Friday, July 29, 2011

UK: Tasmanian singers at Tolpuddle

This year the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival was again a great success and congratulations are due to South West Regional TUC.

They evidently understand the value of culture for strengthening and inspiring the labour movement to meet the challenges that we face.

On the Saturday Theatretrain performed "Protest - From a Spark to a Flame," brilliantly written and conducted by Robert Hyam. It told the Tolpuddle story in the very place where history was made and around a hundred young people were singing, acting and speaking about the struggle for trade union rights, which are now under attack.
This was followed by the Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir performing "Loveless in Hobart Town," the story of what happened to martyr George Loveless when he was in Tasmania. 
The location gave this poignancy, enhanced by the fact that these were real Tasmanians who had come halfway round the world. The show was well researched well written and well performed and it told an aspect of the Tolpuddle story that I had not heard. 

Socialist comedian Josie Long followed them with a performance that was inspiring and educational as well as very funny.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International TUC, drew huge cheers from the crowd when she passed on solidarity greetings from trade unionists around the globe.

“From 115m people around the world, I say: ‘We salute your courage to stand up to this government – congratulations!

“The right are trying to turn us against each other, public sector against private sector. They are trying to undo the very basis of common good – the welfare society – that we fought for for ages. You stand tall and we’ll stand with you. Your fight is our fight.”

NUW: Qantas workers strike

About 300 Qantas warehouse workers across Australia are walking off the job today over the airline's push towards the casualisation of the workforce.

Staff in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are striking for 24 hours.

National Union of Workers (NUW) industrial officer Adam Portelli says the warehouse staff are fed up with Qantas' refusal to protect permanent jobs and acknowledge the rights of casual employees.

"More and more Qantas jobs are made casual or contracted out, leaving workers feeling vulnerable," he said in a statement.

"This action isn't about a bigger wage grab, it's about ensuring that all workers, whether they are Qantas employees or labour hire workers, who perform the same work for Qantas, are paid the same."

The warehouse workers handle freight, passenger catering and replacement equipment and parts for the Qantas fleet.

Mr Portelli said the strike was unlikely to affect passengers as "ironically" a casual workforce would be brought in to fill the gaps as best as possible.

"It's certainly not our desire to inconvenience passengers but only time will tell," he said.

Kiama: NBN switched on

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has switched on the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Kiama, labelling it a ‘‘significant milestone’’ in the government’s vision to roll out high-speed broadband nationally.

Senator Conroy was with Treasurer Wayne Swan and NBN Co chief Mike Quigley for the start of the trial at Kiama this morning.

More than 2000 homes in Kiama will be connected to high-speed broadband as the coastal town joins Armidale in northern NSW as the second mainland site to be switched on to the NBN.

Townsville, in Queensland, and Willunga and Brunswick, in South Australia, will be connected shortly.

Telstra, the Commonwealth and the network builder, NBN Co, signed definitive agreements for the rollout of the $35.9 billion scheme in June.

NBN Co plans to provide a fibre-optic cable network to 93 per cent of the population while the remaining seven per cent will have either fixed wireless or satellite broadband over the next decade.

Lismore solidarity

Wednesday 27 July,

300 NSW public service workers attended a rally in Lismore to bring their concerns about changes to industrial relations legislation to government whip Thomas George.

Members of unions representing nurses, allied health workers, teachers, firefighters, police and other arms of the public service marched along Conway Street singing (to the tune of He’s got the whole world in his hands), “We’ve got the worst premier in the world” interspersed with the more traditional union cries.

The O’Farrell government recently introduced broad-reaching amendments to the industrial relations legislation covering public sector employees that would strip the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) of its power to set wage rises as it would be forced to abide by decisions made by the Finance Minister, Greg Pearce.

The O’Farrell government has also capped wage rises at 2.5% (less than inflation), unless there is demonstrable increased productivity.

Last week IRC president Roger Boland removed himself from a case brought by the Public Service Association challenging the constitutional validity of the government’s wages legislation.

In May Justice Boland accused the O’Farrell government of “straight-jacketing” the IRC. The crown solicitor then sent Justice Boland a letter saying he could be seen by lay people as biased and recommending he step aside.

CFMEU: workers keep Shell Clyde refinery open

The principal union representing workers at Shell’s Clyde Refinery in Sydney today condemned the decision to close the refinery and said it would work to keep the refinery open.

Responding to the company’s formal announcement of the closure today, the CFMEU said the consultation process had not been genuine.

Lorraine Usher, Secretary of the CFMEU’s NSW Energy District, said: “Shell said they would consult with us before making a decision on closure. But their Board of Directors refused a request for the union, on behalf of employees, to present its detailed report on alternatives to closure.

“We are profoundly disappointed by the announcement, and it certainly appears that Shell had no intention of moving from its initial position of closure.”

The CFMEU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union commissioned a detailed report by economists and oil industry experts that the refinery operations could continue to be profitable, and that closure of refinery capacity in Sydney would have profound implications for security and reliability of oil supplies in NSW, with significant risks of reduced competition, higher prices and interruptions to supply.

“We will be working with key stakeholders around options to keep the refinery open and to reduce threats to critical oil industry infrastructure in NSW,” said Ms Usher.
“Our meeting with key stakeholders on 4 August will be part of the campaign to keep refinery operations at Clyde.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Murakami Haruki on Fukushima

Japanese author Murakami Haruki put the Fukushima nuclear disaster into perspective on June 9th in a brilliant speech in Barcelona in acceptance of the International Catalunya Prize.

He linked the nuclear disaster in Fukushima with the holocaust caused by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. The people of Japan are beginning to see the fallout of 1945 and the fallout of 2011 as one.

Japan's government, virtually synonymous in the old days with the Liberal Democratic Party (which held nearly unbroken power for more than half a century until 2009), had forged ahead with the nuclearisation of the power industry in the decades of growth after the war without any national debate on the multifarious issues of safety related to it. This railroading through of lax laws and permissive regulations indicated that the sleepers had been laid; and all that was then needed was to lay the tracks toward nuclear weaponry, and Japan would have come of age.

Now that the Fukushima disaster has demonstrated the dangers of 'peaceful uses' of the atom, the bomb and the power plant, with their inherent threats to human life, are linked in the mind of the people. 'We Japanese should have continued to shout 'no' to the atom,' Murakami said with vehemence in Barcelona. 'That is my personal opinion. We should have combined all our technological expertise, massed all our wisdom and know-how, and invested all our social capital to develop effective energy sources to replace nuclear power, pursuing that effort at the national level.'

As of 2011, Japan's seized-up government seems perpetually ensconced in a sarcophagus dropped over their heads by a profit-at-any-cost industry, an uncreative and captive bureaucracy and an apathetic, meek citizenry fed on a broadly apathetic and meek media diet. For decades these conspired to create a nuclear industry that is essentially unsafe in a country whose land is constantly sliding, shaking or flooding.

I am honored that people of Catalonia have appreciated my works, and bestowed this outstanding award. The place where I live is far from here and the language that I speak is different. For those reasons, the culture is also quite different. And yet, at the very same time, we are all citizens of the world, shouldering similar burdens, and embracing similar joys and sorrows. And that is why so many novels written by Japanese writers have been translated into Catalan and are read by the people. It delights me that I can share with all of you this common narrative. The writer’s work is the dreaming of dreams. But we have even more important work: to share those dreams with everyone. If one does not possess that sense of sharing, one cannot be a novelist.

I know that the people of Catalonia have overcome tremendous hardships in their history. Although you suffered terrible trials at times, you have carried on with tremendous vitality and preserved your rich culture. There is much that we can share between us.

If all of you in Catalonia, and all of us in Japan, could become "unrealistic dreamers," if we could come together to create a "spiritual community" that unfolds beyond the limits of borders and cultures, what a wonderful thing that would be. I believe that would be the starting point for the rebirth of all of us who have passed through assorted terrible disasters and terrors of unmitigated sadness over recent years. We should not be afraid to dream dreams. We should not allow the dogs of misfortune named "efficiency" and "convenience" to overtake us. We must be "unrealistic dreamers" who step forward with a strong stride. A person must die one day and disappear from this earth. But humanity will remain. That humanity will continue on without end. We must first believe in the power of humanity.

Let me say in closing that I intend to donate the funds from this prize to help the victims of the earthquake and of the nuclear power plant accident. My deep thanks to the people of Catalonia and everyone at Generalitat de Cataluña for giving me such an opportunity. Finally, I would also like to express my deep condolences for the victims of the recent Lorca earthquake.

ABCC slur on finishing trades

CFMEU Construction in Queensland has received a letter from the Australian Building & Construction Commissioner (ABCC) alerting the union that the office plans a series of compliance audits in the Finishing Trades sector of the industry over the next 12 months.

“The focus of the audits will be on ensuring employees are receiving correct wages and entitlements and to examine whether workers are being improperly employed as independent contractors through the use of sham contracting arrangements. Where possible, the ABCC is committed to assisting employers understand their rights and obligations in these important areas,” – the letter states.

But the letter then goes on to add insult to injury: The ABCC defines ‘Finishing Trades’ as “those trades requiring a lesser level of skill or qualifications, including painters, tilers, gyprockers and concreters”.

“The CFMEU is outraged at the implied slur on the skills of these workers,” CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan said.

“Painters, tilers and plasterer/gyprockers are apprenticed trades, requiring a 3-year or 4-year apprenticeship just like all the other trades.

"Concreters work on the structural parts of a building, pouring slabs, pillars, walls, floors. That the ABCC should include them as a ‘finishing trade’ shows just how ignorant the office is of the industry it claims to regulate.

“The ABCC is fundamentally compromised for regulating construction. Its plans to conduct targeted audits of sites for sham contracting can’t inspire confidence when they patently know so little about the industry.

“Construction workers will undoubtedly be asking what is the intention behind the slur on finishing trades skills?

“Because, make no mistake, the CFMEU will strongly resist any attempt to erode wages or relativities between finishing trades and other construction sectors.

“The ABCC has a track record of attacking workers’ rights and hard won wages and conditions in the construction industry. Window-dressing sham contracting audits will not fool workers if the ABCC’s real purpose is to back employers who would undermine union negotiated EBAs and workers’ hard won, skilled career paths in this industry," Dave Noonan said.

Hiroshima Day Sydney 2011 6 Aug

Cadel Evans - Tour de France 2011

CFMEU: Foreign workers scam

Dozens of Sydney construction companies are severely under-paying foreign workers, including illegals, saving tens of thousands of dollars and escaping punishment by federal authorities, the industry's union says.

Some temporary foreign workers, mostly from China and Korea as well as British backpackers, get away with using each others' safety induction cards because subcontractors fail to check their credentials or turn a blind eye to keep costs down, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says.

The CFMEU NSW is pursuing about 20 Sydney companies for underpaying temporary foreign workers, including illegals.

The Department of Immigration issued 609 Illegal Worker Warning Notices to employers regarding individual workers in 2009-10. Of the companies warned, 84 received more than one notice, thus facing criminal prosecution with fines of up to $66,000 per illegal worker. Yet there has been only one criminal prosecution.

The union's state secretary, Malcolm Tulloch, said up to 40 construction sites in Sydney routinely use illegal workers, with some paid as little as $3 an hour.

There are 13,000 temporary foreign workers in construction in NSW, including 3000 working illegally, the union estimates.

''The Immigration Department is absolutely overwhelmed with this,'' Mr Tulloch said. ''Forget about boat people - there are more people coming through the turnstiles at Kingsford-Smith Airport who are then working illegally.''

The CFMEU has recently recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars from construction companies on Sydney sites. It recovered $129,600 for 95 Chinese workers not paid for six weeks at a Lane Cove site. It recouped a further $100,000 from a Rhodes job under the same subcontractor.

Other amounts recovered include $41,153 for nine Chinese gyprock plasterers, $56,613 for 20 Serbian gyprockers and $102,055 for 17 Irish backpackers.

CFMEU state organiser, Mark Cunningham, said he knew of several cases of Sudanese being paid as low as $10 an hour. ''There seems to be large increases of Chinese, Korean and Sudanese being abused.''

In January the union reclaimed $33,000 for seven Chinese workers from Jin Cheng Pty Ltd. The company said most of its workers stayed for only ''two or three weeks'' and their visas were not checked.

Last year six illegal Malaysian tilers were arrested at a Bovis Lend Lease apartment site in Pyrmont. Three were using other people's induction cards and were on tourist visas.

Construction is the second-highest employer of illegal workers. The Department of Immigration said in 2009-10 it conducted 3752 ''compliance field activities'' relating to illegal workers.

''Compliance officers continue to take strong action against foreign nationals working illegally,'' a spokeswoman said.

A report commissioned by the government said there were about 100,000 illegal workers in Australia.

Ken Phillips, the executive director of Independent Contractors Australia, said: ''I talk to officers [doing raids] and they tell me that it's like squeezing a balloon. You catch one and you know there are 100 out there you haven't caught.''

Salvo workers out

About 100 workers at the Salvation Army Westcare will strike for eight hours today in protest at what they say are poor wages and conditions at their Sunshine workplace.

Phyllis Downward, who has worked at Westcare for 11 years, said the workers had become frustrated at the army's failure to negotiate a first collective deal with them. "We've been fighting this for three-and-a-half years to get an agreement and to get a pay rise," she said.

Staff will also rally at their Sunshine office today in what is an unusual strike at the Salvation Army. Ms Downward said Westcare staff worked "with some of the most vulnerable kids in the state" but were paid the base award rate.
"I can't believe the Salvation Army are supposed to be caring for people but they are not caring for their workers."

ASU organiser Leon Wiegard said the Salvation Army offer was "nowhere near acceptable to our members". He said the Army refused to offer penalty rates for 12-hour shifts or paid parental leave while the pay offer was too low.

Mr Wiegard said the army agreed to negotiate with them only after being ordered to by Fair Work Australia. Ms Downward said Westcare was "falling apart" with many staff leaving. "What we are asking for is not unreasonable in any shape or form."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Malcolm Turnbull defends Climate Change Science

The question of whether or to what extent human activities are causing global warming is not a matter of ideology, let alone of belief. The issue is simply one of risk management.

When people suggest to you that climate change is not a moral issue, they're wrong. It is an intensely moral issue.

In the storm of this debate about carbon tax, direct action and what the right approach to climate change should be, do not fall into the trap of abandoning the science.

The opponents of the science of climate change will be criticising that expenditure too as pointless and wasteful with as much vehemence as they are currently denouncing Julia Gillard's carbon tax.

Some people would say, I trust most would not, that as we have a vested interest in coal being burned, we should oppose action on climate change, and rather like the tobacco companies who sought to discredit the connection between smoking and lung cancer, muddy the waters on climate science in order to prolong the export billions from coal mining.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unions welcome $18,000 Tax Free Threshold

ACTU 15 July, 2011 | Media Release

Unions have welcomed measures within the Government’s carbon price package that support more Australians to enter the workforce.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions were pleased that the Gillard government was tripling the tax free threshold to $18,200 a year, meaning more Australians would be encouraged to work.

The thousands of part-time workers across Australia, made up mostly of women, will now be exempt from having to submit a tax return as part of new reforms to the tax system. Ms Kearney said based on the Government’s calculations, 450,000 Australian part-time workers would now be better off.

"We know that there are thousands of women who want to work and make a vital contribution to the workforce, but income tax and the cost of child care eats into their wage, making it difficult for them to do so," Ms Kearney said.

"Sixty per cent, or 300,000 of these, are women who work part-time," she said.

"Unions do not often support tax cuts because we recognise they ensure Australians have access to decent education, health services, roads and other vital infrastructure.

"But we recognise this initiative will help people move from welfare to work, as well as help people who work part-time, particularly women. Unions are pleased these reforms will lift workforce participation. We are also pleased the tax reforms will encourage economic growth, through more Australians earning better incomes."

Ms Kearney said the reforms would build on the Government’s initiatives contained in the 2011-12 Budget, designed to get more Australians into work, improve skills and create long-term opportunities for some of our community’s most disadvantaged people.

Poor old Rupert ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

According to the Australian today Julia Gillard  said “I do believe that Australians watching all of that happening overseas with News Corp are looking at News Ltd here and are wanting to see News Ltd answer some hard questions”.

A number of members of the Federal government have been critical particularly of The Daily Telegraph, over their coverage of her government's climate change plans.

Politicians in London are less restrained

Mr Murdoch told a committee of MPs he was not aware that former News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks had admitted in 2003 that the paper paid police officers.
During forensic questioning from Labour MP Tom Watson in the culture, media and sport select committee Mr Murdoch was asked whether he had been "misled" by senior employees.
"Clearly," he replied.
Mr Watson pointed out that former News International chief executive Ms Brooks admitted in 2003 that police had been paid for information.
Mr Murdoch said: "I am now aware of that. I was not aware at the time.
"I'm also aware that she amended that very quickly afterwards."
Mr Watson said: "I think she amended it seven or eight years afterwards but did you or anyone else in your organisation investigate it at the time?"
Mr Murdoch replied: "No. I didn't know of it."
Asked why he had not sacked News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck after the Max Mosley civil case, when the judge found he had blackmailed two prostitutes involved, Rupert Murdoch replied: "I have never heard of him."
Mr Watson asked him why he thought he had not been informed of such a serious case by News International executives.
"Do you think this was because they thought you would think nothing of it?" he asked.

The Telegraph London 20 July 2011

Biofuels: Food shortage fuels price rises

Demand for taxpayer subsidised biofuels in the US is driving this year's high food prices, a report has said. It predicts that food prices are unlikely to fall back down for another two years.

The report, produced by Purdue University economists for the Farm Foundation policy organisation, said US government support for ethanol, including subsidies, had fuelled strong demand for corn over the last five years.

The US department of agriculture reported earlier this month that US ethanol refiners were for the first time consuming more corn than livestock and poultry farmers.
The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University has estimated that 40% of the US corn crop now goes to make ethanol.

The report focused strongly on a US government mandate for ethanol production and 6 billion dollars in annual subsidies for ethanol refineries.

General Mills, which produces Cheerios cereal, Häagen-Dazs ice-cream and other major brands, also blamed ethanol subsidies for driving up food prices. Ken Powell the company's chief executive said the price of corn and oats was up by 30 to 40% over last year.

"We're driving up food prices unnecessarily, if corn prices go up, wheat goes up. It's all linked."

Tom Mann: Climate Change + Development

Climate Change + Development
What it means for the world's poor

Wednesday 20 July 7Pm - 8pm

Tom Mann Theatre
136 Chalmers St Surry Hills



  • Tanya Plibersek MP Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion
  • Tim Costello CEO World Vision Australia
  • Phil Ireland Oxfam Australia

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bob Brown slams whaling forum walk-out

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has taken pro-whaling nations to task for walking out of a global forum to block a vote on the creation of a new sanctuary.

"It's a terrible outcome," he said of the 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission which ended in predictable disarray after four days of acrimony.

Senator Brown singled out Japan and Iceland for special mention, saying they and a few other nations effectively had blocked the "bloody killing" of whales in the South Atlantic.

"The whole of the world really wants to see an end to the destruction of the great whale," he said.
The deep-seated divide that pulls the IWC apart surfaced again when Japan led a walk-out of pro-whaling nations to ensure that a vote to create a sanctuary in the South Atlantic - spearheaded by Brazil and Argentina - would fail to muster the necessary quorum.

There are two such whale havens, one in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and the other in the Indian Ocean.

Japan carries out an annual hunt during the southern hemisphere summer in Antarctic waters and said this week it planned to return next season despite vows from anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd to disrupt the hunt.

The head of Monaco's delegation, Frederic Briand, was scathing in his assessment of the annual meeting.

"You can only conclude that this commission - which, despite a moratorium, does not have a mandate to stop the large-scale hunting still going on - is genuinely dysfunctional," he said.
"Since the moratorium was put in place in 1986, more than 33,000 whales have been killed," he told AFP as the 89-nation body adjourned for another year.


AWU: Yes to carbon-pricing

AWU 18 July 2011

The Australian Workers' Union national leadership met in Sydney today to discuss the Federal Government's proposed carbon pricing mechanism.

The leadership resolved as follows:
“We acknowledge that a price on carbon will happen – and that we need to be part of the debate to protect our members’ jobs.

 “Overall, the AWU believes no jobs need to be lost as a result of this package.
 “We believe the Federal Government has put forward a responsible package – one designed to protect jobs and support businesses.

“Tony Abbott’s got a responsibility to protect the steel industry by supporting the Steel Transformation Plan.
“It’s not good enough for him to just play the wrecker.

“Manufacturing workers don’t want opposition for opposition’s sake – they want job security and a steady income.
“It’s time Tony Abbott put his money where his mouth is to support manufacturing jobs in Australia.

“The AWU will continue to work with industry and the government over the coming weeks and months to ensure the laws and regulations introduced into Parliament protect our members’ jobs.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

"The Terror" and its bias

Speaking to Radio National this morning, Senator Conroy accused the Daily Telegraph of trying to force an early election.

"It is just running a campaign on regime change," he said.
"As John Hartigan [News Limited Australia CEO] admitted in the papers on the weekend, arising from the conference they had in Carmel, they decided to do more issues-based campaigning.
"I think the Daily Telegraph is probably the worst of the examples at the moment where it is running a campaign."

Senator Conroy said Labor voters should continue to read the Daily Telegraph - but for its football coverage, not politics.
"If you are a Labor voter out there reading the Daily Telegraph you should keep reading it for the footy coverage but you shouldn't take seriously any of its front-page headlines," he said.
"It's decided it wants to have an election. Ignore the fact that we had an election nine or 10 months ago. Ignore the fact the Australian people put in place a parliament with a minority government. It has demanded that it knows best and that people should just fall into line with what the Daily Telegraph [says].

Senator Conroy accused the newspaper of ignoring the basics of journalism - accuracy and balance.
"The problem you have when you run campaigns in newspapers is that you are not prepared to give equal coverage to both sides of the argument," he said.
"But the Daily Telegraph is interested in distorting the debate, it's interested in demanding an election campaign purely intended to try and get rid of the Government."
"This is a democracy. It is entitled to choose to go down the path it's going, and equally people like myself and Wayne Swan are entitled to point out their coverage is biased," he said.

On Friday, Mr Swan began the attack on the newspaper, describing it as "unbalanced".
"The Daily Telegraph in Sydney is constantly opposing a price on carbon. It doesn't care how it does it," Mr Swan told reporters.
"There are some outlets that have a political agenda. They've made that very clear. They say it openly. They just shouldn't pretend that they're balanced."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Economics of Nuclear Power

Nuclear power was not, is not and will never be economic.

It is the only energy technology whose costs increase generation by generation.

It is the only energy no-one will insure and it is only made affordable by massive, hundred-year public/taxpayer subsidies.

Britain already faces an £85 billion tax bill for the last lot of nuclear waste.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has 40 per cent of its annual budget creamed off to pay for this disposal and we've yet to face the next round of decommissioning.

Britain is the only place now throwing out nuclear lifelines.

France's nuclear industry is propped up by the state and the fact that EDF makes most of its profits from Britain.

Investors are telling the industry that they won't go within a million miles of new nuclear.

In the US investment has ground to a halt despite huge subsidies thrown at it by the Republicans.

In Europe policy shifts in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Norway, Spain and Italy are taking energy policy in a radically different direction.

One thing that is usually missing from the nuclear energy debate however - particularly from the pro-nuclear lobby - is the notion of democracy.

Just how democratic principles, human rights, ecology and the issue of community are central to the debate look no further than the scientist Vandana Shiva one of India's fiercest anti-nuclear critics.

The 9,900-megawatt Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Madban village, Maharashtra, will be the world's largest nuclear power plant, if it goes ahead.

Vandana Shiva argues the plant will require about 968 hectares of fertile agricultural land spread over five villages that the government claims is barren.

Jaitapur is one of many nuclear power plants proposed on a thin strip of fertile coast land. Villagers have been protesting against the nuclear plant and Jaitapur has been put under prohibition orders whereby more than five people cannot gather.

It's a similar picture in other areas of India where plans for nuclear energy plants are affecting hundreds of villages.

On top of the various dodgy dealings that went on in the Indian parliament to push these policies through, Shiva declares the destruction of democracy and constitutional rights is the price being paid for India's expansion of nuclear energy.

Howard says "return to WorkChoices"

ACTU News 17 July 2011

Plans by the Liberal Party to re-embrace individual contracts and slash unfair dismissal protections would put at risk the pay and job security of millions of Australians at a time when they are experiencing cost of living pressures, say unions.

Tony Abbott’s mentor, John Howard, has today added to the chorus of senior Liberal Party figures advocating a return of WorkChoices-style policies.

With Mr Abbott recently declaring he would take a "stronger" industrial relations policy to the next election, working Australians will rightly be concerned about a new attack on their rights at work.

"Scratch the surface, and WorkChoices-style policies are still very much alive within the Liberal Party," said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

"A few strong opinion polls results, and the Liberals are already arrogantly planning to reintroduce the core elements of WorkChoices after the next election.

"With households under growing cost of living pressures, working Australians cannot afford to gamble with a workplace system that would make it even harder for them to maintain a decent standard of living.

"About 40% of the workforce is in casual or non-permanent employment, and they need better workplace rights, not a recipe to reduce their job security."

In an interview on the ABC’s Insiders program today, former Prime Minister John Howard said it was a "tragedy" that WorkChoices had been removed. He called for the Liberal Party to revisit individual contracts and reduced unfair dismissal protections.

Mr Howard’s comments follow that of former Liberal Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith, who said recently that WorkChoices-style policies were in the Liberals’ DNA.

"It is not just his political mentors of the past who are coming back to haunt Tony Abbott," Ms Kearney said.

"His front bench includes the chief WorkChoices salesman, Joe Hockey, while an entire new generation of Liberal backbenchers want the party to adopt hardline workplace policies.

"So, not only is WorkChoices not dead – it’s not even buried."

Ms Kearney said calls from the Liberals and business groups for changes to the Fair Work Act were not substantiated by the facts.

Keating: Abbott's carbon 'tripe'

From ABC Lateline 14 July

Paul Keating: ... there is a view that the industries that may come out of this are things we kind of have to do. We have to clean up coal, we have to clean up water, we have to do this, we have to deal with nitrogenous fertilisers, we got to - as if they are a problem.
People should see them as the new industries. These are the new Silicone Valley industries. This is how the Chinese see them. You know I'm on the board of China Development Bank, which is the body which is basically growing the whole of the west of China. They see the new industries as their key new growth industries.
We won't have them here. I mean, the idea here that we turn our back on the new country, on the new transforming Australian economy, by not letting carbon be priced and therefore capital allocated properly is nonsense. I mean, the Abbott argument that you don't tax the polluters, you give them money, you give the polluters money to change their bad habits, is tripe.

... And, look, the economy's in a massive transition. That's obvious to everybody.
The terms of trade are effecting a massive transition on us. And this pricing mechanism is carbon is part of that transition, so of course it stands with those big changes, Medicare, superannuation, the deregulation, the ones you mentioned. It's in that league. It's part of the Labor tradition of change, the Labor tradition of the adaptation of the economy.
You know this - you know what Tony Abbott's policy is? "If you don't give me the job, I'll wreck the place. If you don't give me the job, I'll wreck the place." And we're supposed to, "Well, Tony, you better have it, you know, otherwise you might destroy it on us." I mean, Tony's got to have the political judo chop.

... let's be clear about it: it's $30 billion in all coming from the polluters. It's not the public paying the tax, it's the companies. Of the $30 billion, $15 goes to the public, roughly, and $15 billion goes to new clean technology. Right? Just as it ought to be, just as it ought to be.
It's not as if it's a tax on members of the public; it's a tax on the companies and the extent that leads to increases in prices, they're covered by the compensation the Government are offering them. So, I mean, it's a very, very well-thought-out scheme, and importantly, a very fair one.

... Well, it's very hard to get this stuff out and going when people know you're doing it and yet you haven't got the detail out.
Now it's out there. See, for instance, the Treasurer's increased the tax-free threshold to $18,000. That's a very big change, very big change. Half a million people will have a substantial benefit out of that, mostly women, mostly part-timers - women. And of course, the increase in the tax-free threshold of $18,000 goes to everybody, it goes to you and it goes to me, so everyone has a win.
This is a very big tax change, very big change. So until people see the detail, it is hard to sell the stuff, but once it's out there - I mean, this policy change and the neatness of the compensations, and, if you like, the justice of the measure, should really be applauded across the media.
You know, if it gets this bad that it's that hard to get a plus for something this right, what hope does a country have?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Never Buy the Sun

A Song by Billy Bragg©Billy Bragg 2011

Never Buy the Sun, was written in the wake of the News of the World hacking scandal. It also refers to the Sun's sales in Liverpool, which never recovered after its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster

Bragg, who is appearing at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Trade Union Festival in Dorset on Sunday 17th July, said "Over the past few years, any expression of social solidarity has been scorned – from the new activism of the climate camps and UK Uncut to the more traditional campaigns of the unions – but by sticking to their guns, the people of Liverpool have been vindicated in their principled stand against News International."

Gunns Triabunna sale

Gunns has accepted the $10 million bid by entrepreneurs Graeme Wood and Jan Cameron for the Triabunna woodchip mill.

Gunns has confirmed the sale on the stock exchange.

In a statement, Gunns says the terms of the deal, subject to the forestry statement of principles, allows for the mill to be leased to an industrial operator as a woodchip export business.

It is a condition of Tasmania's interim peace deal that the mill stays in the industry.

Greens leader Nick McKim has described the sale as a significant development for the forest peace process.

Mr McKim says it should be a wake-up call for the state and federal governments to start implementing the forest peace deal.

"The fact that this mill shortly will be owned by a consortium that believes in that statement of principles process rather than an organisation that in effect was a front group for Forestry Tasmania is a very significant development," he said.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MIners: Peabody Exposes Abbott's Scare Campaign

US mining giant Peabody Energy has revealed the cynical truth behind their vocal anti-carbon tax posturing with yesterday’s announcement of it’s $5 billion takeover bid for Australian miner McArthur Coal.

CFMEU National President Tony Maher said Peabody was not worried about the state of the Australian industry, but rather was worried a successful introduction of a carbon tax in Australia could lead to its uptake in the US.

The US giant and world’s largest coal company has been actively engaged in the Opposition-led scare campaign to turn the Australian public against the price on carbon.

“From the Bowen Basin to the Hunter Valley and the Illawara, Tony Abbott has been squired around Peabody’s Australian’s Operations on his campaign to scare industry and workers into opposing a price on carbon.

“But the $5 billion bid for MacArthur Coal shows their real position, their supreme confidence in the ever growing Australian coal industry.

“The coal industry tells one story to the public with their scare campaign and another to the markets.

“Peabody’s biggest concern is not how a price on carbon will affect jobs and the industry in Australia, it’s the ramifications it will have on their operations in North America.

“For the first time the coal sector has had to pay it’s way, and it can afford to do so.

“They believe the successful inclusion of the coal sector in the price on carbon package is precedent setting. Yet it is clearly not effecting investment decisions in the Australian coal industry.

“Mining giants are not stupid, that’s why they are billion dollar companies. There will continue to be a huge investment in Australian mining with or without a carbon price, ” said Mr Maher.

IKEA: Demand for rights at work

Support the workers at the Swedwood plant in Danville, Virginia

BWI affiliate the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)filed for union election on June 20, 2011 and elections are to take place on July 27, 2011. Despite IKEA and Swedwood’s pledged to not interfere in the election process, unfortunately they intervened by demanding that 30 workers, described as “Team Captains”, be included in the bargaining unit, failed to provide the list of workers within 24 hours, and allowed union access to the plant. ACT NOW! Support workers in Danville by to taking pictures of yourself in front of an IKEA store holding a sign entitled, “I Vote for IKEA/Swedwood Union!”

We are in the last phase of this important campaign to reiterate our support to workers who want nothing more than to have safe and decent working conditions, respect, and dignity. We are declaring July 18 to 25, “Vote for IKEA/Swedwood Union” week.

Since 2008, the BWI has actively supported IAMAW to organize the more than 300 workers at the Swedwood plant in Danville, Virginia. We have engaged in direct dialogue with IKEA and Swedwood management, noting that IKEA attempted vigorous engagement and conducted various global actions for IKEA and Swedwood to respect the workers’ right to organize and form a trade union.

We request your support by asking your affiliates and members to take pictures in front of IKEA stores holding a sign entitled, “I Vote for IKEA/Swedwood Union!” Please email these photos to Jin Sook Lee at and we will send them directly to the workers in Danville to show that there is international support for their struggle.

Lessons of Wisconsin

On July 9, 2011, in San Francisco J. Eric Cobb, Executive Director
of the Building Trades of South Central Wisconsin talked about the struggle
and lessons of the war against working people not only in Wisconsin but nationally
and internationally. Working people organized and unorganized had
massive mobilizations to stop the frontal economic and political attack on
public workers and the poor yet Governor Scott Walker was able to push ahead with
these attacks. Cobb explains why this happened and what working people
need to do to defend themselves.

Production of Labor Video Project

Tolpuddle 2! Tasmanian choir member thrown out of UK

Margaretta Pos on Crikey 7 July

A member of a Tasmanian community choir was refused entry to the United Kingdom on Tuesday (July 5th) and deported because she was deemed to be trying to enter under false pretences - of being a tourist when she was an entertainer.

Maureen Lum was planning to sing in the back row of The Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir , in a one off, one hour, public performance for which there was no fee, during a four week holiday in the UK.

Ms Lum was detained on arrival from Australia, body searched, interviewed, refused leave to enter and sent home on the next vailable flight. She is due back in Hobart today.

Ms Lum travelled ahead of the July 16th performance by The Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir at the Tolpuddle Festival in Dorset. She rang choir founder and former Unions Tasmania secretary

Questioned about her visit by an immigration officer, she said she was going to sing at the Tolpuddle Festival. She was then told she was ineligible for a tourist visa, could not apply for an entertainers’ visa at the point of entry, subjected to a body search and deported.

“It’s quite incredible that Maureen was deported,” said an angry Simon Cocker. “She was treated as if she was trying to sneak in and take up residence.”

Ms Lum is one of 34 choir members who raised the money to go to the annual festival, which commemorates a group local agricultural labourers who banded together nearly 200 years ago, to stand up for their rights.

Known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, several were transported to Botany Bay, while their leader, George Loveless, was transported to Van Diemen’s Land.

Mr Cocker researched his story and is co-author of a 60-minute folk opera, “Loveless in Hobart Town”, which the choir was invited to perform at the festival. The folk opera is a triumphant story against injustice and draconian laws used by those in power - whoever, wherever - against the vulnerable.

Public outcry and a storm of protest caused the King to pardon Loveless and he returned to England a free man.

Ms Lum’s ordeal will be raised in the House of Commons, at the behest of the British Trade Union Congress, by a key figure in the Labor Opposition. And Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh will raise it with the British High Commissioner in Canberra.

The Cameron Government changed the UK’s immigration laws in May and amateur performing groups were brought under new visa regulations for entertainers. A list of big festivals, such as the Glastonbury opera festival, was drawn up, for which amateurs could be given entertainers’ visas under certain conditions.

The small, union organized Tolpuddle Festival wasn’t on the list and choir members had no idea they could end up being sentenced to transportation back to Tasmania.

“Going to Tolpuddle is about a cultural celebration of our common history with unionists in the UK and we were very excited to be invited, ” said Mr Cocker, who is due to fly out with other choir members this weekend.

“Maureen has been denied entry to the bloody country that we share a Queen with. We are all in shock at her harsh treatment.

“The decision may have been technically correct - as it was with George Loveless - but it was unreasonable and unjust .”


Update 12 July

Maureen flew back to the UK after choir members rallied round to buy her a new ticket.

Tasmanian senator Lisa Singh took up Mrs Lum's case with the offices of Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who in turn contacted the British High Commission to resolve the matter, preventing the other choir members being caught as they also tried to enter the UK.

Ms Lum's ordeal made news in the UK with the Daily Mirror carrying the headline: "Ban on singing gran is off-key".

Monday, July 11, 2011

Facundo Cabral: 1937 - 2011

Argentine singer-songwriter who was one of the most eloquent voices of protest against military dictatorships in Latin America from the 1970s onward, died on Saturday, shot to death while on tour in Guatemala. He was 74 and lived in Buenos Aires.

The death of Mr. Cabral, who in 1996 was designated a “worldwide messenger of peace” by the United Nations, caused consternation throughout the Spanish-speaking world. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela sent a message via Twitter: “Oh what pain! They have killed the great troubadour of the Pampas.” René Pérez, leader of the Puerto Rican hip-hop group Calle 13, wrote, “Latin America is in mourning,” and other leading pop-music figures, among them Ricky Martin, Alejandro Sanz and Ricardo Montaner, also sent messages lamenting his loss.

Rigoberta Menchú, the Guatemalan Indian leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, seemed to contradict this view when she said Saturday, “I can’t help but think he was assassinated for his ideals.”

Carbon: Miners support pricing pakage

Mine workers have called on the industry to immediately end their million dollar scare campaign against the Government’s carbon pricing package now the facts are on the table.

Tony Maher, National President CFMEU said new research shows mine workers don’t believe the industry scare campaign as the majority of members working in coal mining in Queensland and NSW believe there will be no effect on the industry or it will grow, but growth will get slower.

“Now we’ve got the detail it’s time to tell the truth. No more modelling, just the truth. The industry has got no credibility. It’s time to stop playing politics and start planning for our future. Mine workers don’t believe the scare campaign, ” said Mr Maher.

“The $1.3 billion for gassy mines is an effective job protection measure for the small number of gassy mines and the timeline for domestic electricity reform to 2020 provides nine years to plan for future.

“If the industry was serious about protecting jobs, it should be using its billion dollar research fund on mitigation technology for methane emissions and investing money into carbon capture and storage.

“For 100’s of years the unions have fought for jobs in this country. We’ve got the credibility on that. Big business doesn’t”, said Mr Maher.

Coal prices have increased 75% in the last two years, and export earnings from the resources industry are forecast at $130 billion over the next year according to latest figures from Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

“The coal industry makes $1 million per worker in profit and the extraordinary profit margin above their costs will not be dented by a price on carbon,” said Mr Maher.

Carbon: The Facts

Sunday, July 10, 2011

AMWU: Carbon package delivers for Australian manufacturing

July 10, 2011

Australia’s largest manufacturing union has welcomed the Federal Government’s historic $15 billion investment in jobs, announced in today’s carbon price package.

AMWU National Secretary Dave Oliver said the package would position Australian manufacturing for a strong future.

“It provides compensation for existing emissions-intensive industries and regions and creates a low emission and clean technology industry fund. This package is an important start as we transition to a low carbon economy.

“There is no future for manufacturing and no real job security for workers over the next decade if we don’t put a price on carbon and back it up with support for low emission technologies and energy efficiency solutions.

"The Government should be commended for investing in manufacturing and giving Australia the chance to win a fair share of the jobs that come with clean energy solutions.

“Also it’s time for industry to step up to the plate and make sure this investment delivers a manufacturing industry for the future.

“There is a $6 trillion global clean technology market that Australia can now access. From the manufacture of solar panels to wind turbines to hybrid vehicles and all the building materials and lighting systems that will feature in the move to a more energy efficient low carbon economy.“

Mr Oliver said it was incumbent on the Federal Government to ensure they were made in Australia.

“The manufacturing unions will be meeting with Government following the announcement today, to ensure measures are put in place so a “make it here” policy helps to ensure that we manufacture the solutions in Australia.

"As the carbon tax encourages industry to cut its emissions and become more energy efficient, we'll also see new technologies invented and the support mechanisms in place to see those new ideas commercialised in Australia.

“This fund and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will enable innovations and manufacturing jobs to stay here and not head off overseas to China and India because their government supported them and ours couldn’t. A “make it here” policy will help that happen.”

Julia Gillard: Clean energy future

10 July, 2011 | ACTU Media Release
The announcement today of the carbon price package will provide certainty to Australian workers and their families and allow them to begin planning for the largest economic adjustment for a generation.

The package for a fixed carbon price of $23 a tonne, beginning in 12 months time’, lays the foundation for taking real action on climate change, says the ACTU.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the package had addressed union concerns about household costs, protection of existing jobs, and investment in new job-creating technologies.

She said it was now time for the scare campaigns to end, and for Australian industry to begin preparing to reduce their emissions and build new industries for the long-term security of their profits and their employees.

“Today is a turning point in the carbon price debate,” Ms Kearney said.

“With the facts now on the table, it is clear that doomsday predictions about jobs and the impact on living costs are untrue.

“We intend to spend coming days examining the package in more detail, but today’s announcement ticks the right boxes by protecting jobs, supporting household incomes, and driving new investment in renewable energy.”
Ms Kearney said unions had taken a clear position at the start of climate change negotiations to stand up for their members, especially those in manufacturing and heavy industry.

“Our first priority was to ensure that Australian families – especially low income households - did not bear the brunt of the cost. Today’s package confirms once and for all this is not a tax on all Australians, but on the 500 largest polluters.

“Nevertheless, some of these costs will be passed on to consumers, at an average of $9.90 a week.

“The compensation package announced today ensures that many of our members and their families will not be penalised – indeed with help to reduce their own carbon consumption, they can come out ahead.

“For instance, a double income household with two kids, earning $100,000 a year, will come out in front under the measures announced today.

“It is only reasonable and fair that compensation should be directed at lower income earners, for whom energy costs are a sizeable proportion of their household expenses.

“Secondly, we wanted to ensure that workers in carbon-exposed industries were protected.

“Crucial to this was industry assistance and a regional focus – and this has been included in the package, meaning jobs need not be lost.

“The Jobs and Competitiveness Program for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, particularly manufacturing, provides the buffer for these sectors to begin adjusting for a low carbon future, while giving them an incentive to begin reducing emissions now.

“Special measures for industries like steel, gassy coal mining, and electricity is welcome and gives us the pathway to improving the efficiency of these industries, not closing them down.

“But the onus is now on industry to plan for their futures based on the reality of dealing with climate change. Moving to a low carbon economy is a major structural change, and unions will be part of the process of managing change in a way that no-one is left behind.

“And the third priority was that the package must position Australian industry to take advantage of the opportunities from acting now on climate change.

“The flagship $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation in this package will give Australian manufacturing that opportunity, and tens of thousands of jobs could be created if industry steps up to the plate.”

Ms Kearney said a price on carbon pollution – initially through a tax and later through a market scheme –was the most effective and cost-efficient way of taking action on climate change.

Australia is the most carbon-exposed economy in the developed world, and it would be irresponsible to delay action, with long-lasting economic consequences.

“A price on carbon will force companies to reduce their pollution and transform our economy to be more energy efficient. It is the responsible thing to do, and we have made sure that the impact on workers is minimised.

“The rest of the world is already moving to cut their carbon emissions, and delay for Australia will only cost the economy and the environment more in the future.

“Unions have successfully argued that the carbon price package safeguards workers and industries, unlocks clean energy industries and jobs, and supports households and communities.

“Unions know Australian workers are up for the challenge. Let's get on with the job.”

168 Year Old Newspaper closes

James Murdoch

"I have important things to say about the News of the World and the steps we are taking to address the very serious problems that have occurred.
It is only right that you as colleagues at News International are first to hear what I have to say and that you hear it directly from me.
You do not need to be told that the News of the World is 168 years old. That it is read by more people than any other English language newspaper. That it has enjoyed support from Britain's largest advertisers. And that it has a proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation."

Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has bowed to pressure to call a public inquriy.
Political and commercial pressure mounted on News International as more companies pulled adverts from the News of the World.
Energy giant npower became the latest firm to suspend its advertising in the paper, joining Halifax, the Co-operative Group, Ford, Vauxhall, Mitsubishi, Butlins and Virgin Holidays.
And Commons leader Sir George Young told MPs that the government was reviewing its advertising contracts with the NoW.

BSkyB sale to News Corp in doubt:
More than 100,000 people and organisations made last minute submissions to the Government’s consultation on the proposed bid as the phone hacking scandal deepened, leaving the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with months of work ahead of them before Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, can reach a decision.
He was originally expected to deliver his final verdict on the proposed deal just before Parliament’s summer recess on July 18. It is now not expected to make a decision until at least September, according to sources, and it could be as late as 2012 if a way is not found to speed up the process.


George Galloway comments:

It's worth reminding ourselves of some profound truths.

Because in an age of 24-hour rolling news we are already seeing moves to bury the full depravity of what went on at the News of the World and still does in Murdoch's empire under mutual backslapping, asinine comment and extraneous detail.

Murdoch and the rich and powerful whose interests he so assiduously promotes are desperate to cap this volcano of public outrage.

For all the righteous indignation and talk of inquiries, powerful interests way beyond Murdoch don't want us to examine the fundamental questions.

Here is the flagship paper of an overweening media empire which helped hurl this country into war after war and then hacked the phones of relatives grieving at the loss of the very soldiers it had done so much to put in harm's way.

And then, with a straight face, "campaigned" for the armed forces' covenant.

Here is a rag which took genuine public grief at horrific crimes against children, manipulated it into dangerous and cynical campaigns to sell more papers, and all the while spied on the parents of the very murdered child in whose name it said it was acting.

Here is a sewer which gushes forth filthy smears that disabled people and single parents are scroungers who refuse to take responsibility, while its gilded executives - the son placed in the top job by daddy - sack others to save their own.

No-one should be surprised, because this is an outfit that vilifies migrants and Muslims while remaining in the grip of a foreign billionaire who scarcely pays tax in this country.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Woodside damage in just one day

Woodside is clearing 25ha over an area of approx 500ha at James Price Point . The area is surrounded by monsoonal vine thickets, remnant rainforest species and only a few years ago it was recommended as a National Park by the Department of Environment.

This is what Woodside has done in just one day. This is only preliminary work and there is no approval for construction.

Earlier this week 25 people were arrested during a tense stand-off with police, after refusing to allow Woodside vehicles and bulldozers through a month-long road blockade.

Protester Roma Puertollano says the group is devastated.

"And this is NAIDOC week, NAIDOC week! Happy NAIDOC people," she said.

"What is happy about NAIDOC this year? It will be the saddest NAIDOC I've ever ever ever shared in this country in my lifetime."

BHP: Pilbara walkout

A miner at a Pilbara industrial site where a young father was crushed to death has claimed staff were "instructed" to return to work just hours after the tragedy.

The miner yesterday accused BHP Billiton of "ruthlessness" after employees were told to work their day shifts at the Finucane Island iron ore loading facility in Port Hedland.

The site had gone into lockdown only hours before, after a 27-year-old contractor employed by Melbourne-based conveyor-belt operator Fenner Dunlop was crushed to death by a crane that collapsed.

Workers were told they would have to work their 12-hour shifts starting at 6am despite the Port Hedland man's death shortly after midnight.

Many workers, who learnt of the fatality when they arrived at work and were confronted by a cordon, walked off the job in protest.

"We feel absolutely disgusted at what's happened," the man said.

"All our workers have said 'no, you can't go back to work, that's just wrong'."

BHP Billiton external affairs vice-president Ian Fletcher confirmed staff at Finucane Island were told to work their shifts.

He defended BHP's safety record, which included five deaths in the space of nine months in 2008 and 2009, saying yesterday's incident "was not a repetition" of previous fatalities.

Shadow mines minister Jon Ford said that the State Government would have "blood on its hands" if it continued to neglect basing permanent mine safety inspectors in the Pilbara.

Mr Ford said there was only one inspector based in the Pilbara compared with 14 in the Goldfields.

EU: No Mood for Moody's

Rating agency Moody's drastic downgrade of Portugal to junk bond status is being seen an act of financial vandalism.

Wolfgang Schauble, German finance minister, said there was no justification for the four-notch downgrade or for warnings that Portugal might need a second bail-out. "We must break the oligopoly of the rating agencies," he said.

Heiner Flassbeck, director of the UN Office for World Trade and Development, said the agencies should be "dissolved" before they can do any more damage, or at least banned from rating countries.

Moody's downgrade late on Tuesday set off immediate contagion to Ireland, with dangerous ripple effects across southern Europe.

Portugal's new premier, Pedro Passos Coelho, said Moody's downgrade was a "punch in the stomach" at a time when the new government has done everything demanded by the EU/IMF inspectors.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, questioned Moody's motives and said it had fanned the flames of "speculation" with an unwarranted downgrade. "It seems strange there is not a single rating agency coming from Europe. It shows there may be some bias in the markets when it comes to the evaluation of the specific issues of Europe," he said.

The Commission is drawing up laws to clamp down on the agencies. These will now be tougher. "Developments since the sovereign debt crisis show we need to take a further look at reinforcing our rules," said Mr Barroso.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Fracking Hell: The Untold Story

WA Unions: Antidote to WorkChoices poison

Western Australia's Premier Colin Barnett has dumped his government's blueprint for a return to WorkChoices, the draconian anti-worker anti-union laws first introduced by WA Liberals and much admired and copied by John Howard. They are also from the same ideological stable as the NSW coalition proposals as shown by their attacks on Public Sector workers.

The plan proposed the same changes to the entire state IR system, including mandatory individual workplace contracts (aka AWAs), restrictions on union rights of entry, removing unfair dismissal protections for tens of thousands of workers.

The strong WA union campaign opened a can of worms for Tony Abbott after the spectre of WorkChoices was reignited in the west, despite his pledge last year that it was "dead, buried and cremated".

The success of the WA unions campaign has led Barnett to dump the plan. "He's been scared off and that's a testament to our campaign -- but it's also a testament to the fact that WorkChoices is electoral poison," said UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk.

"It's particularly interesting considering the call to arms recently by Peter Reith, with his references to Barnett and Tony Abbott and the need to pursue change."

Equal Pay: Federal Govt. Approval

ASU 06 July 2011
The Australian Services Union has welcomed today's announcement by the Federal Government to commit extra funding for the pay increases that are expected to be awarded in the Union's Equal Pay Case for community and disability workers.

"This is fantastic news. The Federal Government has stepped up to the plate to support fair rates of pay for community workers. In doing this, they join various state and territory governments that have already made clear commitments to the workers in this sector.

"Only the NSW and Victorian Coalition Governments have yet to come to the party. Without doing so they cannot have any credibility on the issue of Equal Pay or with the community sector," said Linda White Assistant National Secretary.

"The Government should be congratulated. Today they have taken low paid community workers one step closer to equal pay.

"This is a very significant announcement as the Federal Government is by far the largest funder of the community sector, and what they say on this issue makes a big difference as there will be less chance of parties opposed to our case threatening job losses or service cuts should pay rises be awarded."

The ASU also welcomed the Government's commitment to participate in conciliation before Fair Work Australia, to help it determine what pay increases are appropriate.

"Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said that the Fair Work Act is about parties sitting down and having mature discussions to resolve issues. The ASU intends to do this and we look forward to having these discussions.

"Fair Work Australia accepts that community workers are undervalued, their work is comparable to public sector workers and that the undervaluation can be attributed to gender.

"We want to see this situation rectified and for our members to win the pay rates they deserve, as did community workers in Queensland when they won their Equal Pay case two years ago," Ms White said.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


NAIDOC WEEK 3-10 July 2011

12 July Rights at Work Rally

Unions NSW in conjunction with all the public sector unions have organised a rally in Penrith. These workers are the people who provide all the vital services to our  community and they need our support. So bring along all your friends and family in support them on Tuesday.
  • Where: 
  • Assemble between the Dame Joan Sutherland Centre and Heritage Cafe, Henry Street Penrith
  • When: 
  • Tuesday 12th July at 12 midday 

It is time for the people of people of  Western Sydney region to stand up against the O'Farrell Government's WorkChoices legislation.

Barry O’Farrell and the members for Western Sydney have rammed these laws through Parliament, The people of Western Sydney did not vote for this!!!!!

Let us send a clear message to Barry O’ Farrell and these local politicians know that we will fight for our rights at work until they throw out these laws.

The O'Farrell Government's laws take away workplace rights from 400,000 NSW public sector workers. If he gets away with it, all of our rights at work will be under attack.

Every single condition of employment for every public sector worker in NSW is up for grabs.

PSA: O'Farrell's "Excess Employees"

The O’Farrell Government has issued a new Managing Excess Employees policy which dumps Labor’s long held position of no forced redundancies.

The PSA was not consulted about the change and is vigorously opposing the move.

The Government has offered “incentivised” (not a word) voluntary redundancy to those staff deemed to be excess as of 22 June 2011.

Upon receipt of an offer, those employees have two weeks to:

  • accept the offer and leave the public sector within a further two weeks or;
  • decline the offer and fall under the terms of the new policy which comes into effect from 1 August.

Those employees then enter into a three month retention period for possible redeployment.

If they are not redeployed at the end of that period the employee will be forcibly retrenched and given a package that is the equivalent of the minimum redundancy payments applicable in the private sector - well below the package for voluntary redundancy.

If the excess employee fails to notify their employer which option they wish to choose within the two week offer period they will be deemed to have declined voluntary redundancy and elected to pursue redeployment.

The PSA’s immediate concern - apart from the broader implications of the Government dumping no forced redundancies - is that some employees are receiving a letter of offer who technically may not yet be excess or unusual circumstances may apply. (For example, employees from the Department of Health sent to the Federal system who have a two year period before they have to make a decision on their employment.)

The PSA believes that only genuinely ‘excess’ employees should have received a letter.

The PSA has informally taken up the issue with the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) who agree that mistakes may have been made.

No to TAFE "reforms"

NSW Teachers Federation

The Federal government is currently setting the conditions for the next VET funding agreement, including a new National Partnership to “reform” the TAFE system. This will mean more competition with private providers for funding, and less money for TAFE. For students and their families these changes will also mean that there will significant increases in student fees and charges, as a result of the introduction of an income contingent loan scheme in VET.

The Prime Minister will be asking the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell and other states to sign up to these reforms at the CoAG meeting scheduled for 15 July.

Your local state and federal politicians need to hear from as many people as possible about the threat to the public TAFE system presented by the Federal Government’s attempts to “reform” the VET system. We are asking all members across all sectors to participate in this important campaign, please take a moment to -

1. Send an email to your local state MP urging them to call on the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell not to agree to these reforms.

2. Send an email to your local federal MP urging them to contact the Prime Minister and the Tertiary Education Minister urgently.

Monday, July 04, 2011

No Harvey Norman No!

From GetUp

Harvey Norman has been caught red handed by undercover environmental investigators selling furniture that fuels the destruction of Australia's native forests.

Instead of using existing plantation timber - which is plentiful and affordable - an investigation by Markets for Change has revealed that Harvey Norman furniture is made from ancient Australian trees that are logged and sent to China for processing.

Incredibly, our new TV ad that shows what Harvey Norman are doing to our environment has just been banned from commercial TV by the industry body that classifies ads - because they're scared of what Harvey Norman might do next.

They might block our video on TV -- but they can't stop us reaching millions of Australians by sending it to our friends and family online!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Reith still in the dark

Mike Carlton SMH Saturday 02/07/2011

Poor old Peter Reith. Never quite knew what was going on. Always in the dark. Why, back in 1998, as John Howard's workplace relations minister, he was astounded to hear that serving defence personnel would be trained as scab wharfies in Dubai to break the maritime dispute.

And no, he'd been given no hint whatever of the rottweilers and balaclava'd goons sooled onto the docks to enforce the lockout.

In 2000, all bewildered innocence, he learned of a $50,000 bill on his government phone card, at least $1000 of that racked up by his son.

A year later, he was flabbergasted again when the Defence brass told him that evil boat people had not actually tossed their kiddies overboard from SIEV 4. ''Well, we'd better not see the video then,'' he cried in shock.

Then, just last weekend, the poor chap believed he had Tony Abbott's support as federal president of the Liberal Party, only to find the stuntman voting, almost ostentatiously, for his rival, Alan Stockdale. Gobsmacked again. He must have missed that famous confession to Kerry O'Brien, that you should always get an Abbott promise in writing.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Historic Senate change

Wage rise today!

Australia’s lowest paid workers will from today see the real value of their wages rise above WorkChoices-levels for the first time since 2006.

About 1.4 million workers will begin receiving an extra 3.4% in their pay packet, helping them and their families keep pace with the rising cost of living, say unions.

The workers in question are the one in six Australian workers dependent on awards who will receive a 3.4% wage rise from the start of the new financial year beginning today.

They include about 100,000 on the National Minimum Wage of $589.30 a week.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said under WorkChoices, minimum wages declined in real terms by up to $84 a week, culminating with a wage freeze in 2009.

"The Howard Government’s Fair Pay Commission was anything but fair," Mr Lawrence said.

"It was not required to take fairness into account when setting wages – its job was to restrain minimum wage growth.

"And it was very successful: between 2006 and 2009, the Fair Pay Commission granted wage increases that were below the rate of inflation. Award wages went backwards, by as much as 8%.

"That's now been rectified, but the gap between minimum wages and average earnings remains significant.

"That would all be at risk again under a Liberal Government."

Britain: All out against cuts!

Over 700 thousand of public-sector workers the length and breadth of Britain defied slurs and threats to mount one of the biggest walkouts since the 1926 General Strike.
Defiant chants of resistance could be heard across the country as the strike - officially over pensions cuts - took hold.

Education professionals in the UCU, ATL and NUT unions taught students a vital lesson in trade unionism by withdrawing their labour from 11,000 schools and thousands more colleges.

And public offices including courts and jobcentres were shut or picketed as members of PCS joined the day of action.

Thousands of people furious at having their retirement rights, jobs and services sacrificed following the banking crisis marched in towns and cities.