Lankan asylum seekers' visa applications is also to be applauded.

"However, FECCA has some reservations about the government's announcement that it will return asylum seekers who come by boat to 'regional processing centres', in locations such as East Timor.

"We call on the government to ensure that all due process is offered to those who would be sent to 'regional processing centres'. All asylum seekers must have fair access to means of application review and must be able to live in safety while their claims are being considered. 'Regional processing centres' must not be used as a means of allowing Australia to avoid its responsibilities in relation to refugees, as outlined by international law.

"FECCA also calls on the government to lift the ban on the processing of Afghani refugees' asylum claims. Asylum seekers have the right to have their claims processed in a timely fashion - living with uncertainty can have serious mental health consequences for applicants.

"While FECCA largely welcomed the government's statements today, we were disheartened to hear the coalition's new policy statements in relation to asylum seekers, also outlined today.

"The opposition has threatened the wellbeing of asylum seekers by pledging to re-institute the damaging temporary protection visa scheme, to turn back boats and to abolish free legal advice for asylum seekers seeking to appeal a decision.

"Asylum seekers come to our shores seeking freedom from persecution – trauma, torture and discrimination. It is our duty to treat them with humanity and respect," concluded Dr Sundram Sivamalai. "Australia's reputation as a fair and decent country will be severely compromised if we fail to do so."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Public school enrolments growing

Public school enrolments are growing - student numbers in government schools have increased by more than 3600 over the past year, with the biggest gains in suburbs containing private colleges.

New data crunched by the Department of Education and Training shows 769 public primary schools and 233 public high schools (Year 10 to Year 12) boosted enrolments between 2009 and this year.

Government schools in northern Sydney, up against heavily advertised private schools, have recorded the greatest increase in students -- more than 3350 over the past three years.

Sydney region enrolments this year are up by 1750 on 2008 and the western Sydney region by more than 2200.

Education experts said well publicised success in the HSC was partly responsible for the increase in public school students.

Some government schools have increased their enrolments by more than 60 per cent over the past five years including Bondi Public and Maroubra Bay Public in Sydney's east, Darcy Road Public and Kellyville Ridge Public in the city's west, Leichhardt Public in the inner west and Wyong Creek Public in the Hunter/Central Coast region.

Secondary schools with increased enrolments include Rose Bay Secondary College in Sydney's east, Dulwich High and Ashfield Boys High in the inner west, Turramurra High and Killarney Heights High in northern Sydney.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Monopolies ask for more

ABCC: "Suits instead of balaclavas"

The ACT Labor Party has fiercely criticised some of the Federal Government's building industry laws and refugee policies.

The party's annual conference has voted unanimously to call on the Commonwealth to dismantle building industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), as well as its planned successor, the Building Industry Inspectorate.

ACT Labor MLA John Hargreaves says the ABCC is an abomination because it can send workers to jail if they refuse to testify.

"I can't see any difference between this watchdog and the watchdogs Peter Reith used on the waterfront," he said.

"The difference is they're wearing suits instead of balaclavas."

Katoomba: NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC week starts on Sunday 4 July and ends on Sunday 11 July. NAIDOC is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields. Activities take place across the nation during NAIDOC week in the first week of July.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

MUA: Keep Australia Afloat

Australian shipping is sinking fast

In just 10 years, Australia's merchant shipping fleet has shrunk by half. Our seafarers jobs are being lost as overseas flagged ships, many of them ships of shame, take more of our coastal trade.

A strong shipping fleet is vital to our economy, environment and security - and yet there are no incentives to invest in Australian shipping.

We need your support to keep Australian shipping afloat

Pledge your support for this campaign on the petition

  • No free kicks, but incentives to invest in new Australian ships - which are common in major shipping nations.
  • tax breaks for Australian seafarers working predominantly in international trades
  • tighter restrictions on foreign ships on our coast
  • tax incentives, like the tonnage tax to bring new Australian licenced ships on our coast
  • an industry driven national shipping workforce plan to boost seafarer numbers and skills
  • Australian awards to cover ALL guest workers on the coast. (by extending the Fair Work act to all foreign ships trading on our coast)

Miners praise new tax deal

CFMEU Mining and Energy Bulletin Vol. 13, No. 20
2 July 2010

General President Tony Maher congratulated Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s team for emerging from some hard bargaining with the top CEOs of the world’s most powerful mining companies in a deal that delivers 90% of the revenue first put on the table for negotiations.

"The $10.5 billion increase this represents in revenue will allow the people of Australia to benefit from improved superannuation, provide tax improvements for smaller business and importantly for mining communities it retains the commitment to increased infrastructure in our regions.

"The compromise deal ensures a much fairer return for the people of Australia from the non-renewable resources that we own.

"Our Union is looking forward to a meeting with the Federal Government to discuss how our mining communities too can benefit from new and improved social infrastructure in our regions", said Tony Maher.

New tax deal shows just how phoney scare campaign was

The fact that the big mining companies have accepted the Gillard Government’s compromise deal that has delivered 90% of what was on the table,shows just how phoney their scare campaign was.

"Our Union was right in exposing the lies and spin that the big companies peddled in their multi-million dollar scare campaign", said Tony Maher.

"Jobs were never at risk and investment was never threatened by ensuring that the Australian people and our mining communities receive a fairer share from our natural resources", he said.



ACTU Media Release
2 July, 2010

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said it was pleasing that improvements to superannuation, including the increase from 9% to 12%, had been maintained in the outcome of negotiations between the government and big mining companies.

"Big mining companies have been making mega profits out of Australia’s natural resources and must pay their fair share of tax and put something back into the community," Mr Lawrence said.

"The changes announced today will ensure that the wealth generated by the resources boom benefits all Australians through better superannuation and more infrastructure for regional areas.

"The mining industry has a clear capacity to pay more tax. Profits have grown by 530% - eight times wages – over the past decade.

"The mining lobby’s scare campaign has been shameful, but the government has shown a willingness to negotiate to achieve a consensus. The industry must now end their malicious campaign and accept it has to pay its fair share of tax.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mining jobs boom

The Age Business News 1 July 2010

Mining moguls may be upset about the proposed super profits tax, but they are trying to hire workers like never before.

New job vacancy figures released yesterday show the mining industry was trying to hire a record 6200 workers in May - far more than at any time during the Howard government's mining boom.

The Bureau of Statistics survey was conducted in the third week of May, two weeks after Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan unveiled the resources tax and two weeks after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said it would kill the industry ''stone dead''.

Between February and May the number of mining jobs on offer jumped almost 20 per cent at a time when total vacancies fell 2.5 per cent.

The total of 6200 vacancies is head and shoulders above anything ever reached during the previous mining boom when vacancies only once topped 5000.

It is also way out of proportion to the size of mining as an employer.

Mining employs fewer than 200,000 Australians yet had 6200 jobs vacant. Manufacturing, which employs almost one million Australians, had 11,200 job vacancies.

''The mining skill shortage never went away,'' said David Edwards, strategic manager of labour hire firm Drake Australia.

''Mining workers are very hard to find. You need critical skills - more than in other industries - and you often need them in remote locations.''


Low-paid: $26 a week increase

A $26 a week pay rise and income tax cuts that begin today will provide relief for working families faced with rising living costs.

More than 1.4 million workers will receive an extra $26 a week in their pay packets from today, ending a wage freeze of almost two years under the Howard Government’s Fair Pay Commission.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the pay rise, which will lift the minimum wage to $569.90 a week, or $15 an hour, was a dividend of both the Federal Government’s successful handling of the Global Financial Crisis and its Fair Work laws.

"Today’s pay rise for the low-paid highlights the risk for Australian workers of a return to WorkChoices under Tony Abbott," Mr Lawrence said.

"Under the so-called Fair Pay Commission, real award wages actually fell for more than a million workers. Last year’s wage freeze was the last gasp of WorkChoices. It is an injustice that has been partly corrected by Fair Work Australia’s Minimum Wage Panel."