Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Casualties of the Boom

It's been described as the boom that keeps on giving - an export bonanza that will help Australia ride through a world-wide economic downturn. Across the country, workers have left their jobs to make big money in the mining industry. 

In the rush to exploit the country's natural resources employers have all but set aside the idea of building or expanding communities. Instead they pay big wages to fly-in, fly-out or drive-in, drive-out workers, encouraging them to work long shifts, leaving them with little reason to become part of the local community.

This week, reporter Andrew Fowler looks at the impact of this rush to riches. Taking the cameras into Moranbah, in the heart of Queensland's Bowen Basin, he visits locals that can't get medical treatment, the families who say they are frightened to go out on the streets at night because of violence and he finds out why businesses are closing down.
The local businesses that do benefit from the boom are hotels, motels and real estate agents as house prices and rents skyrocket.

Things have become so bad in Moranbah that local residents voted the council out and gave the new mayor a mandate to rehabilitate the town. The question is: what can a local government do in the face of multi-billion dollar developments that are delivering State and Federal governments a massive boom in revenue. Can towns like this be saved?

"Towns are at risk, I think, of losing their identity and I think it's emblematic of a number of mining towns across Australia. It's turning from a proud self-contained community into a hotel town." Bernard Salt, Demographer

"Casualties of the Boom" reported by Andrew Fowler, presented by Kerry O'Brien goes to air on Monday 28th May at 8.30 pm on ABC 1. It is replayed on Tuesday 29th May at 11.35 pm. It can also be seen on Saturday at 8.00 pm on ABC News 24, ABC iview and at 4 corners.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unfairness and revolt: Joseph Stiglitz

There are times in history when people all over the world seem to rise up, to say that something is wrong and to ask for change. This was true of the tumultuous years of 1848 and 1968. It was certainly true in 2011. In many countries there was anger and unhappiness about joblessness, income distribution, and inequality and a feeling that the system is unfair and even broken.

Both 1848 and 1968 came to signify the start of a new era. The year 2011 may also. The modern era of globalization also played a role. It helped the ferment and spread of ideas across borders. The youth uprising that began in Tunisia, a little country on the coast of North Africa, spread to nearby Egypt, then to other countries of the Middle East, to Spain and Greece, to the United Kingdom and to Wall Street, and to cities around the world. In some cases, the spark of protest seemed, at least temporarily, quenched. In others, though, small protests precipitated societal upheavals, taking down Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and other governments and government officials.

That the young people would rise up in the dictatorships of Tunisia and Egypt was understandable. They had no opportunities to call for change through democratic processes. But electoral politics had also failed in Western democracies. There was increasing disillusionment with the political process. Youth participation in the 2010 U.S. election was telling: an unacceptably low voter turnout of 20 percent that was commensurate with the unacceptably high unemployment rate. President Barack Obama had promised “change we can believe in,” but he had delivered economic policies that seemed like more of the same—designed and implemented by some of the same individuals who were the architects of the economic calamity. In countries like Tunisia and Egypt, the youth were tired of aging, sclerotic leaders who protected their own interests at the expense of the rest of society.

And yet, there were, in these youthful protesters of the Occupy Movement—joined by their parents, grandparents, and teachers—signs of hope. The protesters were not revolutionaries or anarchists. They were not trying to overthrow the system. They still had the belief that the electoral process might work, if only there was a strong enough voice from the street. The protesters took to the street in order to push the system to change, to remind governments that they are accountable to the people.

The name chosen by the young Spanish protesters—los indignados, the indignant or outraged—encapsulated the feelings across the world. They had much to be indignant about. In the United States, the slogan became “the 99 percent.” The protesters who took this slogan echoed the title of an article I wrote for the magazine Vanity Fair in early 2011 that was titled “Of the 1%, for the 1%, and by the 1%.” The article cited studies that described the enormous increase in inequality in the United States—to the point where 1 percent of the population controls some 40 percent of the wealth and garner for themselves some 20 percent of all the income. In other countries, the lack of opportunities and jobs and the feeling that ordinary people were excluded from the economic and political system caused the feeling of outrage. In his essay, Egyptian activist Jawad Nabulsi discusses how the system was fixed in favor of the upper classes, and he uses the word fairness repeatedly to describe what was lacking in Egypt under Mubarak.

Something else helped give force to the protests: a sense of unfairness. In Tunisia and Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, it wasn’t just that jobs were hard to come by, but those jobs that were available went to the politically connected. In the United States, things seemed more fair, but only superficially so. People who graduated from the best schools with the best grades had a better chance at the good jobs. But the system was stacked because wealthy parents sent their children to the best kindergartens, grade schools, and high schools, and those students had a far better chance of getting into the elite universities. In many of these top schools, the majority of the student body is from the top quartile, while the third and fourth quartiles are very poorly represented. To get good jobs, one needed experience; to get experience, one needed an internship; and to get a good internship, one needed both connections and the financial wherewithal to be able to get along without a source of income.

Around the world, the financial crisis unleashed a new sense of unfairness, or more accurately, a new realization that our economic system was unfair, a feeling that had been vaguely felt in the past but now could no longer be ignored. The system of rewards—who received high incomes and who received low—had always been questioned, and apologists for the inequality had provided arguments for why such inequality was inevitable, even perhaps desirable. The inequities had been growing slowly over time. It is sometimes said that watching changes in income inequality was like watching grass grow. Day by day, one couldn’t see any change. But as those who live near abandoned subprime houses know all too well, within a few months, scrub and weeds can quickly replace the best of manicured lawns. Over time, the change is unmistakable, and so too, over time, the inequality has increased to the point where it cannot be ignored. And that’s what’s been happening in the United States and many other countries around the world.

Even in the United States, a country not given to class warfare, there is today a broad consensus that the top should be taxed at a higher rate or at least not taxed at a lower rate. While some at the top may believe that they earned what they received through hard work, and it is their right to keep it, the reality (which many of the richest do realize) is that no one succeeds on his own. The poor often work far harder than the richest. In developing countries, the poor lack the chance of education and have no access to funds, and their economies are dysfunctional, but they work long hours carrying water, looking for fuel, and toiling at manual labor. Even in developed countries, life chances are affected by where one is born and the education and income of one’s parents. Often it comes down to luck, being in the right place at the right time.

It was not just the worsening inequality that outraged the protesters of 2011. It was a sense that at least some of those incomes were not honestly earned. Injustice motivated the Occupy Wall Streeters just as it motivated the young Tunisians of the Arab Spring. If someone earns huge incomes as a result of a brilliant contribution that leads to huge increases in incomes of the rest of society, it might seem fair that he receive a fraction, perhaps a substantial fraction, of what he has contributed. Indeed, the dominant paradigm in economics attempted to justify societal inequalities by saying (I should say, assuming) that they were related to differences in “marginal” productivities: those who, at the margin, contributed more to society got more.

Europe crisis: Amartya Sen comments

[full article]

The cause of reform, no matter how urgent, is not well served by the unilateral imposition of sudden and savage cuts in public services. Such indiscriminate cutting slashes demand — a counterproductive strategy, given huge unemployment and idle productive enterprises that have been decimated by the lack of market demand. In Greece, one of the countries left behind by productivity increases elsewhere, economic stimulation through monetary policy (currency devaluation) has been precluded by the existence of the European monetary union, while the fiscal package demanded by the continent’s leaders is severely anti-growth. Economic output in the euro zone continued to decline in the fourth quarter of last year, and the outlook has been so grim that a recent report finding zero growth in the first quarter of this year was widely greeted as good news.

There is, in fact, plenty of historical evidence that the most effective way to cut deficits is to combine deficit reduction with rapid economic growth, which generates more revenue. The huge deficits after World War II largely disappeared with fast economic growth, and something similar happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The much praised reduction of the Swedish budget deficit from 1994 to 1998 occurred alongside fairly rapid growth. In contrast, European countries today are being asked to cut their deficits while remaining trapped in zero or negative economic growth.

There are surely lessons here from John Maynard Keynes, who understood that the state and the market are interdependent. But Keynes had little to say about social justice, including the political commitments with which Europe emerged after World War II. These led to the birth of the modern welfare state and national health services — not to support a market economy but to protect human well-being.

Though these social issues did not engage Keynes deeply, there is an old tradition in economics of combining efficient markets with the provision of public services that the market may not be able to deliver. As Adam Smith (often seen simplistically as the first guru of free market economics) wrote in The Wealth of Nations, there are “two distinct objects” of an economy: “first, to provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or, more properly, to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves; and secondly, to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the public services.”

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Europe’s current malaise is the replacement of democratic commitments by financial dictates — from leaders of the European Union and the European Central Bank, and indirectly from credit rating agencies, whose judgements have been notoriously unsound.

Participatory public discussion – the “government by discussion” expounded by democratic theorists like John Stuart Mill and Walter Bagehot – could have identified appropriate reforms over a reasonable span of time, without threatening the foundations of Europe’s system of social justice. In contrast, drastic cuts in public services with very little general discussion of their necessity, efficacy or balance have been revolting to a large section of the European population and have played into the hands of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.

Europe cannot revive itself without addressing two areas of political legitimacy. First, Europe cannot hand itself over to the unilateral views – or good intentions – of experts without public reasoning and informed consent of its citizens. Given the transparent disdain for the public, it is no surprise that in election after election the public has shown its dissatisfaction by voting out incumbents.

Second, both democracy and the chance of creating good policy are undermined when ineffective and blatantly unjust policies are dictated by leaders. The obvious failure of the austerity mandates imposed so far has undermined not only public participation – a value in itself – but also the possibility of arriving at a sensible, and sensibly timed, solution.

CFMEU: Discgraceful decision to import mineworkers

The CFMEU today called on the Federal Government to rethink today’s ‘historic’ announcement to allow Gina Reinhart to bring in over 1,700 overseas workers on temporary 457 visas to build a new mining project in Western Australia.

Australia’s first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) will bring in more 457 visa workers in one hit than are presently employed in the construction industry throughout Western Australia in skilled and sub-trades positions.

CFMEU Construction National Secretary, Dave Noonan said that this decision was a disgrace, as the company had not been required to try and employ local workers before being granted the EMA.
“Today’s decision is disgraceful and unnecessary.  At a time of high youth unemployment in many parts of Perth and Western Australia, job losses in the non-mining states, and declining construction employment, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has written a blank cheque to Australia’s richest woman.

“Instead of standing up for Australian workers and requiring her to advertise these positions or train workers for them, Chris Bowen has fallen over himself to help Gina Rinehart bring in cheap bonded overseas labour,” Mr. Noonan said.

“This IS historic – a sad historic day when Minister Bowen put the interests of a mining baron before local workers, local apprentices and the local economy,” Mr. Noonan said.

“Ms Rinehart is on the public record in her poetry, saying that she wants to create an economic zone where overseas workers are preferred over local workers and Australian conditions. We should expect this from mining barons who are trying to squeeze everything they can from Australia’s minerals for their own benefits.

“But for a Labor Minister to assist in this vision is a real slap in the face for local construction workers,” Mr. Noonan said.

Mr. Noonan said that the new agreement will mean that at least 21% of the total construction workforce for this project will be temporary foreign labour.

“Apart from the impact on local workers, the CFMEU is also very concerned that these workers owe their temporary visas to their employer, and are under constant threat of deportation if they stand up for their rights or complain about dangerous conditions,” Mr. Noonan said.

Mr. Noonan demanded that the Government and Reinhart supply the public with any of the local job advertisements or other proof that her company had tried to find local workers.

Mr. Noonan said the Prime Minister must take control of the issue and ensure that the interests of Australia workers and the Australian community first in all future decisions.

Friday, May 25, 2012

CFMEU: Unions Here To Stay

Rita Mallia, NSW president of the CFMEU construction and general division [extract]

While the HSU saga has been front page news, the same treatment is not given to corporate malpractice.

Around the time Fair Work Australia's report into the HSU was making headlines, an Australian construction icon, Lend Lease, was fined $US54 million for "audacious fraud" in its overbilling for more than a decade of US clients - many government agencies on major projects.

One day's worth of bad press in the back news pages and a pledge from the Lend Lease chief, Steve McCann, that the company would behave better, and that was it - matter closed.

Compare this with recent coverage of a Supreme Court civil case involving Multiplex, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, its former state secretary Andrew Ferguson and the disgruntled owner of a bankrupt demolition company who claimed the three had conspired to drive him out of business.

The coverage was sensational. Columns spilled forth claiming "corrupt" practice and "collusion".
Yet when Justice McDougall comprehensively dismissed the case this month, finding no evidence of corrupt activities and, in fact, it was the demolition company owner and his witnesses who were not "credible", the same detractors were silent.

The obsession conservatives have with the CFMEU belies a major point - the construction union today is one of the most vigorously monitored unions in Australia. Two royal commissions and a national watchdog - the Australian Building and Construction Commission - have mined every aspect of its performance and yet we have had not one conviction for corruption-related activities. The best it has come up with is swearing and infractions related to industrial disputes. Little is said about the genesis of those disputes such as poor safety, exploitation of migrant workers or workers being ripped off.

It is time conservative commentators and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, who has vowed to return the ABCC to its former glory, recognise the essential role unions play and cease the union-bashing and political point scoring. They should concentrate on issues of substance that adversely affect construction workers and workers alike, such as poor workplace safety, the low number of apprentices and the slowing in investment in the construction sector in states like NSW.

As for the union movement, we are here to stay.

AMWU: Workers Comp warning

Manufacturing employers will be hit with industrial claims for top-up insurance if injured workers’ entitlements are slashed as expected in the NSW Government’s workers comp shake-up, warns the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

The AMWU has written to Premier O’Farrell and employer representatives to inform them it will claim the top-up insurance during enterprise bargaining negotiations.

“Manufacturing is the most dangerous industry in NSW by far, generating the highest number of serious workplace injuries. We had a tragic fatality at a heavy engineering site in Western Sydney just yesterday,” said AMWU NSW Secretary Tim Ayres.

“Any changes to the workers compensation scheme that cuts entitlements to injured workers and bereaved families will disproportionately affect manufacturing workers.

“Premier O’Farrell and the employer lobby are on notice that if they buddy up to slash the entitlements of injured manufacturing workers, we will take them on.”

Manufacturing in NSW accounts for about 10% of the workforce but 16% of all major workplace injures and 20% of the cost of the Workers Compensation Scheme. Over the past two decades manufacturing has consistently represented the largest portion of total payments for injury and disease.

The risks manufacturing workers are exposed to include catastrophic injury from working with heavy machinery, exposure to chemicals and repetitive strain injuries.

“Employers complain their premiums are higher than in other states. That’s because workers in NSW are getting seriously injured more regularly than in other states,” said Mr Ayres.

“If NSW employers want to bring their premiums down, they should focus on providing safer workplaces where workers don’t get injured and killed.”

The AMWU is in consultation with an insurance company to develop an appropriate product to cover any entitlement shortfall for manufacturing workers.

The AMWU has enterprise agreements with around 500 manufacturing businesses in NSW and will include the claim for top-up insurance as these agreements come up for renegotiation, if current entitlements to injured workers are reduced as expected.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

AMWU: Maritime industry thriving

The AMWU has offered to take mining billionaire Clive Palmer on a tour of local shipbuilding facilities after he said he was forced to build ships in China because shipbuilding didn't happen in Australia.

Mr Palmer announced recently he would build a Titanic replica as well as a number of ships for Queensland Nickel "because Australia lacks a maritime industry."

"Clive is wrong," said AMWU State Secretary Tim Ayres. "Australia has a highly skilled, innovative, thriving shipbuilding industry.

"Here in NSW, we build everything from ferries to air warfare destroyers. Take Newcastle, where Forgacs employs over 500 skilled tradespeople and more 50 apprentices in shipbuilding. There's also ship manufacturing based at Garden Island and in Balmain.

“In fact thousands of highly skilled AMWU members build ships in major shipbuilding facilities around Australia. Shipbuilding and maintenance is a ‘priority industry capability’ nominated by the Commonwealth Government to protect Australia’s defence interests.”

The AMWU has written to Clive Palmer, inviting him to take a tour of a facility see first hand Australia’s shipbuilding industry in action.

"We are asking Clive Palmer to come and take a look at our local shipbuilding operations. We'll give him a tour and show him the cutting edge skills and quality work we can offer,” Mr Ayres said.

"If Mr Palmer wants to build ships in China he should be honest about the reasons, it's not because Australia doesn't have a maritime industry."

Public Education Day

It’s Public Education Day today and a great opportunity to celebrate all that is being achieved in our public schools across Australia.

To mark the day we are in Canberra with parents, teachers and  principals  from every state and territory reminding politicians that there is nothing more important to our nation than public education.

We are also urging them to get on with the implementation of the Gonski Review recommendations which would mean so much to our students and schools.

Click here if you want to check out what we’ve been up to.

It became clear this week exactly what the cost of inaction on the Gonski Review will be with a new report showing public school funding will be cut by $673 million within a few years if nothing is done.

We simply cannot afford to let that happen.

We need your help to make politicians listen and act on the recommendations of Gonski. Could you help us in your local area?

We are looking for people who could be available to help spread the word, meet with local MPs and hand out materials to other parents you know in your community.

With the additional funding Gonski would provide public schools could provide smaller class sizes, more specialist teachers and more individual attention for students with special needs.

We need to make sure politicians understand people in your community care about public schools and want them properly resourced.

Please get in touch and help us if you can.

Thank you,

Angelo Gavrielatos

AEU Federal President

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ACTU: Workers' Rights missing from trade agreement

23 May, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

A new free trade agreement with Malaysia is a missed opportunity to advance decent and secure jobs and workers’ rights in our region.

Unions have expressed concern that although the new agreement will allow better access for Australian exports to one of Asia’s largest economies, there is no enforceable avenue to ensure workers’ rights are protected and promoted.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement did not include a chapter on labour rights, which meant there was no framework for action in the event of violation of such rights.

“A signed international trade agreement must include an enforceable chapter on workers’ rights and we are disappointed it was left out,” Ms Kearney said.

“Detailed agreement on workers’ rights is not only essential to provide a minimum floor but also to ensure the benefits of trade are fairly shared.

“We know that workers benefit when they have a right to organise and to collectively bargain, but this new trade agreement does not stipulate workers must have access to this.

“Such an outcome leaves labour relations with respect to trade between the two countries unregulated and this is inconsistent with the ALP Platform.”

The Platform, endorsed at last year’s national conference, clearly states:

“…Labor supports and promotes the incorporation of core labour standards, as a minimum, in all international trade agreements. Labor will outlaw the importation into Australia of goods or services produced with forced labour and the worst forms of child labour or prison labour.”

Last week, the ACTU Congress endorsed a policy which calls for trade agreements to contain a specific labour rights chapter that provides for improved workers’ conditions by requiring signatories to adopt and effectively enforce fundamental labour and human rights principles.

Ms Kearney said unions welcomed some other elements of the agreement, including the elimination of all tariffs on large cars and virtually all tariffs on automotive parts imported into Malaysia from day one, with tariffs on small cars to be eliminated by 2016.

Tariffs will also be eliminated on processed foods, plastics, chemicals and a range of manufactured products. And tariffs on Australian iron and steel will be progressively eliminated by 2020.

“These actions will support jobs in the Australian manufacturing sector, which is under pressure from the high dollar,” Ms Kearney said.

AWU: Stop Bank Cartel

In a speech to the National Press Club that focused on economic pressures facing the non-mining sector, AWU National Secretary Paul Howes attacked the banks as ''a de facto cartel'' and suggested they be regulated to ensure they pass on each full interest rate cut made by the Reserve Bank.

''It's time we re-examined our banks and put an end to the protection racket that allows banks to record massive profits while sacking staff and gouging customers,'' he said. A condition of a banking licence should be a requirement to mirror the movements of the Reserve Bank.

Mr Howes also demanded the government stop kowtowing to the free trade rules of the World Trade Organisation when competitors were ignoring them.

''We're the nincompoops who … burn important industries on the fires of economic purity for no net benefit,'' he said.

He urged a more interventionist industry policy, saying there was no shame in a government ''picking winners'' by investing in growth industries and promoting exports. Asian governments had shown ''governments should be in the business of industry planning''.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ACTU Congress: Bill Kelty speech

Extract [from Ged Kearney Blog]

We have confronted a serious issue caused by the behaviour of a few people in one branch of the Health Services Union. The ACTU has acted to suspend the union, and supports greater transparency around union accounts and the toughest possible approach to union officials caught misusing members’ money.

I say this because I know that the vast majority of union officials are good people who do their jobs because they believe in unions, not for personal gain. I also believe we must hold ourselves to a high standard, because of the vulnerable workers who out their trust in us.

In the long-term unions will continue to advocate a broader agenda that advances the interests of working people, and challenges the economic rationalism that dominates political debate.

I know many Australians don’t believe the orthodoxy that measures the success of our economy by the size of company profits.

They don’t believe global mining companies should be writing our tax laws for us. They think that tax reform shouldn’t consist solely of cutting the top rates of income tax or company tax, but be should be about making the system fairer and easier for low-income earners.

They understand that low productivity cannot always be blamed on workers and unions, and that we have to look at investment in infrastructure and training to keep Australia competitive.

These Australians believe that the money we spend on public education is an investment, not a cost, and that a strong public health system is part of a decent society.

The voice of workers is too rarely heard in this debate. That is why unions must advocate for an economic alternative and a broader social agenda based on equal opportunity for all, and genuine compassion for the vulnerable.

The ACTU has already begun campaigning for better treatment of the millions of Australians trapped in low-paid insecure work, without sick leave, carers leave or any certainty about their working hours.

Earlier this year when I saw thousands of nurses marching through the Melbourne CBD for fair pay and proper staffing of hospitals, with passers-by clapping and cheering, I was reminded of why unions were still important.

In the end there are still some campaigns that can’t be won just by clicking ‘Like” on Facebook, or watching a YouTube video.

They need real people working together, and a union movement that connects millions of people is still needed to fight for justice and positive change.

Union is not just a word. It is not separable, not separate from the spirit of this country. For Australian unions have been part of it, and the country was made by unionism. The very spirit of the place, what you feel about it, has unionism as part of it.

QANTAS: Cynical and Dangerous Job Cuts

Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union.

 “Today’s announcement that more than 530 jobs will be cut by Qantas management at their maintenance facilities in Tullamarine and Avalon is first and foremost a devastating blow for these workers and their families. These skilled and experienced employees, many with decades of employment at Qantas, have now cast aside by management. The idea from the Qantas CEO that these workers can simply uproot their families in Melbourne and secure jobs at mines in remote Australia and everything will be okay is ludicrous.”

“The cynicism of this announcement, timed to coincide with the statement to Federal Parliament by Craig Thomson MP, is breathtaking. If the board of Qantas thought they could hide their decision to axe 530 highly skilled employees from their workforce and the Australian public, then they are even more out of touch than I realised.”

“Beyond the personal tragedy for 530 workers and their families, this is yet another example of the militant, arrogant management at Qantas further tarnishing the already battered image of an Australian icon. Not content with grounding 90,000 passengers last year, management now stand accused of pocketing almost $100 million each year by charging customers excessive booking fees. In addition to this Qantas now openly boasts about no longer hiring staff, instead outsourcing all employment.”

“The implications for our national security need to be addressed, as the expertise of Qantas heavy maintenance staff has long been integral to Australian national security. Today’s announcement places further strain on the safety of our skies in the event of an aviation emergency.”

“The failure of the Victorian Government to adequately engage in protecting these jobs is as deeply disappointing as agenda of Qantas management.”

Tony Sheldon concluded, “Today’s job cuts are the result of a deliberate attempt by senior management to undercut their own staff. They have undercut flight crews and ground staff and now they are undercutting heavy maintenance. The consequences of this are a personal tragedy for more than 530 employees and compromised aviation security for the Australian travelling public.”

ACTU: Dave Oliver elected Secretary

15 May, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Dave Oliver has been elected as the new ACTU Secretary at the union movement’s Congress in Sydney today. Mr Oliver was elected unopposed to replace Jeff Lawrence, who did not seek re-nomination after five years in the position.

Mr Oliver, who comes to the ACTU after five years as National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, said he was honoured to be entrusted with representing working Australians and their families.

“Australian workers face a multitude of daily pressures to earn enough to meet their cost of living expenses, balance their working and family lives, and plan for their future,” Mr Oliver said.

“Workers face many challenges at the moment, as a result of both the increasing resistance by employer groups to accept that workers in this country have rights, alongside the two-speed economy and the growth of insecure work.

“I am determined to combat the increasingly hostile attack on workers’ rights by employers.

“I’ve never been one to put up the white flag and I am not about to start now. In fact, I am buoyed by the passion across the union movement to ensure that the rights we fought so hard for only a few years ago are maintained and in some areas strengthened.

“I intend to work with all unions, big and small, to put our agenda into action, grow the movement and achieve positive change for workers and their families.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

France: Go for growth

The new President of France aims to balance the budget by 2016. A growth policy will do that, because increases in output generate revenue and reduce social support spending.

It was GDP growth, albeit weak, that lowered the deficit from minus 7.1 percent of GDP in 2010 to minus 5.7 in 2011 (with a primary deficit of minus 3.3).

The combination proposed by Francois Hollande of increased taxation and a greater increase in expenditure is not only a viable alternative for France, it is rational economic policy.

The part of the expansionary policy that would be funded through borrowing is certain to be at interest rates far below those during 1993-95, when the overall deficit averaged almost six percent of GDP and the public sector borrowed at over seven percent.

The new economic program devotes a substantial part of the rise in expenditure to public investment, designed to increase capacity and lower production costs in France through improved infrastructure.

This is sound macroeconomic policy: a stimulus whose short term effect is to bring the economy close to full employment, and whose medium term effect is to increase productive capacity. The first realizes the economy’s potential and the second increases that potential.

Germany: Swing against austerity

Voters in North Rhine-Westphalia inflicted a heavy blow on Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday and strengthened the Social Democrat-Green regional government.

The outcome was a bitter pill to swallow for Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) as the country looks toward national elections due late next year and the chancellor refuses to change her austerity tune.

Support for Ms Merkel's party plunged to 26.3 per cent from 34.6 per cent in 2010, its worst showing in the state since World War II.

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens won combined support of 50.4 per cent in the election.

That gave SPD minister-president Hannelore Kraft and deputy-minister Sylvia Löhrmann a majority in the state legislature, which they narrowly missed in the last regional election two years ago.

"The likelihood has become significantly greater that the next chancellor will be a Social Democrat," SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles proclaimed on ARD television.

"This is a crashing defeat for Mrs Merkel."

ACTU: Jeff Lawrence outlines dangers

The outgoing head of Australia's union movement has decried the nation's growing inequality and warned of the "real danger" of an Abbott Government, in his final speech as secretary of the ACTU.
Jeff Lawrence said that in the last 30 years the richest one per cent of Australians' share of national income had almost doubled.

"Now nine per cent of national income belongs to just one per cent of Australians," Mr Lawrence said.
"It is shameful that Australia, a country that prides itself on the fair go, as being egalitarian, is more unequal than most OECD countries.''

Amid the unfolding saga of Craig Thomson and the Health Services Union, Mr Lawrence said that corruption within unions was not acceptable and allegations that HSU members' money has been misused were alarming.

He warned around 1000 union leaders, gathered at the Sydney Convention Centre this morning for the union movement's triennial Congress, that the Coalition's industrial relations policies are being put together to favour employers interests alone, not employees.

"I have no doubt that employer groups are currently writing the Coalition's industrial relations policy," Mr Lawrence told delegates this morning, in his final speech as secretary of the ACTU.

Mr Lawrence also said this morning that every union delegate at the Congress should be "alarmed at the allegations that [HSU] members' money has been misused. It is not acceptable. And will not be tolerated," he said.The ACTU suspended the HSU indefinitely last month, because of the allegations swirling around it and its senior officers.

Earlier, ACTU president Ged Kearney received a rousing round of applause from delegates when she said that the HSU's "arrogance and contempt" for accountability and its members were unacceptable.

Mr Lawrence warned that many employer groups around the country were using the Howard government's WorkChoices policy as "their new benchmark" for industrial relations.
He said employer groups wanted to end penalty rates, cut unfair dismissal protections, and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Rupert Murdoch hackers: Brooks goes to trial

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News International, was charged by UK prosecutors with trying to cover up the tabloid phone-hacking scandal.

Brooks, 43, faces three charges for perverting the course of justice, Alison Levitt, the principal legal advisor to Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions, said in a statement in London today.

Brooks' husband, Charlie, a former racehorse trainer, was also charged.

The charge, which can be related to destroying evidence or deliberately misleading a court or investigation, carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to prosecutors.

Brooks' personal assistant, Cheryl Carter; the former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna; Brooks' chauffeur, Paul Edwards, and former News International security guard Daryl Jorsling were also charged in the cover-up, Ms Levitt said.

Brooks conspired ''to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service,'' and ''to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International,'' in the police investigations into phone hacking and bribery of public officials by journalists at the News of the World and The Sun tabloids.

Brooks and her husband said they ''deplore this weak and unjust decision", in a statement today after the CPS told them they would be charged.

"After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS, we will respond later today after our return from the police station,'' they said in the statement distributed by their spokesman, David Wilson.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided ''there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction'' in regards to the defendants, Ms Levitt said.

Prosecutors received evidence from the Metropolitan Police on March 27 in relation to seven suspects. A seventh, who provided security for Brooks on behalf of News International, wasn't charged.

The charges are the first to be laid since police launched a new inquiry into phone hacking in January 2011.

Monday, May 14, 2012

ACTU: Protection for young people

Young people are among the most vulnerable workers and will benefit from a renewed union push for better workplace protections, entitlements and representation.

This week’s ACTU Congress will endorse a new Young Workers’ Policy aimed at better representing an often forgotten group in the workforce, young workers.

The policy will be debated tomorrow at the inaugural ACTU Youth Congress in Sydney. The keynote speaker is Australian Workers’ Union National Secretary Paul Howes, who, at 30, is the youngest national leader in the Australian union movement.

The first-ever ACTU Youth Congress will explore new ways to improve the rights of young people in the workplace in order to overturn statistics showing they are more at risk of injury, more likely to be bullied and harassed and find it more difficult to exercise their workplace rights.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions were committed to giving a voice to young workers who were often left out of public debate about workplace issues.

She said young people were more prone to insecure work, as the industries that are considered attractive to young workers including hospitality and retail also experience the highest numbers of casual or non-permanent workers.

Ms Kearney said discussion at the Youth Congress would centre on the notion that unions had a responsibility to represent and organise the next generation of workers and union members.

“Without power to stand up for themselves, young workers will be vulnerable to exploitation and in some cases will be left behind, so it is a priority of Australian unions to ensure they are represented and their issues are voiced across the entire union movement,” Ms Kearney said.

“The extent of the difficulties young workers face is quite staggering.

“The media may paint young people’s lives as carefree and lazy, that they’re bludging off their parents, living at home rent free.  But for vast numbers of young people this couldn’t be further than the truth. They are prone to insecure work, to exploitation of their rights at work, and poorer policing of health and safety.

“On top of that, they are frequently seen as a cheap source of labour because of outdated junior wages. Young workers are hard workers and loyal, and they do not deserve to be treated as inferior workers.”

Ms Kearney said immediate priorities for unions were to reinstate minimum three hour shifts for retail workers, and eliminate junior rates for people aged over 18.

The Youth Congress will also be the culmination of the ACTU-OurSay Secure jobs for a better future forum, which has allowed people to engage directly online with the ACTU. Ms Kearney and a panel will answer the most popular questions posted on the online forum at

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Springwood: Because We Are Free - 19 May

The Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group has organised a fund raising 'Because We are Free' concert on Saturday 19 May (7.30 pm to 11.00 pm) at the Springwood High School hall.

Bonnie Doon, Al Ward, Danko's Dilema and King Parrot Samba Band will be performing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

ACTU Conference Fringe Event 14 May

5.15pm - 6.15pm
Monday 14 May
Unions NSW
Atrium, Trades Hall
Sponsored by Victorian Trades Hall

Europe: Austerity Economics

For two years, Europe has been force-fed a diet of unrelenting austerity. Spending cuts have been imposed, pensions have been made less generous, and taxes have gone up. The policy has been an economic disaster. Growth has collapsed, unemployment has soared and - not surprisingly - budget deficits have been much bigger than forecast.

Election results from France and Greece show that it has also been a political disaster: voters have decisively rejected Euro-sadism and made it clear they want their politicians to chart a different course. Democracy has trumped austerity.

In the fantasy world of Brussels policymakers, the eurozone would fast-track to full fiscal union, but there is no realistic chance of this happening any time soon. Nor does there seem much prospect of ameliorating austerity with a growth strategy that would give the more vulnerable countries a fighting chance of meeting unrealistic deficit reduction targets.

Europe is heading deeper into a double-dip recession. As Tristan Cooper, at Fidelity Worldwide Investments, noted: ''The irresistible force of German austerity has clashed with the immovable object of Greek popular resistance.'' Unless the terms of Greece's bailout are made less onerous, it is heading for the euro exit door. The warning signs for the commission are there: sow the wind and you will reap the whirlwind.

Read more

NSW: Stop Cuts to State Records

Stop the cuts to State Records NSW funding Petition | GoPetition

In late 2011, the State Records Authority of New South Wales announced the closure of the city reading room effective 30 June 2012. The History Council of NSW believes that the access to records is fundamental to the study of history.

State Records has been directed, along with other state government agencies, to make substantial savings to their budgets. Over the next four years State Records is expected to save a total of $1.8 million.

State Records is one of NSW’s key cultural institutions and an invaluable research facility for any historian’s investigations into aspects of the functioning of the state, from colonial and convict history, through all the permeations of the state’s role in people’s lives.

While the History Council acknowledges the challenges faced by State Government to be fiscally responsible, the budget cuts imposed on State Records NSW has a severe impact on the accessibility of records and services.

The cuts will downgrade the archives, undermining its position as a key cultural institution, limiting access for key user groups, and hampering the organisation’s role to inform and support state government, especially in its ongoing role in the state’s Digital Archives as well as guiding digitisation of records across NSW government.



Speakers at this one-day forum will identify the negative impact of ageism and recognise the potential of older women to live active, creative lives.

The emphasis will be on resilience: positive steps to overcome discrimination and achieve change in areas such as jobs, health, incomes and community attitudes. 

The Older Women's Network NSW invites you to be port of this important milestone in ageing policy. This is one day you con't afford to miss.

NSW Parliament House Theatrette.
Thursday 16 August 2012.

ACTU: 2012 Budget

08 May, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Responding to the 2012 Federal Budget, ACTU President Ged Kearney said:

“The 2012-13 Federal Budget will help shape a fairer Australia, through a more progressive tax system, better assistance for low and middle income earners and protection for jobs in struggling businesses.

“The Government has had to perform a difficult balancing act in framing the 2012-13 Federal Budget. It has been driven by its objective of returning to surplus, but has also made several welcome commitments to create a fairer Australia. ...

“Specific initiatives we welcome from the Treasurer tonight include the Government’s commitment to the reduction of the inequitable tax concessions on superannuation contributions for high income earners, along with raising the tax free threshold to $18,000, which will mean about 630,000 low paid workers will not pay income tax.

“The crackdown on the living away from home allowance for executives is also good policy. The ACTU publicly called for this change at last year’s Tax Forum, as this is a straight out rort at the expense of working Australians.

“But what matters most is a plan to support Australian jobs, which are under pressure from the high dollar and a weak global economy.

“So we are pleased the Government is showing support for struggling industries, such as manufacturing, with the loss carry back initiative to give businesses experiencing financial difficulties some breathing space.

“This Budget is also sharing the benefits of the mining boom to low and middle income earners, through an increase to the Family Tax Benefit Part A and the new Supplementary Allowance for the unemployed, students, and parents on income support.

“We are also pleased with changes to the Liquid Assets Test, which will mean workers who lose their jobs will be able to keep more of their cash savings and access income support payments sooner.

“Unions also welcome funding to introduce the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2013 and for aged care reform.”

Monday, May 07, 2012

Greece: No to Austerity!

The Radical Coalition of the Left (Syriza) has become Greece's second-largest party following its dramatic success in Sunday's parliamentary election.

It has campaigned steadfastly against the recovery blueprint for Greece drawn up by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Previously Greece's fifth largest party, this loosely-knit coalition of left-wing groups has new influence as the country embarks on a tortuous course to form a new government and complete painful economic reforms.

The party is led by the country's youngest political leader, the brash and self-assured Alexis Tsipras.

The 37-year-old believes Greece is heading in the wrong direction and ought to ditch the international bailout.

His attacks on the unpopular EU-IMF plan, known in Greece as the ''memorandum'', tapped into a deep vein of outrage.

He said the election result represented radical change in both Greece and Europe, and showed that people were not prepared to settle for "barbarous memorandums" and bailouts.

He has promised to freeze payments to creditors and renegotiate measures included in Greece's latest 130bn-euro ($173bn; £110bn) rescue package.

If it was not for a peculiarity of the Greek electoral system, which awards an extra 50 seats to the party that tops the polls, pro-austerity parties would have little hope of forming a stable and credible government.

The anti-austerity parties, the Syriza grouping and the KKE Communist Party, took between them over 25 per cent of the votes.

The conclusion must be, from both the French and the Greek results, that the anti-cuts, anti-austerity movement is gathering force and, while neither result indicates a decisive swing against the financiers' Europe, the initiative is now clearly with the left.

There is enough in these figures to encourage all those working in the trade unions and the left in Europe to redouble their efforts to ditch the puppet governments of the speculators and the banks.

France: Non to Austerity!

François Hollande has won the presidency of France, turning the tide on a rightward and xenophobic lurch in European politics and vowing to transform Europe's handling of the economic crisis by fighting back against German-led austerity measures.

The 57-year-old rural MP and self-styled Mr Normal, a moderate social democrat from the centre of the Socialist party, is France's first leftwing president for 17 years. Projections from early counts, released by French television, put him on 51.9% and Nicolas Sarkozy on 48.1%.

His victory is a boost to the left in a continent that has gradually swung right since the economic crisis broke four years ago.

From the town of Tulle in his rural heartland of Corrèze in southwest France, Hollande declared victory. "May 6 should be a great date for our country, a new start for Europe, a new hope for the world," he said. "I'm sure in a lot of European countries there is relief, hope that at last austerity is no longer inevitable."

He said his mission was to go to European leaders to demand measures for "growth, jobs and prosperity". Hollande's first move as president will be to push Germany to renegotiate Europe's budget discipline pact to include a clause on growth.

Hollande said France had voted for change, but he had a heavy responsibility to drag the country out of economic crisis. Vowing that France would no longer be fractured, divided or riven by discrimination, or those in the poor high-rise suburbs and abandoned rural areas cast aside, he said: "No child of the republic will be abandoned."

QLD: Labour Day

Unions say they are expecting strong turnouts for Labour Day marches across Queensland today.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) will lead Labour Day marches across the state to mark its 160th anniversary.

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) says the Labour Day celebrations in Queensland have the highest attendance in Australia and around 15,000 are expected to attend the March in Brisbane alone.

A QCU-commissioned survey showing more than 60 per cent of Queenslanders still believe unions defend the right to a fair go.

QCU president John Battams says it is an annual show of solidarity and strength and a recognition of the union movement's victories on working hours and conditions for Queenslanders and Australians.

To some, today's public holiday is another day off work to go fishing, but Labour Day has a strong following in the Rockhampton region with local union members still showing up in force to march and a show of solidarity with other workers in Australia.

QCU secretary Craig Allen said Rockhampton members would today hold festivities around the region to remember those who fought for better working conditions across the state.

He said local unions would be celebrating the day with a parade starting at 8.30am near the riverside car park followed with a barbecue at Victoria Park until 2pm.

Mr Allen said the event will kick off with two minutes' silence to remember the more than 50 Queensland workers who died on the job in 2011.

"We pay our respects to those workers who have died in the course of their work in the previous year," he said.

Mr Allen said Rockhampton's Labour Day celebrations would be family-orientated with food, drinks and give-aways for the kids.

Mr Allen said Labour Day celebrates Queensland's strong union history with some groups in the state being active for more than 160 years.

He said unions in Central Queensland gained a strong following after a strikeat the town of Barcaldine, 600km west of Rockhampton.

Mr Allen said the Barcaldine strike, known as the Great Shearers Strike, started with 3000 workers downing tools and ended with 13 shearers punished with three years hard labour.

He said the strike was an important part of Queensland union history as it paved the way for working class representation in the political arena.

ACTU: High Court and Jame Hardie

03 May, 2012 | Media Release

The High Court ruling that seven former directors of James Hardie misled the Australian Stock Exchange about the company’s ability to fund compensation claims from asbestos victims is a step towards justice for the families of those who suffered at the company’s hands.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said she hoped the decision would provide comfort to the families of those who lost loved ones after they were exposed to asbestos from James Hardie.

“It is quite appalling that the directors continued to cause pain and suffering to these families, forcing this matter to go all the way to the High Court,” Ms Kearney said.

“Hopefully now, they can rest a bit easier, knowing that justice is a step closer to being done.”

The High Court’s decision overturned a ruling in favour of the directors in 2010, who had successfully challenged a NSW Court of Appeal finding against them the previous year.

The court found that former chairman Meredith Hellicar and ex-directors Michael Brown, Michael Gillfillan, Martin Koffel, Dan O'Brien, Greg Terry and Peter Wilcox approved misleading and deceptive statements about the company’s ability to meet its asbestos compensation liabilities.

The full bench of the High Court in October heard an appeal by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission against the Court of Appeal ruling.

In 2009, the NSW Supreme Court found that the directors misled the Australian Stock Exchange about James Hardie's capacity to fund asbestos claims.

The directors were banned from serving on company boards for five years, before that ban was overturned in 2010 by the NSW Court of Appeal.

 “These people were at the helm of a company which was responsible for one of Australia’s worst corporate crimes and it is incomprehensible that they sought to get off scot free,” Ms Kearney said.

“Australia has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world, and the death toll continues to rise.

“Unions are determined to hold James Hardie to account and ensure that James Hardie fulfils its responsibilities towards people who have contracted diseases from its asbestos products.”

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sydney May Day 2012

Date: Sunday 6 May 2012
Time: 12 Noon
Location: Hyde Park North

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Big Business and penalty rates

ARE you humiliated by living in a country where your waitress gets paid more for working Sundays?

Well, you should be, according to the NSW Business Chamber.

Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright has described weekend penalty rates as an embarrassment. The chamber supports a move to limit weekend penalties. In doing so, Cartwright joins other crusaders who have donned the armour to abolish penalties, including Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett and Australian Mines and Metals Association head Steve Knott.

Lowly paid workers in the hospitality industry should not get special treatment for working on the weekend, their argument goes, because it's "strangling" small business. Sydney is a caffeine-free wasteland on Sundays because cafes and restaurants can't afford to open. And unemployment is being driven up by people who could be employed on weekends, earning 50 per cent less than currently mandated.

Such an onslaught of righteous indignation makes you wonder how on earth Australians were silly enough to adopt weekend penalty rates in the first place.

The logic of it seems to genuinely baffle those leading the charge. If electricity doesn't cost more on the weekend, if water doesn't go up, if the rent stays the same, why should the cost of people change?

For those who view humans as just another cog in the business machine, it does not compute, and that's because they have failed to ask themselves a fundamental question: Why do we have weekends in the first place?

Some time ago, modern Western civilisation came to the conclusion that it was reasonable for people to have two days off each week to do the things that made their lives worth living.

Not just any two days off: the same two days off.

Having the same allocated days off is vital, because when people are not working they typically want to spend time with other people who are not working.

But, of course, the weekend ideal cannot apply for everyone. In order to relax on Saturdays and Sundays, the majority of the workforce needs someone to pour their drinks, cook their food and pack their shopping bags.

Anyone who has worked in hospitality will tell you pulling weekend shifts comes at a high cost. If you work on those special two days you will miss out on life's special occasions: birthday parties, barbecues, nights on the town.

After a long, hard-fought campaign by unions, Australian society came to a reasonable conclusion: If you miss out on the weekend, you should be compensated. Yet confusion and non-acceptance still reign in some business circles.

Their befuddlement becomes extreme when national polls show Australian support for penalty rates ranks somewhere between Tim Tams and organised sport. Almost 80 per cent of people believe people should get paid more for working on the weekend.

This extraordinary approval level comes despite the fact that for the vast majority, penalty rates do not directly affect their working lives. The average Monday-to-Friday office worker may have to work weekends every now and then, but they typically will not get penalty rates.

Penalties mainly affect those who keep things ticking over while the rest of us are at play, especially hospitality workers. And while some people can make great careers in the hospitality industry, the fact is that a lot of these workers are among our worst paid and least powerful.

We feel more comfortable eating Sunday breakfast at our favourite cafe knowing that our waitress is being fairly compensated for not being able to enjoy the day as well. We don't want to live under a American-style system in which waiters have to throw themselves on the mercy of an arbitrary tipping system to scrape up to the poverty line.

Business lobbyists seem to think they can push through changes that suit their interests simply by shouting loudly enough.

However, they will need to upturn two deeply entrenched Australian values: love of the weekend and respect for a fair go.

Sekai Holland wins Sydney Peace Prize 2012

Senator Mrs. Sekai Holland Co Minister for Reconciliation Healing and Integration in the Cabinet of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced as the recipient of the 2012 Sydney Peace Prize, in a ceremony hosted by the Australian Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, April 30.

The Sydney Peace Prize jury’s citation reads: ‘Sekai Holland: for a lifetime of outstanding courage in campaigning for human rights and democracy, for challenging violence in all its forms and for giving such astute and brave leadership for the empowerment of women.’

The announcement of the choice of Sekai Holland was made by Dr Meredith Burgmann at a reception hosted by Australian Embassy in Harare on Monday 30 April.

Professor Stuart Rees, Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation said, ‘In addition to her work for the education of rural women and her founding of Australia’s anti Apartheid movement fifty years ago, Sekai Holland has been a significant leader of non violent, democracy campaigns, and is a key figure in her country’s national dialogue on how to heal the deep wounds of social conflict.’

In response Senator Holland commented, ‘This award comes as a wonderful surprise but one which is so encouraging. I accept on behalf of the brave women I have worked with for so many years and for my colleagues in our present Organ for National Healing Reconciliation and Integration. I also acknowledge the long term support and friendship which I have received from Australian Aboriginal campaigners for human rights and for peace with justice.’

Sydney Peace Prize

Chatting with Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is a veteran of the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-intervention movements of the 1960s through the 1980s, but he has not just been watching the Occupy movement. This does not mean he is not in full support of this movement though. He has given lectures at Occupy Boston and talked with occupiers across the US showing that he is impressed by the spontaneous, cooperative communities some Occupy encampments created. A new publication from the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series has brought several of his lectures together.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

UK Parliament: Murdoch not fit to run News Corp

News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch was branded by MPs as "not a fit person" to run a major international company today.

This was the dramatic conclusion of a report on phone hacking from the Commons culture, media and sport committee.

Voting was six to four in favour of the report's conclusion that "Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."

Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders broke ranks with the Tories, joining anti-Murdoch campaigner Tom Watson and four other Labour MPs in voting for the crucial finding.

The majority also found that the whole hacking affair demonstrated "huge failings of corporate governance" at News International, publishers of the Sun and News of the World.

Mr Murdoch had shown "wilful blindness" about what was going on, and his son James Murdoch had shown "wilful ignorance."

Tory members did endorse another finding that it was "simply astonishing" that the Murdochs only realised as late as December 2010 that the company's line about "one rogue reporter" was untrue.

The committee also united in concluding that it had been "misled" by evidence from former News of the World editor Colin Myler, former News Group Newspapers legal manager Tom Crone and former News International executive chairman Les Hinton.

A Commons motion will be tabled condemning the trio for giving misleading evidence after the committee found that witnesses had demonstrated "blatant" contempt.

MPs will decide whether a contempt of Parliament has been committed and what punishment would be imposed.

Mr Watson declared that powerful people had "corrupted our country."

He told a Commons press conference: "They lied and cheated and blackmailed and bullied."

He also called for leading politicians - including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well as David Cameron and George Osborne - to reveal all their email and text message contacts with the Murdoch empire.

Tory committee chairman John Whittingdale emphasised that members had been united in concluding that they had been misled by witnesses.

The committee is composed of five Labour members, five Tories and one Lib Dem.

Today's report deliberately avoided conclusions about the evidence of people arrested during ongoing police inquiries, who may face future criminal trials.

Labour member Jim Sheridan said: "The committee has shed light and exposed criminal activity within our Establishment press and media.

"That has led to the Leveson inquiry, which would not have happened but for this committee."

ACTU: Reserve Bank rates cut

01 May, 2012 | ACTU Media ReleaseAustralia’s big four banks must pass on any official Reserve Bank move to cut interest rates today. 

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the case for a cut to the official cash rate was irresistible, and banks could not justify ignoring the official decision in favour of their own self-interest.

“The Reserve Bank should have moved earlier to cut interest rates,” Ms Kearney said.

“Its stance has contributed to uncertainty for Australian industry and workers and their families, and is partly to blame for the high value of the dollar.

“The Reserve should  cut rates today by a full half a per cent, and the big banks have to follow.

“It is worrying that in recent months we have seen the big four banks choose to lift rates despite the Reserve Bank keeping them on hold.

“Australian families shouldn’t be forced to pay the price of the big banks fattening their margins to chase huge profits.

“Complaints by the banks of higher borrowing costs than a year ago are unlikely to reach sympathetic ears as long as they keep engineering their enormous profits.

“The big four banks last year recorded a combined $25.2 billion, while the combined salaries of the four major banks’ CEOs totaled $28.6 million. At the same time, Westpac and ANZ are slashing jobs.

“And ANZ has blatantly laughed in the face of the workers who prop up its profits with their mortgages, lifting rates twice in the past two months, despite the Reserve Bank holding the rates steady. The other three big banks have also lifted their rates once in the past two months.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

ILO: Austerity devestation

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) World of Work report 2012 said unemployment around the world is set for 202 million this year - while strategies of cuts and hammering labour rights are having devastating consequences and mostly failed to reduce fiscal deficits.

ILO Institute for International Labour Studies director Raymond Torres, who is lead author of the report, said the narrow focus on austerity by many eurozone countries is deepening the jobs crisis and could lead to another recession in Europe.

He said countries which have tried to create jobs have done better and "many of them have also become more competitive and have weathered the crisis better than those that followed the austerity path."

For example, in Brazil, Indonesia and Uruguay employment rates have increased while informal, part-time employment has declined - mainly due to the introduction of well-designed employment and social policies.

Tax Justice Network international secretariat director John Christensen commented: "Our austerity policies were doomed and flawed from the start. It was a foolish road to go down."

He said there should be state-led policies which redistribute wealth equitably - tax avoidance and evasion by the global elite is on an "astounding" scale.

And Professor of Industrial Relations and Human Resources Management at the University of Wolverhampton Business School Roger Seifert said: "Many senior policy makers are not yet ready to abandon fiscal and monetary policy levers in place of direct real growth measures."

The ILO also said small companies have limited access to credit, which is depressing investment and preventing job creation.

"Especially in Europe, job recovery is not expected before the end of 2016 unless there is a dramatic shift in policy direction."

download World of Work report 2012 report

Thailand: Free Somyot

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a trade unionist, activist and journalist in Thailand has been in jail since April 2011 on charges of lèse majesté. The charges allege that he has defamed the King by publishing two articles in the magazine he edited, The Voice of Thaksin.

Somyot is innocent of these charges, a position supported by expert witnesses and human rights organisations. An international campaign has been underway for the last 12 months to secure his release, which has included demonstrations across the region and a hunger strike by Somyot's son, Tai, for 122 hours earlier this year.

The campaign is supported by a number of international and national trade unions and human rights organisations, including the IFJ, ICEM, Article 19 and the National Human Rights Commission in Thailand.

Somyot is now in the last week of hearings and we are concerned that a fair trial takes place. He has been denied bail nine times and is experiencing extraordinarily harsh conditions. Thai trade unions will hold a demonstration outside Parliament and the UN delegation in Bangkok on the 30th April.

Free Somyot Now Campaign