Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Six Dollars Doctor Visits: Mister Abbott's Ridiculous Plan

Lesley Russell, senior research fellow at ANU in the College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, is an expert on health care reform and the impact of cost on patients' compliance with treatment and medication regimes. She has just one word for any proposed co-payment. Ridiculous.

Russell says that there is no evidence to say co-payments reduce inappropriate use of medical services, any more than they reduce appropriate use of medical services. She also says that there is much data to show that the lower the co-payment, the higher the compliance with medical treatment.

Which is the whole point really. What would co-payments do? They'd flood our already overburdened emergency rooms. Unless Terry Barnes's genius extra idea is implemented. Barnes was the author of the ACHR report and on Monday he told ABC News Breakfast that there was a way to ensure that didn't happen.

''In terms of emergency departments, I think the simple way to deal with it is to allow the states to charge a matching co-payment for people who do go to an emergency department.''

Read more

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Corporate Culture: SPC Sackings- Santa's Claws

Fruit giant SPC has sacked the entire maintenance workforce at its cannery in north Victoria two days after Christmas.

The 73 Shepparton maintenance workers were told on Friday they would be replaced by contract workers before May 2014, the Electrical Trades Union says.

SPC Ardmona issued a statement saying the employees were aware of the critical need for the company to transform its business.

The company, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Amatil, is seeking government assistance.

It wants $25m from the federal government and a matching contribution from the Victorian government.

Electrical Trade Union branch officer Damian King said the union had been in discussion with SPC for months seeking productivity gains as part of an enterprise bargaining agreement renegotiation.

He said the union had offered a two-year wage freeze in an effort to preserve jobs.

"They've basically said times are tough for them," King said.

He said the union was due to meet company representatives early in 2014 and workers had been blindsided by the job cuts.

"In 20 years as a union official I've never heard of mass sackings between Christmas and New Year's," King said. "It's disgusting."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Corporate Culture - Abbott's Vested Interests

Removing Best Interests Protections from Financial Advice Laws Will Hurt Australian Workers

The Federal Government’s removal of the best interests test from financial advice laws will place working people at risk of receiving conflicted financial advice and having their super eroded.

In more bad news released five days before Christmas, the Abbott Government has announced it will reverse almost all of the reforms to financial advice laws—laws that banned ongoing commissions and conflicted advice.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) National Secretary Michael O’Connor said today that the Government’s announcement was a capitulation to the very worst elements of the financial advice industry.

“In public policy terms this announcement is a national disgrace.”

“These changes will expose working people to conflicted advice. An adviser or planner will be free to recommend products they receive a commission for and the customer has no way of knowing.”

“The reforms to financial advice of last year brought integrity and basic consumer protections back to an industry that was living in the past. In what other industry are hidden, ongoing commissions allowed?”

“Removal of the best interests protection means that clients of financial advisers will have no way of knowing that the advice they are receiving is actually right for them; or if it’s just been recommended because their adviser will receive a kickback.”

“Commissions erode people’s super without them even knowing it, and can result in tens of thousands of dollars less in people’s retirement balances.”

“The Government has caved-in to pressure from vested interests. They know this is bad news for Australian workers, which is why they are announcing it on a Friday—five days before Christmas.”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Scrooge - Australia Post Stops Pay For Christmas Casuals

Thousands of Australia Post Christmas casual workers will go without pay this Christmas despite working hard in making sure the community receives their Christmas goodies via the mail system, the CEPU Postal Workers Union said today.

Australia Post today told the Fair Work Commission of its inability to pay thousands of Christmas casual workers their statutory pay entitlements on time despite workers being required to work up to Christmas Eve – and now without seeing one red cent of pay for their efforts.

Many casuals working are students and low-income earners and after today’s fiery hearing before the Fair Work Commission (FWC), will now have to wait up to four weeks before getting paid for their work by Australia Post, said CEPU NSW State Secretary Jim Metcher.

“Workers in this appalling situation of being without their statutory pay entitlements being paid on time, should have expected a bit more compassion from their ‘Independent Umpire’ in these circumstances,” said Mr Metcher.

“Rather than lecturing the Union over the timing of the hearing – despite the fact we only learnt of the non-payment yesterday – the FWC should be standing up for workers’ being paid on time.

“Australia Post’s claim it can’t pay their workers due to its inefficient and inferior payroll system before Christmas isn’t good enough.”

Given the circumstances confronted by the Union with the FWC and Australia Post, the CEPU NSW State Secretary Jim Metcher made a final plea before the FWC for Australia Post to at least attempt to make some sort of payment to their workers before Christmas that could be recovered from their pay stood over to January 2014.

Australia Post made no commitments to do this for their workers other than saying they will explore whether the Unions request can be achieved.

In the meantime the Union is obtaining legal advice on its option to commence proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia for the purpose of obtaining a conviction and penalty against Australia Post for failing to pay workers their statutory entitlements on time.

Tony "unemployment" Abbott killing local jobs

19 December, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Workers at SPC Ardmona have woken up to unwelcome news reports today that suggest the fruit manufacturer is the latest local business in the Abbott Government’s firing line.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver questioned when the Abbott Government would stop going after local manufacturers and actually start fighting for local jobs.

"If Tony Abbott's objective is to be remembered as the unemployment Prime Minister then he is doing a pretty good job of it," Mr Oliver said.  “This is a Government that has no plans for jobs but whose actions are systematically undermining manufacturing in Australia.

"The Government ran Holden out of town and with it 200,000 local jobs and now they're trying on the same tactics with SPC. It's a disgrace.

"Once again we're seeing senior Government Ministers speaking anonymously to the media in an effort to undermine the local manufacturing sector.

“Yet at the same time you’ve got Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce expressing concern about the impact on growers and local coalition member Sharman Stone making the point that ‘If we lose SPC Ardmona we will lose the last fruit manufacturer in Australia - and it will never be recovered.’

"If SPC goes that's 2000 direct jobs and dire consequences for the region.

“If Mr Abbott is wondering what will happen to SPC he need not look far for a precedent, he’s got one in Holden and the Government’s decisions there have bought the automotive industry to its knees.

“The Government says it wants to end corporate welfare but they’ve got no problem propping up the well-resourced mining sector with up to $4 billion in subsidies including over $700 million in direct budget assistance.

“So at the same time that they’re actively undermining the future of manufacturing in this country, the Government continues to provide its self-titled ‘corporate welfare’ to the mining sector which accounts for only 2.3% of the workforce.”

Mr Oliver said workers are being let down by the Prime Minister who is demonstrating day after day that he has no idea how to support manufacturing in this country.

“Yesterday’s hastily conceived and hopelessly inadequate industry assistance package will not deal with the challenges facing Australian manufacturing and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports,” Mr Oliver said.

“It was nothing other than a band aid response by a Government looking for a quick political fix because it doesn’t have a plan for jobs.

“Instead the Government’s answer is to undermine manufacturing, savagely cut public sector jobs, cut skills funding for trade training centres and get rid of the $10 billion clean energy finance corporation that would have created thousands of new high skilled, innovative local jobs.

“Once again Mr Abbott has shirked an opportunity to explain how he will ensure a robust jobs market in manufacturing and high end innovation and fulfil his election promise to create two million new jobs.”

Qld: Fighting for Our Reef ...

The industrialisation of the Reef was gathering pace under the radar … but together we dragged Queensland’s dirty secret into the national and international spotlight.

We’ve become an inspiring movement of people who love the Reef and are willing to act for its protection.

Every time an important decision is being made about the future of the Reef – thousands of us mobilise for action.

We fight the good fight. And we’ve had some impressive wins:

  • 81,000 signatures were taken to the World Heritage Committee in Cambodia, resulting in the Australian Government being put on notice about the treatment of the Reef.
  • More than 3,500 passionate Reef Fighters marched through the streets of Brisbane at the Rally for the Reef, waving their colourful and vibrant banners in support.
  • 800 people shared their personal stories about what the Reef means to them. The result is a beautiful book, to be delivered to Parliament in 2014.
  • Nearly 1000 people personally picked up the phone and called the Environment Minister to express their concerns over dredging and dumping.
  • We delayed the Abbot Point dredging and dumping decision for months. And now GBRMPA has delayed a decision on the dumping permit.
  • Across Australia and the world, hundreds of thousands of people have stood up and said enough is enough.

The Reef belongs to all of us, not to big industry to use as a dredge dumping ground and shipping superhighway.

Friday, December 20, 2013

ACTU: Stand With Unions in 2014

As Ged says the strength of our movement lies in our people: the power of 2 million members and tens of thousands of activists.

Next year Tony Abbott and his mates will be doing their best to strip fairness from Australian workplaces and tilt the balance in favour of big business.

You can rest assured that Australian Unions will be fighting back at every stage. History has shown us that when workers stick together and campaign hard we win.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Abbot's Plan to Slash Super!

Work part-time? Earn less than $37k? Know anyone who does? Today, the Federal Government announced plans to take from the retirement savings of those who need them most, while giving tax cuts to big mining – by scrapping the low-income super concession. 

Up until now, the Government would contribute $500 a year to those earning $37,000 or less, as a way of helping low-income earners save for retirement - a measure that makes superannuation far more equitable. The Coalition plans to repeal that. This move will see 3.5 million Australians worse off in retirement, and disproportionately hurt women, young people and rural Australians. 

We're not making this up. But the Abbott government has been good at keeping it quiet and right now, few people even know it's happening. If we work together to get the truth out there, there's a real chance we can stop these changes and protect the retirement savings of millions of Australians.

Russia: Amnesty for Arctic 30

Earlier today the Russian government agreed to amend an amnesty bill to include the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists that were arrested in September following a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic. The bill was just now officially adopted by the Russian Parliament.

This means legal proceedings against them will be stopped and they should be home soon if they choose to accept amnesty.I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief, but they're not celebrating. They've all spent two months in jail for a crime they didn't commit, faced absurd criminal charges and drilling in the Russian Arctic is set to start any day now.

As Peter Willcox, captain of the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, said: "There's no amnesty for the Arctic."

After amnesty has been accepted and as soon as they have the necessary exit visas, they will be able to leave Russia. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the Russian authorities make the process speedy and allow them to spend the holidays with their families.

The support over the last four months has been overwhelming. There have been 860 protests in 46 countries, and more than 2.6 million people emailing their Russian embassy.

You've been at the heart of this - signing petitions, attending protests, getting your friends involved -- it has been an incredibly inspiring stand of solidarity.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ACTU - Abbott Quick Fix Useless

18 December, 2013 | Media Release

The package announced today by Tony Abbott will provide little relief to workers still reeling from Holden’s decision to end local manufacturing and is further evidence that the Government doesn’t have a plan for jobs, say Unions.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the industry assistance package has been hastily conceived and is hopelessly inadequate to deal with the challenges facing Australian manufacturing and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports.

“If Mr Abbott thinks $60 million is enough to counter the $21 billion blow he’s inflicted on the economy he’s wrong”, Mr Oliver said.

“This is a Band-Aid response by a Government looking for a quick political fix because they don’t have a plan for jobs.

“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey ran Holden out of town and with it have cast a massive shadow over the 200,000 Australians who rely upon the automotive industry for work.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of an Industry that has been bought to its knees by the Abbott Government and demonstrates they have no idea how to support local manufacturing and give it a future.”

Mr Oliver said that there is nothing in this announcement that shows where new jobs will be.

“Mr Abbott says Holden workers can re-train and re-skill but for what jobs?”, Mr Oliver asked.

“Components manufacturers need more money and more resources to diversify but have also been left wanting.

“Mr Abbott didn’t offer Toyota any certainty today nor did he point to any specific projects that could create jobs such as fast-tracking a local design and construction submarine project in Adelaide.

“This is all on top of yesterday’s policy-light and blame-heavy response to the Midyear Economic and Fiscal Outlook that included savage public sector jobs cuts and news of rising unemployment.

“As growth softens and unemployment rises, what Australians are looking for is a Government with a plan to address job creation and strengthen the economy.

“Instead the Government’s answer is to savagely cut public sector jobs, cut skills funding for trade training centres and get rid of the $10 billion clean energy finance corporation that would have created thousands of new high skilled, innovative local jobs.

“Once again Mr Abbott has shirked an opportunity to explain how he will ensure a robust jobs market in manufacturing and high end innovation and fulfil his election promise to create two million new jobs.”

Unions NSW High Court Win

The High Court has today upheld Unions NSW challenge to the O’Farrell Government’s electoral donation laws, accepting that the laws hindered the freedom of political communication implied in the Commonwealth constitution.

The electoral laws passed by the NSW parliament early last year prevented working people from expressing their political views by:

  • Banning peak councils such as Unions NSW from levying its affiliates to run movement-wide election campaigns (such as the highly successful Your Rights at Work campaign);
  • Combining the caps on election spending for political parties and affiliated unions;
  • Banning trade unions from paying affiliation fees to political parties

Despite being joined by every conservative government in the country (Including the Abbott Coalition Government) the Unions NSW application was unanimously upheld by the full bench of the High Court.

Costs were also awarded against the NSW Government.

Unions NSW Assistant Secretary, Mark Morey said the High Court decision ought to be respected by the O’Farrell Government.

“The O’Farrell laws attempted to silence working people. Today those laws have been struck down by the High Court,” Mr Morey said

“The High Court has recognised the right of working people to pool their resources and express their voice collectively,” Mr Morey said

“There is now an onus on the O’Farrell Government to go back to the drawing board and rethink how it regulates electoral donation laws. When it does this, it ought to be open, inclusive and non-partisan.

The United Services Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the Teachers Federation also supported the High Court application.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

South Korea: Rail Strike

Since June, the South Korean government has been pushing forward a new rail restructuring and privatisation programme despite widespread opposition. Faced with the government and Korea Railroad Corporation's (KORAIL's) flat out rejection of social dialogue, the Korean Railway Workers' Union (KRWU), an ITF affiliate, has declared it will go on strike beginning on December 9. Past actions by the Korean government and employer, however, have raised grave concerns that vast rights violations will occur once the strike is on. In 2009 the government and KORAIL used tactics such as criminal charges, imprisonments, suits for damages, dismissals and other disciplinary actions in retaliation against a similar KRWU strike. The ILO condemned these actions and urged legal and practical reforms in 2012 and made an urgent intervention again in October this year, but has so far received no response from the government. We need you to send a message to urge the government to engage in social dialogue on rail policy and respect railway workers' right to strike as recognized by international law.

ACOSS suggests - Cool Heads for Budget

The Australian Council of Social Service has cautioned the Federal Government against trying to restore the nation’s Budget in one-hit, following today’s release of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) which forecast a $47 billion budget deficit.

“Our fiscal challenge is structural, and requires long-term reform. It would be dangerous to attempt to fix the problem in one budget,” said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.

“We now know that two thirds of budget deterioration this year due to “economic parameters” is on the revenue side.  What we need is careful and considered reform to both revenue and expenditure.

“We understand the big fiscal challenge facing the nation, but previous governments share the blame by spending the revenue windfall from the housing and mining booms on eight successive income tax cuts and a range of cash bonuses and poorly targeted programs.

“Recent decisions show a concerning trend towards targeting those at the bottom to bear the brunt of budget cuts and largely sparing those at the top end. For instance, those on low incomes will be hurt by the abolition of the Income Support Bonus, the School Kids Bonus, and the Low Income Superannuation Contribution.

“Today’s decision to cut funding to much-needed legal assistance programs, including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, is short sighted and counter-productive. It will have little impact on the budget bottom line, but a devastating impact on those who need access to legal assistance.

“Meanwhile, those at the top have been spared by the decision not cap tax breaks on superannuation – tax breaks that flow mostly to those on high incomes. Government has also deprived itself billions of dollars in revenue from an effective Mineral Resources Rent Tax and pricing carbon pollution.

“What we need right now is a cool head and a serious national conversation about how we will restore budget balance, and close the gap between the community’s reasonable expectations and government revenue.

“Organisations who represent those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged have a vital role to play in this conversation, no more so than those who work on the front line in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“We can restore revenue, reduce waste, close gaps in essential services, and look after the most disadvantaged in our community if we take the sensible and much needed reform road.

“The Government should restore revenues to the level obtained before the GFC (25.1% of GDP), and hold expenditures at that level as the economy grows. This would enable the Government to restore the Budget to surplus without unnecessarily cutting essential programs,” Dr Goldie said.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Abbott: The Minister for Unemployment

1946 Holden Prototype - Abbott Government seeks to terminate 60 years of Australian Made Cars
An appalling lack of leadership from Government will cost up to 50,000 Australian workers their jobs following the announcement by Holden that it will cease production in 2017, unions said today.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the Liberal Government has comprehensively failed its first test.

“As a result of Government inaction Australia will lose up to 50,000 direct skilled jobs in the automotive industry, $21 billion will be wiped from the economy and regions will go into recession,” Mr Oliver said.

“This is the most significant economic decision the Abbott Government has made and it’s going to have catastrophic consequences for our country.

“Tony Abbott has played politics with this issue and this is the result.”

Mr Oliver said it was the Government’s job to save jobs, not sink jobs.  But faced with the choice of supporting an iconic industry that generates billions of dollars of economic activity, or adhering to a free market ideology, Mr Abbott chose the latter, he said.

“Mr Abbott has made it clear that he has no jobs plan for the future,” Mr Oliver said.

“The departure of Holden will sink the car industry in this county and the flow on effects for jobs and manufacturing will be cataclysmic.

“Tony Abbott’s legacy will be as the Unemployment Prime Minister.

“The Liberal Government has no plan for future industries beyond the mining boom and under their watch the car manufacturing industry has been demolished.

“This is devastating news for car manufacturing in Australia and for the tens of thousands of workers who will be left without a job.

“The indifference that the Coalition has displayed towards Holden and the workers who rely on them is astonishing. It begs serious questions about the Government’s ability to protect jobs and its commitment to this vital task.

“This will be a legacy this Government will carry and be judged upon: the death of the car industry in Australia due to mismanagement, politicising and a fundamental lack of care for people’s jobs.

“Australia's claim to be a modern growing productive economy is in serious doubt

ACTU: Stand for Workers

The new Federal Parliament has begun and we now have a clearer picture of the agenda of the Abbott Government.

After just two sitting weeks, there are already worrying signs for working Australians and their families.

We know the government is listening to big business but they need to listen to you! Business groups are raising the volume: calling for the scrapping of penalty rates, slashing minimum wage, cutting important services and numerous other changes that would change the Australian way of life.

Do you want your government to only listen to big business? Or do you want your government to hear what’s important to you?

Take a minute to send your MP a message. A message that says you want to keep the Australian way of life. That means fair wages for fair work, equal rights whether you’re a builder, a nurse, a teacher, a banker, an engineer or a plumber. It means when you give up time with your family on weekends, at nights or on public holidays you get fair compensation. You can use our form email on the right, or even better, use the tool to write your own!

Some points you may want to mention in your email:
  • Protect essential services and jobs from big business’s government razor gang.
  • Ensure the rights of all workers to be the treated the same by rejecting a secret body into the building and construction industry.
  • Respect the role of unions as member-led organisations and understand they are not corporations with bottomless pockets.
  • Maintain the independence of the Fair Work Commission as Australia’s industrial umpire.
  • Support Australian industries and jobs.
  • Ensure all people can retire from work in dignity with a fair superannuation where low income earners are helped by the wealthy - not the other way around.
  • Ensure that the minimum wage is fair pay for a fair day’s work.
  • Protect our way of life by guaranteeing people are compensated for giving up weekends, nights or holidays with decent rates of pay.
  • Deliver on equitable schools and childcare funding to give all kids a good start to their lives.
Send Your Message

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

United Voice: Honour Childcare Agreements

Honour all funding commitments made by the federal government to deliver wage increases to early childhood educators.

Child care educators do an important job educating and caring for our youngest Australians. It’s a job that requires expertise and talent. Yet, we're paid very poorly. So poorly, in fact, that many of us have left the job we love just to make enough money to provide for our family.

Early this year the Federal Government offered funding to child care centres so that they could increase wages without increasing fees for parents. We all hoped this two year pilot program would stop talented educators from leaving the sector and set a benchmark for increased wages in the long term.

Before the election Tony Abbott said they would honour all funds that had been committed.  Since the election he back-flipped. First, they held an inquiry. They've had the Inquiry report for five weeks now. Second, in Parliament he said signed contracts would be honoured.

Now they have announced only a very small proportion of the funding will be delivered and they even demanded we give that back.

For Tony Abbott to keep his promise that committed funds will be honoured he has to deliver all of the committed funds. Christmas is just weeks away. Thousands of us educators deserve to get the pay rise we were promised.

Truss Hockey and Abbott to Manufacture Unemployment

In parliament today Tanya Plibersek accused the government of getting "exactly what it wanted" and bullying Holden out of Australia.

Ms Plibersek referred to the letter sent by Mr Truss on Tuesday to Mr Devereux, in which the Acting Prime Minister urged Holden to "immediately" clarify its intentions.

The letter was "designed for political consumption rather than being a genuine effort to communicate," Ms Plibersek said.

"Hasn't the government got exactly what it wanted and won't Australia's workers pay for their failure?" she added.

The AMWU is calling on all union members and the Australian public to sign an online petition demanding that Prime Minister Abbott and Industry Minister Macfarlane act now to save our car industry.

The petition has been launched via the Make Australia campaign site and with the assistance of change.org.

The Coalition Government continues to refuse to provide the car industry certainty over co-investment funding meaning Holden is unable to commit to manufacturing here in the future.

Should Holden leave, Toyota would certainly follow which would then see the collapse of hundreds of auto component makers.

The domino affect across the industry could result in tens of thousands of jobs being lost and a massive $21.5 billion hole in our economy.

The AMWU is calling on the Coalition to stop playing politics with so many people’s livelihoods and a sector of enormous importance to Australia’s manufacturing capability and future.

“The current state of play is as serious as it gets,” said AMWU National Secretary, Paul Bastian.

“Holden have repeatedly warned that they will go unless the Government provides assurance on co-investment funding”

“In return, Holden will invest $1 billion in capital expenditure and continue to make cars here at least until 2022.”

“Toyota too need assurances about the Government’s willingness to back future car plans. They have made clear that if Holden goes or if there is no assurance from Government they would find it very difficult to continue to manufacture here.”

“This is not a political play thing. It’s about real people, real jobs and whole communities,” said Mr. Bastian

Every member is urged to go to www.makeaustralia.org.au and follow the links to the petition where they can sign it online.

NSWTF: Homework for Mr. Pyne

A teacher usually has a finely-tuned antenna when it comes to spotting kids who are telling fibs or making up stories as to why their homework was not done. A teacher can easily identify a student who has not been studying, and can quickly recognise plagiarism. These are skills learned on the job.

I suspect there is much twitching of antennae among teachers whenever the Federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, speaks. Little wonder that some commentators have started calling him ‘Pyne-occhio’.

When the Gonski Review into schools funding was released on February 20, 2012, Christopher Pyne, then Shadow Minister, within minutes of the release, rejected the 319 page report, rejected all 41 Recommendations and rejected all 26 Findings.

And so, we fast forward to the present. The debacle of the last few days, which has seen the Federal Coalition position on Gonski change every few hours, has only exacerbated suspicions that Christopher Pyne has not completed his homework and actually read the Gonski Review into Schools Funding.

The Gonski Review found that: “Above all, the additional investment needed to implement a schooling resource standard is necessary because, without it, the high cost of poor educational outcomes will become an even greater drag on Australia’s social and economic development in the future. The need for the additional expenditure and the application of what those funds can do is urgent. Australia will only slip further behind unless, as a nation, we act and act now.”

But two years later, we have a Federal Government that will not act on Gonski.

A fairer funding system is more than an abstract concept for the students who it aims to benefit. For these children fairer funding of schools means a fairer world. A fairer world means greater opportunities in life such as a higher earning capacity, improved health outcomes, longer life expectancy and better housing. For the most disadvantaged, it means the opportunity to break out of poverty.

The PISA* 2012 results were released on December 4th and reinforce the central call of the Funding Review that the nation must act.

The PISA results indicate that there are unacceptable achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds. In some cases, this gap can be as high as two to three years of schooling. By international standards, the gap is particularly high, making Australia a country that can longer boast that it is the “land of the fair go”.

The PISA report states: “Fairness in resource allocation is not only important for equity in education, but it is also related to the performance of the school system as a whole.”

There are quite significant gaps in student achievement associated with socio-economic status (SES), gender, sector, Indigenous status and geographic location. On raw scores, independent schools outperformed Catholic schools and they outperformed government schools. But when the SES backgrounds of students were taken into account, there were no significant differences across the sectors. This inequality of opportunity is exactly what the Gonski needsbased funding model is attempting to redress.

As mathematics was the main focus of this PISA cycle, it is worth noting that the effect of socio-economic status on student performance in mathematics is greater in Australia than on average across the OECD. This gap is even greater when it comes to Indigenous students. 51 per cent of Indigenous students fail to reach the Level 2 benchmark compared to 18 per cent of non-Indigenous students.

Unsurprisingly, metropolitan students outperformed regional who outperformed remote students.

These findings confirm the importance of ensuring that the architecture of the Gonski model (such as the loadings, indexation, school resource standard, state government co-contribution, and so on) is preserved.

When one considers that the decline in Australia’s PISA scores corresponds with all but one year of the discredited Howard Government SES schools funding model, it is extraordinary that we have a Federal Education Minister who would want to defend it.

Teachers’ antennae have picked up the signals, Mr Pyne. We know what you are up to. You have not done your homework. So, stop turning around and start paying attention. No more excuses, we have heard them all before. Get on with the task you’ve been given. Implement the full six-year Gonski agreement.

Maurie Mulheron, President NSW Teachers Federation

Hockey's Privatisation Rhetoric

Within the course of a week, the man pulling the nation's purse strings moved from promoting the cause of privatisation and foreign investment - with a policy to encourage state government sales of ports, electricity networks and other public assets - to blocking an American purchase of GrainCorp, arguing it was not in the national interest.

It seems the inherent contradictions were lost on the Treasurer, with political expediency and public pressure drivers of his decision-making rather than informed, fact-based analysis.

At the same time, our privatised national aviation carrier, Qantas, has not only called for urgent political assistance as it struggles to compete with state-owned overseas airlines, it has announced the axing of 1000 jobs.

Neither Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who indicated a willingness to examine measures such as the government buying back a stake to ensure Qantas remained an "Australian icon", nor Mr Hockey, who said such action could come at a cost to taxpayers, seemed in the slightest bit phased by this latest example of the failures of past Australian privatisations.

Instead, Mr Hockey will push ahead with his plan at the Council of Australian Governments meeting later this month. His pitch - primarily aimed at NSW and Queensland where the public power networks and some generators have been retained - is that if the community wants investment in productivity-raising infrastructure projects, it must accept the offloading of profit-making public assets to fund it.

While much has been made of the carrot - federal government tax incentives that will offset part of the lost income by redirecting corporate tax to the states - this money will cover barely a quarter of the lost income.

Data from the NSW Auditor-General reveals that total government revenue from the electricity network from dividends, tax equivalents and interest totalled $2.5 billion last financial year. Under Mr Hockey's plan that state would get just $700 million, a net loss of almost $2 billion a year.

Far from being a burden on the public, electricity network businesses have been consistently profitable, providing a substantial ongoing windfall to states such as NSW that have retained ownership of them. While there have been some fluctuations, the relative profitability of energy generator and network businesses has increased steadily across the country.

More from Newcastle Herald

"Free Trade" Negotiations Exposed

Last month one of the draft treaty's 29 chapters, on intellectual property, was published by WikiLeaks.
This week one country's detailed description of the state of negotiations was leaked. So we know a fair bit about what we're not supposed to know. And what we know isn't terribly reassuring.

What I know about the US government's approach to trade agreements - which doesn't seem to have changed since the deceptively named free-trade agreement we made with it in 2004 - is that its primary objective is to make the world a kinder, safer place for America's chief export, intellectual property; patents, copyright and trademarks, in the form of pharmaceuticals, films, books, software, music and much else.

To this end, the length of copyright would be extended beyond the 70 years to which it has already been extended, and copyright infringement would be made a criminal offence. It would be made easier for pharmaceutical companies to artificially extend the life of their patents and frustrate the activities of others wishing to produce generic versions.

It is clear this would greatly benefit America's big entertainment, software and drug companies.
What's equally clear is that it has no economic justification, being simple ''rent-seeking''; government intervention in markets to enhance the profits of particular companies.

Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox would be a prime beneficiary.

Since Australia is a net importer of intellectual property, our government ought to be in no doubt the Americans' demands are contrary to our economic interests.

The leaks reveal many dubious demands by the US, but none more so than its promotion of ''investor-state dispute settlement'' provisions, which would allow foreign companies to pursue legal actions against our government in foreign tribunals if, for example, it were to introduce policies they considered contrary to their interests.

This would give foreign companies an advantage local companies didn't have. The Productivity Commission found such provisions offered few benefits, but considerable policy and financials risks. The former Labor government had a blanket ban on agreeing to such clauses, but Robb's approach is more flexible.

Why would any country agree to such unreasonable demands? Because, in exchange, the Americans are holding out the promise of greatly enhanced access to their markets - in our case, for sugar and beef.
So what we're not supposed to know is that, if the rest of us get sold out, it will all be in aid of Australian farmers. The trouble with running the economy to benefit business is you end up harming some to help others.

Read more from Ross Gittings SMH

Blue Mountains Digital Connectivity Concerns Presented to Turnbull

Mountains groups concerned about business growth and the digital future met with Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month.

Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise (BMEE) and the Blue Mountains Connected Communities Group (BMCCG) placed the digital connectivity needs of the Blue Mountains high on the national agenda during the face to face  meeting with the minister.

BMEE chairman Donald Luscombe said it was a chance to confirm the need for “reliable, high-speed broadband ... to assist the Blue Mountains increase its competitiveness across a range of industry sectors”.

“It was a great opportunity to deliver the message to the minister, that digital connectivity is one of the most critical infrastructure requirements for the Blue Mountains,” he said. “We must take a ‘smart city’ approach.”

The delegation presented local case studies showing how the current digital infrastructure in the region presents significant challenges to business and economic development. Those constraints included the increasing failure of the existing copper line network, increasing service outages, significant delays in connectivity for new connections and no competition in relation to service providers. A map was used to illustrate that many towns throughout the Blue Mountains have no ADSL 2 ports available.

“A consistent, high speed service is required that will perform within the Blue Mountains topographic and climatic constraints,” said BMCCG chairman, Hereward Dundas-Taylor. “Many line-of-sight wireless and cloud and fog-affected satellites are not suitable propositions.”

Katoomba: TWU Rally

Monday, December 09, 2013

NSW: Postal Service Downgrade

Communication Workers Union (CWU) officials have “grave concerns” that relocating Australia Post’s mail sorting services from Bathurst to Sydney will result in job losses and delivery delays.
In an effort to save costs, Australia Post is considering whether it will transfer sorting services from the Central West Mail Centre in Kelso to a larger metropolitan facility.

An Australia Post spokeswoman has confirmed the proposal was on the table, however, she said consultations were still in the early stages.

The Central West Mail Centre services communities from Lithgow to Broken Hill and from Lightning Ridge to Grenfell, including Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Dubbo, Parkes and Mudgee.

If proposed changes to mail distribution centres in regional NSW go ahead, the CWU fears there would be a dire effect on the region’s next-day mail service.

CWU assistant national secretary Martin O’Nea said a reduction in the overall number of jobs was also likely as the business looked to automate more of its services.

“From the information I’ve received, there’s a proposal on the table that would see letters currently sorted at the Bathurst mail centre sent to Sydney to be sorted,” Mr O’Nea said. “If the proposal was to succeed, there would most likely be changes to the region’s next-day mail service.

“Let me be clear – the national office of this union will not ... support the removal of any existing services, especially in regional Australia.”

Mr O’Nea said the union felt Australia Post had “lost its way” in a number of key areas, but was dedicated to helping Australia Post get back on track.

Korea Sell-Out Now A State Secret !

The government has refused the Senate access to the secret text of the trade deal it is negotiating in Singapore, saying it will only be made public after it has been signed.

As the final round of ministerial talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership resumed on Sunday, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote to each of the 12 participating nations warning that the deal and the secrecy surrounding it presented ''grave risks''.

Australia's delegate, Trade Minister Andrew Robb, has told Fairfax Media he is prepared to agree to so-called ''investor-state dispute settlement provisions'' in return for access to markets including those of the US, Japan and Canada.

The provisions, rejected by the previous Labor government, allow foreign corporations to sue sovereign governments.Tobacco company Philip Morris is suing the Australian government over its plain-packaging legislation using the ISDS provisions of an obscure Hong Kong investment treaty. The company is pursuing the suit even though it lost in the Australian High Court.

Mr Robb agreed to ISDS provisions in order to clinch the South Korea-Australia free trade agreement announced last week but with what he said were ''carve-outs'' in ''areas such as public welfare, health and the environment''.

An observer at the talks, Patricia Ranald, of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said the US was resorting to setting up so-called ''green rooms'' in which small groups of ministers tried to reach agreements that they then presented to the larger group.
''In some cases, it is who the US feels will agree with them,'' she said.

A leaked draft of the intellectual property chapter published by WikiLeaks and Fairfax Media shows the US attempting to extend patent terms, weaken the negotiating power of member countries dealing with pharmaceutical companies and to outlaw presently legal behaviour on the internet.

Australia's Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, has written to the president of the Senate refusing a request to table the agreement before it is signed.
''Pre-emptive and unilateral release of such confidential information would damage Australia's standing,'' he writes.

Greens senator Peter Whish Wilson said although it wasn't normal to demand to see a text before it was signed, this deal is so far reaching we fear that once it has been signed it will immediately become political."

"The media machine will crank up and we'll be told it's the best thing that's ever crossed our borders'' he said.

The text of any agreement Australia signs will be tabled for 20 sitting days, during which time the Parliament can vote not ratify it.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Who Killed Norman Brown ?

Vale Nelson Mandela - 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

Australian unions are today mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, a towering figure of the twentieth century and an inspirational figurehead for equality and justice across the globe.

“Today, the world has lost a truly great man whose dignity, humanity and courage is an inspiration to all of us,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“He was a champion to millions around the world and will not be forgotten but will stand as a reminder that wrongs in the world can be overturned though perseverance, and a determination that righteousness should prevail.

“He was a towering figure of Africa's struggle for freedom; a man of peace who became a hero for freedom and equality during his 26 years of imprisonment by the South African apartheid regime.

“His stature only grew in subsequent years when he unified South Africans and led his nation through reconciliation.”

Ms Kearney said Australian unions were immensely proud to have supported Nelson Mandela and the campaign against Apartheid.

“Apartheid in post war South Africa was an immoral denial of basic human rights and democracy,” Ms Kearney said.

“Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for his leadership in bringing apartheid to an end and international unions are proud to have played a part in the fight - giving unstinting support to the ANC and victims of apartheid for decades.

 “The maritime unions in particular played a crucial role by enforcing and organising sanctions against the Apartheid government.

 “Unions quickly recognised that Nelson Mandela was not a terrorist, but a freedom fighter not just for native South Africans, but for all oppressed people around the world. The role played by the Hawke Labor Government in co-ordinating and leading international diplomatic efforts to end Apartheid must also be recognised.”

Nelson Mandela - Melbourne Town Hall - 1990
When Nelson Mandela visited Australia in 1990, soon after his release from Robben Island prison in 1990, the ACTU hosted a welcome for him at the Melbourne Town Hall where he acknowledged and thanked Australian unions for being one of the first groups to give support in overcoming apartheid.

Korea Deal: Abbott Government Signing Away National Rights

06 December, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

A new free trade deal with Korea could see Australian government policy held hostage to the interests of foreign corporations, the ACTU warned today.

The deal signed by the Federal Government includes a provision allowing Korean firms to sue Australia if their business interests are potentially jeopardised.

It also gives a boost to the Korean car market at the same time as the Government is refusing to step in and ensure the future viability of our own car manufacturing future.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said, “This deal will see cheaper Korean vehicles being sold in Australia while our own industry sufferers and the Government refuses to step in a save it.”

“Being ‘open for business’ should be a two way street that includes protecting our own industries not just making life easier for overseas companies.”

“This deal will see important decisions around corporate tax increases or industry regulation made not in the national interest but in the interests of overseas companies.

“Healthy trade relationships are critical to our economic wellbeing,” said Ms Kearney.

“But the provision allowing Korean firms to take legal action against the Australian government over possible impacts on their business activities is an alarming trade off.

“Australian governments must be free to make decisions about the economy and industry activity without the threat of being sued by overseas firms.

“We need governments with the backbone to stand up to corporate interests to make sure Australians get the jobs and economic return we deserve – not governments held hostage to the profits of overseas investors.

“This is a dangerous development and we call on Cabinet to stand firm and reject the agreement."

Corporate Culture: Joyce and the Qantas Debacle

Will the boy wonder of cheap flights in Ireland kill off Qantas? Alan Joyce, chosen by Dixson to replace him after a failed attempt to sell off the national carrier, has shown a special attraction to a tough management style, attacking Qantas workers and their unions.

He was the brains behind the grounding of the airline in his attempt to bypass normal negotiations with the unions. This action backfired by allowing competing airlines to make money and costing Qantas a proportion of its loyal customers, thousands of whom were stranded and shocked by the company's disregard for their travel plans.

But for the first time it faces an operating loss in the six months to the end of December. Qantas is solvent, but bleeding at the rate of up to $300 million a half year - and these losses could deepen. And now Qantas stock has reached a record junk stock status. Joyce's answer is to slash jobs and revisit Dixon's idea of selling the company.

Despite the rhetoric, times in the airline industry have been far tougher than they are today.

Statistics show that even in the face of a retail confidence rout we are still spending plenty on travel and holidays.

But the emergence of a fierce and well-funded competitor in Virgin has knocked Qantas about and exposed the strategic mistakes of the dominant carrier, which was determined to hold 65 per cent share of the local market.

In trying to do so, it ended up adding more capacity into the local market, running flights that in too many cases were only two-thirds full. It was outfoxed by Virgin.

Any rescue for the carrier will come with its fair share of pain and dislocation. More than 1000 workers will lose their jobs, costs will be slashed and local maintenance facilities closed.

Joyce is still praising his "brilliant board"and his own leadership as the Stock Market is closing down Qantas shares.

And where was Leigh Clifford of Qantas Chairman last night? Invited to the HR Nicholls Society annual dinner as a warm up speaker where surprised no-one by advocating the crippling of unions

"We need to reform the Fair Work Act, he intoned complaining that it was "preventing companies from achieving productivity improvements." How will closing Qantas and sacking workers improve productivity, or has the neo liberal form of political economy reached the stage where it would rather shut down a company rather than negotiate with an organised workforce?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

ASU: Boroondara Work Bans

ASU members at the City of Boroondara have intensified work bans across the Council, introducing a further 28 forms of industrial action from Wednesday, December 4, as enterprise bargaining negotiations continue to break down.

Bans will include the refusal to issue infringement notices in green zones, loading zones, permit signs and car parks, while also putting a stop on decision making for all applications (including permit applications) and a ban on checking and actioning emails from 12pm each day.

ASU Organiser David Nunns said the three-year wage offer to staff is significantly less than what is provided for in the 2013/2014 Council budget.

“Staff at the Council are fed up with management and their incapacity to negotiate in good faith. That frustration has led to a growing list of bans that will continue until a resolution is reached. The ASU is eager to get back to the negotiating table to ensure a fair and equable offer is put forward for the hard-working staff at the Council."

“Management’s current offer does nothing to resolve the wage parity/wage inequality issues between departments. In fact, the proposal actually increases the differential between identical classifications between departments, which is something that is creating a lot of angst among employees.”

“Employees have already shown their disapproval in the proposed Boroondara Corporate Support Services Agreement with a large majority of staff voting down the offer.”

“Apart from the unfair wage offer, management’s Family Violence Clause is also sub-standard, especially when compared to the agreements in place with other councils across the state. A fair Family Violence Clause provides support and leave for people experiencing serious issues, and prevents individuals losing their jobs with valuable time away when it is needed most.”

“We hope management want to begin a process of negotiating fairly, but until that time bans will continue across the council.”

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Vic: Grocon - Wall of Death Safety Concerns

Construction giant Grocon faces stinging criticism for obstructing investigations into the collapse of a brick wall in Swanston Street that killed three young pedestrians in March.

Fairfax Media understands the coroner is expected to raise the company's failure to provide information on key aspects of the inquiry at a public hearing on Wednesday morning.

Well-placed legal sources expect Grocon to be given a deadline to provide evidence sought by authorities, Victoria Police and WorkSafe.

The wall, which had a hoarding bolted to it advertising Grocon's Swanston Square apartments, collapsed amid 100 km/h-plus winds.

Engineering and architectural experts believe the hoarding may have acted like a sail or parachute, potentially contributing to the wall's collapse when the wind struck.The wall fell onto Bridget Jones and her brother Alexander, and Monash University academic Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo, killing all three.

Sources close to the investigations have confirmed growing frustration about Grocon's obstructive attitude.

''WorkSafe say they're doing their best but Grocon are lawyered up and are being totally unco-operative,'' said a legal source.

The wall was the boundary fence of the vacant former CUB Brewery site owned by Grocon and now being developed as an apartment and retail complex.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Public Schools At Risk From Pyne Acrobatics

A  meeting of state and territory education ministers heard how Christopher Pyne’s restructure of federal funding to education would see much needed funding for public schools put at risk.

The overwhelming majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds attend public schools. These schools would have seen extra funds under the original Gonski funding model. Now it would seem these schools will lose out.

”We already knew that Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne were trying to tear up Gonski, but today’s revelations go well beyond our worst fears – we’ve now learned this broken promise would be borne by public schools alone,” said Australian Education Union President Angelo Gavrielatos.

The states and territory that had signed on for the Gonski funding have continued to condemn the announcement by Education Minister, Pyne.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said following the announcement, "The matter of trust is not just a matter of trust between governments, but surely it's a matter of trust amongst parents across Australia and the commitments the coalition have made prior to the election."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Qld: Government Puts Safety Last !

The ACTU calls on the Queensland Government to put the safety of workers first, not the money-making interests of their business mates.

The Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (QLD) – which will be considered by Safe Work Australia on Friday – calls for national laws that require unions to give 24 hours’ notice before entering a site and to remove the right of health and safety reps to call a cease work due to safety concerns.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said, “What the Queensland Government seeks to do by removing the rights of trained workplace representatives is put all the onus on workers to identify, negotiate and resolve safety issues on their own. Not only is this unfair for workers but it’s dismantling a system that protects millions of people.”

“The Queensland Government will certainly make life easier for any business who wants to cut corners at the expense of workplace safety.

“All this will do is put workers at risk.”

“Expecting workers to individually speak up about their safety concerns will ultimately mean that many will not speak up or could lose their job if they do. Some workers won’t be willing or able to put their hands up and complain, especially if they are in casual work.”

“Furthermore workers don’t always have the necessary training to identify any danger and even if they do, approaching employers about the issue requires negotiation and dispute resolution.”

Mr Borowick said forcing unions to give 24 hours’ notice before visiting a workplace where suspected safety breeches are occurring would take pressure off employers to ensure workplaces are always safe.

“It defies logic that anyone serious about health and safety could accept that the giving of notice is a good idea. The surprise element of safety inspections keep employers alert and motivated to do the right thing.”

He also said the bid by the Queensland Government to remove the right of safety officers to call for a “cease work” due to safety confirmed they were only interested in protecting the interests of business.

“These changes will not help workers, particularly those in dangerous industries like construction and manufacturing, because it dismantles safety structures and tells workers to look out for themselves.”

“If the Queensland Government really has a problem with the laws they should wait for the national OHS law review in 2016, not respond with knee-jerk laws to make their business mates happy.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Private School Cabinet -- Gonski Triple Backflip

Political uproar over Gonski backflip

By NSW Teachers Federation 27 November 2013

The announcement by federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, that the coalition was abandoning its commitment to implement the Gonski reforms, has produced a political backlash from principals, teachers, parents and state governments.

In the lead up to the election, Tony Abbott claimed to be on a “unity ticket” with Labor on school funding. Christopher Pyne pledged that every school would receive the same amount of funding under the Coalition as under Labor. He has repeatedly stated that he will retain the same “funding envelope” as Labor suggesting that the money in  the existing commitments may be retargeted to states that failed to sign up for Gonski or even to less disadvantaged private schools.

Australian Education Union President Angelo Gavrielatos stated 'It's critical that state and territory Education Ministers hold the Prime Minister to his Gonski promise...Tony Abbott's election promise means Gonski funding certainty over at least four year.

'Schools need certainty to plan for how Gonski funds can be invested in their schools to give extra support to the kids who need it most."

The Liberal/National NSW Government has been ferocious in its criticism of the announcement by Education Minister, Pyne saying, "This issue has been escalated because of the poor way in which it has been handled and that is not acceptable when we are talking about the education of future generations of Australians."  Other state leaders have also attacked the announcement.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Abbott's attacks on older workers

22 November, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

The ACTU rejected a recommendation by the Federal Government’s top policy agency to lift the retirement age to 70, as out of touch with the reality of life for Australian workers.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the proposal by the Productivity Commission ignores the reality that while life expectancy may have risen, the ability of Australians to work in physically demanding jobs or maintain secure employment hasn’t risen with it.

“If the Government wants to reduce budget pressures as the population ages, it should strengthen the superannuation system rather than raise the pension age,” Ms Kearney said.

“A strong superannuation system lets ordinary workers retire with security and quality of life and takes pressure off the pension system.

“The Government should reduce the superannuation tax concessions that disproportionately benefit high income earners and move as quickly as possible to compulsory 12 per cent superannuation contributions to ensure that ordinary workers can afford a decent standard of living in retirement.

“We know many older workers struggle to get full-time secure work and making them wait until 70 to get their pension and superannuation could leave them in limbo for years.

“How can construction workers be expected to haul concrete around a work site or a childcare worker keep up with a room full of kids until they’re 70?

“Lifting the retirement age is a quick fix policy response to the complex issue of addressing the needs of our ageing population and ignores the reality for Australian workers.

“We want to see older workers supported to engage and contribute meaningfully with the community and workforce for as long as they chose but a more considered approach by Government is needed here.

“Ensuring workers get access to training throughout their working lives so they have the skills needed for the modern economy is an obvious place to start.”

Ms Kearney said that Australian workers are getting sick of bearing the brunt of every policy decision the Abbott Government makes.

“Mr Abbott said he’d govern for all Australians but so far we’ve only seen him look out for big business,” Ms Kearney said.

“So far the Abbott Government has cut superannuation for low-income earners and put off the increase to 12 per cent superannuation contributions.

“It is a major concern that the Productivity Commission thinks making life harder for older workers is the solution to budget pressures. This is the same organisation that will be reviewing the Fair Work Act and workers have every reason to be alarmed by their approach.”

Politics in the Pub: What's Left? - Sound files

Dr. John Kaye

Amanda Carr

Senator Doug Cameron

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Japan: U.S. Sailor’s Rape Victim Wins Case

NOV 21, 2013

A woman has won a landmark civil judgment against the American serviceman she accuses of raping her near the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 2002.

Catherine Fisher revealed Monday that the Milwaukee County Circuit Court has enforced a Japanese civil judgment for rape against Bloke T. Deans, a former U.S. sailor who now lives in Milwaukee. He was never charged with the crime.

Fisher, an Australian citizen and long-term Japan resident, said the verdict is the first in which a foreign judgment for rape has been enforced in a U.S. court.

“History has been made,” Fisher told The Japan Times. She said the result will make it more difficult for U.S. military personnel to evade justice after committing a crime in Japan. “But it does make me angry that Deans is still free. I think he should be in prison.”

Her lawyer, Chris Hanewicz, who fought the case pro bono, praised Fisher’s “incredible strength and determination.”

“We are very proud to have represented Ms. Fisher in her tireless efforts to finally recognize a judgment to which she has long been entitled.”

Fisher demanded a nominal sum of a single dollar as settlement.

“Anybody who knows me knows it is not about the money,” she explained. “I did this for all the women who have been raped in this country by the U.S. military over the last 70 years.”

The verdict is likely to deepen the controversy surrounding the case. Deans left Japan soon after the rape and never came back. Fisher has always maintained the U.S. military helped him evade justice and that the Japanese government did little to help pursue him.

That claim has apparently been strengthened by a statement submitted by Deans to the court, in which he says a U.S. Navy lawyer told him to leave the country.

“When they — my lawyer came and told me, ‘you are now leaving Japan’ I said, ‘okay,’ ” the statement reads. “I just followed orders. I don’t have no say-so. I’m thinking everything is done.”

Fisher, who in media appearances went under the pseudonym “Jane” for years to protect her privacy, said the revelation helped vindicate her 12-year legal fight, during which she repeatedly crossed swords with U.S. and Japanese officialdom and filed a total of seven court cases.

“When I saw that document, I finally had the truth,” she said. “That was the most important thing for me. Why was he disappearing; why wasn’t anyone questioning him? Officials told me they were helping me, but that was all lies.”

The U.S. military made no immediate comment on the statement.

Deans was given an honorable discharge after the incident and returned to Milwaukee, where he has had a series of tussles with the law. In November 2004, a Tokyo court ordered him to pay ¥3 million after Fisher filed and won a civil suit against him, but there was no jurisdictional authority to force payment.

Later, she received compensation from the Defense Ministry that came out of a fund for civilian victims of crimes by U.S. military personnel. She sued the Kanagawa Prefectural Police for what she described as their incompetent investigation into her rape but lost in December 2007. She appealed the decision.

Fisher tracked Deans down to his U.S. address and began a legal battle there. She said the fight had left her mentally, physically and financially “depleted.”

“My son was in elementary school when this started,” she said. “Now he is 18. I’ve not been able to pay for things for him, pay for Christmas presents, the normal things that kids have.”

At several stages, Fisher said, Japanese plainclothes officers followed her when she appeared in public.

Her treatment highlights profound problems with how the U.S. and Japanese authorities handle such cases, she said.

“A U.S. serviceman, here to serve and protect civilians, raped me. I was then denied criminal court action by the Japanese government. Nobody would help me.”


Katoomba: 23 Nov. Politics in the Pub: WHAT'S LEFT ?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Doug Cameron on Free Trade Agreement

The free traders are at it again! Tony Abbott has declared that the Coalition want to conclude "free trade" talks with China within 12 months and that Australia would sign up for "whatever we can get".

History has shown that the benefits of so-called "free trade" agreements are massively exaggerated by governments and their economic advisers and the negative consequences are minimised and/or ignored.

Modelling will be rolled out claiming massive economic benefits as a result of "dynamic gains".

As Prof John Quiggin has said, these gains are based on unrealistic assumptions and have no real supporting evidence.

It has always concerned me that good, well-paid jobs can be sacrificed on the altar of "free trade" with Australian workers having to compete with workers who are exploited, have no access to core labour standards and little access to health and safety provisions at work.

In addition many overseas countries provide tax breaks and incentives to multinational companies while providing an unfair advantage due to poor environmental legislation and standards.

In the case of the US in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) they demand stronger patents on medicines which would delay cheaper generic medicines and mean higher prices for medicines, and less regulation of prices through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

Negotiations by the Abbott government for bilateral or multilateral agreements should meet the following standards:
  • Text for proposed agreements should be publicly available so that informed public debate can take place on proposed agreements.
  • Investor/state dispute procedures should be rejected if they have the capacity to enforce outcomes that diminish Australia's capacity to legislate for health, education, and infrastructure investment in the national interest.
  • No extension of patents on medicines  and no changes to the PBS which would mean higher prices for medicines
  • Australia's capacity to protect its environment should be maintained
  • Independent social impact assessments should be made of any proposed free trade agreements.
  • Economic claims of benefits should be subject to independent scrutiny.
  • The issue of core labour standards and worker exploitation must be addressed in any agreement.
  • The "benefits" of trade agreements must be clear and unequivocal and, in the national interest.
  • Any proposed agreement must be subject to parliamentary inquiries and open debate in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Qld: Newman Government Offshores Rail Jobs

The AMWU has condemned the Queensland Government for sending potential local jobs offshore after they ordered a new train fleet to be manufactured in Germany.

AMWU State Secretary Rohan Webb said the move to build 75 six-car trains offshore by German-based consortium for the Queensland Rail Network in 2015 is openly shunning Queensland manufacturing.

“Queensland has the Downer EDI, a functioning facility in Maryborough, capable of such a project. So why send potential local jobs offshore – when we have the capacity to complete them on home soil?

“Downer EDI at Maryborough has taken a beating in recent years after rail projects have gone overseas and was forced to withdraw from the tender process for this project because of the financial penalties throughout the contract.

“This could have been a chance to revitalise the local economy of Maryborough.

“If the government was prepared to offer some flexibility rather than the tough penalties in the contract, Downer EDI could have been a contender and keep jobs and economic stimulation in the local area,” Mr Webb said.

“It is a crying shame Downer was forced into this position and Mr Newman has openly acknowledged he is excluding local manufacturing - it is astounding.

“The rail manufacturing industry in Maryborough contributes to 30% of this regions’ economy and has provided employment and training opportunities for over three decades.

“By openly admitting Queensland doesn’t get a look in for this project is a kick in the teeth, especially when there is a need for projects such as these.

“There is no vision from the Government about the future of manufacturing, no policy or agenda for the industry in Queensland and it is extremely disappointing.

“This isn’t the first time the Queensland manufacturing industry has been shunned by its own government; it was also snubbed by the Newman’s four pillars.

“These include; tourism, agriculture, construction and resources but completely overlooked manufacturing.

“Manufacturing is the lifeblood of many local communities the Government needs to acknowledge this.”

ATO Faces Jobs Axe

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is planning to shed up to 900 jobs before the end of the financial year, blaming a range of factors including the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood blames the Federal Government for the cuts.

"This is a massive blow for tax staff who are already stretched after previous cuts, what it will mean is significant delays in customers and small businesses who rely heavily on the tax office for advice," she said.

"There's no way around that.

"The tax office has clearly said these cuts come as a result of Government policy, including efficiency dividends, the planned reduction of thousands of jobs and the recruitment freeze - what we're seeing is the impact of Coalition policies."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fukushima and UK Coverup Attempts

British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and before the extent of the radiation leak was known.

 Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.

"This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally," wrote one official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), whose name has been redacted. "We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear."

Officials stressed the importance of preventing the incident from undermining public support for nuclear power.

The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who sits on the Commons environmental audit committee, condemned the extent of co-ordination between the government and nuclear companies that the emails appear to reveal. "The government has no business doing PR for the industry and it would be appalling if its departments have played down the impact of Fukushima," he said.

Louise Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the emails looked like "scandalous collusion". "This highlights the government's blind obsession with nuclear power and shows neither they, nor the industry, can be trusted when it comes to nuclear," she said.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Free Trade Secrets: Negotiating Away Independence

Secretive TPP Negotiations Move Further Underground in Salt Lake City

As negotiations tasked with pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to conclusion gets underway in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network condemned worsening opportunities for public participation in an already opaque process.

“What was supposedly the last major round of TPP negotiations took place in Brunei in late August.  That round, and the 18 rounds before it, all contained formal opportunities for civil society and the public to register as stakeholders and interact with negotiators.  The Salt Lake City Round contains no official stakeholder process,” said Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

“While the TPP negotiations have long been marred by secrecy about the details of the text, this is the first major round of talks without any formal opportunity for civil society to present their views to negotiators,” said Dr Ranald.  

“We know from the TPP text leaked last week that the proposals being discussed in Salt Lake City could change Australian laws and prevent current and future governments from regulating in the public interest in areas like medicines and copyright.  We know that corporations are advising negotiators on these matters, but other civil society voices have now been excluded," said Dr Ranald.

Negotiations for ten separate chapters are expected to take place, including environment, intellectual property, investment, labour, legal issues, market access for goods, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, state-owned enterprises, technical barriers to trade and temporary entry of persons.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sydney Climate Change Demo

Sonnet 7: Demo

Ten thousand had, today in Sydney,
enough sense to stand in the rain
and twirl umbrellas, not stay hid. We
rallied, one link in a chain
of rallies all around Australia
crying out against the failure
of governments who play the role
of sycophants to Old King Coal.
Ten thousand stood with rain god Hughie,
sixty thousand nationwide
who’ll vote, divest, protest, decide
to use renewables, get more cluey.
There’s climate change, heat’s on the rise.
It’s time to change, to organise.

[Courtesy Jonathon Shaw]

Fire Fighters at the Rallies

Organisers say about 60,000 people participated in Sunday's mass rallies, at which emergency workers played a significant role in warning about the dangers of unchecked global warming.

In Brisbane, where an estimated 4000 people came together, firefighter Dean McNulty spoke of the huge concern climate change posed to his colleagues, who battle natural disasters from the front line.

Mr McNulty said scientists were clear that global warming would make extreme weather events more frequent and severe.
"To firefighters, it is not just numbers and statistics, it is very real," the United Firefighters Union (UFU) representative told AAP.

Before 30,000 people in Melbourne, Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt evoked the memory of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, while firefighters spoke of their fears of increasingly hotter days.
"There is no sceptic at the end of a fire hose," UFU secretary Peter Marshall told the Melbourne rally.

AMWU: Australian Manufacturing ...

Wake-up call as skilled workers feel squeeze 

By TIM AYRES Nov. 17, 2013, 9:44 p.m.

LAST week's news of at least another 43 workers retrenched from UGL's rail yards in Broadmeadow should be the wake-up call for the O'Farrell government to get serious about local manufacturing jobs.

These cuts were hardly a surprise. The industry has seen hundreds of skilled jobs lost over the last few months and we have been warning of a looming jobs crisis for two years.

Across the country manufacturing has been through the wringer of a high Aussie dollar, increased competition from overseas, and an uneven playing field in global trade.

But for Hunter workers the squeeze could have been largely alleviated by Macquarie Street.

In the case of passenger trains, the O'Farrell government has put off replacing the ageing silver "S" train sets beyond their initial life expectancy and delayed the refurbishment of the Tangara carriages. Bringing forward work on these trains could have prevented further job losses.

The government showed the same complacency when it decided to send key bus building contracts interstate, forcing coach builder Volgren to slash jobs from its Tomago plant. Similar cuts have been felt in Western Sydney.

Importantly the huge boost for local jobs from major rail projects - such as the north-west and south-west rail links - has gone unrealised because of the government failing to engage local industry.

The North West Rail Link will use more steel than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but there has been no commitment to using Australian fabricated metal. It will also need new rolling stock yet industry fears trains will be sourced from overseas.

Last week the government made much of plans to extend Sydney's light rail network but those plans include importing trams from Spain. While the project will be a boon for Sydney commuters, apprentices in Europe not Newcastle will benefit from the jobs created.

Every example of government inaction is costing manufacturing jobs, and with much of that industry in the Hunter, workers there are hurting the most.

Some will say we should accept the decline of manufacturing, happy with Australia putting all its eggs in the resources boom basket.

However, this ignores the cyclical element of the commodity boom.

And the fact that manufacturing drives innovation and technological change; key factors in our productivity performance allowing us to achieve competitive advantage in global markets and supply chains.

Manufacturing creates high-skill, high-wage jobs; within the manufacturing sector but also across the economy, particularly in services that add value to products and processes.

It may be cheaper for the government to import cheaper product from overseas but price alone on major contracts is a false economy for taxpayers, particularly when it puts skilled locals out of work.

Government spending should boost, not undermine, our own industry capability.

Tim Ayres is Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary.

Friday, November 15, 2013

21st Century Federal Front Bench - Liberal Men's Club

Corporate Culture: For Maurice Newman "Only the Poor are Too Rich !"

People like Maurice Newman exert their power covertly, through networking and influence. They prefer to operate that way, to stay under the radar, and present an opaque, non-threatening personality to the general public.

But occasionally, just occasionally, they pop up into public view and give us a taste of what they really think.

Newman – a member of Australia’s business elite stratosphere who made his millions as a stockbroker and investment banker – did just that on Monday night this week, delivering a wide-ranging critique of the recently-departed Labor Government in a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

Newman’s surprisingly frank contempt for the structures that make up our system of workplace rights and protections that has earned him the title of the inaugural member of the Working Life Hall of Shame.

“While any discussion in Australia about industrial relations evokes screams of outrage and spectres of WorkChoices, we cannot hide the fact that Australian wage rates are very high by international standards and that our system is dogged by rigidities,” Newman is reported to have said.

What is so concerning about Maurice Newman’s comments is that they must represent a widely-held view in the new government that minimum wages are too high and must be cut.

He went onto note that Australia’s minimum wage – which in July rose to $16.37 an hour or $622.20 a week – was far higher than that in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

“When we’re $US33,500 and the US itself is only $15,080 you can see there’s an enormous disparity,” he said.

He also questioned why business pays workers’ compensation and superannuation, and why employees get paid sick and holiday leave.

For good measure, he also called for a review of the funding commitments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and to the better schools program (the ‘Gonski reforms’).

As we have noted many times before, a decent minimum wage is a sign of a civilised society. Australia was a world pacesetter in establishing a living wage at the beginning of last century, and it has always been one of the hallmarks of the fair and egalitarian society we have had since that we support a relatively high minimum wage. It is what distinguishes Australia from much of the rest of the world.

A decent minimum wage is one of the bulwarks that prevents Australia developing a large underclass of working poor, which now so dominates the United States. And it is credited as helping to sustain our economy during the slowdown caused by the Global Financial Crisis, when other nations with a lower minimum wage sunk into recession.

A surprising critic of Newman’s views emerged yesterday in Professor Ian Harper, former head of the WorkChoices-era Fair Pay Commission.

“When it comes to the competitiveness of the Australian economy, really the minimum wage is not a big deal. Very few Australians are paid the absolute minimum wage,” Harper told the ABC.

“And even if you think about the minimum classification wages, very few Australians are paid that as well. Most Australians who earn wages are paid wages that are negotiated as part of enterprise bargaining agreements, and they’re above the absolute minimum.”

What is so concerning about Maurice Newman’s comments is that they must represent a widely-held view in the new government that wages, especially the minimum wage, are too high and must be cut. Just as many Liberal MPs share the view of the business community that penalty rates must be cut or abolished.

Newman is also a known climate change sceptic, and his fingerprints can be seen all over that Coalition policy too. In his speech on Monday, he came out as an enthusiastic supporter of the so-called ‘direct action’ approach to climate change and said investing in renewable energy was effectively a waste of taxpayers’ money.

With a key review of public spending already outsourced to big business through the Commission of Audit chaired by Tony Shepherd, it looks like the new government will be doing a lot of listening to corporate Australia, and pay scant attention to the rest of us.

Newman’s comments can only be interpreted as an early salvo on a full-scale assault on wages and conditions.

For these reasons and more, Maurice Newman enters the Hall of Shame, a place where we will shine the spotlight on those in business, politics and public policy who by words and by deeds pose the greatest threat to the lives of working people.