Monday, September 30, 2013

Dubbo Hospital: Nurses take emergency action

NSW nurses say six beds in the Dubbo Hospital emergency room will close from this afternoon.

The Nurses and Midwives Association threatened the shut down would stay in place until all nursing vacancies were filled as it announced the "decisive" action yesterday. Members of the association at the hospital had late last week voted to close the beds and ban unreasonable overtime.

The nurses said the six beds - which make up the hospital's Emergency Medical Unit (EMU) and are part of a total complement of 20 in the emergency department (ED) - would be out of action until new staff were recruited to all nursing vacancies and actively working in the ED, or the spots were covered by agency nurses.

The association reported there were nearly nine full-time-equivalent (FTE) nursing vacancies in the ED, which included three on maternity leave it claimed had not been replaced.

Association general secretary Brett Holmes said there were just 32.21 FTE positions trying to do the work of 41.05 FTE.

He said the level of vacancies was completely unacceptable, especially in a key regional ED and accused the health district of irresponsible cost-cutting.

"The Western NSW Local Health District says it has to find $19.5 million in savings, (because) that is apparently what it overspent last financial year," he said.

"That is also unacceptable.

"It is an overemphasis on budgets over patient care and safety."

NSW Govt: Schools in “appalling condition”

26 September 2013 By NSW Teachers Federation

Federation notes Education Minister Piccoli’s comments in today’s Australian newspaper about the poor state of public school buildings and facilities in remote Aboriginal community schools.

Mr Piccoli duly recognises that Aboriginal students and their communities deserve much better than what is currently provided by government.  Mr Piccoli described one school he visited as being in an ‘‘appalling condition’’.

As principals, teachers and parents in many public schools know, however, this problem is not unique to remote Aboriginal communities.

The failure of governments to invest in public school infrastructure is well known and hard felt by public school communities around the state.

The lack of capital works investment in public schools was recognised in the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling. Gonski found that, on average, independent schools spend three times as much and Catholic schools spend twice as much on capital works than is spent on public schools.

It would indeed be a positive achievement if Minister Piccoli were able to convince the NSW Government to match his critique with the money needed to bring all public schools up to a high quality standard befitting an economically prosperous nation like Australia.

Telstra Attack On Workers

26 September, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Telstra decision to sack 1100 staff at a time when it is recording strong profits is an unnecessary attack on its loyal workforce, the ACTU said today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Telstra’s continual shedding of jobs and offshoring of work was hurting Australian workers.

“We do not accept that these redundancies are necessary, and we want an undertaking from Telstra that they will not make further cuts,” Ms Kearney said.

“It is not acceptable for Telstra to continue to restructure and to potentially shift more work overseas at a time when it is slashing its local workforce.

“Since the start of the year Telstra has made more than 2000 staff redundant, including those at its Sensis subsidiary.”

“Telstra has met with the CEPU and CPSU, the unions which cover their workforce, today but has revealed little about the detail of these cuts, or how many jobs will move offshore.”

“This means that thousands of Telstra staff are now in limbo, with no idea if they will lose their jobs.”

“These cuts come at a time when Telstra is recording strong profit growth, of over $3 billion every year for the past five years.”

“We understand that Telstra’s business is changing, but there has been little attempt to make use of redeployment or retraining.”

“Getting rid of highly-skilled and loyal staff from Operations does not make sense when Telstra is struggling to fill jobs in other areas including for large contracts such as Defence."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Unions - No To Sham Contracting !

Unions are urging workers to call the workers’ rights hotline on 1300 486 466 if they have been pressured into contracting arrangements that rob them of entitlements like sick and holiday leave.

A relaxation of rules around independent contracting by the Abbott Government will see more employees exploited under sham contracting arrangements, the ACTU warned today.

Incoming Small Business Minister Bruce Billson is reported saying he will instruct the Australian Tax Office to reverse a crackdown on contracting introduced by Labor.

But regulations around contracting should not be weakened rather tightened further to make sure employees aren’t ripped off and contracting arrangements are genuine, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“Sham contracting is one of the dirty secrets of the modern Australian workplace,” said Ms Kearney.

“Hiring people as contractors when they are really employees robs them of any job security and the conditions Australian workers should be able to expect, like sick leave and holiday leave.

“Employers are able to avoid many legal responsibilities.

“While contracting is appropriate in some industries where services are in demand, it is also rife in industries like hairdressing, cleaning, call centres and textiles – where workers have little choice or bargaining power.

“It’s all very well to encourage self-employment, however where people are effectively working as employees, they deserve all the protections afforded to employees by the law.

“We encourage any worker who is missing out on job security and entitlements because they’ve been pressured into a contracting arrangement to call the Australian Unions hotline on 1300 486 466 for support and advice.”

CFMEU: Melbourne - We Built This City

Saturday, September 21, 2013

CFMEU: Qld mine changes may contain traces of rent-seeking

Queensland’s coal mineworkers should be wary of the Newman Government’s raft of proposed changes to the state’s mine safety legislation given the evidence of lobbying pressure to change regulation in favour of big mining companies, the Miners Union says.

The CFMEU advises members that overall they should be concerned by the Government’s proposals given the attempt to reduce the statutory powers from industry check inspectors – a key inclusion in response to powerful industry lobbying.

Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said the union does not support Minister Cripps assertion that the state’s mining legislation will be improved with the passing of all the proposed changes under the Queensland Mine Safety Framework Regulatory Impact Statement.

“For coal mineworkers the Government’s proposed changes are a mixed bag. The proposal to increase the number of statutory roles is generally supported by the CFMEU,” Mr Smyth said.

“The Union also strongly supports introducing an additional industry check inspector but is strongly opposed to turning them into toothless tigers,” Mr Smyth said.

“The Union is concerned that the inclusion of this proposal is the result of intense industry lobbying from companies that are ideologically opposed to mineworker-elected safety representatives with statutory powers.

“There is no justification for the Government’s proposal to drastically weaken their powers.”

“Furthermore the election of safety reps must be done by those who work at the coal face. This system has been developed over 100 years to ensure that workers themselves have a say in the operation of the safety system covering them.

Mr Smyth said mineworkers should also be deeply concerned by the proposal to weaken the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme.

“Coal mining is a very hazardous industry and workers have fought for and won comprehensive surveillance and monitoring of their workplaces for all health issues, not just those caused by harmful dust and noise. Focusing solely on dust and noise is a major step backwards for this health scheme.

“So overall it’s understandable for mineworkers to be wary of the proposed framework when it proposes to strip away powers of their elected safety rep and provide less monitoring for health risks.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ACTU: Jobs and innovation at risk with scrapping of clean tech funding

18 September, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

The Abbott Government’s plans to scrap industry support associated with carbon pricing would have a direct impact on jobs growth and bring a wave of workplace innovation to reduce energy use and greenhouse emissions to an abrupt halt the ACTU warned today.

Cutting schemes like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Clean Technology Program will be a short-sighted blow to Australian businesses that increasingly must operate in global markets where competitors are adapting to low-emission technologies, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“We urge the government to look beyond short-term political opportunism and consider the challenges ahead for Australian jobs and industry,” said Ms Kearney.

“The world around us is adapting to climate change. It’s no longer a question of whether the world will need clean energy but of whether or not Australia will be part of that.”

The CEFC is already investing in solar energy projects, wind farms and power generation by capturing the emissions from landfill. The renewable energy sector already employs more than 24,000 people across 370 accredited renewable power generators.

Meanwhile businesses ranging from abattoirs to whitegoods manufacturers have benefited from clean tech funding for measures like overhauling heating and cooling systems and capturing excess methane emissions.

“The kind of innovation we will need to compete in a changing global economy, where a multi-trillion dollar clean technology industry has already emerged, won’t simply happen by itself,” said Ms Kearney.

“The carbon pricing scheme introduced last year was very carefully designed to drive that investment and innovation.

“Unions worked closely with the previous government to make sure that at the heart of the carbon pricing scheme was a commitment to jobs – the jobs of today as well as the jobs of tomorrow.

“We are urging the Abbott Government not to simply discard the important work that was done but rather continue investing in innovation.”

A Better Minimum Wage

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Sophie Mirabella has conceded defeat in the hotly-contested poll in the Victorian electorate of Indi.

Mrs Mirabella put out a statement saying she had contacted independent Cathy McGowan to congratulate her on her win.

The count is continuing but Ms McGowan has a lead of 387 votes.

Mrs Mirabella had been expected to be a member of the cabinet but withdrew when the count dragged on.

Ms McGowan says the election has taught her a number of lessons.

"One is that rural communities have a voice and they can use it. It's about community," she said.

"The second thing is that rural infrastructure really matters and needs to be made a priority.

"Many many communities are now going to say pay attention and listen to us because we want more for us than the current parties have been giving us."

Ms McGowan says there was no magic trick to winning the seat saying it all comes down to listening to what the community says and acting on it.

"It's called grass root community activism and I think lots and lots of parts of rural Australia will take to it like ducks to water," she said.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Global Nurses United

Illawarra nurses will travel to Sydney today to join their colleagues from across the state - and around the world - in a global day of action to protest cuts to healthcare services.

About 10 Illawarra delegates of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association will take part in the day, which will see nurses from 14 countries stand together as part of the new advocacy group Global Nurses United.

The association's Shellharbour branch president Karin Tilden said the lunchtime Sydney rally would focus on the state union's ongoing campaign to improve and extend nurse-to-patient ratios.

Nurses plan to walk from Hyde Park to Parliament House to present a petition calling on the state government to act on ratios.

"Nurses from hospitals across the region, including Shellharbour, Shoalhaven and Wollongong, have been out in force collecting signatures and the community response has been overwhelming," Ms Tilden said.

"Across the Illawarra more than 1500 signatures have been collected, which will go towards the state target of 100,000 signatures. We need at least 10,000 signatures to get the issue debated on the floor of Parliament."

Ms Tilden said the introduction of ratios in 2010 for major metropolitan public hospitals in NSW, including Wollongong, had been a great advance for patient care.

She said there was no reason why those ratios should not be extended to regional and rural hospitals where nurses were forced to deal with five or six patients at once.

"We are campaigning for a ratio of four patients to one nurse in general wards, and three to one in emergency departments, across the state," she said. "It's about safety for patients, and safety for nurses."

Ms Tilden said nurses were also celebrating the launch of Global Nurses United - the new voice of nurses and midwives on the international stage.

"The GNU has been formed to highlight the impacts of government cost-cutting on nurses - and their patients - across the globe," she said.

A NSW Ministry of Health spokesperson said the nurses' day of action was not expected to involve any stop-work or industrial action.

"It is therefore not anticipated that there will be any impact on the care of patients in our hospitals and health services," he said.

"The announced activities mainly centre around the presentation of a petition to Parliament by off-duty nurses in support of the association's ratios campaign.

There may be similar, complementary activities in regional or local areas."

Sinodinos: Abbott is "Father of the Nation"

The lunatic right goes over the top!


'Abbott the fighter has evolved into Abbott the putative father of the nation'

Monday, September 16, 2013

Abbott Chooses Glass Ceiling Cabinet

Tony Abbott has not even been sworn in as Prime Minister yet, but he is already under fire from his own side over a cabinet line-up that includes just one woman.

The new Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is one of six women in the 42-strong ministry but the only woman in Cabinet.

Mr Abbott admits it is far from perfect but he says all MPs need to earn their right to promotion.

But past and outgoing female Liberal senators have protested loudly on their behalf.

"I think it's shocking and I think it's embarrassing, and it's not just embarrassing nationally but I think it's embarrassing internationally," Senator Sue Boyce, who will retire next July, said.

"I would hasten to add I do not see this as Prime Minister-elect Abbott's problem, I think it's a system issue for our party."

Former Liberal senator Judith Troeth says the line-up sends a bad signal that the party cannot have more professional women active in the upper reaches of Parliament.

"I mean this is running the country, now why aren't women equally as good at that as men are?" she said.

Mr Abbott said he was "disappointed" there were not at least two women in the Cabinet.

"To encourage business and the ASX to actively seek and promote women in business, and then to not have them in the one body that runs the country, which is federal Cabinet, to me is hypocrisy," Ms Troeth said.

These women have long memories - a record number of Coalition females MPs were elected in 1996 in a John Howard landslide, yet only two women were appointed to Cabinet.

Almost two decades on, Mr Abbott has halved that representation - Ms Bishop.

Ms Troeth says she still thinks "men like to run the show".

"I think men have an innate fear of capable women at that level, not telling them what to do or certainly putting their views forward and perhaps some of those views being adopted as government policy," she said.

Senator Boyce added: "I think the problem is that it demonstrates our preselection processes are stuck in the 19th century almost, not even the 20th century."

It was a sentiment echoed by the Opposition, with acting Labor leader Chris Bowen saying Mr Abbott has taken Australia backwards by including only one woman in Cabinet.

"The cabinet of Afghanistan now has more women in it than the Cabinet of Australia," he said.

"This is a sad day for the senior representation of women in Australian politics."

ACTU president Ged Kearney says she is also surprised and disappointed.

"I hope this isn't reflective of his government's views on women and the need to promote women in roles of management and importance in the government and generally, but also for working women who struggle every day with things like a gender pay gap and certain imbalances in the workforce," she said.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Qld: Corporate Culture at Aurizon

Rockhampton rail union leader Craig Allen says rail freight company Aurizon has thrown people on the scrap heap of life.

Yesterday he vented his frustration against the rail giant, formerly known as QR National, in the wake of more CQ job losses coming just weeks after chief executive Lance Hockridge pocketed a $6.1m salary pay package.

"It's corporate greed gone stupid - how do you justify (his) 34% (pay) increase and then turn around the next day and tell people who have worked for the same company for decades that they will be replaced with contractors instead.

"Some employees have been working there for 30 years," Mr Allen said.

"How can one earn $6.1million a year - how many boats do you buy with that a year? Does Lance Hockridge go around looking for a boat with a pool on top and then expect the workers to take the pain?

"With around 5.8% unemployment in Queensland, there's not a lot of jobs in Rocky after cuts made by Newman and the downturn in mining. "They chuck you on the scrap heap of life and create uncertainty for people and their families...where is the social responsibility from these people?''

Meanwhile, AMWU state organiser Peter Lyon said there had been a lack of consultation across the board.

"This is not a genuine redundancy process," Mr Lyon said.

"They have called for voluntary redundancies. However, if no one volunteers, they're put in a pool called 'employees in transition' and the company will bring in contractors anyway.

"If these redund- ancies are not genuine, those workers who lost their jobs will have to pay back a hefty amount of tax from the package."


A meeting will be held at 4.30pm on Tuesday at Trades Hall Building, Campbell St for AMWU members affected by Aurizon's latest round of job cuts.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Slash and Burn: Abbott attacks Aged and Child Care Workers

The Coalition intends to hive off $1.5 billion of wage increases for up to 350,000 workers in aged and child care. This despite the election promise "No worker will be worse off".

A spokesman for Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott confirmed the funding for higher wages committed by the Gillard Labor government would be redirected because the money was agreed to through agreements negotiated by unions.

The federal bureaucracy has also ditched payments from the $300 million Early Years Quality Fund established by the Gillard government to cover wage increases for childcare workers. The Coalition plans to stop what they regard as "wage subsidies".

The Coalition government will be able to reallocate Labor’s $1.2 billion Aged Care Workforce Supplement with the approval of the House of Representatives within 15 days of the first sitting day of the new Parliament.

Under the Aged Care Workforce Compact introduced as part of the Labor government’s Living Longer Living Better policy, many aged-care workers were scheduled to receive minimum annual wage increases of 2.75 per cent, backdated to July.

The office of outgoing Labor minister for mental health and ageing, Jacinta Collins, said 248 aged-care ­providers had applied for the subsidy by August 20.

“It looks like the [Coalition’s] first act in the job will be to put the knife to the pay of Australia’s 350,000 strong aged-care workforce,” a spokeswoman for Senator Collins said.

“The tragic reality is that the ­Coalition will rip these pay increases out of the pockets of hard-working nurses and aged-care workers at a time when we need to help the aged-care workforce almost triple in size by 2050 to meet the demands of the ageing population.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kangaroo Court Back For Union Members?

Members of the federal police could be assigned to monitor the activities of unions on building sites as part of plans by the new Coalition government to criminalise union activity.

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott is considering a range of non-parliamentary measures as it faces a likely challenge in the Senate from Greens and Labor to plans to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Richard Calver, legal counsel at Master Builders, said there were a number of interim measures the government could introduce that would change the outlook ahead of being able to bring back the ABCC.

Mr Abbott pledged to bring back the ABCC within 100 days of the first sitting of Parliament if elected, but may have to wait until the composition of the Senate changes in July next year to get the necessary legislation through the upper house, where the Greens still hold the balance of power.

Senator Eric Abetz is expected to take on responsibility of the ABCC and have a far stricter industrial relations approach as workplace relations ­minister. Paul Fletcher – federal member for Bradfield, who sat on the Coalition ­committee that consulted with builders, union and stakeholders and delivered its report to Mr Abbott and Mr Abetz on August 30 said the government was committed to moving quickly in this area.

Liberal member for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg, who also sat on the committee, said the  Coalition was “absolutely” committed to bringing back the ABCC within its 100-days time frame. “It’s one of the foundations of our economic pillars,” he said.

CFMEU construction and general national secretary Dave Noonan said the union would continue to publicly point out that any legislation goes through Parliament must comply with Australia’s obligation under International Labour Organisation (ILO) treaties. He said the previous ABCC had been found to be in breach of the ILO treaty and warned that workplace safety had declined under the previous ABCC.

In a report handed in 2010, the ILO made a new ruling strongly criticising the role of Government Inspectors in the ABCC for abandoning their traditional role - which is, protecting workers and enforcing their legal entitlements. The ILO is the United Nations international body responsible for protecting basic work rights and is made up of representatives from governments, employers and workers.

The ILO Committee of Experts found:
  • the prosecution of workers should not be the primary duty of ABCC inspectors; that should be the protection of workers
  • the ABCC is biased in chasing workers not employers
  • the policy of prosecuting workers was made worse by the fact that the laws under which the cases were brought have themselves been repeatedly found to be in breach of fundamental labour standards
  • prosecution of workers by ABCC inspectors prejudices the authority and impartiality needed between inspectors, employers and workers.

Education and Health: Slash and Burn Urged On Abbott

The chairman of John Howard and Jeff Kennett’s audit commissions, Bob Officer, has urged the incoming Abbott government to follow Queensland’s example and cut thousands of inefficient jobs from education and health bureaucracies in its first term.

One of Treasurer-elect Joe Hockey’s first decisions in office will be to establish a commission of audit charged with finding savings across federal agencies.

Mr Hockey wants the commission to deliver an interim report with recommendations in time for his first budget.

Professor Officer said the new government should act quickly on the audit’s findings and avoid the more ­cautious reform path adopted by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, a message that will be welcomed by some Liberal MPs who want the government to copy the unpopular cuts that Mr Howard made in 1996 to return the budget to surplus.

“The earlier you start, the greater the benefits – particularly for a government potentially facing a second term,” ­Professor Officer said.

Asked whether he thought Mr Hockey would drive hard enough for cuts and reform, he said: “I suspect not. I’m an economist – I believe you should be doing these things harder.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Micro-parties in the Senate - George Williams

The large number of micro-parties in the Senate mean we may be headed toward a double dissolution election faster than we thought. Professor George Williams from the Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law, explains how to prevent this happening.

Indi: From little margins, big margins grow | Inside Story

From little margins, big margins grow | Inside Story

Newman backlash shows up in federal poll

Widespread concerns about cuts to jobs and services have been reflected in the federal Coalition’s poor showing in Queensland.

Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said Queensland voters had shown they did not trust the Coalition on core issues such as secure jobs, essential services and industrial relations.

“Tony Abbott throughout the campaign consistently refused to guarantee important working rights such as penalty rates,” he said.

“Indeed no Coalition candidate would give any undertakings to Queensland workers about protecting working conditions and essential services.

“Queenslanders have seen the damaging impact of Campbell Newman’s cuts on their state and sent Tony Abbott a message that they do not want a repeat.

“In some seats – like Moreton and Lilley – the Coalition’s vote even went backwards,” Mr Battams said.

“Australians may have spoken yesterday but the backlash against the State Government shows that Queenslanders value jobs and essential services.”

Mr Battams said he expected the Newman Government to recommence further cuts with the federal election decided.

“We believe it has been sitting on its hands until after the federal election before it moves on workers’ compensation, school closures and the review into emergency services, just to name a few,” he said.

Monday, September 09, 2013

New government must meet commitment that ‘no worker will be worse off’

08 September, 2013 | Media Release

Unions are ready to work with the incoming Coalition government to improve life for working Australians, the ACTU said today.

Australians have voted for a new government but it does not have a mandate to attack workers’ wages, rights or conditions, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“It should be the goal of every government to improve life for working Australians,” said Ms Kearney.

“The new government has a responsibility to govern on behalf of all Australians, not just big business.

“We stand ready to work with the Abbott government on measures to improve pay and conditions for working people and to create jobs and training opportunities.

“While we are very concerned about some aspects of the Coalition’s workplace relations plans, Mr Abbott committed before the election that no Australian worker would be worse off under his policies.

“On behalf of the union movement’s two million members and 10 million working Australians we will hold him to account on that commitment.

“If there is any sign of the new government bowing to pressure from business and going after people’s penalty rates, overtime or job security the union movement will vigorously defend those rights.

“Our message to working people is that the best way to protect your work rights and conditions is to join a union.”

The ACTU congratulates Labor on its achievements for working people during its six years in government, said Ms Kearney.

“Labor has abolished WorkChoices and restored fairness in Australian workplaces, introduced Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme and delivered equal pay for community sector workers.

“It has delivered a strong economy that prioritises jobs and delivered visionary environmental and social reform in pricing carbon and introducing a national disability insurance scheme.

“These reforms have made Australia a better place and we’ll fight to maintain them.”

Corporate Cuture: The Daily Tonygraph

prime ministerial in waiting product placement?

Friday, September 06, 2013

Qld: Corporate Culture: Glencore Mining demands AWA's in Collinsville

Glencore Xstrata’s is pushing for lesser conditions at the historic Collinsville coalmine.

The Swiss-based multinational is gunning for WorkChoices-style individual arrangements or a lesser collective agreement for the 400 mineworkers at Collinsville.

The company claims publicly that it has no such plans and just wants an agreement that is “flexible and without restrictions”. Its actions however reveal management is anything but laidback in trying to get workers to take less.

Collinsville mineworkers and the union representing them – the Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union – have vowed to stand up to the multinational, and the town’s mining community are rallying behind them.

So how did it come to this?
Glencore already owned the Collinsville mine. But amid the backdrop of cost-cutting across the industry, the company recently announced it was taking over from contractor Thiess as mine operator.

In union meetings, Collinsville mineworkers made it clear they rejected a return to WorkChoices and the conditions fought for and won would not be given up.

So while it sought individual agreements the company then attempted to reclassify the 100-year mine as a new project, and bring in a ‘greenfield’ agreement with lesser conditions.

But Glencore failed to convince the Fair Work Commission that this was a genuine greenfield, so it settled for plan B: shutting the mine indefinitely and locking out workers.

The union sees it as a clear-cut issue: if one company takes over from another as operator any existing agreement and workplace conditions are transferred along with the rest of the business, as per the law.

ABS shows drop in strikes under Labor

Despite employer and Coalition claims of rising union militancy under Labor's Fair Work regime, days lost to strikes have dropped sharply.

The latest Bureau of Statistics data show that in the year to June 30, days lost to industrial action were a little more than 200,000 - down nearly 30 per cent. The figure is now at a similar level to 2008, when WorkChoices was still in operation.

The Coalition has vowed to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission to target building unions.

The latest data show the June quarter had a very low level of industrial action, with only 20,300 days lost, down from 52,100 days in the previous quarter.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said productivity was up, and days lost down, and there was no justification to bring back the building commission.

''Any case, Mr Abbott has tried to put for change to workplace laws has fallen flat on its face with the release of this latest data,'' he said.

''In fact, industrial disputation has consistently been lower under this Labor government, including in the building and construction industry, than under the previous Liberal government.''

Over recent decades, the level of industrial action has dropped dramatically. In 1992, nearly 1 million days were lost and by 2004, it was down to 431,700. Labor made several changes to the Fair Work Act after a review last year.

The Coalition has promised the Productivity Commission would hold an inquiry into industrial relations laws if it wins government. Any major changes would be put to voters at the next election.

GetUp Live: Kevin Rudd Interview

Fish and Chips and the Meaning of Life by Nick Franklin

As our cities sprawl ever outwards and the journey to work gets longer and longer Nick Franklin joins early morning commuters aboard a train they call The Fish for a journey that can add an extra 24 hours to any working week. How do they cope? Presented as part of the ABC's Encounter programme on Sunday 21 October 2007.

Fish and Chips and the Meaning of Life by Nick Franklin by Katoomba Waltz is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Romania: Protests Against Goldmine Plan in Rosia Montana

Romanians protest in capital Bucharest against the government's support for a plan to open Europe's biggest opencast goldmine in Rosia Montana.

About 1,000 people gathered in Bucharest on Tuesday night for a third day of protests against plans for Europe's biggest opencast goldmine.

Thousands of citizens first took to the streets on Sunday, in cities across the country, spurred by the Romanian government's recent draft bill to allow Canadian company, Gabriel Resources, to mine gold and silver at the Carpathian town, Rosia Montana.

Campaigners have criticised the "special national interest" status the bill would give the mine, which would allow the Romanian branch of Gabriel Resources, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, to move the few remaining landowners off the site through compulsory purchase orders.

Oana Mondoc, 26, a London-based campaigner, organised and took part in a Sunday solidarity protest at the Romanian Embassy in London, attracting a reported 150 to 200 Romanians and environmental activists.

She said: "It is the symbolic fight of our generation. It's one of the biggest things happening at home and we found out through Facebook and Twitter. Romanians are not known to protest and to question, so the turn out back home was huge.

"Our government has used its position to exploit and not care for its citizens. This is not an issue the majority of people agree with. A private company is being given power in a way that is unheard of through a private contract between the state and this company.

"People will continue protesting until there is a clear indication that parliament votes against this and makes such mines illegal."

Mihnea Blidariu, 34, a Save Rosia Montana campaigner and musician, has attended all three protests and described protesters blocking streets, drumming, singing and organising street sit-ins. He said workshops and debates have been planned alongside a global day of protests on 8 September.

Jari Natunen, a Finnish biochemist, has condemned the plans for the mine, likening it to similar schemes carried out by Finnish mining company, Talvivaara, which has left a legacy of water polluted with uranium and metals.

Supporters of the mine, which has been stalled for 14 years, include President Traian Basescu Basescu and prime minister Victor Ponta, who have said the project will bring jobs to the region and billions of Euros in tax.

The bill is due to be debated in the Romanian parliament within the next two weeks, even as protests continue.

Blast From the Past: the Lib's "Industrial Ayotollahs"

Justice Kirby attacks Industrial Relations Commission critics

PM - Friday, 22 October , 2004  18:24:24

Reporter: Kate Arnott

MARK COLVIN: High Court Justice Michael Kirby has launched an extraordinary attack on critics of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, calling them "industrial ayatollahs".

Justice Kirby also said those who wanted to abolish the IRC were living in a fantasy world.

Today in Melbourne, he shared the stage with the Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, who seemed even more determined to push ahead with widespread reforms of the industrial relations system.

Kate Arnott reports.

KATE ARNOTT: They may have gathered to celebrate the centenary of conciliation and arbitration in Australia, but it was a deeply divided audience in Melbourne today.

As a former deputy president of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Justice Kirby hit out at opponents of the system.

MICHAEL KIRBY: Those in the bully pulpit who attack conciliation arbitration, who think they have the whole truth for all ages, need to be put in their place. There is no room in this nation for industrial ayatollahs. Ours is a more temperate and open-minded society.

KATE ARNOTT: And Justice Kirby didn't stop there. Some, he said, wished to see the Industrial Relations Commission "closed down lock, stock, and barrel" or "converted into a mediatory body with no legal powers of arbitration or intervention".

MICHAEL KIRBY: Persons of such views tend to live in a remote world of fantasy, inflaming themselves into their rhetoric into more and more unreal passions, usually engaging in serious dialogue only with comfortable persons of the same persuasion.

For the rest of us, who live in the real world and know our country and its institutions better, time will not be wasted over such fairy tales.

KATE ARNOTT: The Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews then took to the stage and detailed the Howard Government's plans for sweeping reforms to the industrial relations system, including a changing role for the Industrial Relations Commission.

KEVIN ANDREWS: Change is constant. Australia's future is inextricably linked to economic change. All institutions will have to continue to adapt to a changing economic environment. I am confident that the commission will meet this new challenge in our national journey.

KATE ARNOTT: When it was time for questions from the floor, not surprisingly it was Mr Andrews who was in the union firing line.

SHARAN BURROW: Sharan Burrow ACTU President, I couldn't resist.


Why would we seek to disable or reduce the powers of the commission when 65 per cent of Australians earn under $600 a week? What's the vision that you have minister for a decent working Australia?


KEVIN ANDREWS: Sharan, can I just remind you a couple of facts, not rhetoric. There's 1.3 million extra jobs created under this government, real wages have gone up by at least 13 per cent, industrial disputation is low, interest rates are low, inflation is low, that's not a bad result for ordinary Australians.

KATE ARNOTT: Mr Andrews did not directly address Justice Kirby's comments, and this was the only response from the Prime Minister.

JOHN HOWARD: I haven't seen the text of the comments, but I note that …was that delivered as a part of a judgment?

REPORTER: No, that was speech today he gave in Melbourne.

JOHN HOWARD: Hmm, well I note that, hmm.

MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister John Howard, ending that report from Kate Arnott.

GetUp! Prepares for the Election

BREAKING NEWS: Prime Minister Rudd has agreed to participate in a live Q&A with GetUp members tomorrow night – and you're the first to know. To join in and put your burning questions before the Prime Minster ahead of election day, click here:

After a massive couple of weeks we're finally rounding the home stretch. It's time for a second wind.

In the last 24 hours, more than 1,500 GetUp members have signed up to volunteer on Saturday. They'll be joining a team of friendly neighbours to hand out independent, factual, issue-focused scorecards at polling booths all around the country. We're running a hugely ambitious program to distribute 2 million of these score cards to help Aussies cast an informed vote. But we're still short on volunteers for some key polling locations in your area.

With only 72 hours before election day three polling booth teams near you still need volunteers. Can you help?

To join a team and help out on election day, register here:
The nearest teams to you that still need volunteers are:

Jamison High School hosted by Susanne's team - Jamison High School
Glenmore Park High School hosted by Susanne's team - Glenmore Park High School
Glenmore Park Primary School hosted by Susanne's team - Glenmore Park Primary School
Bligh Park Public School hosted by John's team - Bligh Park Public School
Winmalee High School hosted by Janice's team - Winmalee High School

Here's what this actually boils down to: In your neighbourhood, hundreds of voters will walk into the polling booth on election day still not set on how they're going to vote. Most of them will have seen a headline from a Murdoch paper on their doorstep or at a newsstand on their morning commute. Will that be the last thing in their mind as they cast their vote? Or will it be a fact-filled, issue-based score card ranking all the major parties on social justice, a fair economy, human rights, and the environment?

That all depends on whether you are there on Saturday to put on a smile and hand them that score card. Because if you don't come, there may not be anyone else to replace you.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Bill Kelty: Support for Senator Hanson-Young

Bill Kelty has joined former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser in endorsing Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young in her fight to hold her seat in the Senate.

Mr Kelty, flew to Adelaide on Sunday to help launch Senator Hanson-Young's campaign. He stressed on that he was expressing his personal support for Senator Hanson-Young as a champion for refugees, and not distancing himself from the Labor Party.

Others who spoke at the launch include the party's first leader, Bob Brown, and a young Afghan refugee.

''It's not a political statement about the Labor Party and the Greens, but when people you know are under pressure and they are very good people and they champion causes, then occasionally you have to get up and say so,'' Mr Kelty said.

''I want the Labor Party to win, but I also want her to win. I've known her since she was three years of age and I'm a great supporter of her. She's a very genuine person and very committed, and she's under a lot of pressure to retain her seat.''

Mr Kelty said he was on a unity ticket on refugees with Mr Fraser, who flew to Adelaide earlier in the campaign to support Senator Hanson-Young. Mr Fraser said he wanted to see Senator Hanson-Young returned and both the major parties denied the balance of power in the Senate. He is also an admirer of Mr Kelty.

Senator Hanson-Young, 31, is competing with the Liberal Party for the sixth South Australian spot in the Senate.

''I've know Bill for a long time and we disagree on some issues, but on basic fairness and decency and standing up for the vulnerable, we've always seen eye to eye,'' she said.

Senator Hanson-Young said she had tried to live by the advice Mr Kelty gave her when she joined the Greens: ''You have got to stand still in the wind and make sure you stay true.''

Fukushima ... More Disaster Unfolds

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant says it has found new radiation hotspots, one with levels so high it could kill a person within a few hours.

TEPCO has long struggled to deal with the growing volume of contaminated water it has used to cool reactors that went into meltdown after being struck by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The company says workers have discovered high levels of radioactivity on three tanks and one pipe at the Fukushima plant.

It says one reading was 1,800 millisieverts per hour - a level that can kill a person in four hours.

Although no change in water level was detected in the tanks, TEPCO does believe that new leaks could be possible.

Last week, the company admitted that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had seeped out of one of the tanks and could have leaked into the sea.

In response to growing domestic and international criticism over TEPCO's handling of the crisis, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has promised the world his government would play a greater role in stopping leaks of highly radioactive water.

Mr Abe's pledge came as the world's nuclear watchdog urged Japan to explain more clearly what is happening at Fukushima and avoid sending "confusing messages" about the disaster.

Joseph Stiglitz: Danger of Austerity Damage in Australia

While other countries fell into the global recession, Australia maintained strong economic growth, low government debt and a triple-A credit rating. With this record, you might expect the federal election to be focused on how to convert the strength of today's economy into resilience for the future. But instead the political spotlight has fallen on the perceived problem of government debt, with alarming proposals to bring austerity ''down under''.

Most countries would envy Australia's economy. During the global recession, Kevin Rudd's government implemented one of the strongest Keynesian stimulus packages in the world. That package was delivered early, with cash grants that could be spent quickly followed by longer-term investments that buoyed confidence and activity over time. In many other countries, stimulus was too small and arrived too late, after jobs and confidence were already lost.

In Australia the stimulus helped avoid a recession and saved up to 200,000 jobs. And new research shows that stimulus may have also actually reduced government debt over time. Evidence from the crisis suggests that, when the economy is weak, the long-run tax revenue benefits of keeping businesses afloat and people in work can be greater than the short-run expenditure on stimulus measures. That means that a well-targeted fiscal stimulus might actually reduce public debt in the long run.

Australia may have successfully dodged the global crisis, but some politicians seem to have missed the lessons it taught the rest of the world. In this election, the conservative side of politics has foreshadowed substantial cuts to the government budget. This would be a grave mistake, especially now.

Recent experience around the world suggests that austerity can have devastating consequences, and especially so for fragile economies. Government cuts have helped push Britain, Spain and Greece's economies deeper into recession and led to widespread public misery.

The youth unemployment rate in Spain is above 50 per cent and the figure for Greece is above 60 per cent. Their tragic experience should be a warning to the world. But even seemingly healthy Germany was pushed into a recession from which it is just now emerging - but it is an economy that is still weaker than it was before taking the "dose" of austerity.

Proposals for substantial budget cuts seem particularly misplaced at this time given that Australia's economy is confronting new global challenges. Commodity prices are softening and growth is slowing in many key export markets. Australia is already facing declining mining investment. The slowdown in economic growth is not the result of flaws in government policy, but of an adverse external environment. It would be a crime to compound these problems with domestic policy mistakes.

Sharp cuts to public spending over the next few years will exacerbate these challenges. Withdrawing government spending as the economy weakens risks tipping Australia into recession and increasing unemployment.

Assuming standard multipliers, cutting public spending by $70 billion from an economy the size of Australia's over a four-year period could reduce GDP growth by around 2 per cent and cost up to 90,000 jobs.

Instead of focusing mindlessly on cuts, Australia should instead seize the opportunity afforded by low global interest rates to make prudent public investments in education, infrastructure and technology that will deliver a high rate of return, stimulate private investment and allow businesses to flourish.

Rather than look through the rear-view mirror at public debt, this election should look forward to the challenge of maintaining Australia's economic success for the future.

Joseph Stiglitz is a professor of economics at Columbia University and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics.

Read more

ACTU: Unions and Equal Pay

Urgent change is needed in Australian workplaces to stop the generational income loss women face depending on their stage of life, with the wage gap for some generations being a staggering 62 per cent.

Across all age groups women earn around 82.5 per cent of a man’s wage and about one million dollars less over a lifetime. But a better understanding of the barriers to wage equality is gained by looking at how ‘life-stages’ impact upon a woman’s earnings.

“Year after year, Equal Pay Day, is a reminder of just how much less women earn compared to men. What we continue to see are generations of Australian women starting behind and that wage gap increases throughout their life time until they retire on much, much less,” Ms Kearney said.

Ms Kearney said ‘life stage’ factors contributed to the monetary loss.

“When you break it down you see each life stage provides a unique set of barriers that causes women to earn much less than men of the same age group.

“For example, female graduates earn up to 15 per cent less than the guys and men aged 25-34 who have children earn more than twice as much as women. That gap persists throughout their working life,” she said.

She said some inequality was inexplicable other than to point to entrenched gender bias in Australian workplaces.

“Women in childbearing years without children still earn a lot less than men which is pretty perplexing,” Ms Kearney said.

“The only reason we can point to is that employers worry they might have children and therefore hold their wages back. Or, perhaps the women themselves don’t fight for a pay rise. Either way what we end up with is a generation of employees who are underpaid just because they are women.”

Graduates are another example of nonsensical inequality. “Why should a women graduate get less than a bloke? Until Australia closes the gap we will continue to cheat these employees.”

Ms Kearney said it wasn’t just about employers catching up with the reality of a modern workplace, women also had to stand up and be counted.

“Too many times women trade off pay rises or promotions so they can keep family friendly hours and, importantly, they don’t identify discrimination when it’s staring them in the face. That needs to change,” Ms Kearney said.

“We know it’s hard and there are many barriers women face to achieving equality at work, but women must be strong and stand up for their rights- we must not be apologetic about having family responsibilities, we must not keep trading off pay rises and promotions against family friendly hours, and we must identify discrimination and call it when we see it.”

On a positive note union membership attributed to higher wages:

  • Female employees who are union members are paid more than female non-union employees at $209.2 extra a week or 25.4%. For comparison the premium for men is $97.2 a week or 7.5%.
  • Full time female employees who are union members have a premium of $102.6 a week or 8.9%.
  • Part time female union members have the largest union wage premium at $220.4 or 46.6%.

“This demonstrates what we have been saying all along. Joining a union gives workers a stronger voice and better outcomes in the workplace,” she said.

Polls and the Mobile Phone

Some of the most influential political pollsters are ignoring millions of voters because they only call landlines. Even so analysts are unsure whether that will affect the accuracy of the polling, despite one-in-five Australians being mobile phone-only users.

The number of people who only use mobiles grew 20 per cent to 24 million in the past year, with most users city-dwelling renters aged under 35. The Australian Communications and Media Authority said there were now only 10.4 million landlines registered.

A professor of politics at Macquarie University, Murray Goot, said that while pollsters have been battling with the problem of changing technology for some time, there is no evidence that the mobile-only surge has affected the accuracy of the election polls.

''Landline response rates are almost certainly declining,'' he said. ''As mobile phone use increases, pollsters will be increasingly concerned that they're getting it right.''

But he said pollsters who don't call mobiles - Nielsen and Newspoll - ensure the spread of ages and gender match those in the census.

Professor Goot said he was unsure if mobile-only users would vote differently to those using landlines.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Paid Parental Leave Statistics

It might be called paid parental leave but so far only one father has taken it for every 500 mothers.
Since Labor introduced paid parental leave 2½ years ago, more than 300,000 women have taken the 18-week minimum-wage payment after a baby's birth - a rate of about 10,000 a month. But official data presented at a recent Senate estimates hearing revealed fewer than 20 fathers a month have taken up the leave - a ratio of about 500 mothers for every father.

Many households can't afford to transfer the leave to the father because ... they are still the primary breadwinner.

University of Sydney paid parental leave authority Professor Marian Baird, said this ratio highlighted the strength of ''motherhood culture'' in Australia and the overwhelming community preference for women to provide primary care for newborns.

''In Australia, it is the women that take the leave, no matter what it's called - parental or maternity leave. Mothering trumps fathering in the use of these policies.''

Most families are also financially better off if the mother takes leave after the birth of a child because fathers tend to earn more than their partners.''Many households can't afford to transfer the leave to the father because in most cases they are still the primary breadwinner,'' Professor Baird said.

Paid parental leave became a focal point of the election campaign after Tony Abbott confirmed he would scrap Labor's policy and replace it with a much more generous paid parental leave scheme.
Abbott's $5.5 billion a year proposal - the most expensive policy promise of the entire election campaign - will replace a mother's full-time wage up to $75,000 for six months (or the minimum wage if it is higher). It can also be transferred to the father but the payment remains pegged to the mother's salary.

The generosity of the scheme could entice more fathers to stay at home to care for a baby, especially for a second or third newborn. But Professor Baird does not anticipate a significant increase in the proportion of fathers taking paid parental leave.

The University of South Australia's Professor Barbara Pocock said workplace cultures often discouraged fathers from taking parental leave.

''We've got masculine work cultures that are really strong in Australia compared with parts of Europe where the male take-up of rate of paternity leave is much higher,'' she said.

There has been a much bigger response by fathers to a separate leave policy targeted at them - the so called ''dad and partner pay'' introduced in January. That scheme provides two weeks of government-funded pay to fathers or same-sex partners at the minimum wage within the first year of a baby's life.

Between January 1 and April 12 this year almost 20,000 people claimed dad and partner pay.
''I think it's positive so many dads and partners have claimed this leave,'' Professor Baird said.

Ken Davidson: What About Climate Change?

The electoral atmosphere is surreal. We have a government on the back foot over its economic record - which has been outstanding when the global economic environment is taken into account.

And we have an opposition that appears to have successfully undermined the government's credibility, based on the government's record of fiscal debt and deficit, which has, in fact, been the foundation of the nation's success in avoiding the global financial crisis.

The Coalition tactic recalls the 1996 election. At every outdoor political event the opposition's debt truck would be lurking in the background, showing Australia's foreign debt ticking over at an alarming rate. Immediately after the election the truck was put way, never to be seen again. Nor was any policy - serious or otherwise - advanced by the Howard government to reverse this alarming growth in debt.

So it will be this time unless Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are silly enough in office to ride roughshod over their advisers in Treasury, Finance and the Reserve Bank and impose austerity policies involving massive cuts in government spending. Such policies have proved spectacularly unsuccessful elsewhere in reducing deficits or unemployment.It is too late to explain the benefits of Keynesian policies in the middle of an election campaign. The damage was done by the former treasurer, Wayne Swan, who refused to explain that the task of economic management is to balance the economy, not the budget, and that when private spending collapses (such as in the GFC), either the government steps in to take up the slack by increasing spending and cutting taxes, or growth slumps and unemployment rises.

As a consequence, the Coalition is having a field day selling fear, aided and abetted by the Murdoch press. This too, is partially the responsibility of Labor, which changed the media ownership rules in the 1980s, paving the way for News Limited to get control of the Herald and Weekly Times group and about 70 per cent of metropolitan daily newspaper circulation.

But the most depressing aspects of this election are the failure of the major parties to develop a coherent policy to deal with climate change, and their willingness to co-operate in squeezing the Greens out of the political process when the Greens are the only party prepared to confront the issue.

The draft of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leaked last week, is truly terrifying. Reports of the draft state that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions ''at or above current rates'' have put the world on track to become up to 5 degrees hotter and that there is a 95 per cent likelihood that human greenhouse gas emissions are driving the rise in extreme weather events now being observed around the world.

The implication of 5 degrees warming is an extremely hostile environment for the biota, de-population and, not to put too fine a point on it, the end of civilisation (including the economy) as we know it.
And yet, against this background, the Greens are seen as the main enemy of the major political parties. Last week, Tony Abbott said in respect to the allocation of Liberal preferences, ''everywhere, with no exceptions, the Greens are behind Labor, partly because they are economic fringe dwellers''.

Both Abbott and Rudd say they are not climate change deniers, but they are both peddling policies to reduce the price of carbon emissions into the atmosphere as a way of reducing living costs and promoting the international competitiveness of Australian industry.

Abbott in particular is locking in a higher level of fossil fuel dependence by his promise that his government would invest only in road infrastructure - as opposed to electrified public transport.
In the lead-up to this election Abbott has promised $20 billion for road infrastructure, including $1.5 billion for the east-west link in Melbourne, with no requirement for a cost/benefit test.

Why? According to the Australasian Railway Association, transport accounts for 14 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. At 76 million tonnes a year, we have one of the highest transport emissions per capita in the world. Ninety per cent of transport emissions are attributable to road and only 2 per cent to rail. The so-called energy efficiency of a fully laden suburban train is about six times greater than for cars.

Read more

Rudd TAFE Promise - To By-pass Coalition Slashing

In a bid to tackle states head-on over recent cuts and restructures to the TAFE system, Mr Rudd announced at his campaign launch on Sunday he would demand states promise to increase funding above inflation.

If they refused to do so by July 1 next year, the Commonwealth would stop funding TAFEs by giving the money to the states and instead fund the institutions directly.

And if they continued to frustrate the aim of boosting funding in real terms, the Commonwealth would set up its own vocational training system that would ''rival the great polytechnics of France and Germany''.

His policy is in response to cuts by states to the TAFE system, including about $100 million slashed in Victoria, 880 staff cut in NSW and the number of facilities in Queensland reduced from 13 to six or seven.

"We want every dollar we invest in TAFE to make a real difference - this can't happen if, for every dollar we put in, the state governments take away," Mr Rudd said in a statement.

Mr Rudd's announcement was welcomed by the Australian Education Union and the peak body TAFE Directors Australia.