Friday, March 30, 2012

Australian workers welcome asylum seekers

29 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Australian unions are proud to support the Welcome to Australia campaign to make asylum seekers and new migrants feel welcome to our country.

ACTU President Ged Kearney was today announced as an ambassador of Welcome to Australia, which aims to develop diversity, compassion, generosity and a commitment to give all individuals a fair go in our communities, workplaces and institutions.

Ms Kearney said she was proud to support the initiative, which celebrated the fact that Australia’s cultural diversity has helped shape our nation’s story.

"Migrants have made an enormous contribution to Australia's economy and workforce, and continue to do so,” she said.

“Australian unions extend a warm welcome to everyone who has come to our shores from afar, and pledge  to continue to fight prejudice, bigotry, and xenophobia wherever we encounter it.

“Welcome to Australia is a wonderful initiative that seeks to promote wider understanding of our rich diversity.

“It also aims to support newly-arrived Australians to feel welcome here, by helping to familiarise them with Australia’s culture.

“We know we can learn so much from each other and our experiences no matter where we were born.

“Australians were lucky to be born into a nation as prosperous as ours, while many of those who seek asylum here come from vastly different lands and experiences.

“We are fortunate to be able to open our communities and our hearts to these people who deserve the same opportunities.

“In turn, we can learn and gain wider experiences by welcoming into our communities those from other cultures.”

Ms Kearney encouraged all Australians to support Welcome to Australia’s “Walk Together” event on Saturday, June 23 to start Refugee Week.

The event, to be held in capital cities and regional centres, recognises Australians all share a common journey, regardless of how they arrived here.

Iraq: Nine years on

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bowen Basin: BHP contempt

Bowen Basin coalminers will take strike action from tonight after BHP management today tried to destroy several months of progress at the negotiating table.

Workers at BHP’s central Queensland mines will proceed with industrial action from 6pm Queensland time tonight in response to management going back on in-principle clauses previously agreed to with its workforce.

CFMEU District President Stephen Smyth said workers were shocked and appalled by BHP’s tactics today during union efforts to resolve the dispute over a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

“The representatives from the Single Bargaining Unit (SBU) today went to the negotiating table with the aim of discussing with the company how to end this dispute,” Mr Smyth said.

“Instead management presented workers with clauses that take negotiations back months by attempting to force employees into family-unfriendly rosters.

“Publicly management continue to parrot lines that they want to resolve this dispute, that they’re prepared to listen after 16 months of failing to do so.

“But today they offered no progress on matters in dispute and instead went back on their word, screwing up clauses that were already agreed to in-principle.

“The level of contempt they’re showing for their workers is truly astonishing.”

The CFMEU has submitted notices advising the company of protected action stoppages up to and including next week.

The union will hold a meeting of delegates this Friday ahead of likely mass meetings with coalmine workers early next week.

“It’s now very clear that BHP’s corporate headquarters are calling the shots and they seem unconcerned about safety or family-friendly rosters.

“For them it’s just ensuring they can squeeze all they can from this mining boom ahead of all else.”

Tennant Creek Nuclear Waste Site Protest

Protestors block a bridge near the Muckaty nuclear waste proposed site near Tennant Creek

A nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land should go ahead even if the land’s traditional owners have been incorrectly identified to government, the Commonwealth has told the Federal Court.

A group of elders, including Ngapa elders Mark Lane Jangala, claim that they are among the traditional owners of the station. The Northern Land Council had excluded the group, identifying the family of Amy Lauder (who has since died) as owners instead. Counsel for the groups, Ron Merkel QC, told Justice Tony North that the land council was a commercial body, that Ms Lauder was a member of the council, and that his clients’ exclusion had involved ‘‘misleading and deceptive’’ conduct. Misconduct was denied by the council, represented by Sturt Glacken SC.  Mr Merkel sought a full trial of the case and accused the Commonwealth of delaying proceedings.

‘‘People are elderly and dying and already the most important person in the case has died,’’ he said.
Mr Merkel said the government would only need to give 10 days notice to declare the site a dump and there was ‘‘only a shortlist of one’’ possible site: Muckaty Station.

The radioactive waste law, which passed Senate this month, has been opposed by environmental and indigenous groups who say the powers it grants to Resources Minister Martin Ferguson are too broad.

Read more

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ABC Archives: 80 Days That Changed Our Lives

Visit 80 Days

To celebrate its 80th birthday, the ABC created 80 Days That Changed Our Lives to showcase audio visual treasures from the ABC's 80-year-old archives.

Large or small, a single day or months and years, moments of high drama or a gradual shift in attitude, the 80 events featured on this site were documented by the ABC because they made an impact at the time. Looking back at these moments, it's easy to see how certain events mark changes in the way Australians have lived and thought about the world and their place in it.

Historian and ABC Producer Catherine Freyne (ABC Radio National Hindsight) spent four months in the ABC archives, scouring for radio and television programs that capture these memorable events. She sought out the rare and the iconic, including footage that hasn't been seen since the original broadcast. Although every event in our history could not be covered, the result is a brilliant collection of special memories - a look at how we were.

The ABC archives cover the audio-visual history of Australian news, current affairs, documentaries, entertainment, education and sport since 1932 when the ABC's made its first broadcast.

NZ: Court victory for locked-out Auckland port workers

RadioLabour Solidarity News March 28, 2012

In New Zealand locked out workers at the port of Auckland have won a victory in the courts as they try to re-start collective bargaining.

The 200 workers ended a four-week strike last Friday, March 23, when the company agreed to cancel its plans to fire all the workers. But when they tried to return to work the company locked them out.  The workers have been fighting the company's attempt to contract out work to non-union workers.

A court has ruled that the workers must be paid back-pay and cannot advertize for contract workers until another hearing is held in May.

A ruling on the legality of the continuing lock-out is expected this Friday. Support for the port workers has been organized by the International Transport Workers Federation - the ITF.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The ABCC - Who Will Be Next?

Author unknown©2012

The ABCC came first for the CFMEU
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a member of the CFMEU
Then they came for the AWU
and I didn't speak up because I was not in the AWU
Then they came for the ETU
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't in the ETU
Then they came for the PTEU
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't in the PTEU
Then they came for the AMWU
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't in the AMWU
Then they came for the MUA
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't in the MUA
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up for me


Part of the legacy of the Howard years was the extraordinary special court set up to deal with organised workers in the construction industry.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was immediately condemned by the International Labour Organisation, to which Australia is a signatory.

The court was endowed with 'star chamber' powers;
  • no one called for interrogation has the right to silence
  • interrogations are secret 
  • it is illegal to discuss your case with family or friends 
  • you may not be able to choose your own lawyer 
Doc Evatt's phrase "injustice within the law", and his warning to unions about their rights has special resonance in the birth and life of this court. It was devised to disempower the construction industry unions at the behest of the construction industry conglomerates.

It began operations on 1 October 2005 and was finally abolished by the Gillard Government in March 2012. Can we afford to rest in peace?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Qld: Labor loses election

The Liberal National Party and premier-elect Campbell Newman have swept to power in Queensland, dealing Labor an astonishing and demoralising election defeat.

Labor's 14-year reign was over soon after polling booths closed, with a massive swing seeing the LNP projected to hold as many as 78 seats to as little as 7 for Anna Bligh's ALP.

Ms Bligh conceded the election to Mr Newman at 8:15pm (AEST), saying she acknowledges the people of Queensland have endorsed change.

"I congratulate Campbell Newman and wish him all the best on forming a new government," she said.

"I want to thank you (the people) for allowing me the opportunity to lead this great state.

"I have been fortunate to have a strong and united team and I have had their loyalty and support through the most difficult of times and I will forever be in their debt."

She said days like today "are just as much a part of our democracy as our days of victory".

"On days like today it is even more important that we remember who we are: We are the party that his transformed this state. We are the party that has built the foundations of a modern and progressive Queensland," Ms Bligh said.

"The Queensland of today is simply unrecognisable from the Queensland that we inherited."

She conceded her decision to sell some of the state's assets was a damaging blow for Labor.

"It is true that it was very painful for Labor," Ms Bligh said.

McQueen: Wikileaks, Assange & Democracy

WIKILEAKS, ASSANGE & DEMOCRACY with Humphrey McQueen from CaTV on Vimeo.


From Jabiluka to Fukushima to Muckaty?


Award winning documentary film maker David Bradbury presents a compilation
of his films on the dangers of uranium mining and the nuclear industry - updated to
include impacts on Japan.

Respected former diplomat, academic and author, Professor Richard Broinowski will discuss his forthcoming book, "Fallout from Fukushima" - with emphasis on implications for Australia.

Presented by Blue Mountains Nuclear Free Group, working for a nuclear- free


SUNDAY APRIL 15TH 2012 / 2- 5 30 PM

Entry by donation       Refreshments available

Friday, March 23, 2012

Greece: Health workers' protest

Staff from several Athens Hospitals walked out over cuts to services and their wages. A march was held through Athens while doctors protested outside the health ministry. Riot police protected the offices of the finance ministry near the start of the march. The building has been occupied by angry workers on several previous occasions. The dispute has been running for over a month with regular action by staff ranging from senior doctors to hospital cleaners.

ACTU: Road Safety Remuneration Bill

22 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Australian workers have taken two major steps towards secure jobs this week, with the passage by Parliament of two Bills to improve the pay and conditions of some of our most vulnerable workers, say unions.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said truck drivers would no longer have to work long days with many unpaid hours just to get the job done, thanks the Road Safety Remuneration Bill passing the House of Representatives earlier in the week.

And the entitlements and protections of textile, clothing and footwear workers will also be strengthened by the Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill 2011 which was passed this afternoon.

“The two pieces of legislation which have been passed in Canberra this week highlight the plight of insecure work, which now affects 40% of the entire Australian workforce,” Ms Kearney said.

“Truck drivers and clothing outworkers endure some of the worst effects of insecure work, with the fear they will not have a job in the morning prompting them to work long hours, risk their safety and sacrifice valuable time outside work just to make a living.

“The situation of these workers clearly illustrate how insecure work is all about generating profits and shifting any risk from employers to employees.”

Ms Kearney said workers in both industries were often too afraid to speak out about exploitation because they feared for their jobs.

“Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia, with many drivers facing unrealistic pressure to deliver goods to major retailers within certain timeframes, forcing them to load and unload in their own time,” she said. “The vote to award these workers fair pay and conditions will make them safer and their jobs more secure.

“Many home-based outworkers work 12-hour days or longer, for just $5 an hour – less than one third the minimum wage - sewing items of clothes that earn distributors and retailers huge profits.

“The amendments to the Fair Work Act will mean contract outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry will be covered by most of the Act and will ensure nationally consistent provisions across Australia and a critical safety net of terms and conditions for workers in the TCF industry who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

“Fittingly, these pieces of legislation are on the table at the same time the Howe Inquiry is wrapping up six weeks of public hearings across Australia as part of its investigation into the issue of insecure work.

“The inquiry will present a report to the ACTU in May, which is expected to include solutions to the problem.

Unions are pleased the Government is already taking action to improve the plight of workers engaged in insecure work but we know that more needs to be done.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

UnionsNSW: Dispute Orders Bill

Mark Lennon's Blog - Dispute Orders Bill
20 March, 2012

The NSW government has introduced amendments to the Industrial Relations Act increasing the fines for taking industrial action from $10,000 to $110,000 for a first breach and from $20,000 to $220,000 for a second.

The government says the changes are necessary because unions are not showing the Industrial Relations Commission respect when they breach orders not to take industrial action.

Respect! That is a bit rich coming from a government that has imposed on the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) its own wages policy and removed its right to conduct genuine arbitration, stripped it of its ability to deal with the police death and disability scheme and has asked it to adjourn over 22 WorkCover prosecutions without giving a reason.

The union movement has always respected the IRC that is why we have campaigned so hard in recent years to retain it.

As for the government they don’t want a genuinely independent tribunal that balances competing rights of employers and employees they simply want to turn the IRC into a tool to implement and enforce their workforce policies.

The Dispute Orders Bill increasing fines under the Act eleven fold is just the latest example.

Unions have too much respect for the IRC to allow this to happen.

CFMEU: ABCC abolished

The Senate has passed legislation to abolish the construction industry watchdog set up by the Howard government.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) will be replaced by a Building Industry Inspectorate.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said the ABCC was the last vestige of Work Choices, and its abolition was long overdue.

“This is a great step forward for construction workers, and for any Australian who cares about workers’ rights.”

 “We are still concerned that some of the ABCC’s coercive powers will be transferred to the new Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate, which will be the new regulator for the construction industry.

 “The new inspectorate must avoid the ideological anti-union bias of the ABCC and be an even-handed regulator which does not abuse its powers,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Senate passed the legislation this evening with Labor and Greens Senators voting in favour of workers’ rights and the Coalition voting in support of the ABCC.

“After seven years this flawed and damaging organisation, and its war on construction workers, is over,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The ABCC was set up by the Howard Government as part of an ideological attack on unions and their members. It has been a waste of money, serving only to try and intimidate union members who stand up for decent wages and safety in construction.

“It has failed to tackle safety issues or illegal conduct by employers, including the widespread use of sham contracting which cost the taxpayer billions each year.

“Labor had a clear mandate to end the ABCC, having promised to do so at the 2007 and 2010 elections, and we welcome the final passage of this legislation.

 “Last year’s admission by the ABCC that it had illegally interrogated 203 Australians shows it had routinely overstepped its already draconian powers.

 “Earlier this year the ABCC was forced to call an investigation into the failed prosecution of Victorian CFMEU officials John Setka and Matt Hudson. ABCC investigators admitted to having lost or destroyed evidence including audio recordings, and changed their own statements to the court.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mineral Resources Rent Tax analysis

SMH 20 March 2012: Ian Verrender

Despite all the hullabaloo, all the hand-wringing and the wailing from various sections of the mining industry, the passage of the Mineral Resources Rent Tax overnight confirms Australia as one of the world's most benign destinations for miners.

That's right. When it comes to taxing resource companies, Australia is a soft touch, a virtual tax haven.

Not that you will read that anywhere else. More than likely you will continue to be beaten about the head with dire predictions of impending doom and threats of mass defections from our big mining houses.

Cast your information net beyond these shores, however, and you will soon discover that Abbott is swimming against a mighty strong international tide.

For, almost every country with a resource base, rich and poor, has begun tightening the screws after witnessing in the past decade one of the greatest wealth transfers in history - away from the citizens who owned the minerals and towards the companies exploiting those resources.

It is a global trend that will make it increasingly tougher for the big resource houses to maintain their earnings growth, regardless of whether commodity prices continue to surge as they have done since the turn of the century.

During the past three years, the rest of the resources world has taken aggressive steps to ensure the one-off windfall gains from the resources boom are not lost forever.

Following is a brief summary.

  • Indonesia: By 2014, miners must process minerals such as iron, nickel and coal into value-added products before export. Last month, the government announced possible export bans to avoid a minerals rush before the new laws come into place. Foreign companies will be forced to gradually reduce stakes in local entities after five years of production. In the sixth to 10th year, foreign ownership in any resource project is limited to 49 per cent.
  • South Africa: The world's biggest mineral producer is debating a 50 per cent windfall tax on ''super profits'' and a 50 per cent capital gains tax on the sale of mining tenements.
  • Ghana: Africa's second biggest gold producer plans to raise mining taxes from 25 per cent to 35 per cent, with a windfall tax on ''super profits''. Existing 5 per cent royalties on output remain in place.
  • Guinea: The new frontier in iron ore and bauxite demands a 15 per cent stake in all mining projects, with an option to lift it to 35 per cent.
  • Namibia: All new mining and exploration to be state-owned.
  • Zimbabwe: Locals will own 51 per cent of all foreign miners.
  • Nigeria: Wants all offshore oil contracts renegotiated.
  • Mongolia: Wants a bigger stake in its Oyu Tolgoi project.

Add to that list new mining taxes in India, Peru, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chile, Kazakhstan and Zambia, all of which either are on the drawing board or have been introduced in the past three years.

Since the boom started in the early part of the new century, the earnings from our big resource houses increased more than tenfold. And in the years before the global financial crisis, the big companies were at a loss as to what to do with this embarrassment of riches.

Resource booms, typically with a life span of about three years, traditionally delivered the big miners just enough cash to survive another decade of lean times. It is for that reason mining companies always traded at a discount to ''normal'' industrial-type companies.

But the past decade has changed everything, including the way governments view their non-renewable natural resources.

VIC: Desalination anti-union scam exposed

The company building Victoria's desalination plant has admitted it gave a strikebreaker confidential information on hundreds - and potentially thousands - of its employees, including medical records and salaries.

On Friday, the union representing electrical workers at the Wonthaggi desalination plant won a Federal Court order instructing the strikebreaker, Tasmanian Bruce Townsend, to hand over by 2.15pm today files on at least 500 employees and job applicants.

The records in Mr Townsend's possession could ultimately detail the personal details of up to 18,000 people.

Workers walked off the job in November 2010 after The Australian reported the secret operation headed by Mr Townsend to spy on union members, delegates and contractors. Plant builder Thiess has previously said only very basic and low-level information about employees had been given to Mr Townsend as part of his 2010 role on the Wonthaggi project - for which Thiess paid him more than $500,000.

But an email from a senior manager at Thiess, sent two weeks ago and tendered by the union in its Federal Court action, shows Mr Townsend's investigative activity allowed him access to extensive personal documents on workers and job applicants.

''There are details on approximately 500 job applicants and starters,'' the email from Thiess' general manager of people, safety and environment said. ''For each person there are a number of documents that contain scanned copies of things such as driver's licences and certification tickets, resumes, pre-employment medical results, interview notes, letters of offer depending on whether the person was successful in gaining employment.

''At this stage we do not know if this is all of the information that [Mr Townsend's firm] have in their possession,'' it said.

Electrical Trades Union assistant secretary Troy Gray said: ''It's despicable that a bloke like Bruce Townsend … who promotes himself as a head-kicker for the landed gentry, has the home addresses, the mobile phone numbers, the work history, and the medical records of employees at the desalination plant.
''How in hell did this happen?''

Serena Middleton, spokeswoman for the Thiess Degremont desal joint-venture, said hiring Mr Townsend's firm had been ''contrary to the business practices'' of the companies.

NSW: Consultants take the cake

The CPSU is calling on the Government to crack down on spending on consultants after it has been revealed that more than $2 billion has been pocketed by firms such as KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young over the past four years.

The revelation comes as public sector agencies are shedding jobs and cutting services as part of a $2.2 billion Government savings drive.

"I think most Australians would be outraged that such a huge amount of taxpayers' money is going to a handful of high-flying, multi-national companies at the same time as essential frontline services and jobs are disappearing," CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said.

"These big firms first got their claws into government during the Howard years. Now, with such huge amounts on money at stake, you can see why they want to keep their good thing going.

"The Federal Government appears to have developed a long-term dependence on expensive contractors to do work much of which could - and should - be done in-house.

"The Government knows it has skill gaps and shortages in key areas. Now is the time to get serious about addressing them. Surely it's smarter in the long term to invest in and develop our own people rather than continue to be fleeced by the big end of town.

"When the Government announced an extra $.2.2 billion cut to public sector agencies late last year, they promised to crack down on consultancy spending. If agencies do have plans to cut consultancy spending, staff can't see them. Instead they are facing redundancies and higher workloads for the staff left behind." she said.


Tony Abbott: It's Going to Ruin Us !!!

Europe: State of the Unions

Extract from Asbjørn Wahl Article:

Austerity Policies in Europe: There Is No Alternative

Most of the European trade union confederations are clinging to what in EU language is called ‘social dialogue’. This means that they act as if the class compromise is still intact, and that peaceful bi- and tripartite cooperation between labour, capital and the state is still the most effective way of promoting the interests of workers. That the class compromise has come to an end, and that the social forces with whom they seek dialogue are attacking public services, wages, pensions and trade union rights day and night, do not seem to weaken most European trade union confederations’ belief in social dialogue as the main way forward.

Anyway, the social struggle in Europe is entering a new phase. The crisis polarises differences and provokes confrontations particularly at the local and national level. General strikes are back on the union agendas in many countries, particularly in Greece, where the population is being exposed to draconian measures that threaten their general economic and social living conditions. In Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Great Britain general strikes and mass demonstrations have also been carried out, though with differing degrees of strength and intensity. Even if the outcome of these struggles so far is pretty uncertain, here is where we can find hope for the future – together with other, new and untraditional social movements. The European social model, such as we know it from its heyday, has at any rate been abandoned in reality by the European elites, even if they continue to pay lip-service to it.

A democratic solution to this crisis will require massive mobilisation in order to change the balance of power in society. Only if the trade union, labour and social movements are strong enough to pose a threat to the existing economic order, will the speculators and their political servants start to give in. That is why support for those who are now fighting to contain this cutback policy is so crucial. The restructuring of the political left will have to be part of the task. Either the trade union, labour and social movements manage to defend the social progress gained via the welfare state, or they risk being left with a right-wing authoritarian and socially degraded Europe. A great part of the social progress of the last century is at stake – and there are lots of alternatives.

Asbjørn Wahl is director of the Campaign for the Welfare State. He is also an adviser at the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees and holds an elected position at the International Transport Workers’ Federation. His most recent publication is The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State (London: Pluto Press 2011), upon which large parts of this article is based.

Mining Tax: Boost for 8 million workers

20 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

The passage of the superannuation and minerals resource rent tax Bills will deliver working Australians tens of thousands of dollars more in their retirement savings, and ensure the spoils of the mining boom are more fairly spread.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Australian workers could finally have certainty after a long debate about the issue. She said more than 8 million working Australians would be better off in retirement as a result of the changes with some workers getting up to $143,000 more.

“Unions have campaigned long and hard to lift the super guarantee because 9% superannuation is not enough to provide an adequate income in retirement,” Ms Kearney said.

“It helps the nation care for an ageing population without placing excessive strain on taxpayers, and provides a savings pool for investment in Australian companies and major infrastructure.

“Fewer and fewer Australians will have enough superannuation to fund their retirement, so this makes the new legislation all the more important.”

Ms Kearney said the average 25-year-old worker could gain an extra $143,000 in their retirement savings from a move to increase the Superannuation Guarantee from 9% to 12%. This is particularly important for low to middle income earners, especially women whose careers were interrupted while they were raising children.

Also among the legislation passed by Parliament are new rules allowing people earning up to $37,000 to contribute $500 to their superannuation without paying tax.

Ms Kearney said the Minerals Resource Rent Tax was an important national economic reform to spread the benefits of the mining boom to all Australians. The MRRT will provide funding for the superannuation changes, along with regional infrastructure and lower company taxes.

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

“It is simply unsustainable for the two-speed economy that has occurred in Australia as a result of the mining boom can continue unheeded. It is time the balance was corrected and the mining tax will help deliver a fairer and stronger economy from which more working Australians can benefit.”

Ms Kearney said the strong demand for our resource exports had sent resource prices soaring and delivered windfall profit gains to the big mining companies.

“There is both need and capacity to raise more tax revenue from this boom, and to use it to build a stronger, more sustainable economy and a fairer Australian society,” she said.

“Australians want a fairer tax system and they want to be able to share in the nation’s wealth so unions are pleased the Parliament has listened.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Margaret Whitlam: 1919-2012

Margaret Whitlam will be remembered as a passionate woman who was never afraid to speak her mind, saying "I'm prepared to voice my own opinion, my own personal opinion on things, even if they're political".

Upon Mr Whitlam's ascension to the prime ministership, Mrs Whitlam quickly became known as an outspoken advocate for issues including women's rights and conservation.

Despite public criticism she refused to limit herself to traditional preconceptions of what a prime minister's wife should do, continuing the active role in the media that she had built during Mr Whitlam's time as opposition leader.

"What am I to do? Stay in a cage - wide open to view, of course - and say nothing? That's not on, but if I can do some good I'll certainly try," she wrote in her diary in December 1972.

She was a regular guest speaker on radio and television, and wrote a column for the magazine Woman's Day where she offered an insight into the life of a prime minister's wife.

Mrs Whitlam was outspoken about the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, saying she told Mr Whitlam he should have torn up the letter from then governor general John Kerr.

"He said something about he'd given him a note sacking him. I said, 'Why didn't you tear it up?' he said 'oh, I couldn't do that'. Silly man, I'd have torn it up; who was to know he'd been given anything," she said in a 1993 interview.

She also spoke of her anger at John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser's role in the dismissal.

"I've always regarded people like John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser with scorn - scorn for what they did, scorn for what they didn't do," she said.

"In a way it wasn't so much what they did, but the way that they did it that was so wrong.

"And I just couldn't understand them, I couldn't forgive them, I can't forgive them."

ABC Obituary

Brazil: Chevron executives in court

Brazilian prosecutors said on Saturday that they will file criminal charges against 17 executives of US oil giant Chevron and drilling contractor Transocean for a new oil leak near the offshore well where at least 110,000 gallons spilled late last year.

Those targeted include George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron's Brazilian arm.

Government spokesman Mr del Negri said prosecutors would file the charges including "environmental crimes" in court next week.

A federal judge signed an order on Saturday stopping the group from leaving the country.

The size of the new leak is unknown. Brazil's National Petroleum Agency said it had been detected when an oil slick appeared on the ocean surface.

Brazil's environmental protection agency has given Chevron until Tuesday to provide "detailed information on the action taken to mitigate the environmental impact" of the leak.

Chevron, the foreign oil company with the largest operations in Brazil, has argued that the country’s response to the November spill was an “overreaction.”

“I’ve never seen a spill this small with this size of reaction,” Ali Moshiri, the head of Chevron’s Latin America operations, told the Wall Street Journal in late 2011.

Such comments did not go down well in Brazil. Authorities accused Chevron of lying about the scope of the November spill.

Now Buck, an American, is barred from leaving Brazil and a lengthy legal battle awaits him and other employees at Chevron and Transocean.

Judge Magalhães issued his ruling preventing the departure of the 17 Chevron and Transocean employees at the request of a federal prosecutor. “There is no doubt the exit of these people from the country, at this moment, would generate considerable risk to the investigation,” the judge said.

UnionsNSW: Electricity merger to cut regional jobs

The State Government's plan to merge Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid, and Essential Energy could strip thousands of jobs from critical regions such as Western Sydney and Port Macquarie, Unions NSW warned today.

The Government has made the announcement without consulting staff through a briefing to the media.
Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon, said the affected regions could ill afford further cut backs.

"This merger will remove a breadwinner for thousands of families in Western Sydney and Port Macquarie," Mr Lennon said.

"At a time when the State's private sector is shedding jobs it's utterly perverse for the Government to cut jobs in critical regions.
"This State Government appears to have abandoned its aim of promoting jobs and is proceeding with a slash and burn approach at a time when the State economy is already vulnerable."

"Adding insult to injury, there has been no consultation with the workforce and no attempt to explain the plans.
"This State Government needs to think beyond crude accounting measures and consider the human impact of these cut backs.

"Families and communities will suffer. NSW deserves better."

ACTU: 12% Super essential

19 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

With a new national poll showing 75% of Australians support lifting superannuation to 12%, the ACTU has joined with the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) in calling on Parliament to pass the super legislation this week.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said more than 8 million working Australians would be better off in retirement as a result of the proposed new laws with some workers getting up to $143,000 more.

“Senators should stop dawdling on super,” Ms Kearney said. “The next few days are the last chance to pass the legislation before a long Parliamentary break before the May Budget.

“It is time for all Parliamentarians, including the Liberals, Nationals, Greens and Independents, to stop putting at risk the retirement savings of working Australians.

“The average 25-year-old worker could gain an extra $143,000 in their retirement savings from a move to increase the Superannuation Guarantee from 9% to 12%.

“The Labor Government is again showing great national leadership on superannuation and the protection of workers’ retirements. This is in stark contrast to Tony Abbott’s opposition to the resources tax package and his recent attack on industry superannuation which both show he is not interested in protecting workers and acting in the national interest,” Ms Kearney said.

The ACTU is today sending to the Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten an online  petition signed by more than 6000 Australians calling for the Parliament to pass the super legislation.

The petition states:  ‘Superannuation is an essential part of helping ensure that every Australian worker can enjoy a more comfortable retirement. It helps the nation care for an ageing population and provides a savings pool for investment in Australian companies and major infrastructure.

Unions: Quantas maintenance report

Three unions will today call for the airline to save jobs and keep its first-class safety record by servicing its aircraft here.

The Australian Workers Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Electrical Trades Union will also urge State and Federal Governments to step in to protect jobs, as the manufacturing industry continues to decline.

The unions will today release a blueprint detailing how Australia could become a maintenance hub not just for Qantas, but other major world airlines.

AMWU national assistant secretary Glenn Thompson said Qantas needed to continue to maintain its aircraft in Australia, securing the future of 6000 engineering workers.

"Qantas' safety record comes down to its highly qualified and highly skilled workers," he said.
The unions want Qantas' new Dreamliner 787, Boeing 737s and A380s, which will be delivered over the next decade, to be serviced in Australia.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Zealand: Aukland Port rally

292 wharfies working at the Auckland Port who have been in the process of collective bargaining have been summarily dismissed and their jobs contracted out to non-union labor.

Send Ports of Auckland chairman Richard Pearson a message and show support for those 292 workers that have lost their job - attend a solidarity rally outside the NZ Consulate in Sydney this Monday.
  • Where: NZ Consulate, Sydney, 55 Hunter St (nr Elizabeth St) 
  • When: 12 noon, this Monday, 19th March 2012 
  • Who: anyone who wishes to show solidarity with those workers who've lost their jobs 
For further information please contact the Maritime Union of Australia on (02) 9264 5024.

Friday, March 16, 2012

ACOSS - $35 a day is not enough !

Lift paltry allowances and help people into paid work

Could you live on $35 a day? That’s how much people unfortunate enough to find themselves out of work have to depend on - to put a roof over their heads, feed and clothe themselves, and get around as they try and find paid work – just $243 per week. Join our Campaign to raise unemployment allowances such as Newstart and improve jobs assistance.

Far from the stereotype of a 'lazy dole bludger', most of the 600,000 people on Newstart Allowance are actually among the most disadvantaged people in Australia.
  • 1 in 3 are over 45 years of age
  • 1 in 6 have been assessed as only able to work part time due to a disability, including mental illness
  • 1 in 10 are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
  • 1 in 15 is a sole parent, needing affordable child care services and a job with family friendly hours
  • 2 out of every 5 recipients has less than Year 12 qualifications
  • 60% have received unemployment payments for over a year, and 25% for over 3 years
It’s time to raise Allowance payments by $50 per week as recommended by the Henry Report and the OECD, and improve the level of targeted jobs assistance to help break down these barriers. Increasing allowance payments will help lift a great many people out of poverty and place them in a better position to participate in paid work.

ACOSS has prepared a statement (below) calling for an increase in unemployment benefits and improvements to jobs assistance. We’re calling on groups and individuals to add their names in support.

“Many Australian workers face the prospect of relying on an inadequate Newstart Allowance if they lose their job. Australian unions support the call to increase Newstart Payment ...”
Ged Kearney, ACTU President

“People cannot live on $35 a day… Entrenching them into poverty is not a pathway back into employment.”
Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia

“Unemployment can happen to anyone. You shouldn’t have to live in poverty if it does.”
Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service

UnionNSW: Focus on Jobs

The State Government's attempt to force Clover Moore to chose between State Parliament and Town Hall is an abuse of process that denies the people of Sydney the right to determine who represents them, Unions NSW said today.

A full council meeting of the State's trade unions will tonight vote on a motion endorsing the right of voters to determine who represents them at both the state and local government level.
Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon, said the NSW Government was a repeat offender when it came to abusing democratic institutions.

"This Government has already nobbled the industrial relations commission and tried to silence working people through electoral funding laws. Now it's trying to dictate who the people of Sydney can elect to parliament and council.
"The ultimate discipline is the scrutiny of the ballot box.
"It seems every chance the State Coalition get, they try to rewrite the rules to suit themselves. This is about more than Clover Moore, this is about the right of the people to exercise their democratic will."

The following motion will be considered by the full council meeting of Unions NSW.

That this meeting of Unions NSW insists the O'Farrell Government respect the sanctity of democratic process and allow voters to determine who represents them at a state and federal level.
The meeting notes with concern the politically motivated attacks on the Lord Mayor.
Further, this meeting condemns the Government's attack on the democratic rights of NSW citizens as only the latest in a series of attempts to silence working people and interfere with their political and industrial rights.

"The Government needs to stop fiddling with electoral laws and get on with the task it was elected to perform - creating 100,000 jobs," Mr Lennon said.

ACTU: Abbott attack on Superannuation

14 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Tony Abbott is putting the retirement security of more than five million working Australians at risk by attacking Australia’s world-class industry superannuation funds.

Statements by Mr Abbott about the $250 billion industry super sector are not only factually incorrect, they could leave working Australians tens of thousands of dollars worse off in retirement.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Mr Abbott was once again letting ideology get in the way of the facts.

“Dr No is simply Dr Wrong when it comes to superannuation,” she said.

“And it’s a bit rich for Mr Abbott, who will be a beneficiary from the extremely generous taxpayer-funded super scheme for politicians, to be undermining the retirement savings of millions of hard-working Australians.

“The truth is that working Australians are better off with an industry super fund.

“These funds exist for their members. They generate better returns, and aim to put more dollars into the accounts of members, rather than taking them out as higher fees and profits.”

Earlier this month, figures by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority showed that industry funds are continuing to outperform retail funds with a 9% rate of return versus 6.5% in the past year and 4.5% versus 2.9% over 10 years.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Ms Kearney said. “And when it comes to super the proof is that industry funds are better than retail funds. Full stop.

“Industry super funds are governed by a combination of both union and employer representatives. They adhere to world-class standards of governance and have delivered superior returns to the for-profit retail fund sector since their inception.”

Ms Kearney said it was a travesty that so many working Australians were worse off in retirement by thousands of dollars as a result of the relative poor performance of the retail funds.

“Mr Abbott should instead be focussing his attention on the governance arrangements of the retail super funds and their links to the profit-driven big banks,” she said.

“Instead of attacking a super system that is the envy of the developed world, the Coalition should be concerned about how the retail funds have been ripping off the retirement savings of millions of working Australians through higher fees and poorer investment returns.

“By favouring retail funds over industry funds, Tony Abbott wants to put his hand into workers’  pockets along with the big banks.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sharan Burrow: Work, Social Justice and GFC

General Secretary - International Trade Union Confederation
Work, Social Justice and the GFC

1.00-2.00pm, Friday, 30 March 2012
Teachers Federation Conference Centre,
37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills (one block from Elizabeth St).
Free admission but please register at

The International Trade Union Confederation is based in Brussels and represents 175m unionists around the world.

Sharan will reflect on her experiences negotiating with heads of governments and leaders of bodies like the IMF, World Bank, International Labour Organisation and G20.

She was born in country NSW and graduated from UNSW before becoming a schoolteacher, head of the Australian Education Union and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (2000-2010).

The Law, Governance and Social Justice series promotes discussion about how laws, legal processes and other aspects of governance can affect social justice here and overseas.

It was initiated by the Law Faculty of the University of New South Wales and is now
co-sponsored with the University of Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fukushima anniversary: Rick Tanaka report

Report from Tokyo:
Rick Tanaka Author, journalist, translator, and permaculture activist

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ACTU: Secretary Jeff Lawrence statement

07 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

I have decided not to re-nominate for the position of Secretary at the ACTU Congress in May.

I will turn 60 during the Congress, and have been assessing my future after five years in this role.

Over the next few years, Australian unions will face a number of challenges and I cannot be sure I can commit to a full three year term, so after consultation with my colleagues, I feel it is appropriate for me to step aside at Congress.

What has always motivated me has been to improve the lives of working Australians, particularly the low-paid. I am extremely proud of the 35 years I have spent in the Australian labour movement, and the achievements over the past five years at the ACTU.

These achievements include:
  • Joining Sharan Burrow to lead the Your Rights at Work campaign which defeated the Howard Government and got rid of WorkChoices.
  • Negotiating the Fair Work Act, which strengthened collective bargaining rights, got rid of AWA individual contracts, restored the safety net, and reinstated the independent umpire.  Establishing a set of Fair Work Principles for government procurement.
  • Gaining real wage increases for Australia’s lowest-paid workers.  
  • The campaign to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
  • Supporting the increase of superannuation to 12%.
  • Pay equity for social and community sector workers.
  • The first universal paid parental leave scheme.
  • Ensuring that working people have a voice in national debates, such as the Tax Forum.
  • Providing a united union position at ALP conferences both in 2009 and 2011.
  • Most importantly of all, I am proud that we have a strong and united union movement, dedicated to campaigning for secure jobs and a better future for working people. 
There are challenges ahead, with a threat posed by the concerted employer/Liberal Party campaign to reinstate WorkChoices, but I am confident the union movement is in a good position to confront these threats to working Australians and their families.

The Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign provides the platform for a strong, campaigning union movement.

In recent days I have had discussions with my colleagues in the union movement to ensure that there is an orderly process for the election of the next Secretary. All ACTU officer positions, including the Secretary, will be elected at Congress. In the meantime, there is much to be done developing policies and preparing for the Congress.

I want to thank my fellow elected officers, past and present, the dedicated ACTU staff, and, of course, my wife, Judy, for their support over the past five years.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

International Women's Day - 2012

BMUC members will be catching the train which leaves Mount Victoria at 8.06am Sat 10/3/12 morning to the International Women's Day March in Sydney. 2nd last carriage. (leaves Lithgow at 7.37 and arrives at Central 10.32) March starts at Town Hall at 11am.

International Women's Day is celebrated across the world on March 8th each year. The day is about celebrating the vital role women play in enhancing economic security for their families, communities and countries as a whole while recognising that significant barriers to achieving women's economic security and equality continue to exist.

In 2012 UN Women Australia is focussing its fundraising efforts on the Partners Improving Markets program which is working to make marketplaces safe for women across the Pacific.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Vic: Baillieu family and nurses dispute

The Age 7 March 2012

There has been a lot of talk about respect during the nurses' dispute, but there was not much in evidence yesterday as a group of protesting nurses came face to face with a prominent member of Ted Baillieu's family.

Six nurses had gathered outside the Baillieu Library at Melbourne University, where the Premier was launching the biography of family legend William Lawrence Baillieu.

As the Premier took to the microphone, the nurses started chanting outside, with one using a megaphone to condemn his handling of the 120-day dispute.

The Premier's second cousin and former federal Liberal MP Marshall Baillieu, 74, appeared at the window to let the nurses know what he thought of their behaviour.

''He came and stuck two fingers up at us at the same time, he was giving us 'the bird' with two hands at a time,'' said Megan Hayes, the nurse with the megaphone.

''Then he put his hand up to his ear as if he couldn't hear us, and was mouthing something at us, but I'm not a lip reader so I don't know what he was saying,'' Ms Hayes said.

''At that stage I said, 'Wow, that's really mature', but after he did it again, some of the other nurses were getting quite angry so I said to them, 'Just smile and wave at him.' ''

When contacted about the incident, Marshall Baillieu, who is also chairman of the Baillieu financial firm Mutual Trust, chuckled, before explaining his gestures were triggered by the nurses' ''highly offensive behaviour'' at a private family event.

Ms Hayes said that during the exchange she could see the Premier's head in the background. When it was over, Marshall Baillieu walked away to join the party where morning tea was being served.

Ms Hayes said the incident made her question how much the Premier respected nurses. ''If this one head of their family feels this way about us, it makes me wonder if this is how the entire family feels about us?''

Read more

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

ACTU: Urgent wages lift needed for Apprentices

06 March, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Apprentice wages need to be urgently lifted to give young people a pathway to a secure job and to ensure Australia continues to have a skilled workforce.

To remedy a crisis in the Australian apprenticeship system, unions will launch one of the biggest test cases in recent years by applying to Fair Work Australia to establish a new, fairer safety net for hundreds of thousands of apprentices.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said low wages and an inability to afford basic living costs were a major reason why about half of people who begin an apprenticeship drop out before they complete their training.

She said the wage structure had failed to keep pace with changes to the workforce and economy over the past two decades, with almost a quarter of apprentices now aged 25 or older, and almost 90 per cent of all workers in apprentice training are aged 18 or older.

The current pay rates are barely enough to survive on and experts project a shortfall of 36,000 trade workers in the resources sector alone by 2015.

In the application to Fair Work Australia, unions will seek to ensure that all adult apprentices earn at least the minimum wage in their industry. More than 200,000 workers stand to benefit from the ACTU claim.

“Today, many apprentices are beginning their training at a later age and have family responsibilities, or at least no longer live with their parents and must support themselves,” Ms Kearney said.

“Yet the apprentice pay structure does not account for this, with some of these workers still paid as low as $6.32 an hour, which is less than the Newstart allowance.

“Such low wages are a key reason given by apprentices for the increasingly high drop-out rate, but they are also a major disincentive for even taking up an apprenticeship in the first place.

“At a time when Australia is facing severe skills shortages, we need to be investing in training young people to develop the skills to meet our future economic challenges, rather than importing them from overseas.

If Australia wants to be a skilled nation into the future then we must address as a matter of urgency the massive inequity in the way we pay apprentices.

“We also need to provide young Australians with secure jobs, and there is clear evidence that completing an apprenticeship provides workers with access to a well-paid, well-skilled and ongoing work.

“Australia also has the second highest rate of insecure work in the developed world so it is imperative that we provide workers with the right skills and qualifications they need to ensure they have the best chance at finding secure work for their futures.”

Penrith Valley Community Unions

Wall Street: wrecking the economy

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Tasmania: No future as place of cheap workforce

An inquiry into job security has heard that the Tasmania workforce is more casualised than the rest of the country.

The national inquiry established by the ACTU has held a hearing in Hobart.

The Community and Public Sector Union has described the situation in Tasmania as bleak.

Secretary Tom Lynch said that while up to 40 per cent of the Australian workforce was in casual or contract work, the figure was significantly higher in Tasmania.

He said women were hardest hit by insecure work in low-paid jobs and that a good education does not always protect women.

Neroli Ellis from the nurses' union says increasing casualisation of public sector nurses is counter-productive because more nurses are working double shifts, costing the Health Department more than if it employed permanent staff.

Mr Lynch says Tasmanians need to decide what sort of work will form the basis of the state's economy in the future.

"Tasmania does not have a future as the cheap workplace of Australia."

"We can't compete with Asia and places like that, we need to find our own niche, and that's what we should be talking about as a community right now rather than the rubbish that seems to be our public debate."

The inquiry is chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe.

He believes the increasing casualisation of employees is having a dramatic effect on society.

Mr Howe says the constant push for greater productivity and workforce flexibility is creating a feeling of risk for employees.

"A very large share of Australia's population has been put on the sidelines, has been marginalised perhaps in and out of the workforce, but without the security that is very important if people are going to make their maximum contribution."

Iran's intentions: Chomsky analysis

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression – thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.

As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. primary campaign rhetoric adds to the drumbeat.

Concerns about “the imminent threat” of Iran are often attributed to the “international community” – code language for U.S. allies. The people of the world, however, tend to see matters rather differently.

The nonaligned countries, a movement with 120 member nations, has vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium – an opinion shared by the majority of Americans (as surveyed by before the massive propaganda onslaught of the past two years.

China and Russia oppose U.S. policy on Iran, as does India, which announced that it would disregard U.S. sanctions and increase trade with Iran. Turkey has followed a similar course.

There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn’t pose a military threat.

Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, “If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons” as a deterrent.

An additional charge the West levels against Iran is that it is seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries attacked and occupied by the U.S. and Britain, and is supporting resistance to the U.S.-backed Israeli aggression in Lebanon and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Like its deterrence of possible violence by Western countries, Iran’s actions are said to be intolerable threats to “global order.”

... Support is overwhelming for a WMDFZ [Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone] in the Middle East; this zone would include Iran, Israel and preferably the other two nuclear powers that have refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: India and Pakistan, who, along with Israel, developed their programs with U.S. aid.

Full Report