Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blue Mountains: Bitumen bandits!

Acting Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney is warning Blue Mountains residents to beware of bitumen bandits offering to lay asphalt on driveways, landscaping and cleaning at cheap rates.

Ms Burney said Fair Trading was investigating reports of itinerant traders attempting to scam locals at Warrimoo and Blaxland with cheap bitumen laying offers.

"The traders are currently using a flyer entitled "Emerald Asphalt & Paving" offering a large range of services including asphalting, fencing, bricklaying and landscaping services," she said.

"None of the workers hold an appropriate licence.

Ms Burney said Fair Trading has operational people in the field tracking the movements of these shonks.

"Bitumen bandits generally target older, vulnerable people in rural and regional areas and have been subject to ongoing Fair Trading investigations," she said.

Ms Burney said Fair Trading issued warnings on bitumen bandits on four occasions last year and three times this year when they appeared on the south coast, north coast and on the outskirts of south-western Sydney.

"A group was caught operating in Taree, Old Bar and Tinonee in February last year," she said.

"Three penalty notices worth $2,250 were issued."

Ms Burney said the bandits use a seemingly plausible reason to gain people's confidence and, in the worst cases, lie in wait for people to leave their homes.

"They will often say they have leftover material from a local council job or Roads and Traffic Authority job and can do a good price," she said.

"They also ask for cash in hand and are known to keep a watch on homeowners to see when they leave their property.

"When they do, the bandits will turn up with a large group and start laying bitumen without consent."

Ms Burney said bitumen bandits often attempted to bully residents into paying for substandard work.

"After completing the work, the bandits quickly leave the area and consumers are unable to contact them or obtain refunds or warranties," she said.

"I urge residents to contact Fair Trading immediately on 13 32 20 if they have been approached by bitumen bandits.

"Wherever possible, get the car rego of the bandits and any other identifying information, such as contact details, including mobile phone numbers."

Friday, August 27, 2010

NSW Rail workers consider pay deal

NSW 17,000 rail workers are set to sign a new employment deal after pressuring RailCorp into increasing its wage rise proposal.

Union delegates voted in favour of a new proposal on Wednesday. They will put the deal to members before it is likely to be put to a vote next month.

Under the agreement, workers would get a 4 per cent pay rise in the first year and 3.5 per cent for the next three years.

They would be free from the threat of any forced redundancies for four years and could take any future workplace dispute with RailCorp straight to the federal workplace tribunal, Fair Work Australia.

Tasmanian Nurses: 11 days leave dispute

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis said shiftwork nurses had enjoyed the 11 1/2 days' leave in lieu of working on public holidays for 30 years.

Ms Ellis said the Government had sprung the measure on nurses as part of an appeal against a Tasmanian Industrial Commission ruling on a different matter.

Ms Ellis said the Government had brought a legal team from Melbourne and Sydney to battle against the nurses.

"The timing could not be worse as nurses are in the middle of negotiations for a new enterprise agreement," she said.

"To remove 11 days of annual leave from shift-working nurses will be the last straw for many hard-working nurses."

Ms Ellis said the Health Minister had argued that shift-workers should only have a day added to their annual leave for each public holiday falling during their annual leave.

"Nurses see this as a clear sign that the Government does not value their contribution and this will do nothing to help recruitment and retention of nurses in the Tasmanian public sector," she said.

"It is outrageous that the Government are trying to remove nurses' conditions at a time when they are stretched to the brink by the huge health demands of our ageing society."

Fair Work: Blue Mountains visit

The Fair Work Ombudsman will make educational visits to about 40 businesses in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains over the next two weeks.

Fair Work inspectors will doorknock businesses to provide information packs to employers who have entered the national workplace relations system.

This follows educational visits to businesses in Springwood and Leura earlier this year.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the informal visits are aimed at assisting employers to understand changes to national workplace laws, including the introduction of the National Employment Standards and Modern Awards.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has a number of tools on its website - - to assist employees and employers to check minimum rates of pay, including PayCheck and Payroll Check.

Small to medium-sized businesses without human resources staff can also ensure they are better equipped when hiring, managing and dismissing employees by using free template employment documentation with step-by-step instructions or accessing a series of Best Practice Guides.

Employers or employees seeking assistance or further information can also contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 from 8am-6pm weekdays. For translations, call 13 14 50.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Britain's Tories exposed

The right wing coalition that now governs in Britain (the equivalent of an Abbott led coalition in Australia) has it's economic plans exposed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which revealed Chancellor George Osborne's emergency Budget will hammer the poorest families, especially those with children.

An IFS study has revealed that Mr Osborne's tax and benefit changes between June 2010 and April 2014 will see the poorest 10 per cent of families out of pocket by £422.83 per household.

This compares to the second-richest 10 per cent of families who would only find themselves £339.12 worse off, it added.

It also questioned Mr Osborne's decision to change the way benefits are increased annually - from the consumer prices index to the retail prices index - which would lead to "less generous benefits" in the coming year.

Public-sector union Unison vowed to step up its campaign to protect vital services against government cuts in the wake of the latest research and accused the coalition of declaring war on public services and its workers.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "There is no compassion in this coalition. The Chancellor's claims that his Budget was fair and progressive have been blown out of the water.

"It is a disgrace that children from low-income families are the ones paying the price for this bankers' recession."

Pacific Brands profits by exporting jobs

Pacific Brands announced a $52.7 million net profit for the 12 months to June 30, compared to a loss of $234.5 million in the previous corresponding period.

The news came as a slap in the face to the members of the 280-strong Illawarra workforce who were told last year they were no longer needed.

The largely female workforce of Bonds Unanderra and KingGee Bellambi were devastated in February last year when told of Pacific Brands' decision to close both factories.

More than 80 KingGee staff were laid off; 200 workers followed at Bonds in March this year.

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said the profits confirmed the belief that "big business will always look after itself".

"The chief concern of Pacific Brands, like other companies, is to satisfy their shareholders, not the people of this region," he said.

Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union national secretary Michelle O'Neil said the profits would only fuel the frustration of retrenched workers.

"After all their years of hard work and loyalty to the company ... the decision to end these workers' employment wasn't based on an unprofitable company, just one that wanted greater profits," she said.

Ms O'Neil said the effects of the lay-offs were still being felt across the region.

"Some have found other work, but the majority of [those] have only found short term, casual and insecure work," she said.

"It's not the same as having an ongoing, permanent job."

The union is calling for state and federal governments to intervene with policies which support companies manufacturing in Australia.

"People want to be able to buy good quality products that are made ethically here in Australia," she said.

"The more that products move offshore, the less we know about how those products are being made and how those workers are really being treated."

Miners - a song for 2010

A song by The Shop Steward©2010 Shop Steward

Well the papers call them miners. But they don't look like miners to me.
Miners work their shifts in the noise and dust and heat.
But whatever these blokes do. However they spend their time.
I bet you pounds to pennies it aint working down a mine.

They made a killing in the boom years. And still made millions come the bust.
While infrastructure crumbles and steel towns turn to rust.
And while millions across this nation reach out a hand in need,
The mine owners turn their backs, to pursue their quest in greed.

They talk of an investment strike and pulling their money out of the mines.
But when workers stand for their basic rights they're bullied and jailed and fined.
And yet they ransom our government if they dare tax the ore.
I guess it's one law for the wealthy and another law for the poor.

So reserve the name of miner for those who work and sweat.
For those who control the money there are other names yet.
Capitalist or businessman or mine owner if you like.
And if it's not too harsh, I'd suggest parasite.

Visit the The Shop Steward's website at:'

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Election: Your Rights at Work

By Ged Kearney

It could be two weeks before we know who will form Australia’s next government – an extraordinary situation most Australians have not experienced in their lifetime.

But regardless of which party eventually fills the Treasury benches in the House of Representatives, the major objective of the Your Rights at Work campaign has been met.

WorkChoices was one of the major issues of the election, and the YRAW campaign successfully ensured that both parties have committed to fair work laws.

In effect, we have secured the improvements to workplace rights gained since the abolition of WorkChoices.

While we believe that the interests of working people and their families would be best represented by a Labor Government, it is a significant achievement that we now have a national consensus on a fair workplace system.

Australians believe fundamentally in a system that delivers a strong workplace safety net, job security and good workplace conditions.

This campaign by our members and unions around Australia has shown that wages, conditions and respect at work are key political issues.

There is absolutely no doubt that the efforts of the thousands of Rights at Work volunteers had an impact on this election.

From day one, Tony Abbott was forced to recant on his previous adherence to hardline, WorkChoices-style policies.

Remember “WorkChoices is dead, buried and cremated”?

He was forced to abandon his previous public commitments to individual contracts, to cutting protections from unfair dismissal, and to winding back the award safety net.

The pressure never let up on Tony Abbott, and he finished the campaign as he started: rejecting the policies of deregulated labour markets that have been a central plank of Liberal philosophy since the party was founded.

The resounding message to the Liberal Party was that Australians care about a fair workplace system.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Election: hung parliament

Hung Parliament ABC Elections page

Broadband policy may prove to be the key!

Former National Party members turned independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter have all nominated broadband as a key concern. They have supported Labor's $43 billion National Broadband Network, which will deliver speeds of at least 100 megabits per second to 93 per cent of the population. Their regional electorates now rely on creaky dial-up connections and sub-par communications services.

The Liberals promised to dump the NBN and have proposed a slow-band plan dependent on ageing copper wire and wireless prone to slowdown because of over crowding. Unlike the NBN, the infrastructure will be privately owned.

Tony Abbott yesterday would not rule out improving his broadband policy.

'I don't want to pre-empt the discussions that I expect will be had over the next few days, just to say that I intend to be very pragmatic, but within the broad policy which we discussed during the election.'

Julia Gillard yesterday talked up the NBN, saying it would help bridge the divide between metropolitan and regional Australia.

The Coalition's broadband package has been criticised by the internet industry and communications experts who argue that Labor's fibre-to-the-home package, while more expensive, will be faster and more future-proof.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Safeguard Workers' Rights

ACTU President Ged Kearney said this election is about jobs for working people and the protection of workers' rights. "It is about recognising that during the GFC the Labor Government saved hundreds of thousands of jobs — including thousands of jobs in western Sydney," Ms Kearney said.

"And it is about giving Julia Gillard credit for safeguarding workers' rights with the Fair Work laws that got rid of WorkChoices.

"If the Liberals are elected, there will be no increase in national superannuation which would increase the average 30-year-old’s retirement savings by up to $150,000. And there will no improved protection of employee entitlements, nor two weeks paid paternity leave for working dads.

"The Liberals opposed the economic stimulus that saved 200,000 jobs during the GFC, and will always manage the economy in the interests of big business, not working families.

"Tony Abbott and the Coalition have a long history and are on record this year as pledging to wind back workers’ protections from unfair dismissal, to reintroduce individual contracts, and reduce minimum standards in awards. They have a policy of axing more than 12,000 jobs and cutting $5 billion from public services.

"Tony Abbott is deceiving working Australians – just as John Howard did before the 2004 election, when he never sought a mandate for WorkChoices. Given their track record, working Australians can have absolutely no trust in the Liberals," she said.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

He can run but he can't hide!

Run Abbott, run Abbott, run, run, run.

The Tea Porter’s Song

Seven steps up, you have to rest.
Eight steps down, you have to rest.
Eleven steps flat, you have to rest.
You are stupid, if you don’t rest.

The tea porters trekked the twenty kilometre distance between Yuan and Kangding (from China to Nepal) carrying 135 kg loads of tea bricks on their backs, using a T shaped crutch which they sat on during the rest periods.

The old tea porters interviewed were Gan Shoo Yu, 87 and Li Wen Liang, 78.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unversities and WorkChoices

Australia’s universities should never again be used as a testing ground for a radical Liberal workplace agenda.

Unions are determined to prevent a repeat of the abuse of Commonwealth funding by the Coalition to pursue individual contracts in the tertiary education sector.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said unions were concerned that a Coalition Government could seek to blackmail universities into using individual contracts with the threat of with-holding funding. Mr Lawrence said the last time the Coalition was in power, it used Commonwealth funding to drive an extremist industrial relations agenda in the tertiary sector.

Mr Lawrence will today address a stopwork meeting by University of Queensland academic and general staff who are seeking a new collective agreement.

Staff are today beginning a series of rolling stoppages in pursuit of an improved pay offer from the university, which had a surplus of $128 million in 2009. Average pay for senior lecturers and for general staff at the University of Queensland are the second lowest of 17 tertiary institutions, despite the university’s status as one of Australia’s Group of Eight.

"Staff are using the Fair Work Act to attempt to claw back pay they lost under the Coalition Government," Mr Lawrence said.

"After refusing to meet with staff and their union for many months, the university began negotiations last year shortly before the Fair Work Act began operation. The Act encourages collective bargaining which is the best way to secure good pay and conditions for workers.

"This is in contrast with the last Coalition Government's Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements, which made increased funding for universities conditional on institutions rolling out Australian Workplace Agreements to their staff.

"Tony Abbott wants to reintroduce individual contracts in Australian workplaces. He has also failed to rule out again using Government funding to implement his radical IR agenda."

Last decade, $458 million of Commonwealth funding to universities was used funding to drive its IR agenda in other industries, including tender processes for government-funded construction projects.

Labor's shipping policy

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has declared that a re-elected Gillard Labor Government will introduce measures to “strengthen Australia’s shipping industry”.

“We will implement international best practice measures to reduce costs for Australian ships and place our shipping industry on a sustainable footing with its international competitors as well as other modes of transport domestically,” Mr Albanese said.

In 2008, more than 834 million tonnes of international cargo moved across Australian wharves on 4,000 ships in more than 11,000 voyages. Yet there are only 30 Australian registered major trading ships today – down from 55 ships in 1995.

Australian companies using Australian registered ships will be able to pay a new tonnage tax (a low flat tax based on the weight of the vessel), or remain with the current tax regime which will be bolstered through accelerated depreciation arrangements.

Tonnage taxes are used in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other nations.

The government will also make changes to income tax arrangements for Australian-resident international seafarers to remove disincentives for companies employing Australians.

And in order to facilitate Australian participation in international shipping, Labor will establish an Australian International Shipping Register.

Greg Hunt shuns steel workers

Flinders federal Liberal MP Greg Hunt has refused to buy into BlueScope’s industrial dispute, which has seen scab labour fill the jobs of striking workers.

With only one more week to go before polling day there is little sign of an agreement being brokered between the 86 boilermakers and fitters and plant management.

The employees, who are contracted to BlueScope Steel Western Port, walked off the job almost two weeks ago.

They had been negotiating a new enterprise bargaining agreement with Silcar since February but began strike action on August 5, when negotiations reached a stalemate.

In an email to employees, BlueScope said it had employed a mechanical breakdown crew to maintain the Long Island plant.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union state organiser Greg Warren said his members were angry Bluescope had brought in replacement workers.

"If BlueScope continues to smuggle in these scab workers the tension and situation will only escalate," he said.

"One of our issues is the wording of our EBA, which keeps protecting the employer under the old WorkChoices regime."


Sue Templeman

Letter to Your Rights at Work

I am writing to introduce myself as the Labor candidate for Macquarie. I have lived locally for 20 years after making the decision to raise my family in the lower Blue Mountains.

I run a small media training business with 9 employees. I believe that rights at work are pivotal to ensuring every Australian get a fair go in life.

I am a proud member of the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), the union for employees in the communications industry. Like you, I worked in 2007 with the Union Movement, and the community to bring an end to WorkChoices and the Howard Government.

Since then the Labor Government has introduced the Fair Work Act which provides a more balanced and fair approach to employment law and brought an end to individual contracts. It restored unfair dismissal rights to 4.3 million workers.

I am concerned that these gains may be jeopardised if a Tony Abbott-led Liberal Government is elected.

Under Tony Abbott, WorkChoices is never dead. In his book ‘Battlelines’ Mr Abbott wrote: “It [WorkChoices] was good for workers”. Tony Abbott might not mention the word, but he will always return to the worst aspects of WorkChoices.

Since being nominated as the Labor Candidate for Macquarie, I have met with community sector workers and I understand their struggle to improve their pay and conditions. I have signed the ASU’s pledge for Equal Pay and, if elected, I will work with State Government to ensure that the award is funded so as not to disadvantage service delivery.

Over the past three years Federal Labor has delivered on jobs and industrial relations. We have managed the economy through the worst recession in 80 years and have come out of the Global Financial Crisis with around 5% unemployment. This figure, compared with other similar nations like the UK and USA, is at half the rate of unemployment in those countries.

I understand that there is still more to be done and that is why I am asking you to give the Federal Labor Government led by Julia Gillard a second term.

When voting on the 21st August please consider the Liberals track record on industrial relations. The election of an Abbott Government is too big a risk. For this reason Macquarie residents need to think seriously about who they elect.

You can trust that as your representative I will always speak up for rights at work. Please vote for me and the Gillard Labor team.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Templeman
Labor Candidate for Macquarie.

WorkChoices ... Never Again

WorkChoices. Never Again Campaign Bulletin

There's only a few more days left to go before we vote on August 21.

But there is still no industrial relations policy from Tony Abbott. In fact he continues to refuse to release one before the election. He claims that business is telling him they want stability and no changes. But the truth is employers want to make lots of changes.

The big business and employer wish list for changes that would reduce rights at work lifts the lid on what Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party have planned if they win the 2010 election. The Liberal Party's silence over industrial relations in this election campaign has been deafening, but the public statements of employer and business groups speak volumes.

We've done an analysis of hundreds of pages of employer submissions, public statements, media reports and other documents which reveals an agenda to:

  • strip unfair dismissal rights from workers,
  • cut minimum standards,
  • remove redundancy protections, and
  • reintroduce individual contracts.
  • The HR Nicholls Society, a right-wing lobby group, have confirmed our concerns that our recently won rights at work can be wound back through changes to regulations and Ministerial powers, without altering legislation.

Given the business agenda and Mr Abbott's own statements before the election, voters have good reason not to trust the Coalition on WorkChoices.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Telstra ignores Abbott "internet plan"

When Tony Abbott announced his communications policy this week the widely held view was that Telstra would be overjoyed and its boss, David Thodey, would throw his weight behind the Coalition.

There would be no forced separation of Telstra's retail and wholesale business, no gun to its head to divest its interest in Foxtel or be starved of new digital spectrum.

But there was no public response from Telstra. Yesterday, when Thodey came out of hiding to release the company's 2010 full-year profit, his opinion was expressed by what he didn't say. He didn't come out in support of Abbott. Instead he badged himself politically agnostic.

When pressed on the issue during an interview with the Herald he ducked and wove, saying only that he was happy with the deal he had cut with Labor on establishing a national broadband network and he would be recommending it to shareholders.

Could it be that Labor's policy to force Telstra to exit its old fixed-line network and compensate it with an $11 billion cheque is now considered a better business outcome for Telstra? And could it be that Telstra management has come full circle and would now embrace Labor policy?

More "Phoney Tony"

Experts ridiculed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's sheer lack of knowledge surrounding broadband and labelled the Coalition's policy "technical ignorance on a national scale".

Abbott's claim that wireless was a substitute for a nationwide fibre-to-the-home network has been met with derision by the industry, which claims his plan would require a mobile tower on every street, push up internet prices and fail to support future applications that the public will demand.

Geoff Huston, chief scientist at APNIC, said the Coalition's plan to fall back on technologies such as wireless would end up running into capacity constraints due to a lack of spectrum and make broadband prohibitively expensive for most people.

John Lindsay, carrier relations manager at ISP Internode, said the Coalition's broadband policy is "just technical ignorance on a national scale and frankly Australians deserve better than that".

"Inside the industry the view is that they don't really know what they're talking about and that they've just rehashed [their policy from] 2005," he said.

Huston, an expert in internet architectures, said it was extremely challenging to "get high speed data through the air" and the limited availability of wireless spectrum meant we would fast run into capacity problems.

"What's going to happen with wireless is that as we crowd it, only those with the deepest pockets will be able to afford it, so rather than being a communications medium for everyone, it becomes only a medium for the few who can afford to pay," Huston said.

"For the same $50 a month that people pay for a couple of gigabytes of wireless, they can get 10-20 times that amount of data down the wire - wireless has its role but it also attracts a premium price."

Greens workplace policy

Workers would be given the power to bargain collectively over everything from the sustainability of workplaces to a better deal for women, under industrial relations changes proposed by the Greens.

The NSW Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon yesterday announced a series of industrial relations proposals. They include:

Increasing from two weeks to three the amount of time sacked workers have to claim unfair dismissal.

Abolishing the controversial building industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Dumping the national occupational health and safety laws proposed by the Gillard government for a tougher model or one that exempts NSW.

Allowing unions to enter workplaces to recruit members and investigate alleged breaches of wage agreements.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Abbott 2009: Clarke and Daw

Super at stake

The Gillard Government will increase the superannuation guarantee from 9% to 12% to ensure a comfortable retirement for all working Australians.

This will mean a 30-year-old earning average wages will have an extra $108,000 in retirement savings.

In addition, Labor has announced a new, low-cost My Super scheme that will lift the average worker's savings by an additional $40,000.

Altogether this is nearly $150,000 extra in retirement savings for the average worker under Julia Gillard’s plan for the future.

Tony Abbott has vowed not introduce any of these new reforms.

Calculate how much extra you’ll get under the Gillard Government by going to:

GetUp! election score card

"Phoney Tony" returns!

Tony Abbott will personally make any decision to turn around boats carrying asylum seekers if he becomes prime minister.

Mr Abbott revealed yesterday how his pledge to turn back the boats would work.

"In the end it would be a prime ministerial decision," he said.

"It would be the Government's call based on advice of the commander on the spot."

Mr Abbott said the phonecall from sea would come to him - on the boat phone - and it would be his choice whether or not to turn a boat back if it was safe to do so.

High speed medicine

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised a string of internet health initiatives piggybacking off Labor's National Broadband Network (NBN) plan at the party's formal campaign launch today.

The $392 million package includes a scheme allowing Australians, especially those living in rural and regional areas, to qualify for a special Medicare rebate for online consultations.

At Labor's official campaign launch in Brisbane today, Julia Gillard said the plan, which would take effect from July next year, would mean patients seeking medical advice would not have to leave their communities for consultations.

She said Labor's planned high-speed broadband network would bring video conferencing to the after-hours GP helpline and allow better remote advice on family medical issues.

"This is the future of healthcare," she said, accusing Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of ripping more than $1 billion from hospitals when he was health minister.

"We inherited Mr Abbott's cuts, not enough trained GPs," she said.

"If you are asking yourself the question, 'why can't I get a doctor's appointment today?' look to Mr Abbott's cuts because they're the reason why."

The package includes $250 million for online consultations, providing about 495,000 services over four years for rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas.

There will also be financial incentives for GPs and specialists to deliver the online services at a cost of $56.8 million and an expansion of the GP after-hours helpline at a cost of $50 million.

Labor would also spend $35 million to support training for health professionals using online technologies.

"By harnessing the benefits of modern technology, we will connect people in rural, regional and outer-metropolitan Australia up to health services they would otherwise have to travel long distances to receive," Ms Gillard said.

Tanaka film goes to Berlin

Germany: Globians Doc Fest Berlin August 12-18, 2010
Kino Toni, Antonplatz Wei├čensee

Trailers on YouTube

Tanaka-san will not do callisthenics
has been chosen as the Closing Film 18 August: 20.30

Miners to vote on Thiess offer

Talks have resumed between the CFMEU and the mine's operator, Thiess.

Mine workers at Collinsville, north-west of Mackay in north Queensland, will vote on a new pay offer from their employer today.

More than 200 workers have been blockading the open-cut coal mine since July 27 over pay and job security issues.

The action was suspended on Friday while talks resumed between the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the mine's operator, Thiess.

CFMEU spokesman Steve Smyth says workers met last night and will vote on a pay offer again this evening.

"As a show of good faith, we stopped the protected industrial action on Friday," he said.

"They're happy that Thiess have actually come to the party and put some genuine effort into the discussions.

"But at the end of the day, they are more than happy that if Thiess are not genuine and what they've offered isn't what they want then they will consider what options they take next."

Shakey polls?

The Galaxy poll of 4000 voters in 20 marginal seats puts coalition support at 51.4 per cent to Labor's 48.6 per cent on preferences.

But the Galaxy poll finding is not supported by two leading analysts.

ABC election analyst Antony Green says he comes up with a different result when entering the projected Galaxy swings into his election calculator.

"Someone has made an absolute howler in trying to turn polls in 20 marginal seats into a national figure," the ABC expert wrote on his blog, adding whoever calculated the vote committed two serious errors.

"First, the figures are for four electorates, not the states. Second, while the state samples are the same size, the state populations are not," he said.

Mr Green says his calculation from the Galaxy poll shows Labor at 51 per cent, not 48.6 per cent.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Support for speedy internet grows

Labor's plan for a world class fibre National Broadband Network (NBN) is becoming an election winner.

Jon Dee, founder of environmental group Do Something, said: ''The potential of the NBN is to reduce considerably the amount people have to travel through using video conferencing instead and so reducing airborne emissions.

"But it isn't just the environmental issues. It is about productivity, with so much time wasted through people being stuck in traffic jams.

"I live in the Blue Mountains and high-speed broadband with video conferencing will mean I don't have to drive backwards and forwards to Sydney all the time."

He said 8 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions came from cars, and figures for July showed the air route between Sydney and Melbourne was the fourth-busiest in the world.

The Greens are broadly supportive of the planned fibre-to-the-premises NBN as "an enabler of economic activity, greater engagement with government, important e-health and online education opportunities".

The Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG), a business organisation, sees it as unrealistic to leave building such a broadband service to market forces.

Describing Abbot's broadband scheme ATUG's Managing director Rosemary Sinclair said: "We don't think it is going to take us in the direction we want to go in. We think 12Mbps is too low."

Choosing fibre means simply that all those connected will have speeds of at least 10 times the maximum speeds envisaged in Abbott's patchwork solution. Moving data over fibre is developing fast while reliance on the old telephone standard copper wire has already reached it's upper limit.

New developments for fibre probably mean that speeds are likely be up to 100 times as fast as the alternatives. Thus putting in fibre now future proofs the network in a way that a mix of wireless and copper cannot.

The recent agreement between the Labor Government and Telstra means the conduits that now carry the copper phone line to homes can also carry fibre, so new trenches will not have to dug. This is likely to reduce the final cost to about half the $46 billion being proposed. So for 3 times the cost of Abbott's scheme we would get 100 time the speed! No brainer!

The faster connection speeds certainly will help overcome the disparities between regional Australia and the cities. Farmers and others will have the same instant access to information and markets as the stock exchange. Schools and hospitals will potentially have the same of access to libraries and world class medical information that is today reserved for those close to the cities. For Aboriginal health and education it will help close the gap.

Because the NBN represents such a radical upgrade it is simply not possible to predict all the ways it will affect our lives. That's exactly what the buzz in favour of it is about.

Gillard: credit card policy

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would put the power to nominate a credit limit back in the hands of the consumer and stopping banks from automatically increasing credit limits.

Ms Gillard said many Australians had escalating credit card debt because every extension was accepted.

"One hundred and fifty thousand Australians get a new credit card every month, how amazing is that? Amazing," Ms Gillard said.

"So many Australians are reliant on credit cards, have credit cards, get new credit cards."

Under the policy the Labor Party will make it illegal for banks to offer regular credit limit increases unless consumers opt to receive it as a service.

Credit card statements will have to include a section on how long it will take to pay off the credit card if the holder only makes the minimum payment and how much interest would be paid over that time.

"It's truth, transparency but also more choice. So people aren't feeling that big credit card limits are forced on them," Ms Gillard said. "A lot of people have stories about being weighed under by credit card debt."

In June this year Australians held more than 13 million credit cards with a combined credit limit of about $122 billion, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Ms Gillard said she would consult with financial institutions and consumer groups on the reforms.

She said giving people control and information over their credit card debt was important.

"So people couldn't get into escalating credit card debt because every extension has just been accepted," she said.

"We'd give people more ability to set their own credit card limits, so that there's a trigger point and they couldn't go over it."

The major banks' recent record super profits owe much to their gauging of credit card holders,  mortgagees and the $2.00 charge at ATMs if you happen to hold another banks' debit card.

Update for 100,000 voters

from GetUp!

After last week's High Court success, the AEC indicated that the 100,000 voters enfranchised by the result would have to cast what's know as a 'declaration vote'.

This means that unlike the rest of us, they would have to provide various identifying documents before their vote could be counted. At the last federal election, only 14% of declaration votes cast were actually counted.

After requests from GetUp and several electoral experts, the AEC have now agreed (much to their credit) to print new electoral rolls and allow those 100,000 new voters to have their votes counted the same way as everyone else!

Peter Garrett: Creative Australia

A re-elected Gillard Labor Government will provide new funding to the Australia Council to nurture the creative process, help artists create new work and ensure audiences have greater access to a diversity of creative expressions.

We will provide $10 million over five years for the Australia Council to invest in new and innovative Australian work, by delivering:
  • New artistic works, including visual art, performing art, literature, new media and music.
  • Additional Presentations to Australian audiences, including to communities outside the major metropolitan areas.
  • More Fellowships for Australia’s young and emerging artists and mid-career artists.
Grants of up to $80,000 per annum will be available for new artistic works, up to $50,000 per annum for each new presentation, and up to $60,000 per annum for new fellowships.

This new program will support up to 150 artistic works, presentations and fellowships in priority areas including: support for young and emerging artists, the creation of new Australian work (visual art, music, theatre, literature and dance) and assist artists in building sustainable careers by generating new income streams from corporate support and philanthropy.

Individual artists will benefit from this program as it provides new opportunities to create work and present to wider audiences across the country, raising their exposure and their ability to generate an income through their work.


Labor: More for Apprentices

Labor will bolster will improve aprentiship  wages and incentives, offering a wide-ranging package to keep the economy strong and to encourage apprentices to stick it out and get their qualifications.

Apprentice bricklayers, butchers, cabinetmakers, carpenters, cooks and those training in many other professions will be offered the payment on top of existing Tools For Your Trade payments.

With the new arrangements, they stand to gain a total of $5500, tax exempt, over the course of their training.

Under the Trades Apprentice Income Bonus Scheme, apprentices would receive an extra $200 at the end of each of their first two years, bringing each 12-month payment to $1000. At the end of the third year they would receive an extra $500 -- bringing the third-year payment to $1200.

The biggest boost would come on completion of the trade training, with $800 extra, bringing the completion bonus to $1500.

Apprentices also receive a separate $800 bonus, taking the total under the new scheme to $5500.

Research suggests that the income apprentices earn, particularly in the early years of an apprenticeship, is a contributing factor in poor rates of retention and completion.

About 28,000 apprentices are lost to their trade each year as a result of not completing their training.

An extra 50,000 apprentices are expected to start and complete their apprenticeship by 2014 as a result of this program.

About 200,000 trade apprentices including carpenters, bricklayers, motor mechanics and cabinetmakers will benefit from this initiative.

Teacher's election 'league table'

Review funding

End Howard's funding model

School building investment

Computer investment

Protection from league tables

Increase TAFE funding

No TAFE course privatisation


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Abbott's Canberra slash and burn

Mr Abbott is promising to shed 12,000 public sector jobs through a hiring freeze in his first two years of power but this would have a major flow-on effect and would cost another 17,400 jobs in the wider economy, according to ACTU economic modelling released today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said it took years for the Canberra economy to recover after the last time the Coalition gained power in 1996 and took the axe to the public service.

"If all those 12,000 public sector positions are Canberra-based, the result of Tony Abbott's hiring freeze could be to rip almost 30,000 jobs out of the ACT economy. That's the equivalent to an extra 10% unemployed in Canberra. Last time the Coalition was in power and attacked the public service, it tipped the local economy into a technical recession.

"When Tony Abbott was Workplace Relations Minister, he used the public service as a testing ground for WorkChoices by encouraging widespread use of Australian Workplace Agreements.

"Tony Abbott is just pandering to anti-public service prejudice, but he has no concept of the economic damage his poorly-thought policy would do. Worse, the lack of detail in his policy is creating unnecessary uncertainty among Canberra's workers."

Hockey pokes stick at Super

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has ruled out matching Labor's plans to raise the compulsory superannuation rate to 12 per cent from its current 9 per cent.

In a speech yesterday, Mr Hockey acknowledged the need to expand the $1.1 trillion superannuation savings pool to meet the retirement needs of Australia's aging population but flagged tax changes as a preferred option rather than a higher super rate.

"We do need to increase national savings," Mr Hockey said. "There's no doubt about that but...there has got to be a better way to do it."

Labor has signalled their intention to push ahead with a higher superannuation guarantee, while introducing the MySuper, low-cost option. Those plans, along with related back-office technology reforms known as Super Stream, would add $108,000 to the average 30-year old's super balance at time of retirement, according to Labor's numbers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Get-Up! Win for voters

GetUp! wins case for online voter registration

Australians will now be able to enrol to vote online after the Federal Court ruled in favour of political activist group GetUp!'s case against the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

GetUp! had taken the AEC to the court, challenging electoral laws that prevented voters from enrolling online.

It is the group's second court win in as many weeks.

Last week the High Court ruled Howard government changes that closed the electoral rolls on the day writs were issued were unconstitutional and restored to as many 100,000 voters their right to register to vote in the way they done generations before Howard's reign.  It is considered likely that those 100,000 will vote against the reactionary politicians who messed with their rights, and may tip the scales in the close election.

GetUp! national director Simon Sheikh says today's decision is historic.

"With 1.4 million Australians not on the electoral roll earlier this year, we need to do every single thing we can to get bureaucracy and red tape out of the way," he said.

"We know that we pay our taxes online, that we do our banking online and we should be able to enrol to vote online."

He said GetUp! would be campaigning to allow online enrolments in all future elections, starting with the Victorian state poll in November.

"In future the AEC should provide a safe and secure form on their own site for people to enrol to vote online," Mr Sheikh said.

Global concern: 80 million youth unemployment

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has described the high and rising levels of youth unemployment globally as a "social time-bomb", which risks damaging the social, economic and political fabric of countries around the world. New figures released by the International Labour Organisation today, the United Nations Youth Day, underline the dramatic increase in the number of young jobless as the employment impacts of the global economic crisis continue to worsen.

"More than 80 million young people are now out of work and many millions more are trapped in short-term, low-paid jobs or in the informal economy. An entire generation of young people is being left behind, and the consequences of this for society will be severe. Governments have to act urgently to get job-creation moving, by maintaining economic stimulus where it is needed rather than by cutting public expenditure," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

While youth unemployment has been steadily increasing for more than a decade, the ILO report shows that the economic crisis caused an explosive increase in the jobless rate, with an additional 8 million young people out of work between 2007 and 2009, bringing the overall percentage to 13%. The report analyses the situation in industrialised and emerging economies, which have the highest overall levels ever recorded, as well as the developing world, where increasing youth unemployment is compounded by some 152 million young "working poor" caught in extreme poverty.

Even if the global employment situation does begin to improve, youth unemployment is expected to reduce more slowly than for older workers, and the pattern of short-term, part-time and precarious work for those young people able to find work will persist unless governments act effectively. The long-term economic and social impacts of high youth unemployment are well documented, and the damage to social cohesion from the current crisis is likely to be long-lasting and deep.

"Trade unions across the world are pressing governments to adopt macro-economic policies which put employment at the centre, as well as specific measures to improve the access of young people to decent jobs and quality education and training. We as trade unions also need to do more to reach out to young people, to keep their concerns at the top of our own agenda both in terms of government policy as well as protection in the labour market and the workplace," said Burrow.

High stakes election for workers

Date: 13 August 2010

In a last ditch attempt to inform voters of the dangers of a return to WorkChoices and a massive cut to their retirement incomes after the election, unions will hold an urgent series of meetings with workers across western Sydney starting today.

The Liberal Party is yet to release either its detailed Industrial Relations Policy or its Superannuation Policy, heightening fears among workers over the security of their jobs and incomes if Tony Abbott is elected, the ACTU says.

In difficult times we need a government that is committed to workers' job security

Average workers could lose up to $150,000 from their superannuation if there is a change of government says ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

"Today I will be meeting with workers in western Sydney who are worried about their jobs and worried about the security of their entitlements and superannuation," Mr Lawrence said.

"So far, the Liberals have said they will axe the mining tax and with it, Labor's plan to lift national superannuation from 9% up to 12%.

Abbott can't be trusted on WorkChoices, can;t be trusted on superannuation and workers' entitlements

"Working Australians should be aware that not only would the Coalition bring back the worst aspects of WorkChoices, but it has a track record when it was last in government of preventing workers from having greater financial security in retirement.

"Tony Abbott can't be trusted on WorkChoices and he also can't be trusted on superannuation and workers' entitlements.

"A re-elected Labor Government will increase national superannuation to 12%, delivering an extra $108,000 in savings for the average 30-year-old worker. Tony Abbott opposes this.

Abbott will cut protection from being sacked unfairly

"For a 30-year-old worker on an average wage the new MySuper default superannuation product would lift their retirement savings by $40,000. Together, these changes would deliver an extra $150,000 into the pockets of retired workers.

Mr Lawrence said unions will continue reminding working Australians of Mr Abbott's record in the Howard Government as one of the strongest supporters of WorkChoices, and his plans to bring back WorkChoices-style individual contracts and to cut protection from being sacked unfairly.

Unions are also preparing a series of newspaper advertisements in NSW marginal electorates to inform workers unable to attend the union meetings.

Paddy Crumlin is new ITF President

13 AUG 2010

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) has just been elected President of the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) at the global union federation's world congress in Mexico City.

Triumphant: Paddy Crumlin with outgoing ITF President Randall Howard

The ITF represents over 4.6 million members of 760 trade unions worldwide and its President is tasked with helping hold the organisation to account between these congresses, which set its policy for the next four years. Paddy Crumlin, is the 22nd person to take on the post.

"I'm excited to be able to take on this new role and play my part in moving the work of the ITF, its hundreds of affiliated unions and their millions of members forward through the implementation of a comprehensive organising programme focused on trade union regeneration and revitalisation."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kevin Rudd campaign

Kevin Rudd hit the hustings for the first time in the marginal south-east Brisbane seat of Bonner, alongside first-term MP Kerry Rea.

Mr Rudd had a very clear message for Mr Abbott.

"Mr Abbot’s strategy is to avoid any scrutiny about his fitness to hold office as prime minister of Australia given the fact he has no interest in the economy, he wants to tear up our agreement on hospitals and his plan - secret plan - to bring back Work Choices," Mr Rudd told reporters.

"It’s quite wrong with two weeks to go before a national election for Mr Abbott to believe he can simply slide through without any scrutiny.

"The spotlight is on him and what he would do to Australia if he was prime minister and as I said before I do not believe he's up to the job."

Abbott's Slowband network

Elizabeth Knight: SMH Buisness News

"What Tony Abbott laid out yesterday as an alternative was not a real alternative. It was the equivalent of a jerry-built renovation that will not address Australia's future communications needs.

The coalition is proposing to spend $6 billion to patch up what we have today. In his own words this communications policy is about filling in the gaps to give Australians uniform broadband availability at reasonable speeds.

The policy sounded all too familiar. Not surprising, really, because it is almost a carbon copy of the Coalition policy promoted by his predecessor, John Howard. As such it is not a forward-thinking strategy - just one that appears to be aimed at saving money.

Most importantly, it does not involve taking broadband fibre to the home. It will continue to rely on the existing Telstra copper network. That's the biggest saving. The other is increased use of wireless technology - whose effectiveness at producing super-speed services is less certain.

It addresses the important fibre backhaul bottleneck but it also relies on private enterprise taking responsibility for a service that is of vital community importance. History shows leaving the private sector in charge leads to ad hoc solutions and a regulatory nightmare."

Six Billion Bank Greed

The Commonwealth Bank today reported its full-year cash profit swelled more than 40 per cent to $6.1 billion - or almost $700,000 an hour. That's the largest annual profit recorded by an Australian bank.

Big bank profits are potentially hot political potatoes. On the one hand, the strength of Australian banks is one reason why the nation didn't hit the economic wall that many other countries' economies did. On the other, the global financial crisis has whittled down the number of banks competing for customers' business, resulting in fatter margins that are now feeding through to their bottom lines.

Prime minister Julia Gillard urged Australian to vote with their feet against uncompetitive banks.

"I think from the perspective of Australians, they want to make sure they get a fair go from banks," said Ms Gillard said at a press conference today.

Ms Gillard said the government had made it easier for Australians by legislating against unfair exit fees.

Greens leader senator Bob Brown, meanwhile, said Treasury could consider a super-profits tax on banks, similar to the Mineral Resource Rent Tax on the mining sector.

"While many Australians are pulling their belts in, the Commonwealth Bank is raking in this huge profit," he said.

Mr Brown said the Greens supported legislation to remove $2 bank ATM fees which are already banned in the United Kingdom. Greens would also push for the creation of $5 million cap on bank CEO pay, he said.

Miners: Xstrata inflaming strike

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says Xstrata has taken legal action preventing its members from going near a north Queensland rail line.

Workers have been stopping coal trains from leaving the Collinsville coal mine site, north-west of Mackay.

Over 200 workers have been on strike for two weeks over pay and job security issues.

The mine is owned by Xstrata but is operated by Thiess.

CFMEU spokesman Steve Smyth says the injunction, taken out by Xstrata, is preventing union members from getting any closer than 20 metres to the town's rail line.

He says he is concerned for the wider community.

"The way that it's read is that if the local residents or other people were to encroach within that zone as well, it appears they could be in trouble," he said.

Mr Smyth says he has also received complaints from community members, who believe they are being monitored by security guards.

"That is just not on - they need to be fair dinkum and if they think that is the way they are going to go about business and resolve the matter, then they are actually inflaming the matter more than they are cooling it down," he said.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tax on workers | tax-cut for millionaires

09 August, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

A new Liberal tax policy reported today would deliver a massive tax cut for millionaires while average workers would pay more.

Reports today that the Liberal Party is planning to dramatically change Australia’s income tax system in favour of the well-off are a sign that the real Tony Abbott is finally emerging.

"If the Liberals win they will deliver a big tax cut to all the millionaires and billionaires that helped them get elected," said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

"We already know that Tony Abbott will give highly profitable mining companies a $10 billion tax cut over two years if he is elected.

"Now he wants to give Australia's richest executives a big personal bonus as well."

ACTU modelling of the Liberals' flat tax proposal shows that more than six million workers on average incomes would pay more tax, while the highest income earners would get big tax cuts.

An average full time worker on $65,000 a year would pay $77 a year more in tax.

A middle income earner on $43,000 a year would pay $184 a year more in tax.

While a millionaire would get a tax cut of around $300 a week – or more than $15,000 a year.

ACTU Modelling of Liberals Tax Plan

Monday, August 09, 2010

Abbott's hidden workchoices plan

ACTU 09 August 2010
Soon after the Barnett Liberal Government was elected, it commissioned a review of Western Australian workplace laws by former Howard Government lawyer, Steven Amendola.

The terms of reference for the review specifically include the reintroduction of the worst aspects of WorkChoices and its precursor, the former Court WA government’s IR laws, including:

Individual contracts (AWAs) that

  • Cut workers’ take home pay and conditions.
  • Cuts to unfair dismissal protection.
  • Cuts to minimum wages and the award safety net of penalty rates, overtime, annual leave, sick leave, overtime pay, allowances and other basic job conditions.

Up to 300,000 Western Australian workers — about 30% of the WA workforce —- could face big cuts to their pay and conditions and rights from the 'WA WorkChoices Review'.

The WA Liberal Government received the 'WA WorkChoices Review' report in December 2009, but despite repeated requests from Labor and unions has refused to release it to the public.

The review was conducted by extreme anti-workplace rights lawyer Steven Amendola, formerly an advocate for Tony Abbott and Peter Reith when they were IR Ministers in the Howard Government.

"There is less than two weeks to go before the federal election and it is clear that Colin Barnett is trying to help Tony Abbott con West Australians over WorkChoices," said ACTU Secretary Ged Kearney.

"Tony Abbott is keeping the door open for bringing back WorkChoices under another name and Colin Barnett has a secret plan in his bottom drawer.

"The Liberals cannot be let off the hook from explaining what they really have in store for West Australian workers.

"In this election all we have so far are a series of glib slogans and contradictory statements from Tony Abbott and the WA Liberals that show they cannot be trusted on WorkChoices.

"It is an appalling abuse of the Australian public’s right to know who and what they are voting for that the Liberals haven’t released a detailed IR policy and that Colin Barnett is hiding the report from the WA WorkChoices Review.

"Working Australians will remember that WorkChoices was brought in without public scrutiny or approval by a Liberal Government of which Mr Abbott was a senior member. This election is shaping to be a re-run of the Liberal Party’s previous dishonesty on workplace relations," Ms Kearney said.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

High Court kills Howard's election law

Up to 100,000 more Australians could be allowed to vote in the August 21 election after the High Court today ruled that parts of the Electoral Act are unconstitutional.

The advocacy group GetUp! believes tens of thousands of people may have been excluded from the electoral rolls because they missed registration deadlines introduced by the Howard government in 2006.

GetUp!'s national director Simon Sheikh called the decision "historic" and said it could make a difference in some marginal seats in the coming poll.

This campaign has been a long fight. It began back in 2006, when the former Howard Government passed laws that closed the electoral roll at 8pm the same day an election is officially called. The laws were called the 'Electoral Integrity Act' - but in effect they prevented hundreds of thousands of Australians from voting; particularly young people, recent migrants, Indigenous Australians and poorer Australians. 

He said that never before in Australia’s history had a case of this magnitude been won in a two-week period.

The decision affects 100,000 people who enrolled after one day and within one week of writs being issued.

GetUp! would not push for the AEC to reopen the electoral roll, Mr Sheikh said.

About 20 lawyers, led by Ron Merkel, QC, worked around the clock on a pro-bono basis.

The High Court has ordered their costs be covered by the Commonwealth.

Success was not a given, but it now had the potential to make a significant impact come polling day, Mr Sheikh said.

"Clearly 100,000 Australians who can now exercise their right to vote is an extraordinarily large number," Mr Sheikh said.

"With marginal seats across the country and an extremely tight election, [this] could have a massive impact on the election."

ABC election analyst Antony Green says the decision is likely to favour Labor and the Greens.

"Given all the publicity, I would imagine there would be a huge increase in the number of 18-year-olds on the roll and that would probably assist Labor and Greens," he said.

In fact it would be most surprising that any new enrolments would not vote against the politicians who tried so desperately to deny them a vote. The Coalition used their numbers in the Senate to prevent the Labor government from restoring these rights to up to one and half million people who are to this day are not registered to vote.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

4 early thoughts of Tony Abbott

Here are four Abbott quotes from yesteryear.

"I'm all in favour of paid maternity leave as a voluntary thing. I'm dead against paid maternity leave as a compulsory thing. I think that making businesses pay what seems to them two wages to get one worker are, almost nothing could be more calculated to make businesses feel that the odds are stacked against them. So, voluntary paid maternity leave, yes; compulsory paid maternity leave, over this government's dead body, frankly, it just won't happen under this government." July 2002.

"The Howard government's industrial legislation, it was good for wages, it was good for jobs, and it was good for workers. And let's never forget that." March 2008

"Climate change is absolute crap." October 2009.

"My instinct is to extend to as many people as possible the freedom and benefits of life in Australia. A larger population will bring that about, provided that it's also a more productive one." January 2010.

In this election campaign, he would have you believe that parental leave is a great leap forward to be funded by a multibillion-dollar tax on business, that WorkChoices is "dead, buried and cremated", and that immigration must be slashed to keep Australia small and comfy.

This is policy by focus group, banged together on the run, from a man who'll say anything to get elected. The true danger from Abbott, though, lies in his economic illiteracy. And that of his team, rooted as they are in the antiquated nostrum that government debt is always a mortal sin. If the global financial crisis had happened on their watch we would still be slumped in recession.

Abbott: Social Engineer

Tony Abbott plans an attack on youth welfare so that young people "volunteer to give up their benefits" in return for a guaranteed job.

His stated intention is to "break the youth welfare subculture" if elected.

The unemployment rate among people aged 15 to 19 who are looking for work is 16.9 per cent, three times the national average rate. Among those 15 to 24 it is 11.5 per cent, double the national average.

As a minister in the Howard government, Mr Abbott vastly expanded the Howard government's work-for-the-dole program, where unemployed people wasted hours every week keeping a diary of their attempts to find work.


Mr Abbott said helping young people move from welfare to work would not be only an important social reform, it would also be a serious economic advance by improving the level of workforce participation.

He listed three related measures: "What you are seeing us build in the course of this campaign is a strong productivity agenda.

"We will have my paid parental leave scheme. And there's more in the pipeline in trying to break the youth welfare subculture. And our incentive payments for seniors is a productivity measure.

"So if we've got productivity reform for women, for seniors and for young people, I think we have the building blocks of serious economic progress in the years ahead."

Friday, August 06, 2010

US and UN at Hiroshima

ABC 06/07/2010

US attends Hiroshima ceremony for first time

Each year Japan invites the United States to attend a memorial ceremony marking the event and each year the US has declined to send a representative.

But in a first, the US sent a diplomatic representative to this year's ceremony that took place today.

It is also the first time a United Nations secretary-general has attended.

US ambassador John Roos was present at the ceremony and was joined by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Mr Ban said the ceremony was highly emotional.

"I was so moved, so sad when I met some of the survivors," he said.

"We had to help them to realise their aspiration and dream to see during their limited lifetime, a world free of nuclear weapons."

Mr Ban has expressed his hope that nuclear weapons will never be used again.

"I have made nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation a top priority for the United Nations," he said.

Call for Gunns' pipeline halt

Gunns has confirmed it has negotiated with the Government to use an easement along the Dilston bypass for the water pipeline.

Land owner Gerald Archer says he has had no contact with Gunns or the State Government about the pipeline for two and a half years.

Vanessa Bleyer from the anti-pulp mill group, Friends of the Tamar Valley says the Government and Gunns are taking away private landowners' rights.

"It's okay for the private land to be compulsorily acquired for a road because it's going to serve a benefit to the community but how is it okay for someone's private land to be taken away for a private purpose for Gunns' pipeline?" she asked.

School Building program exonerated

The Building the Education Revolution (BER) Taskforce, headed by banker Brad Orgill, has today released its interim report into the program.

In the past three months the taskforce has visited 110 schools in five states.

The report finds that out of the 254 complaints investigated, about half related to value for money.

The report says that the majority of complaints raise very valid concerns about value for money and the involvement of the school community in decision making.

"In part these issues reflect the focus on speed of implementation of projects and a necessary trade-off of consultation time and design customisation versus the stimulus objectives," it says.

Mr Orgill has made 14 recommendations, six of which are for immediate action.

Among those six, the report says that any projects not yet committed to should be administered under each education authority's pre-BER "business as usual" guidelines.

It also says that the Taskforce is not satisfied with how authorities measured value for money and has called for a forum of education authorities to develop more consistent definitions.

However, the reports also finds that the program is meeting its overall objective.

"Notwithstanding the validity of issues raised in the complaints, our overall observation is that this Australia-wide program is delivering much needed infrastructure to school communities," it said.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Labor: Inland Rail Link

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese committed a re-elected Gillard government to a 1700-kilometre rail link stretching from Brisbane to Melbourne through central west NSW.

Funding for the Inland Rail Link would begin in 2014 with $300 million to reserve land and begin planning.

The freight line would not be expected to be built until 2030 when it became economically viable.

Speaking at the Infrastructure Partnerships Australia conference in Melbourne today, Mr Albanese said the route would involve upgrading 430 kilometres of existing track.

The new line is expected to contain 600 kilometres of new tracks and cost $4.7 billion.

The line would run through Albury, Parkes, Moree, Toowoomba and to Brisbane.

Mr Albanese said the line would provide a boost to national economy and help fight climate change.

The route is expected to be 170 kilometres shorter than the current coastal rail route.

Rudd back in campaign

ABC 05/08/2010

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has accepted a request from Julia Gillard to join the federal election campaign.

Addressing the media in Brisbane this afternoon, Mr Rudd said he would meet the Prime Minister on Saturday and join the campaign on Sunday if his health permitted.

Mr Rudd said while things had been difficult for him and his family since he was deposed from office, he could not let Opposition Leader Tony Abbott "slide" into the prime ministership.

"The truth is this. It has been a very difficult time for our family," he said in a lengthy statement to journalists.

"I fought for too many years to help build our country up,” Mr Rudd said.

"I haven't got everything right - but you know something? I don't intend to stand idly by and simply watch Mr Abbott tear all that down."

Mr Rudd warned that another global financial crisis was a "very real possibility".

"I am haunted by the words of Peter Costello years ago that he could never make Mr Abbott his treasurer because Mr Abbott had no interest in the economy ... that's not good enough"

Mr Rudd said he had had a difficult time since being toppled by Ms Gillard.

"But there are much bigger things at stake than my future and that is our country's future," he said.

"Elections are a serious business - they are about who governs ... they are about fundamental choices, about who we put into power.

"There is a real danger at present because of the rolling political controversy about myself that Mr Abbott is simply able to slide quickly into the office of prime minister without any proper scrutiny ... or any real debate about how he would govern Australia.

"I can't be silent while knowing Mr Abbott has opposed those measures which kept Australia out of the global recession.”

Phillip Adams and Kevin Rudd

Late Night Live 04/08/2010

KEVIN RUDD: The bottom line is I can't just stand idly by at the prospect of Mr Abbott sliding into office by default. I mean elections are really important things Phillip. They're about who governs the country affects the lives, in a very direct way of every one of your listeners, every family in the country, every business in the country, every community, every school, every hospital. I mean we've got too much at stake here, we spent a long time keeping the economy strong despite the global financial crisis, we've come through that. Mr Abbott opposed those measures. We spent a long time getting a deal for the future funding of our hospitals in place - Mr Abbott opposed that. We spent a long time negotiating a national broadband network in place and Mr Abbott says he's going to tear that down. And I think we do know where he stands on the reintroduction of WorkChoices. So there's big stuff at stake for the country and I suppose my message more broadly is, the future of K M Rudd is one thing, the future of the country is actually much bigger because it affects 22 million of us, not just one.

... I think it's pretty important that the team comes, ah comes first. I'm always concerned about being some sort of side show to the main event because the main event is what's important. The main event is the country's future and that will be what the Prime Minister has to say.

But look, what's my predisposition? I will be there but on the condition that I don't have a major relapse before then and secondly, that I'm not a distraction from what I think is a pretty serious debate about what sort of future we want for our country and I don't think it's a debate which we can allow - with only two and half weeks to go before D Day, that we can't allow to be trivialised. It's too important.

PHILLIP ADAMS: So without compromise or qualification, you will be campaigning for Gillard?

KEVIN RUDD: Absolutely, because it's really important for the country's future. No government's perfect, no prime minister's perfect, I wasn't, Keating wasn't, Hawke wasn't, Gillard's not. But you know something? When it comes to the fundamentals of economic policy settings, general policy settings, the country's heading in the right direction and if anyone doubts that just for one moment, think about what's going on the moment throughout Europe and North America. And what I do know for a fact is that it's hard to build things up, it's very easy for people like Mr Abbott to tear things down. So I'm not about to stand idly by to allow Mr Abbott to just cruise into office, without scrutiny, without proper examination given that there are big, big things at stake for every Australian.

PHILLIP ADAMS: When I got back from New Orleans a couple of weeks ago there were a vast accumulation of emails, mainly concerning you, and it's taken me weeks to answer them and one of the points I've made again and again was - don't forget that at the same time in the election cycle, that is towards the end of his first term, Howard's ratings were pretty dreadful, in fact they were pretty like your own - but I seem to recall perhaps I'm wrong here that he went on to win a few elections on the trot. Do you think you would have won?

KEVIN RUDD: You know something Phillip, there is no point in woulda, coulda, shoulda. What's done cannot be undone. The key question here is the future. Let me just give you one little anecdote. When I was in hospital contemplating wounds, (laughs) this lovely lady - wounds delivered by surgery - this lovely lady came in and she was doing the breakfast round, serving breakfast, she kept calling me Kevie, and she just reminded me afresh of how much ordinary families depend on the government of our nation having their interests first and foremost. They are petrified about the rules in their workplace being changed, they are petrified about cutbacks to things like social housing, petrified about cutbacks to building libraries in our poorer state schools.

So, to answer your question, I don't think woulda, coulda, shoulda is useful. I think what's useful is, there's a big debate out there, and we need to have it, and it's about whether the country's got a future which cares for people, includes people, keeps our economy strong. Or one which at the end of the day in spite of all the window-dressing, is still about the survival of the fittest.

PHILLIP ADAMS: Now there's an awful lot of people out there including many of my listeners who are very fond of you and they'd like to see you as Foreign Minister at the very least. Is that what you would like out of the new government?

KEVIN RUDD: You know something Phillip, I am completely relaxed about all that. The first challenge is, in what right now is a knife-edge election for the government to be returned and we just don't know that. If the government's returned as I have said repeatedly, from day one when the leadership changed, that I'd be prepared to re-contest and to serve again in the government. Both decisions are ultimately for the Prime Minister. I've got to say, two and a half weeks out from an election our focus has to be on something much more fundamental than that - which is making sure that when people go to cast their ballot that they know, whatever their feelings are about recent developments and recent events related to me, that that's of second and third and fourth level importance, what's at first level importance, absolute first level importance is the future direction of the country. And we've got to be very clear-sighted about that.

About what Mr Abbott offers, and I think that there is a great drift back to the past and all the things we rejected in '07, as opposed to what this government has done in the economy and hospitals and schools and the work which remains still to be done to complete those projects, those tasks and the overall reforms for the business of government. That's the number one thing and how I fit into the show is frankly way down the list.

Hiroshima Day: 65 years

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Public school students betrayed

NSW Teachers Federation 04/08/2010

Today's announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard that she will continue the Howard government's discredited school funding formula until 2014 makes it clear that Labor election promises on education are meaningless.

Bob Lipscombe, President of the NSW Teachers Federation said:

"Before the last Federal election and since then Ms Gillard and the Labor Party have repeatedly assured public school parents and teachers that she would continue the Howard government's funding arrangements only until the end of 2012 and that it would then, after a review, be replaced by a fairer funding system at the commencement of 2013.

"The abandonment of this commitment represents a betrayal of 750,000 public school students and their families in NSW, as well as those in public schools across the nation. It is political cowardice of the worst kind.

As a result of this decision the Labor Government's recurrent school funding arrangements will continue to be severely biased against public schools. The richest private schools will continue to receive more Federal recurrent funding than the poorest public school. Worse still, because the Howard funding arrangements have been so corrupted by political deals, 50% of private schools receive more than they are entitled to under the formula. This costs taxpayers, including those who send their children to public schools, an additional $800 million per year.

With the Opposition already committed to maintaining the discredited Howard arrangement, it is now clear that neither Labor nor the Coalition is committed to a fair go for public education."

Unions and the Election

By Brian Boyd, Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary

The federal election is in full swing. 24 hour news services report everything, even the most banal of events and offer commentary.

One thing we can agree on, it is not the same as the lead up to 2007. 'Kevin 07' is already becoming a distant memory. Tony Abbott now leads the conservative forces and cannot hide his 'WorkChoices' DNA.

Both the ALP and Liberal/NP tried to insist IR law is not an issue, yet they have had to deal with it from the start of the official campaign. Why?

Simple. Because the union movement’s highly successful campaign to see off John Howard (2005-07) has left an indelible impact on the electorate’s psyche. The undermining of rights at work by Howard’s WorkChoices laws was over the top. His hatred of workers being able to get together at work and collectively bargain dripped from his 1000 plus pages of draconian regulations. It wasn’t a de-regulation of the labour market as claimed. It was over–regulation, aimed at stopping workers having the effective right to organise.

The Gillard Fair Work Act 2009 saw only the partial return of those lost rights.

Most unions have spent the last year or so adapting to the Fair Work Act, the so called Award Modernisation process and OHS 'harmonisation'. All very time consuming and often frustrating.

The ACTU leadership has made a few brief statements about the need for a second term IR agenda in the lead up to the federal election.

New ACTU President Ged Kearney said she wants 'a second round of workplace relations law changes that would give greater protection to union delegates, scrap the Australian Building and Construction Commission, allow industrial action in pursuit of pattern bargaining and expand wage deals to include clauses on non–workplace matters such as climate change and business practices' (The AFR 5/7/10).

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence recently said: "The fact is we still have a system that doesn’t provide for free bargaining. It still doesn’t provide for bargaining to take place in an appropriate way." (The Australian 13/7/10).

Also at the recent ACTU Executive a comprehensive pre–federal election resolution was passed. It included strengthening workers’ rights and extending collective bargaining:

"The Executive recognises there is more work to do to secure and improve the rights of working Australians."

The union movement is not asking the Gillard Government to legislate to do the unions work for them. They simply need a freer bargaining and organising regime, consistent with long standing ILO conventions so they can do what unions do – work for their members, free of draconian, pro-employer laws.

Minister Crean said "he supports the ILO conventions". It wouldn't be difficult to amend the Fair Work Act to comply.

Abbott facts

Abbott Facts: Health and Hospitals
When Tony Abbott was Health Minister in the Howard Government, $1 billion was cut from our public hospitals, and funding for GP training places was capped. This put more pressure on our doctors, nurses and hospital emergency departments.

Abbott Facts about Education cuts
Tony Abbott does not understand the importance of helping some students to start learning a trade whilst still at high school. He also claimed to be the principal draftsman of John Hewson's Fightback policy in 1993 which would have made it difficult for disadvantaged students to access tertiary education.

Abbott Facts about WorkChoices
Tony Abbott would bring back individual work contracts which existed under WorkChoices and threatened the pay, penalty rates and overtime of so many workers

Abbott Facts: Climate Change
The Coalition neglected to take action to protect our environment for 12 years and now Tony Abbott says 'Climate Change is absolute crap'.