Monday, July 30, 2012

VIC: Brown Coal Power Station loses funding

Brown coal mine in the Latrobe Valley
The federal government has canned a $100 million grant for a new proposed coal-fuelled power plant in Victoria's Latrobe Valley after it failed to meet key funding conditions.

Energy company HRL has been proposing to build a new 600 megawatt plant using gasification technology reducing the emissions of burning brown coal to those of a efficient black coal generator.

Energy Minsiter Martin Ferguson said the company had been given a final chance to meet the conditions of the grant earlier this year.

"It has not done so and, accordingly, the funding agreement between HRL and the Australian Government will be terminated,'' he said.

The decision to drop the federal grant for the projects mean almost certaintly the Victorian Government is likely to dump its own $50 million grant to the company.

The original federal grant was given to HRL by the Howard Government in 2007 under the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund.

The HRL project - known as Dual Gas - has long been the target of environmentalists who say funding should be instead directed to renewable energy projects.

NSW: Hiroshima Day Rally 5 August

Sunday August 5
Rally 12:00pm
Hyde Park North Sydney
  • Colonel Valery Yarynich – retired Russian Colonel
  • MP Jamie Parker – NSW Greens uranium spokesperson
  • Rita Mallia – NSW President, Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union
  • Denis Doherty – Anti Bases Campaign
  • Chair: Radhika Raju (CFMEU) & Miko Nakamura (311 campaign for nuclear free)
Performance: Japanese vibrant energetic Soran & Taiko dancers & music by the amazingly talented Debbie Tennant.

0418 290 663

Arms Control Treaty torpedoed

Negotiations to establish a UN treaty to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade were lying dead in the water at the weekend, after the United States torpedoed any chance of agreement by the Friday midnight deadline.

“This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” said Amnesty International US executive director Suzanne Nossel.

“It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough.”

There has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $70 billion (£44bn) global arms trade.

For more than a decade activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons off the streets and the battlefields.

Conference chairman Roberto Garcia Moritan announced that negotiations had failed, while also predicting that “we certainly are going to have a treaty in 2012.”

Arms Control Association executive director Daryl Kimball said that the general assembly needed to decide whether to move forward with the treaty text that was close to adoption or to instead reopen old issues.

“What we have now is an uncertain outcome that leaves in doubt the support of the major arms exporters and importers, including the US and Russia, and that needs to be overcome,” he said.

“This is a delicate moment and it’s going to require real leadership on the part of key states including the European countries, Washington and others.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NDIS: Pressure on Campbell Newman

Pressure is building on Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to put up the cash for a trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Queensland after Victoria and New South Wales agreed to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's demands for a funding contribution.

Ms Gillard said Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, on Friday, pledged the $42 million the Commonwealth had been asking for to contribute to new launch sites in the southern states.

After resisting calls from the Prime Minister to contribute, New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell also committed to the federal demands for about $20,000 for every person with a disability in the Hunter region.

But Ms Gillard said a total funding commitment from NSW was not forthcoming, instead leaving it to state and federal officials to work out the details.

While Newman's position has not changed, Ms Gillard said he had left people with a disability in Queensland in a "pretty grim state".

She said the politics has been swept aside in Victoria and NSW, but Queensland remained the state spending the least per head on disability services.

Meanwhile the LNP is preparing to take more from Queenslanders with a disability, dumping a scheme offering cabbies $6.50 for each trip with a wheelchair to prevent discrimination and reviewing a wider, decades-old taxi subsidy scheme that offers rebates for people with severe disabilities.

Friday, July 27, 2012

ACTU: $2 Levy for fighting fund

The president of the ACTU has attacked the lack of industrial relations policies outlined by Tony Abbott, and foreshadowed the likelihood of a Coalition victory at the next federal election.

In a speech to the Melbourne Press Club yesterday, Ged Kearney said the probable future Coalition government ''had not been honest about its plans''.

Ms Kearney said ''exposing Abbott's real agenda on industrial relations will be an important role for unions between now and the next election''.

The ACTU this week approved a $2 annual levy on Australia's 1.8 million union members, which will run from late this year to at least July 2015.

Ms Kearney said WorkChoices, which unions spent tens of millions of dollars campaigning against in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, had ''made people realise just what a big difference workplace laws can make to their wages and conditions and, ultimately, to their lives''.

The ACTU's fighting fund will also be used to campaign on the ''insecure work'' report, completed for the ACTU by former deputy prime minister Brian Howe this year.

It found about 40 per cent of Australian workers were in some form of insecure work, such as casual or labour hire, without paid leave entitlements or guaranteed hours.

Qld: LNP stance on NDIS spells danger for workers' comp

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) has questioned Campbell Newman’s commitment to the state’s workers compensation scheme in light of his rejection of Queensland participation in the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The LNP has fast-tracked a parliamentary committee review of the state’s workers’ compensation scheme and will start public hearings next month.

President of QCU John Battams said Queensland had the only scheme in Australia with sufficient funds to cover liabilities.

“It has the cheapest premiums for employers, and the best outcomes for injured workers in the country,” he said.

“The Premier’s rejection of the NDIS is a rejection of assistance for disabled Queenslanders and their families and carers,” he said.

“He keeps saying ‘there’s no money’ so we would expect that Queensland workers’ compensation scheme – which is fully funded and operated efficiently – to be left alone.

Mr Battams said it benefits all Queenslanders at the least cost to employers of any State.

“It is the most financially viable of all similar schemes in Australia and has the best return to work profile for injured workers,” he said.

“And most importantly on Mr Newman’s criteria it is in financial good shape – it has a funding ratio of 117% and  is projected to continue to be funded at 117% well into the future.

“Liberal governments in NSW and Victoria have already taken action to reduce payouts for injured workers and put up more barriers for injured workers to access compensation.

“They have demonstrated an uncaring attitude towards the less fortunate and those with disabilities.

“The Queensland LNP government’s actions to date show that it is not interested in the human impact of their budget cutting and slashing.  This week they have shown that they will hide behind their ideological position in relation to the NDIS.

“But they will not be able to use the “no money” excuse to cut back Queensland’s healthy and efficient workers’ compensation scheme.”

The QCU will hold a statewide union delegates next week to develop a strategy to ensure Queensland’s scheme escapes any cutbacks.

NSW: Kurnell refinery closure

The Maritime Union of Australia has criticised Caltex's decision to close its Kurnell refinery, saying it could have ramifications for shipping jobs in the Australian coastal trade.

On top of the more than 600 jobs expected to be lost as a result of Caltex's announcement today, the MUA is concerned the tankers directly contracted to Caltex could be left in the lurch.
Caltex currently uses Australian-crewed tankers to ship refined product in Australian coastal trade.

These jobs could be lost if the company chooses to use Flag-of-Convenience shipping tocarry refined product into Australia from overseas.

National Secretary of the MUA, Paddy Crumlin, said the MUA would not accept the removal of these jobs.

"Caltex must commit to the retention of its Australian-crewed coastal tankers. The company should support Australian jobs and commit to a sustainable domestic industry," Mr Crumlin said.

"This decision is not only bad for Australians who will be hurt by rising petrol prices, but it's also a terrible blow for Australians whose livelihoods depend on Kurnell operating.

"Offshoring its refinery operation is a calculated decision to cut costs at the expense of national economic sustainability and independence.

"After operating in the Australia for decades and enjoying a large share of the market, Caltex has a greater responsibility to the community than simply sacking workers."

The MUA is seeking an urgent meeting with Caltex and its relevant contractors to ensure that job losses are minimized.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Liberal premiers and the disabled

Michelle Grattan The Age 26 July 2012

The Liberal premiers have let politics get in the way of helping the disabled. That was the only conclusion to be drawn yesterday when only Labor leaders were willing to stake up some dollars for trials of the proposed national disability insurance scheme.

No wonder Ted Baillieu and Barry O'Farrell looked defensive; even Queensland's Campbell Newman, who had been the most bolshie before the meeting about providing no money, stressed (with a hint of apology): ''Do we want to put more in? You betcha. Can we put more in right now? Well, I'm afraid we can't.''

Baillieu will have some explaining to do to the disabled and their families.

The premiers know that their communities are likely to think badly of them for not chipping in. Just consider: Victoria was being called on to provide just $10 million a year for four years. Not to put too fine a point on it - that's peanuts in a state budget. The Victorian government was being asked, for the people in the trial, to increase its current annual spending of just under $16,000 a head to about $20,700, with the federal government topping up to about $35,000.

The Victorians had worries about compliance setting a precedent for future funding (they were told it doesn't) and, when discussion turned to possible compromise, that there was not enough time to work through it before they were hassled to a joint news conference. But surely there had been lots of opportunity for negotiations before yesterday's formal meeting.

With Labor on the wane around the country, the conservative states like to flex their muscles on federalism. But here they have chosen a bad policy area for that. The disability scheme has broad bipartisan support; the Liberal states should approach the detail in that spirit.

Unless the coming talks are productive, Baillieu will have some explaining to do to the disabled and their families in Barwon.

For a proper set of trials, the big states need to be involved. The federal government is hoping the Victoria and NSW governments will feel so much political heat that they will be shamed into co-operation. As they should be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Super: Bank Schemes Weak Performance

The weak performance of super funds owned by banks and wealth management companies has cost investors $75 billion in the past 15 years, says a report that ups the ante in the union-linked funds' challenge to further deregulation of super.

As banks eye the $1.4 trillion super pool as a key source of future profits, research by Industry Super Network says for-profit funds' returns lagged their peers by 2 per cent between 1996 and 2011.

The research, to be published today, also casts doubt on regulators' long-held view that historical performance cannot predict future returns.

If accepted by the government, this finding could frustrate retail funds' efforts to grab a bigger share of the lucrative market managing the billions in retirement savings of workers on industrial awards.

Using figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the research found retail funds returned an average of 3.84 per cent a year between 1996 and 2011. This was more than the rate of inflation, but less than the 4.01 per cent available through term deposits.

Non-profit providers - industry funds, public-sector funds and in-house corporate funds - returned more than 5.5 per cent. Public-sector funds posted the best returns - 6.47 per cent.

Had the retail sector matched the returns of non-profit funds, the report said the nation's pool of retirement savings would be $75 billion larger.

''If we'd had that extra 2 per cent, we would be in a very different position as a country. That's just more capital being invested here and overseas for our benefit,'' ISN's chief economist, Sacha Vidler, said.

Read more

National Disability Insurance Scheme - Libs opt out

Julia Gillard says the Federal Government has reached an agreement with two Labor states and one territory to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The states are South Australia and Tasmania and the territory is the ACT.

Ms Gillard said the Federal Government had made $1 billion available for launch sites.

"I am very disappointed that we have not been able today to strike an agreement with either NSW or Victoria or indeed Western Australia on hosting a launch site," the PM told reporters in Canberra.

Ms Gillard said an agreement with NSW would have meant 10,000 people in the Hunter region would have benefited.

If Victoria had participated some 5000 people in the Barwon region would have gained from the scheme.

"The Commonwealth contribution to these launches would have been around $300 million in NSW and $100 million in Victoria," the Prime Minister said.

"Unfortunately neither NSW nor Victoria was able to step forward with some relatively small amounts of additional financing to make these launches possible."

Ms Gillard said NSW and Victoria could still put proposals to her which she would consider.

She said NSW was asked to stump up $70 million and Victoria $40 million.

The PM said she had worked with her state and territory colleagues on a vision of a national disability insurance scheme.

"The next step towards this vision of fairness is launch sites," Ms Gillard said after today's COAG meeting.

"Making sure that around the country we see people better assisted than they are now (and) making sure that in different circumstances around the country we are best able to assess what the full model of the scheme should look like."

Ms Gillard said the launch site in South Australia would be for young people while Tasmania's would target adolescents and the entire region of the ACT would be covered.

She said each of the Labor jurisdictions stepped forward and was prepared to put money on the table and work with the Commonwealth under agreed governance arrangements.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the creation of a NDIS was "very important" to the nation and for his state.

"While the National Disability Insurance Scheme has up to this point been an idea today for the first time we are seeing the first concrete steps of putting it into place," Mr Weatherill told reporters.

Mr Weatherill said South Australia had prioritised disability funding under tight budget circumstances.

“Under this year's State Budget, the biggest single new spending was an extra $212 million for disability funding, which included earmarking $20 million over the next three years for the NDIS launch,” he said.

The SA Premier said the pilot scheme in South Australia would concentrate on young people from birth to 14 years old.

In South Australia, about 4800 children already receiving disability services plus newly eligible children will receive support and services as part of the launch.

During the first year, starting in July 2013, existing and newly eligible children aged 0 -5 years will be accepted to participate in the NDIS launch.

During the second year it is planned that existing and newly eligible children aged 0 -13 years will be included and in year three it is planned that all eligible children aged 0 -14 can be part of the scheme.

These arrangements will be reviewed after the first year to make sure the scheme is working as intended.

"We were particularly concerned in South Australia to focus on the early years because we believe in investment in the early years pays enormous benefits in later life for those young people."

ACTU: Coles dispute lessons

Changes are needed to Australia’s workplace laws to force large corporations to take responsibility for their entire workforce.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the recently-settled dispute at the Coles National Distribution Centre at Somerton had highlighted the ways large companies have been contracting out their workforces to shield themselves from any responsibility for their pay, conditions or job security.

She said a meeting of the ACTU Executive in Melbourne today would discuss changes to the Fair Work Act to recognise that both the labour provider and the host employer have a role in observing workers’ rights and entitlements.

“Despite working in a Coles warehouse and handling goods destined for Coles supermarkets, these workers at Somerton were on inferior pay and conditions because of a deal done under WorkChoices in 2006 to outsource the workforce to Toll Group,” Ms Kearney said.

“Big business should not be able to hide behind these dodgy deals to avoid providing secure jobs and decent working conditions.

“These kinds of deals have been allowed to flourish under Australian workplace laws, particularly during WorkChoices, and have played a major role in the spread and growth of insecure work.

The outsourcing or contracting out of labour is bad for workers. It means poorer pay and conditions, unsafe workplaces and less job security.

“This is simply another way that big business shifts the risk onto others, and ultimately onto workers and we must stop it.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UK: Murdoch Minions On Trial

The day of reckoning over phone hacking is almost upon us and almost the entire former hierarchy of News International will be standing in the dock. No wonder Rupert Murdoch quietly dropped his directorship of the company at the weekend.

Rebekah Brooks, the former NI chief executive, has been charged along with her great friend Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World. How damaging it will be for David Cameron to watch the trial of a man he appointed as his Director of Communications.

Brooks and Coulson formed an alliance that one bestrode British popular journalism. They edited the biggest-selling tabloid newspapers in the land.

But the 19 charges read out by the Crown Prosecution Service this morning did not stop with those two big names. Stuart Kuttner, the veteran managing editor of the News of the World, who oversaw the paper’s finances, is charged too. It’s unclear whether the Wapping veteran will be fit enough to stand trial.

Also charged are Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, the core team that oversaw the news operation at the Sunday tabloid which Mr Murdoch closed in July last year.

The eighth person charged was the private investigator and former footballer Glenn Mulcaire, who was on a contract with the News of the World.

Among those previously arrested by Scotland Yard but not charged yesterday, the most high profile was Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, who later worked as public relations consultant for the Metropolitan Police.

When this matter first came before the criminal courts it was presented as a case involving a lone News of the World journalist, the Royal Editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for four months in January 2007. That case centred on the hacking of members of the Royal household and referred to a handful of other victims.

More than five years later, the CPS yesterday made reference in the charge sheets to a string of other high profile alleged hacking victims, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Sienna Miller, Sir Paul McCartney, former Home Secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, Wayne Rooney and Delia Smith.

For years, the prosecuting authorities have been accused of failing to acknowledge the scale of criminality behind the hacking scandal while Mr Murdoch’s News Corp has repeatedly represented the affair as a conspiracy by political and commercial rivals to exaggerate what went on.

Now all of the big guns who controlled the news operation that went so badly awry at the News of the World are to stand trial.

Tas: Master Builders ploy

Tension is building between the Master Builders Association and construction union after the arrest on Friday of union delegate.

Veteran unionist Bill White was arrested and charged with trespass at the Royal Hobart Hospital construction site.

Unionists rallied at the site to protest against the arrest.

Unions Tasmania boss Kevin Harkins says the CFMEU was unaware it was not allowed onsite without prior approval.

"The circumstances at the hospital there was an agreement with the builder, that was Fairbrother, that we could come on site at any time," he said.

"They withdrew that agreement at very short notice and, rather than letting us know, they just decided to ring the police."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Coles Toll Somerton dispute update: members vote up offer

The offer made by Toll to workers at the Somerton warehouse was accepted at a mass meeting this afternoon.

New conditions have been included in the agreement for the first time including  RDOs, shift allowances and casual conversion rights. It also includes a decent wage offer.

The NUW thanks all community groups, individual supporters and Victorian unions that assisted and supported the members throughout the last fortnight.

National Union of Workers secretary Tim Kennedy said the agreement dealt with issues at the centre of the dispute, including shift penalties, public holidays, rostered days off and casuals.

"The union is very happy the workers, after a long two-week struggle, have been able to secure an agreement," he said.

The union had argued its members should have the same conditions they said workers at other Coles warehouses receive.

"There is no doubt, in order to make certain we won these conditions of equal treatment, there had to be some give and take," Mr Kennedy said.

Tax Havens Are Causing Poverty

James Henry, expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited.

He shows that at least £13 trillion - perhaps up to £20 trillion - has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high-net-worth individuals.

Their wealth is, as Mr Henry puts it, ''protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy''.

According to Mr Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4 trillion in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5 trillion five years earlier.

The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.

Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests.

Once the returns on investing the hidden assets is included, almost £500 billion has left Russia since the early 1990s when its economy was opened up. Saudi Arabia has seen £197 billion flood out since the mid-1970s, and Nigeria £196 billion.''The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments,'' the report says.

The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. According to Mr Henry's calculations, £6.3 trillion of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001 per cent of the world's population - a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wollongong: Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert

The Illawarra Folk Club is devoting the whole of  its concert on Saturday 21st July at the City Diggers to celebrating the life and music of Woody Guthrie.

'This Land Is Your Land', 'John Henry', 'Pretty Boy Floyd', 'Hard Travellin', 'So Long It's Been Good To Know You', 'Worried Man Blues' and 'Better World a Comin'. Songs we all know from somewhere in our past- sort of like a folk song. They all came of course from one of the 20th Century's greatest singers and songwriters- the legendary Woody Guthrie.

Woody Guthrie's influence on later folk writers and performers was immense and songs, who's roots can be traced back to Woody's unique style, will feature in the latter part of the concert. Woody's tradition lives on.

Woody's son Arlo Guthrie summed up Woody's work when he wrote: "Woody wrote what he felt. He didn't always think that he had to be right. The Idea was that if everybody stood up and said what they thought, the best effort of everybody's contribution would work itself out into a better country for everybody."

Peter Hicks who's reputation in the Music Scene is growing in stature is a political singer/songwriter from Tasmania. With a number of Cds to his name Peter is a musician in demand at Folk Festivals throughout Australia and the World. His material is biting yet in the tradition of Woody Guthrie it is material that people relate to. He has performed the Woody Guthrie tribute at most of the Major Australian Festivals. Peter will be bringing a band with him.

As well noted local performer Maurie Mulheron whos Banjo kills fascists just as Woody's guitar did will add many songs from his vast repertoire. Maurie once had a session with Pete Seeger where they sang some of Woody's songs.

Noted folklorist Mark Gregory will be on hand to tell us a little about Woody's life and music and local legend, singer/songwriter Claire Roberts will be adding a feminine voice to the presentation. Also adding to the variety will be auto harpist Denis McKay and local musician and Woody Fan, Ann Lehmann. will also be a number of local singers adding their voices to the tribute

Cost of the concert is $15  ($10 members) and the action kicks off about 7.30 pm. Refreshments are available As always the facilities of the club (restaurant, coffee shop, bar services etc) will be available

NSW: Kooragang Island cancer study

A Newcastle University study of Kooragang Island has found that between 1983 and 2006, 63 cancers were diagnosed among workers. The 58 men and five women experienced 18 types of cancer, the most common being melanoma (28 per cent), prostate (22) and bowel (13).

The report recommended an independent assessment of the Kooragang site and its processes to look at possible remediation and safety procedures and improvements.

It also suggested a cancer prevention and screening program, and that employees be encouraged to contact their doctors.

The company said it was implementing the recommendations.

''From our perspective our health and welfare is and always has been paramount,'' said the chief executive of Port Waratah Coal Services, Hennie Du Plooy. ''We take the study and the findings very seriously.''

The Hunter New England public health physician, Craig Dalton, said the findings were a concern that required further investigation. ''The first part is identifying an excess risk,'' he said. ''But I'm sure that the workers and the community will want to know why.''

Greens MP John Kaye said the report, which found Kooragang Island workers were nearly two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the NSW and Australian populations, raised serious questions about the company's fourth coal terminal, or ''T4'', project, which is also proposed for Kooragang Island.

''In the absence of an air-tight explanation for elevated rates of cancers at Kooragang, it would be immoral to push ahead with T4 and expose yet more coal terminal workers to unacceptable risks,'' he said.

''The University of Newcastle team could not give Kooragang Island a clean bill of health. It's not possible to dismiss exposure to industrial contaminants as the cause of the substantially higher cancer rates, casting doubt over occupational health and safety at [T4].''


Management: Cost Cutting Brainwave

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coles' warehouse workers support grows

After another meeting with management and the NUW today, members voted down an adjusted offer from Toll. There has been some movement, however the key demands have not been addressed, including shift loading for arvo and night shift and RDOs for day shift. These conditions are standard across the industry and Union members made their voice heard today in rejecting this second offer from management since the strike began ten days ago.

The amazing support from unions and community supporters has helped put pressure on management and Coles to fix this and get workers back to work with equal rights. The picket will continue over the weekend and your continued support will make all the difference.

The NUW will be meeting with management over the weekend and hope for further progress. If negotiations are still locked, the NUW and management will be in Fair Work Australia on Monday morning for conciliation.

Members at the Coles warehouse in Somerton have been amazed at the continued support from the union movement and community at large. In the NUW VIC – COLES RELIEF FUND as of this morning unions and community supporters had donated $21,018.37. With more donations to come today, including from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and $10,000 from NUW Oil and Gas Members at Mobil the members have a fighting fund of over $35,000.

Thanks goes to:

Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union
Australian Nursing Federation
Electrical Trades Union
Communication Workers Union
The Plumbers Union
Australian Workers Union
United Firefighters Union
United Voice
Maritime Union of Australia
National Tertiary Education Union
Australian Services Union Victorian Private Sector Branch
Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance
Professional Footballers Association
Australian Education Union
Health and Community Services Union
Australian Services Union Vic Tas
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australian
Community and Public Sector Union (PSU)
Rail Tram and Bus Union

And community groups, organisations and individual supporters that have donated, come down to the picket and signed the petition.

Coles can fix this, they can force their contract labour hire team to give workers equal rights for equal sites. If you are visiting a Coles store over the weekend, you can spread the message with the attached flyer.

If you want to ensure we live in a country where some workers can't be treated like second class citizens then please donate to support the workers and their families.

Account Name: NUW Vic Coles Somerton Relief Fund
BSB Number: 063 074
Account Number: 10014540

In unity,

Keelia Fitzpatrick
Youth Officer
Victorian Trades Hall Council
T 9659 3552  I  M 0421 576 481  I  F 9663 2127

VIC: SES workers stop work over pay

Victorian State Emergency Service workers will stop work for 24 hours from 9 o'clock this morning in a bid for pay rates that match their counterparts in the Country Fire Authority and other emergency services.

The employees, most of whom are members of the Community Public Sector Union, have been negotiating with SES management for more than a year, but have recently increased industrial action in a bid to win better pay, superannuation and conditions. In May, SES staff stopped work for a day.

Earlier this month, staff said they would refuse to attend any events with Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan until pay negotiations were settled.

SES workers are paid less than their counterparts in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority or Victoria Police.

Spain: Huge Demonstrations against "Robbery"

Over a million public employees, trade union members and fed-up citizens have taken to the streets in over 80 Spanish cities. They were protesting against crisis pay cuts and tax hikes, yelling and whistling in anger as they branded the government's latest crisis measures "robbery".

They marched in towns and cities around the country in the latest of an almost daily series of protests to erupt since prime minister Mariano Rajoy's announcement last week of 65 billion euros of budget cuts in an attempt to slash Spain's public deficit.

Spain is struggling with its second recession in four years and an unemployment rate of more than 24 per cent.

Under pressure from the European Union to stabilise Spain's public finances, the conservative government has cut unemployment benefits and increased sales tax, with the upper limit rising from 18 per cent to 21 per cent.

We have to all come out into the street, firefighters, street-sweepers, nurses, to say: enough. If we don't, I don't know where this is going to end.

Protesters complained that they were being made to pay for the financial crisis while banks and the rich were let off.

Civils servants, including firefighters, are frustrated that their Christmas bonus payments, equivalent to seven per cent of their annual paycheck, have been cut.

This came on top of a pay cut in 2010, which was followed by a salary freeze.

"We have to all come out into the street, firefighters, street-sweepers, nurses, to say: enough," said Manuel Amaro, a 38-year-old fireman in Madrid.

"If we don't, I don't know where this is going to end."

"There's nothing we can do but take to the street. We have lost between 10 and 15 percent of our pay in the past four years," said Sara Alvera, 51, a worker in the justice sector, demonstrating in Madrid.

"These measures won't help end the crisis."

Boggabri: Forest destruction approved

A vast new coalmine has been approved near Narrabri in north-western NSW by the Planning Assessment Commission.

The Boggabri coalmine, operated by Idemitsu Australia, will involve digging an open-cut pit about five kilometres wide, to remove 7 million tonnes of coal a year until 2033.

The process will also include the clearing of 1300 hectares of native forests, much of which have been shown to be rich in rare animal and plant life. 

The commission found that ''the potential impacts of this project on biodiversity are substantial'', but could be managed if ''stringent conditions'' were met, including allowing a large tract of forest to remain as a biodiversity corridor for animals to move through.

Satellite view of Leard State Forest
Farmers, along with conservative groups like the Country Women's Association (CWA), want the best farming areas protected from any extractive industry.

Mrs. Wilma Laird, a member of the CWA for more than 50 years, is as passionate as her son about preserving for farmers the paddocks her sons still use to grow cotton and run their cattle.
''We've got the Maules Creek mine right on our doorstep,'' the mother of six and grandmother of 18 said.

''My grandfather's been dead 60 years and he knew there was coal here. I never thought that I would move out here and I'd be in the middle of it. It's been a bit of a shock.''

While Mrs Laird acknowledged the mines brought money to the local community through the purchase of land and some employment, she said the gain was short term.
''I've got this feeling that they're buying our community,'' she said.

Mr Laird said the existing mine in the state forest, owned by Japanese company Idemitsu, was currently extracting three-and-a-half million tonnes of coal a year. It wanted to extend the take to seven million tonnes a year.

Another two mines planned for the same area were even bigger, he said. ''If you want to be a farmer and live here over generations, this is a threat.''

No More Smoking: First State Super

First State Super has wiped from its investment portfolios all companies involved in the manufacture of tobacco products, in a move welcomed by cancer specialists.

Chief executive Michael Dwyer said the decision to exclude the cigarette and tobacco companies from its entire investment portfolio followed strong feedback from the health industry, which represents about 40 per cent of the fund's 770,000 members.

"In reaching its decision the trustee board had been particularly mindful of its many members who work in the health sector, especially members from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne," Mr Dwyer said yesterday.

"Our decision reflects both the strong views expressed by our employers and members and our support for government initiatives to minimise tobacco consumption." He said a review of each fund's investment strategies showed excluding tobacco companies would not compromise returns.

"Our analysis shows there will be inconsequential financial impact from this decision for members' investment returns. "It adds to the decision that the exclusion of direct tobacco investments is unquestionably the right thing to do," he said.

 Cancer clinicians and researchers at Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre welcomed the announcement. Health professionals, including specialists at Peter Mac, have urged all superannuation companies to exclude tobacco-related corporations from their default investment options.

Peter Mac radiation oncologist Dr Bronwyn King applauded First State Super for "breaking the mould". The chairman of Peter Mac's Lung Service, Professor David Ball, said the move by First State "should be replicated across the superannuation industry".

Save the Arctic!

Vicious Circle - narrated by John Hurt from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Japan: Massive anti Nuclear Power demonstration

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied at a Tokyo park demanding Japan abandon nuclear power.

Led by Nobel-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe, pop star Ryuichi Sakamoto and artist Yoshitomo Nara, the protesters expressed outrage over a report that blamed the Fukushima disaster on Japan's culture of "reflexive obedience" and held no individuals responsible.

The rally at sprawling Yoyogi Park was the latest and is among the biggest - drawing 200,000 people, according to organisers - in a series of huge protests.

"We want to leave a world without nuclear power for our children," said Takeshi Shinoda, a hospital worker wearing a "No Nukes" T-shirt and marching with his three-year-old son.

The movement's leaders say they have collected 7.4 million signatures on a petition demanding nuclear power be phased out.

Japan's 50 working reactors had been offline until last month, when Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided to restart one at Ohi in central Japan.

A second reactor there is slated to go online later this week.

But anti-nuclear protesters are not convinced, saying that Japan has done fine without atomic energy for more than a year.

They also said they were offended by a parliamentary investigation that blamed Japanese culture for the Fukushima disaster.

One said blaming the culture was a cop-out, adding that individuals - including the president of Fukushima Dai-Ichi owner Tepco - should be held responsible.

Addressing the rally, Mr Sakamoto said it was ridiculous to risk people's lives for electricity.

"Life is more important than money," he said. "Keeping silent after Fukushima is barbaric."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Windsor: Save Thompson Square

The NSW Govt and the Roads and Maritime Services (formerly RTA) are planning to bulldoze a four lane wide road and new concrete bridge through Thompson Square at Windsor.

Thompson Square is the oldest public square in Australia. It is the only Square in Australia that dates from the 1700's and is surrounded by Georgian and Victorian buildings. It is a NSW Heritage Conservation Area.

If the new bridge is constructed it will impact on 31 items registered with the NSW Heritage Department. The only attempt to overthrow the Govt of Australia was in 1804 at the Battle of Vinegar Hill. The rebeliion's leader, Philip Cunningham was lynched without trial by the Rum Corps in Thompson Square.

The Square is also listed on the Register of the National Estate and is nominated to be placed on the National Heritage Register. Thompson Square's significance to Australia's Heritage cannot be overstated.

The NSW Govt has made the new bridge project a "State Significant Infrastructure" project. This effectively allows the NSW Heritage Act to be "switched off" so they can build their new bridge.

Community Action for Windsor Bridge (CAWB)

We have been given some shop and office space in Thomspon Square to open a "War Office". From this shop we will inform the local public and tourists as to what the Govt really has planned for Thomspon Square. We will also get signatures to add to our petition to the NSW Govt. At the moment we have just over 10,000 signatures.
Jack Mundey signing 

In front of the shop is a large flag pole. On the 29th of July at 12 noon we will offically open our shop and office and we are also going to have a flag raising. The last flag that flew in Thomspon Square was the Australian Flag. However we are going to raise the Eureka flag as a sign of protest and defiance.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Growth in the Regions

Have Your Say On Developing NSW Labor "Growth in the Regions Policy"

The NSW ALP have invited us to participate in a new policy forum process which includes the "Growth in the Regions' Commission". The Commission's job is to get input from the whole community in developing NSW ALP policy for the regions.

The leader of the NSW Labor Parliamentary Party, John Robertson, has asked the commission as its first task to investigate in broad terms how we can keep kids in the country.

To achieve this we have been asked to discuss a series of questions which will be posted over the next couple of weeks and that visitors to this blog may like to comment on;

Question 1. What do you believe the key issues facing regional communities for the next 20 years?

AMA: Doctors' sleep deprivation

An Australian Medical Association survey of almost 1500 doctors found 53 per cent were working hours that put them at high or significant risk of fatigue, including one doctor who worked a 43-hour shift and another who worked a 120-hour week.

AMA vice-president Geoffrey Dobb said the results were concerning in light of evidence that a person's performance after being awake for 17 hours was impaired to the same extent as if they had a blood-alcohol concentration greater than .05 per cent.

The percentage of doctors found to be at high or significant risk of fatigue - based on factors including total weekly hours, length of shifts and on-call commitments - improved from 78 per cent in 2001, and 62 per cent in 2006.

Fifth-year obstetrics trainee Will Milford, who is chairman of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training, said anecdotal evidence suggested that the safety of doctors themselves was at risk.

''You get stories from junior doctors all the time who'll be on their way home from a very long shift and they'll be falling asleep at traffic lights,'' he said.

Cuba embargo breakthrough

The first cargo ship to sail from Miami to Cuba in 50 years has arrived in Havana.
Humanitarian Aid Caravan to Cuba
The ship was carrying humanitarian supplies such as food and medicine that are exempt from the US trade embargo against Cuba.

Its cargo was made up of charitable donations and gifts to relatives from Miami's large Cuban exile population.

The vessel will now operate a weekly service linking Miami and Havana for the first time since 1962.

Similar cargo services to Cuba already operate from other US ports.

The International Port Corporation - which is operating the service - obtained a special permit from the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the trade embargo against Cuba.

"We have to create bridges like this, it is the most important thing we can do between the two peoples," company spokesman Leonardo Sanchez-Adega told Reuters news agency.

US President John F Kennedy imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1962.

In 2009 President Barack Obama relaxed the restrictions, making it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to relatives on the island.

History: Abbott's attacks on workers

13 July, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

ACTU President Ged Kearney said that Mr Abbott's claim that "If the coalition wins the next election, the workers of Australia will find that I am their best friend" was outrageous given Mr

Abbott's history of attacks on workers and their rights.
She said Mr Abbott could not be trusted, given his mentor, John Howard, had used virtually the same words before introducing WorkChoices without any prior warning.

"Tony Abbott’s history shows he is anything but the workers' best friend," Ms Kearney said.

"When he was Workplace Relations Minister, he laid the foundations for WorkChoices with an aggressive agenda of attacking workers and their rights.

"He needs to be upfront about what he intends to do to penalty rates, to unfair dismissal, to public holidays and a raft of other protections and rights that he Liberal Party and the business lobby have a long history of opposing.

"Australian workers have long memories, and they do not forget that John Howard had also claimed to be the workers' best friend before introducing WorkChoices, having never taken the policy to an election.

"Unions are determined to expose the Liberal Party's real agenda because Tony Abbott cannot hoodwink the Australian public."

Ms Kearney said Mr Abbott’s record as Workplace Relations Minister included:
  • Opposing decent wage increases for the low paid.
  • Winding back unfair dismissal protection.
  • Implementing the widespread use of AWAs in the public service.
  • Opposing improvements to awards.
  • Linking federal funding to his IR agenda.
ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver, in a speech in Newcastle last night, vowed that unions would unite to oppose any attempt to undermine workplace rights and protections.

"We will not stand by and let him take Australia back to a dog-eat-dog industrial relations system, where low-paid workers have their penalty rates and other rights at work stripped by individual flexibility arrangements that undermine their collective agreements," he said.

"The Australian people do not want this. And that is why Tony Abbott has been so careful to conceal his plans."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vic: More on Coles and Tolls

The National Union of Workers' state secretary Tim Kennedy called on Coles to help resolve the dispute. He said staff employed by Toll at Somerton were on far worse pay and conditions than at other Coles warehouses where the supermarket directly employs staff.

Mark Judkins has worked at Somerton for three years and was on the picket line yesterday. He said he wanted to return to work ''but under conditions we think are fair and reasonable''.

“We left today’s meeting with an agreement to meet again tomorrow and we will go into that meeting in good faith in the hope that Toll will put a new proposal on the table that goes someway to addressing the issues,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy thanked the workers who had been on the picket line since 6am this morning and warned it could be a long battle.

“These workers all have bills to pay, some have families and mortgage payments to meet and they would like nothing more than to go back to work. But they won’t be doing that until Coles start treating them with respect and offer them equal pay and equal rights as other Coles workers,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Judkins predicted Toll would try to run trucks through the picket line next week.

''There's going to be a lot of fireworks,'' he said. He said there were 46,000 pallets of alcohol and food sitting in the centre. ''Millions of dollars of stock sitting there, on the back of our claim, and it's costing them. They're fighting an ideological argument.''

Read more

Tolpuddle Festival 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Entitlements Rort: Billion dollar rip-off

11 July, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Reports today that employers who do not keep aside funds for their workers' entitlements have cost workers and the taxpayer up to $1 billion over the past decade are alarming, and must lead to tougher penalties for mismanagement.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the result should be tougher penalties for company directors who breach corporations laws, including trading insolvent or failing to make superannuation contributions.

"This is a shocking report – that in the last 10 years, $1billion of workers' hard earned money has been taken by employers, leaving workers without their entitlements," Mr Oliver said.

"I would like to hear the arguments against tougher penalties from business and their supporters in the Liberal Party, considering how hard they have argued for further regulations for unions.

"The General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS), which the Gillard Government has promised to legislate this year, plays an important role protecting workers from losing their entitlements due to company mismanagement or illegal behaviour.

"But the GEERS scheme is only intended to be a last resort, and it should not be left to taxpayers to increasingly pick up the tab for poor corporate behaviour.

"The amount of money being covered by taxpayers highlights the important role this scheme plays, but also backs up union calls for greater penalties.

"It should be the responsibility of employers to make provision for workers' entitlements, and directors who run their companies into the ground with no funds left for workers should be punished. These entitlements have been earned over years of loyal service, and employers have a legal obligation to pay them.

"But all too often businesses go broke leaving nothing in the bank. Frequently, companies treat workers' entitlements as a kind of unsecured, interest-free loan – without telling the workers and often with no intention of ever paying it back. It is left to taxpayers to come to the rescue. This type of behaviour must be punished through tougher penalties."

"In recent times, unions have been quite clear that any misuse of workers money by any individual should be fully investigated and punished with the full force of the law.

"Given the Liberal Party's tough position on this issue, we especially look forward to Tony Abbott’s support for an increase in investigations and tougher penalties for employers who are misusing up to a billion dollars of workers' entitlements."

Before the Gillard Government acted to protect workers from losing their entitlements during a company collapse, unions had been campaigning to establish an employer-funded scheme.

"Industry groups have resisted these schemes, but if employers cannot be responsible, they must accept tougher penalties for senior managers who fail in their responsibilities or break the law. This could include forcing company directors to take personal responsibility to cover costs they have failed to meet."

NSW: Govt attacks most vulnerable students

The O’Farrell Government has cut funding to support students with disabilities in 272 schools across NSW. 

These cuts take effect from the start of Term 3 – that’s next Monday July 16!

Hundreds and hundreds of students in primary and high schools will be affected, leaving them without the classroom support from learning support officers (also known as 'teachers aides'). Our learning support officers are losing their jobs or losing hours of work.

Parents fear that the result is that students will learn less, will be subject to greater isolation and bullying and ultimately be at greater risk of alienation at school and as young adults in society.

So we need you, your families, friends and neighbours this Sunday!
Come to a Rally & Press conference!!
Sunday July 15
the Graham Green
(The park next to Dulwich High School of Visual Arts and Design, enter via Fairfowl St, off Marrickville Rd) 
Dulwich Hill, Sydney

Why is this happening?

The NSW Government has changed how disability support is funded so that it is based on a formula that combines the school’s NAPLAN results, general prevalence of autism in the local community and school enrolment figures.

But a student’s individual needs will not be taken into account and this is unfair.

It could also be discriminatory - the Disability Standards in education in the Disability Discrimination Act, require “schools to treat students with disabilities on the same basis as students without disability”. How will students with disabilities be treated on the same basis if they don’t have the support to participate in the classroom?!

What we want
  • Immediate reinstatement of the lost funding to the 272 schools (but not at the expense of the schools that have benefitted from recent additional funding).
  • A revised funding formula that does not disadvantage any student with a disability and guarantees that now and in the future, every student will receive the amount of funding that is required to meet their needs.
  • An increase in the number of permanent Learning Support Officers to retain experience.
  • A register of Long Term Temporary Learning Support Officers to enable schools to source experienced Learning Support Officers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coles not Doles: Melbourne picket

Workers at a major Coles distribution centre in Melbourne are blocking vehicles from entering and leaving the facility, as part of a protest against a deal that will see their employment outsourced to Toll Holdings Ltd.

Coles, owned by conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd, has struck a deal with Toll that will see all staff working at the warehouse employed by the logistics firm.

The workers' enterprise agreement expired last week.

The National Union of Workers (NWU) represents the warehouse staff, which man one of two Coles national distribution centres in the supermarket's network.

NWU state secretary Tim Kennedy said Coles, by outsourcing the staff, was refusing to give employees the same conditions enjoyed by other Coles workers.

Elinor Ostrom 1933 - 2012

Elinor Ostrom, the world's only female Nobel Laureate in Economics, devoted much of her career to combing the world looking for examples where people had developed ways of regulating their use of common resources without resort to either private property rights or government intervention.

She found forests in Nepal, irrigation systems in Spain, mountain villages in Switzerland and Japan, and fisheries in Maine and Indonesia. In all these cases people drew up sensible rules for sharing the use of the resource and combined to perform regular repairs. People who broke the rules were fined or eventually excluded.

"Her attitude was that public policy is not just something done to the people by government officials but that public policy is done by the people too," said Michael McGinnis, director of the university’s Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University

Ostrom shared the $1.4 million Nobel Prize for economics with Oliver Williamson of UC Berkeley. Working independently, they each showed how economics could be expanded beyond the conventional analysis of market prices.

For Ostrom, winning the prestigious prize was especially gratifying because of the struggles she faced to establish herself as a woman in a nontraditional field.

Why had this solution to the problem never been considered by economists?

Because of their model's implicit assumption that we only ever act as individuals, never collectively. We compete against each other, but we never co-operate to solve mutual problems.

And, since all the market's benefits come via competition, co-operation by producers is probably an attempt to rig the market, which should be outlawed.

The community pays a high price for allowing one model of how the economy works to dominate the advice we get and the way we think.

US: Heatwave evidence of global warming

The tide of opinion is turning against climate change sceptics in North America, according to the head of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Escalating bouts of extreme weather appear to be behind the shift, said Jane Lubchenco, the chief of the NOAA - the US equivalent of the CSIRO.

''I think there really is a heightened awareness now, because it is something tangible, it's something people are experiencing themselves - more heatwaves, more wildfires,'' Dr Lubchenco told the Herald.

''In the US, I think that the increasing number of extreme weather-related events will help the American public understand that there is a lot at risk and that we do need to be acting more definitively.''

The east coast of the US has just endured a series of some of the most intense heatwaves on record. Altogether, record high temperatures have been recorded at more than 40,000 sites in the US.

If global warming wasn't taking place, the ratio of high and low temperature records would be roughly equal, but in the US this year, heat records have dominated by a ratio of seven to one.

''The heatwaves that we have been seeing in the eastern United States are completely consistent with what we expected to be seeing, and we expect to see more,'' she said.

Read more

NO to hunting in National Parks!

(in front of Carrington Hotel)
Sunday 15th July at 11 am

Greece: Corporate vultures prepare for feast

Greece's ruling coalition unveiled an "everything must go" sale of the country's assets over the weekend as Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras gushed that privatisation was his "top priority.

"The privatisation programme aims at attracting important international capital," Mr Stournaras told MPs on Saturday, sketching a vista of foreign corporations rushing in to snap up Greece's infrastructure and services.

The initial wave of the project would include 28 major privatisations, including state natural gas, water and betting companies, a number of key airports including that of Athens, the state railways and various marinas and other properties.

Some services would be taken over entirely by the private sector, he said, while in others the state would rent back the infrastructure from the buyers.

Mr Stournaras added that this was just the beginning, with a second bout of sell-offs, including that of the Public Power Corporation, planned for a later date.

Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) attacked the plan, saying it was "nothing more than a 'for sale' sign put on Greece."

Mr Tsipras sought to warn off those who might "grab state property on the cheap," saying they might lose all their money and face criminal proceedings under a future Syriza-led government.

He said the government ought to "fix its finances" by taxing the rich and "going after tax-evaders" and proposed a moratorium on debt repayments until the country returns to growth, a distant prospect as crushing austerity measures have crippled its economy.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Coates Hire: Major win for workers

AMWU Jun 26, 2012

1200 workers at 210 worksites across Australia will benefit under the new agreement.
A long running AMWU campaign to improve wages and conditions at equipment supplier company, Coates Hire, has been successful, with a new agreement ratified by the company’s workforce.

1200 engineering service workers have won a 4.5% pay increase per annum over the next four years and a fairer wages structure with a common pay scale.

AMWU delegate Barry Kerrigan, a machine detailer based in Dandenong, Victoria said it was pleasing result.

“It’s the best deal we could get and we’ve managed to get it up over the line. We really wanted to get rid of the company’s “opt out clause”.It was too dangerous for us and it was about getting everyone onto an individual flexibility arrangement. We fought like hell to get it taken out and they managed to do that in the end.”

He said the improved rights for delegates were also a key win.

“For delegates in the four main business units, they’ll receive a desk, computer access, phone access and lockable cabinets and hopefully we’ll be able to put up noticeboards in all the workshops.”

AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson described the campaign as a major victory for union activism.

“This is an excellent example of a strong delegate network in action. With 210 worksites across Australia, many of which are in remote and regional parts of the country, it was always going to be a challenge to gather everyone together.

“But with a terrific group of delegates, the use of the AMWU Helpdesk and new technologies, including multimedia, we were able to receive feedback from our members and communicate information really effectively.

“We’ve grown the national Coates Hire membership by 20% through this process, it’s been really great to see a positive outcome together with increased union organisation.”

GetUp!: Woolworths outplayed on poker machines

Woolworths was today unsuccessful in denying GetUp members and Woolworths shareholders the right to an EGM about poker machine reform. They did however manage to buy some extra time before that meeting; it will now happen in November.

Woolworths sought the court's permission to deny the Extraordinary General Meeting GetUp members requisitioned to discuss pokies reform. During the course of the hearing, it became clear that application would be unsuccessful, and Woolworths withdrew it.

Woolworths will now be the only top company in Australian history to be forced into holding an EGM on a social justice issue.

We know this separate, 'extraordinary' meeting is important because of our experience at last year's regular Woolworths Annual General Meeting. Woolworths shareholders and GetUp members -- including some who had lost loved ones to gambling addiction -- attended the AGM and challenged the board on their dangerous high-loss poker machines, but the company did everything they could to minimise the issue.

This meeting will be very different. Woolworths will have to contact all 432,000 of their shareholders with a 1,000 word letter from GetUp members, making the ethical and business cases for limiting the company's poker machines to $1 bets. All shareholders will then be able to vote on a motion to change the company's constitution to enforce such a change.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

ACTU: Super funds enquiry

29 June, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

A Productivity Commission draft report has reinforced that the primary criteria for default superannuation funds in modern awards should be how they serve workers, not commercial interests.

The draft report from the inquiry released today confirms that the investment returns of not-for-profit default industry funds have exceeded those of retail funds.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Tim Lyons said unions welcome the retention of superannuation in the industrial relations system, and the adoption of the ACTU’s proposal to establish a specialist panel in Fair Work Australia to assess the listing of default funds in awards.

But this must not be allowed to become a platform for commercial interests, and not-for-profit default funds must remain the mainstay of the award system, Mr Lyons said.

“This inquiry has helped to shed light onto the relative performance of industry and retail funds, and as expected, the Productivity Commission has delivered a mostly positive report card on not-for-profit default industry funds,” Mr Lyons said.

“The Productivity Commission has found that default funds provide stability and their investment returns exceed those of non-default funds.

“Many workers do not actively choose a super fund, so it is crucial that the default in their award is a fund that is geared towards high returns for members, not super profits for bankers and investment managers.

“We are concerned that some of the recommendations in the draft report have a greater focus on the commercial interests of retail funds, and not the interests of fund members, and would mean less money in workers’ retirement accounts.

“Unions regard this report as an endorsement of the role of default funds in awards, and will oppose any proposal that would allow for opting out of this or any other award provision.

“All superannuation fund members will be best served by better transparency, and unions agree it is appropriate for Fair Work Australia to have an ongoing role in assessing and selecting which funds are the default in awards. This role should be within Fair Work Australia, because ultimately, superannuation is an industrial and workplace issue.”

Mr Lyons said the criteria suggested by the Productivity Commission for selecting which funds to include in awards are broadly similar to those recommended by unions, although unions believe there needs to be greater weight given to the net returns for fund members.

“In the FWA process, only the legitimate interests of employers and employees should be considered,” he said.

“Needless to say, we will reject any proposals to open the process beyond the representatives of employers and employees, and to allow those representing commercial interests to have input.”

France: Increased tax for the "One Percent"

President Francois Hollande 4 July 2012
As he promised throughout his presidential campaign, Francois Hollande on Wednesday introduced a new 2012 corrective budget that calls for, among other measures, a one-off tax levy on the nation's wealthiest individuals and large corporations to help address the nation's current financial woes.

“We face an extremely difficult financial and economic situation,” Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said at a press conference in Paris. “The wealthiest households, the big companies, will be asked to contribute. In 2012 and 2013, the effort will be particularly large.”

Taxes on individuals will target those with net wealth of more than 1.3 million euros (or $1.63 million) and aim to raise nearly 2.3 billion euros ($2.90 billion) in this budget cycle alone. The levy focused on large banks and oil-related energy firms is designed to bring an additional 1.1 billion euros.

Both increases are part of a scheme to close what the nation's state auditor says is a 6-10 billion euro budget gap in 2012. Other measures include the lifting of a payroll tax holiday and a levy on dividends and stock options.

Hollande said the 2013 budget will restore the pre-Sarkozy wealth tax rates on people with assets of more than 1.3 million euros. That will return the rate to 75% for those making over $1 million.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

ACTU: Carbon Price is just the start

Wind farm worker
30 June, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

The commencement of a price on carbon pollution tomorrow is a major national reform for the Australian economy and environment.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the emissions trading scheme beginning with a fixed price on carbon emissions was an important step towards restructuring the Australian economy so it could be competitive as the world moves to clean energy sources and low pollution technologies for the 21st century.

She said Australia had to grasp the opportunity to create new clean technology jobs and industries created by putting a price on carbon pollution.

“There has been a lot of hard work to get this far, in recognition that a price on carbon is the most effective and cost-efficient way of taking action on climate change,” Ms Kearney said.

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

“We recognise there is still a mammoth task ahead to turn the potential of a price on carbon into new jobs, to maximise the emissions abatement, and to realise the full economic and social benefits from pricing carbon.

“Unions have and will continue to stand up for the working Australians and their families to ensure their interests are fully represented under a price on carbon.

“The involvement of unions in the design of the carbon price resulted in a package that addressed household assistance, the protection of jobs, and investment in new job-creating technologies.

“The most important thing from now on is for investment to flow into new technologies to further drive the shift to a sustainable low-carbon economy – in Australia and around the world.

“The Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Clean Technology Program will play a crucial role in making that happen.”