Friday, May 30, 2014

Melbourne: Hands Off Medicare Rally

About 2,000 protesters have staged a noisy rally in central Melbourne against the Federal Government's proposed $7 Medicare co-payment.

Waving placards that read "hands off Medicare" and "stop the cuts", the demonstrators marched from the State Library down Swanston Street to Federation Square, briefly disrupting city traffic.

The rally included many young families and pensioners and heard from doctors, midwives and Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King.

"Every time the Liberals get into office, they try to destroy Medicare and this is the latest attack from Tony Abbott," Ms King told the crowd.

Changes to Medicare are among the most controversial in the budget and are yet to pass the Senate.

However, a Department of Health phone line is telling callers that the new $7 co-payment will apply from July this year.

Greens Senator Dr Richard Di Natale was also among those to address the crowd.

"Whether you come from Broadmeadows or Brighton, you deserve access to decent health cover," Dr Di Natale said.

Dr Tim Woodruff from the Doctors Reform Society said the Budget was forcing society's most vulnerable to do all the heavy lifting.

Rubbery Joe Hockey's Mince Meat Calculus

Labor had a plan for dealing with the collapse of the international economy, and had considerable success in insulating Australia from its worst effects. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Australians are still working in jobs that would have dissappeared had the government simply sat on its hands or adopted a pro-cyclical "austerity" approach. These hundreds of thousands of workers continued to pay tax, continued to spend their discretionary income, and did not require unemployment benefits. As a result our budget stayed healthy, unlike Greece's, which adopted Hockey's pro-cyclical "austerity" approach.

In September 2013, treasury and the PBO released their projections (PEFO) of the future performance of the economy, based on the fiscal settings then in place . They showed that debt at the time was slightly below $200 billion and would peak at just over $300 billion. According to treasury's analysis, GDP growth would average at around 3.5%, providing healthy revenue streams to the government that would easily fund its commitments and ensure a return to surplus many years before most of our competitors and peers.

Earlier this year, treasury and the PBO issued updated projections (MYEFO) of economic and budget performance, this time based on the pro-cyclical fiscal settings imposed by Mr Hockey on the economy. Although exactly the same "model engine" was used, the figures that popped out were quite different to those in the PEFO, and showed a marked deterioration in the outlook, with peak debt almost doubling to over $600 billion, growth slowing to 2.5% (30% reduction) and the return to surplus delayed by many years.

This is not surprising. If you put beef into a mincer, you get minced beef. If you put pork into a mincer, you get minced pork. The mincer hasn't changed, just what you put into it. When treasury put Labor's counter-cyclical fiscal settings into the mincer, a positive economic outlook was produced. When they put Hockey's pro-cyclical settings into the mincer, a bleak economic outlook was produced.

Hockey can defuse the "timebomb" that he has created with his pro-cyclical settings, simply by reverting to Labor's counter-cyclical settings. But then he would have to admit error and, even more embarrassing, admit that his opponents had it right all along. While this would be a no-brainer for a normal adult, it is an insurmountable hurdle for an intellectually and morally bankrupt Tory narcissist like Hockey. Australia will pay dearly for Hockey's immaturity.

Corporate Culture: Tax Loopholes Mock "Heavy Lifting"

Westfield: corporate tax case study

As Australians face a budget of unprecedented harshness and cutbacks, United Voice, one of Australia’s biggest unions, today released research which exposes the low tax rates paid by retail giant Westfield.

As an annual average, Westfield’s effective corporate tax rates in the nine years to 31 December 2013 were:

  • 8% for the Westfield Group
  • 0% for the Westfield Retail Trust

This falls far short of the 22% estimated average effective tax rate for all ASX200 companies over the past decade. Westfield is Australia’s most profitable real estate corporation and the world’s largest shopping centre owner.

David O’Byrne, Acting National Secretary of United Voice, says “This research reveals that when it comes to heavy lifting on tax, Westfield is missing in action.

“Tax avoidance may not be illegal, but we believe it is immoral and never more than today when low income earners are facing a budget of across-the-board cutbacks. While some corporations are paying their tax, there are others who simply look to exploit any loophole they can.

“Given the huge amount of tax revenue involved, this needs to be an urgent priority of the Abbott Government.

“If Westfield had paid tax at the statutory rate of 30% it could generate additional annual tax revenues of $541 million:

  • $370 million on average pre-tax profits of $1.7 billion for the Westfield Group
  • $171 million on average pre-tax profits of $574 million for the Westfield Retail Trust

“The Government could do a lot with an extra $541 million every year. For example, it would more than cover the Government’s $1.8 billion in cutbacks to hospitals funding over the forward estimates.

“The Government must get it priorities right. It cannot allow this wholesale corporate tax avoidance to continue.

“Rather than making life even more difficult for low and middle income earners, the Government should ensure corporate Australia fulfils its responsibilities.

“It is time for a major enquiry by the Federal Government to investigate:

  • reforming Australia’s corporate tax structure
  • closing the tax loopholes, such as stapled securities and tax havens
  • increasing transparency and disclosure by corporations

“The Prime Minister and Treasurer have talked tough about corporate tax dodgers. Now it’s time to act,” says David O’Byrne.

NZ: International Support Helps Brings Toll to Negotiations

FIRST Union members ratified the new collective agreement with Toll Carriers on 27 May, following the deal being reached in mediation on 26 May.

IndustriALL intervened with BP on 13 May to call for them to force their contractor to the negotiating table with FIRST Union and reach a fair agreement in line with the national standard for the industry.
Hundreds of supporters sent messages through the IndustriALL online solidarity tool to Toll management.

FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid reported:
Toll remained an aggressive employer right to the end, even beginning the mediation session arguing against a Collective Agreement. However with the strike, pickets of BP petrol stations and international solidarity work continuing, Toll finally agreed to a settlement.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan congratulated FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid:
IndustriALL Global Union is happy and proud to have contributed to the solution of this problem. This is our raison d’etre and we will continue to do so.

FIRST Union organizer Jared Abbott said that workers were happy with the settlement and were looking forward to getting back to work.
In the end the workers were happy to achieve a new collective agreement that included a decent wage increase.
Jared Abbott said the workers were very thankful for all the local and international community support they had received over the past month.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Petition: Don't Cut Aussie Steel

Sign Petition - Don't Cut Aussie Steel

MUA: Wharfies Prepare To Escalate Safety Campaign

Maritime workers are preparing for a "massive escalation" of safety campaigning following the death of a popular Melbourne wharfie last week.

Anthony Attard, a father of three in his mid-40s, was killed aboard the roll-on/roll-off vessel Tasmanian Achiever, docked in the Port of Melbourne, when he was run over by a cargo loader.

The death on 20 May sent shockwaves through the close-knit wharfie community, especially as Mr Attard was a Maritime Union of Australia delegate and representative on the enterprise bargaining committee in his workplace, Toll Group.

MUA officials, including Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith and National Safety Officer Matt Goodwin, spent several days in the workplace last week supporting members in the aftermath of the tragedy.

But as the shock over the death has receded, it has been replaced by anger at a watering down of safety on the wharves since the Abbott Government was elected.

“The way the workers at Toll have rallied together, united, and supported each other, is a credit to each and every one of them,” the union said in a bulletin to members. “The wharfies and seafarers at Toll are a class act, there’s no two ways about it.

“This latest tragedy highlights why we must fight to make sure that safety is mandatory.

“There is a safety crisis in stevedoring. These tragedies are not ‘accidents’. There are causes. That’s why we need regulation.”

In the safety alert sent to members late last week, the MUA said a number of serious safety issues had been identified that had to be fixed before work could again begin at Toll’s Port of Melbourne facilities.

These include lack of a decent traffic management plan, lack of a dedicated spotter and flagman to coordinate the safe movement of people and vehicles on and off the vessel, and lack of commitment to training by Toll.

14 times more likely to be killed at work

But the union says there are wider safety issues in the industry that extend beyond Toll.

Wharf workers are 14 times more likely to die on the job than the average Australian worker.

It says the Abbott Government has blocked a stevedoring code of practice and 12 other lifesaving codes of practice, which have been described as “red tape”.

It has also ordered the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to begin dismantling Marine Order 32, described as “the safety Bible for wharfies for over 30 years”.

The union is advising its members to begin preparing for a “massive escalation” of its waterfront safety campaign, beginning with a two day safety conference next month to chart the way forward.

“The MUA has long campaigned for better safety and now demands that this crisis in waterfront safety be addressed by regulation,” said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.

“Safety must be mandatory and it must be law.”

ACTU: Jobs - Not Failed Policies – Will Turn Around Unemployed

28 May, 2014 | ACTU Media Release

Australians looking for work need a Government who creates jobs, not one happy to push them onto the failed ‘work for the dole’ program.

“If the Government was seriously interested in addressing unemployment and getting people off welfare they wouldn’t be forcing people into a program that has been proven not to work, ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said.

“Research shows that the work for the dole program doesn’t provide real pathways into employment, it doesn’t up-skill participants and it takes valuable time away from job search activities.

“In fact, the research found that participants in the work for the dole program were more likely to remain on unemployment payments than non-participants in the first 6 months after starting.

“All this program does is leave people trapped on the work for the dole – welfare merry-go-round without any hope of getting off.

"The unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds is more than double the national average at 12.5 per cent and is projected to rise – the problem is the lack of jobs.

“Unemployed people need support to get into work and they need jobs to go into, they don’t need punitive measures like the failed work for the program.”

Mr Oliver said the lack of coherence in the Government’s employment “strategy” is demonstrated by Senator Abetz advising job seekers to move to Tasmania to pick fruit, while the Prime Minister last week advised Tasmanian job seekers to leave the state in search of employment as well as a Federal Budget that has gutted skills and training investment.

“The Government wiped over half a billion dollars in support for skills including apprenticeships plus around $360 million in support for innovation in the Federal Budget. 

“This leaves workers and communities impacted by recent closures and job loses without sufficient support and it provides no new vision or support for jobs or industry of the future.”

Mr Oliver said the measures announced in the Federal Budget that will see unemployed people without access to any sort of safety net for six months were cruel.

“Under the Abbott Government, if you lose your job and through no fault of your own can’t find a new one then you’re on your own. That’s not the Australian way,” Mr Oliver said.

“Today we’ve seen another 450 jobs go at Qantas with a total of 5000 expected to go, the car industry has collapsed and the Government is getting rid of around 16,500 public sector workers – what are these people and their families going to do?

“All Australians who can work should work and that’s why it’s incumbent on Government to ensure the jobs are there.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cormann: Australia Post Not For Sale

The embattled and rattled post budget Federal Government has promised not to sell Australia Post, according to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

The Government still plans to sell the lucrative Medibank Private, which is estimated to be worth about $4 billion, and has commissioned studies with the intent of selling the Royal Australian Mint and Defence Housing Australia.

In budget estimates today, Senator Conman, the brains behing the Hockey budget disaster, outlined several agencies that would not be privatised.

"We've decided not to proceed with the sale of the ASC we've decided not to proceed with the sale of Australia Post," he said.

ICAC: Dismiss NSW SES Commissioner

The New South Wales corruption watchdog has recommended State Emergency Service (SES) Commissioner Murray Kear be dismissed and prosecuted for sacking a deputy who blew the whistle on her colleague.

The ICAC has found Mr Kear dismissed deputy commissioner Tara McCarthy last year as payback for blowing the whistle on his friend, Deputy Commissioner Steven Pearce.

Ms McCarthy had alleged that Mr Pearce entered into dodgy contracts, misused SES funds to buy roof racks and brakes for his car, misused his SES credit card and fabricated diary notes.

The ICAC found that Mr Kear engaged in corrupt conduct by failing to investigate the allegations because of his friendship with Mr Pearce and sacking Ms McCarthy in reprisal.

In a statement ICAC said both Mr Pearce and Mr Kear were known to each other prior to Mr Pearce applying to join the SES.

"Commissioner Kear sat on the original interview panel when Mr Pearce first applied to join the SES, but did not disclose a conflict of interest," the ICAC stated.

The ICAC recommended the Police Minister consider dismissing Mr Kear, who has been on leave since last year.

"The commission is also of the opinion that the Minister for Police and Emergency Services should give consideration to the taking of action against Mr Kear for disciplinary offences of misconduct with a view to his dismissal," the ICAC said.

The ICAC also recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider prosecuting Mr Kear for a breach of the whistleblower's act.

ACOSS: Focus On Jobs Not Penalising People

Wednesday May 28, 2014

The Australian Council of Social Service has called on the Federal Government to focus on improving job opportunities for young people and strengthen training and education available instead of penalising them at the very time they need support and hope.

“It makes no sense that the government has decided to spend new and precious dollars on restarting the failed work-for-the-dole yet cut programmes that clearly work, flying in the face of all evidence,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

“The problem in high unemployment areas around the country is the lack of jobs, not inertia on behalf of people who are looking for paid work.

‘‘Past experience shows that work-for-the-dole programs are not effective in helping young people get jobs. Under the previous Coalition government’s scheme, only about one in three participants were still employed three months after the program.

“We know that the main reason for high youth unemployment is that young people were worst affected by the global financial crisis. The overall number of jobs for 16 to 19-year-olds was still below 2007 levels five years later. Employers want 'experience' but how can young people gain experience if they can't get entry-level positions?

“The focus should be on opening up job opportunities for our young people, and this should be done in collaboration with business leaders, investors, local communities and social services to give young people hope, and help them get a foot in the door.

A more effective way to address youth and long term unemployment would be to address skills and capability related barriers to work. A first step would be to increase the availability of places in cost-effective wage subsidy programs (such as Wage Connect), and Youth Connections, providing a subsidy roughly equivalent to the Newstart Allowance to a real employer, and mentoring and sustained supports. This gives young people with work experience they desperately want.

“Instead the government has decided to withdraw support from young people for six months of the year and make it harder for them to put themselves in a position to get paid work.

“Young people are already subject to tough requirements to get assistance - people under 22 years who leave school early are already required to complete school or train, or they lose income support. Those over 21 are required to search for 10 jobs a fortnight and prove it to Centrelink or they risk a loss of payments for eight weeks.

“The Budget has also cut funding to important career counselling and vocational programs such as Youth Connections, which has assisted over 74,000 young people since 2010. Ninety-three per cent  of participants in this program were still engaged in study or paid work six months after completing the program in 2012 with most no longer receiving Centrelink payments.

“Similarly, 47% of people out of work for over two years assisted by the Wage Connect wage subsidy scheme retained their positions after the program ended, which is more than double the results achieved under the work for the dole scheme.

"The government has announced that it will pay subsidies of up to $10,000 over two years to employers who hire mature workers over the age of 50. With the rate of unemployment among 15- to 24-year-olds more than double the overall rate (12.5%), this initiative should be extended to people locked out, including our young people.

“Young people want to work and participate in society. Now is the time to invest in their futures, not put further barriers in their way,” Dr Goldie said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kevin Andrews Wages War On Youth

The social services monster, Kevin Andrews, confirmed people could go longer than six months without receiving any income support but did not name a specific timeframe.

The changes have been criticised by the community sector. The Jobs Australia chief executive, David Thompson, said extending the time that people would be without income support for beyond six months was making a bad situation worse.

He said job providers for unemployed people in stream one receive $11 they can spend on them which could be given to assist with public transport fares to and from job interviews.

“But people still will not have enough to pay for a roof over their head, to pay for food, they do not have the resources to participate in employment search,” he said.

“It is kind of Kafkaesque, what do they do? I don’t understand, as a community, what do we say? Tough? Don’t eat? Sleep on the streets?”

Thompson said “suitable training courses” was soon going to mean “any training course” and unemployed people in regional areas where courses are limited or do not start for a couple of months would be hit even harder.

“There’s going to be a proportion of these young people who are going to have no income support and no alternative,” he said.

Jobs Australia has estimated about 110,000 people a year will have to serve the six-month waiting period for Newstart or Youth Allowance when they apply for income support.

“At the moment, those training places aren’t there and it’s not clear who will provide them or how they will be paid for," a spokesman said. "If the individuals are meant to pay for it themselves through government loans, then that’s going to create further problems because for a lot of these people, it will be a long road back from rock bottom and they might not ever earn enough income to repay their student loans.

“It’s easy to see the government could end up wasting more money on useless training than it saves from the welfare cuts in the first place.”

Abbott: Cost Cutting Tips For The Homeless

The lavish Canberra home Tony Abbott never moved into has cost the government nearly $120,000.

The full cost of the ill-fated lease – including termination fees and legal advice – was confirmed at a budget estimates committee hearing on Tuesday.

Abbott won the election and declined to live in the $3,000 a week rental property. He instead opted to stay at the Australian Federal Police college when in Canberra – a decision portrayed at the time as a cost-saving measure.

The deputy secretary of the department, Elizabeth Kelly, detailed the costs of the unoccupied home at the hearing.

They included $39,107 for rent, $65,000 for a commercial settlement to terminate the lease in November, $1,403 for a property broker to find the home in the first place and later to look for an alternative tenant, and $14,144 in legal advice on the drafting and ending of the lease.

Stewart Lee - UKIP and Immigration

Monday, May 26, 2014

Abbott Budget Stuck in Bygone Era

Ian Varrender

The Treasurer has argued that lower income groups merely are losing benefits the country no longer can afford while the wealthy are being slugged a higher tax. Both he and the Prime Minister claim that makes it fair, that everyone is sharing the burden.

But it is not that simple. Negative gearing alone is anticipated to cost the budget about $4 billion in lost revenue each year, according to the Grattan Institute. And the wealthy have found it devilishly simple to slash income tax by directing their earnings into superannuation and then pulling it straight out.

Research from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, published this week by Fairfax Media, found the poorest 20 per cent of households would contribute $2.9 billion over four years while the richest 20 per cent would lose $1.8 billion.

The closer you look at this budget, the more it disappoints, the clearer the inequity and the injustice of it all becomes. The inequity isn't simply along socio-economic lines. It is also generational. The young bear the brunt of some of the harshest cuts.

The great tragedy is that this budget tinkers. It shaves here, slices there, slugs an unsuspecting bystander in the wings. There is no overarching vision. And that can be sheeted home to the fact that the Government appears to have little understanding of the underlying problem. Either that, or it chooses to ignore it.

The challenges facing Australia cannot be solved by mere bookkeeping. During the past decade our economy has undergone a major structural transformation that has spawned new sources of wealth but laid waste to vast areas of the economy.

We are now primarily a minerals and energy exporter, industries that are capital intensive but employment light and that largely are foreign owned.

The manufacturing industries that once soaked up vast numbers of semi and unskilled workers in the post-war era no longer exist as new technology has diminished the demand for raw labour and a higher currency has shifted many of those industries offshore.

Service industries - where most of the population now is employed - also are looking to shift jobs offshore via new technology.

We risk creating a vast pool of unemployed and underemployed. That may sound enticing to business leaders hoping for the day when they can slash wages. But the long-term social costs could be severe.

Then there are the demographic shifts. Our population is ageing. That will create an incredible burden on the public purse for health and welfare payments in the future.

But we have a superannuation industry controlled by the four major banks that gouges enormous fees - more than $23 billion last year - from the savings pool.

Do we target the private superannuation system and attempt to reform it? No, we leave it and every other powerful vested interest to dictate policy that will ensure short-term benefits for those with the means to wield influence.

Do we tax miners? No, we hit unemployed youth. Do we ensure the generation coming through will be equipped for the challenges of the modern world? No, we cut education funding.

Funding for research and development has been slashed across the board, apart from a whimsical medical research fund that will be funded by the demise of free health care.

ACTU: $27 Minimum Wage Increase Needed Now

28 March, 2014 | ACTU Media Release

A $27 wage rise per week for our lowest paid workers is essential if Australia is to avoid creating an underclass of working poor.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said that new research contained within the ACTU submission to the Fair Work Commission's Annual Wage Review shows that if action isn’t taken to increase the minimum wage and turn around the alarming decline in the relative earnings of low paid workers then Australia will have an entrenched working poor as they do in the United States within twenty years.

“A $27 per week increase to the minimum wage will ensure the gap between low paid workers and the rest of the workforce does not widen even further, “Mr Oliver said.

“Australians do not want to live in a country of ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the only way for low paid workers to keep up is for the Fair Work Commission to approve this increase.

“That’s why the ACTU is demanding the National Minimum Wage increase to $649.20 a week for Australia's lowest paid including cleaners, retail and hospitality staff, child care workers, farm labourers, and factory workers.

“This would mean a 71 cent per hour increase from $16.37 per hour to $17.08 per hour. We’re asking the Fair Work Commission to increase the lowest award wages by the same amount, $27 per week. For other Award reliant workers above the benchmark tradesperson's rate, Unions seek a 3.7% increase.”

Mr Oliver warned that allowing inequality to worsen will ensure that within 20 years Australia will have a working poor similar to the United States.

“The minimum wage is now just 43.3% of average full time wages - the lowest proportion on record,” Mr Oliver said.

“If action isn't taken, by around 2035 that figure could languish below 30%.

“This will make life in Australia much tougher for low paid workers who will find themselves well and truly left behind. Unions are not going to sit back and let that happen.

"If we want to be the country of the fair go then Australia's minimum wage must be increased.

"It is the responsible thing to do and it is the right thing to do - Australians are emphatic, we do not want a US style underclass of working poor in this country.

"We want a country that gives everyone a fair go and gives everyone dignity and a right to a reasonable and decent quality of living. That's the Australian way.”

Mr Oliver said that only twenty years ago Australia's minimum wage was the highest in the OECD at nearly 60% of average full time wages and ten years on it was hovering around 50%.

“Our research proves there is an urgent and compelling need to turn this decline around,” Mr Oliver said.

“The annual wage review is the only chance for a pay increase for 1.5 million of Australia’s lowest paid workers, and helps set the pay and pay increases of many more.

“Australia is meant to be the country of the fair go but the stats speak for themselves – we’re going down the path of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘have not’ population is growing.

“Australia is becoming a high cost country to live in and for low paid workers it’s getting harder and harder to get by.

“For those on a low wage, home ownership is a now pipedream. The minimum wage has less than doubled in the past 20 years compared to a 250 per cent increase in housing prices.”


Ged Kearney Address to the ACTU Indigenous Conference

20 May, 2014 | ACTU Speeches & Opinion


This conference comes at a crucial moment in our country’s history.

Last week’s Budget, taking its cue from the National Commission of Audit, was a cruel, heartless document, constructed from a fabric of lies and designed to inflict the maximum pain on the most vulnerable in our society, while protecting the wealthy and privileged.

After concocting a Budget ‘emergency’, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey used the Budget to advance an ideological agenda devised in the boardrooms of corporate Australia, to make the poor, the aged, the sick and the young feel the pinch so big business can continue on its merry, profit-making way.

This is nothing short of a savage assault on the Australian way of life and famous egalitarianism.

They have taken a wrecking ball to the social wage that unions spent the best part of a century in building.

Clearly the Liberal Government vision is of a harsher, less equal Australia.

Universal healthcare is over with, the introduction of a Medicare co-payment which will put pressure on low income families who for going to the doctor will now become a financial decision.

They are cutting the real value of all pensions – including the age and disability support pensions, and single parents payment – which in today’s terms, will be a cut of about $200 a fortnight by 2030 to those people that can least afford it.

In a disgraceful move young job seekers will need to participate in job search and employment services for six months before they can begin receiving Newstart or youth allowance that will leave these people in poverty.

Young people who are training to learn a trade will lose direct financial support and instead be saddled with debt well into their working lives.

The Government is making it harder for Australians to save for a decent retirement by freezing the increase to the Superannuation Guarantee for four years as well as lifting the retirement age to 70.

Fees for university will go through the roof and students will start paying real interest on their debts and pay them back from a lower income.

Tony Abbott, the self-described “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”, has slashed $534 million from the Indigenous budget through the consolidation of 26 programs down to five.

Tony Abbott, “the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”, has slashed $165 million from the Indigenous health budget.

Tony Abbott, “the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”, has ceased funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

This leaves the only voice for Aboriginal people in the hands of Warren Mundine and the hand-picked Indigenous Advisory Council.

And to rub salt in the wounds, the savings made from these cuts aren’t to be reinvested in more innovative or socially crucial and self-determined programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but will be redirected into the Medical Research Future Fund and to “repair the Budget and fund policy priorities”.

Friday, May 23, 2014

MUA: Corporate/Government Lies To Public Exposed

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has slammed industry and the Federal Government for misleading the public over the working hours of tugboat deckhands in Port Hedland.

MUA WA Assistant Secretary Will Tracey said tugboat workers worked an average of 2,016 hours per year, the equivalent of almost 54 weeks of a standard 37.5 hour working week.

“Over the course of a year, tugboat workers work six swings of 28 days, at an average of 12 hours a day, and sometimes up to 20 hours a day, depending on the volume of iron ore going through the Port,” Mr Tracey said.

“The total number of hours worked by a tugboat deckhand in a year equates to almost 54 weeks of a standard 37.5 hour working week, such as people might earn if they worked in the Perth offices of BHP Billiton.

“Both industry and the Federal Government are trying to create the impression that these deckhands work only a fraction of the year, in an attempt to portray the MUA as unreasonable and justify a political attack on the union and Australia’s industrial relations laws.

“By misleading the public over the nature of the work performed by these workers, both industry and the Federal Government are showing no respect for the hard work and sacrifice of these workers and their families.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

IUF: No To Trade Deals That Threaten Democracy!

Usually we write you with very concrete requests to support workers fighting for their rights in specific conflicts. We know from experience that messages can make a difference, and we appreciate your continued support and solidarity.

This time we're sending a different kind of action alert and asking for a different kind of support.

Governments are currently negotiating, under conditions of strict secrecy, two giant trade and investment treaties which will impact enormously on our lives as workers, citizens and consumers: the EU-US trade deal now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

If these treaties come into force, they will weaken elected government and strengthen corporate power at all levels. They must be defeated, and popular pressure can do this, just as it stopped the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

A new IUF publication, Trade Deals That Threaten Democracy, exposes the corporate power grab at the core of these two mega-treaties, how they build and expand upon the toxic web of the thousands of investment treaties which have been layered on to the WTO rules and why the labour movement should throw its full support behind the growing movement in outright opposition to these deals.

You can download the brochure here. We urge you to read it, distribute it, spread the word in your unions and in your communities, and tell your political representatives "No to trade deals that threaten democrtacy!"

Budget: Smouldering Anger v Smokin' Joe

Smouldering Anger v Smokin' Joe ...................... (cartoon by Matt Golding)
  • More than one third of the budget cuts - $6 billion - fall on the middle quintile of households, earning $45,000 to $63,000.
  • Families with school-age children are the hardest hit. Across all income groups, they will lose $15.9 billion over four years, more than 90 per cent of the total.
  • Low and middle-income sole parents suffer worst of all, losing between 10 and 15 per cent of their annual income - $4000 to $6250 - on family earnings of less than $60,000 by the time the changes to welfare take full effect in 2017-18.
  • The burden rises sharply for families with children over the four years of the budget. For example, a sole parent earning $60,000 with children aged eight and 12 will lose $1808 in annual income in 2014-15 and $6278 in 2017-18.

Low- and middle-income earners, especially those with school-age children, are hit hardest as the family tax benefit for single-income families is abolished and indexation is curbed.

SMH Read more:

ACOSS: Socially Harmful Budget

The Australian Council of Social Service has released new analysis revealing that people on low and middle incomes will carry the overwhelming burden of repairing the federal Budget.

“Our analysis brings home the harsh truth that the heavy focus on spending cuts will be socially harmful and cost our nation more in the long run,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“The burden of restoring the Budget will not be fairly shared. Over the next four years, people and families living on low incomes will be expected to contribute over half the savings in the Budget (52%), compared with  less than one sixth coming from people on high incomes.

“More than $19 billion out of $37 billion (52%) in budget savings in key programs and services over the next four years will come from reductions in spending on programs that mainly assist low and middle income earners. Only $5.7 billion (15%) billion are tax increases or savings in programs mainly benefiting people on high incomes.

“The people that will particularly be affected are those under 30 looking for work, people with disabilities, carers, single parents and struggling low income pensioners and families. The income losses sustained by many people relying income support and family payments are large and crippling.

“Lowering indexation for pensions and freezing family payments for two years will affect families living on low incomes the most and increase poverty and inequality. A single parent on a low income with one child over 6 years stands to lose $50 a week from the changes to Family Tax Benefits alone. We estimate that over a decade, changes to indexation will mean that single people relying on most pensions will be $80 a week worse off.

“New rules will deny income support to young people up to 29 years for six months of every year, unless exempted, resulting in income losses of $207 to $255 a week. Changes to eligibility for the Disability Support Pension are likely to result in more young people currently on this Pension being moved to the much lower Newstart or Youth Allowance, an income loss of at least $166 per week.

“The same people will also be hardest hit by the move to introduce $7 co-payments for doctor’s visits and other services. It will deter patients with severely constrained incomes, particularly those with complex health conditions, from seeking necessary help, leading to more costly hospitalisations down the track.

“In contrast, people with high wealth and incomes will scarcely feel any pain, and much of it will be temporary. There are some efforts to remove or tighten access to a number of poorly targeted entitlements, such as abolishing the Seniors Supplement, capping Family Tax Benefit part B payment at $100,000, and the introduction of a temporary deficit levy. However, measures impacting disproportionately on those with high incomes represent just 15% of the overall savings and revenue measures considered in ACOSS’ analysis.

“Everyone is expected to contribute to repair the Government Budget but more is expected of those with the least ability to pay.

“To be fair and sustainable this budget should have restored public revenue as well as reducing waste on the expenditure side. Three fifths of the decline in the Budget bottom line since the Global Financial Crisis was caused by a loss of revenue, yet the Budget has not begun the process of major structural reform of the tax system. The Budget instead left generous tax concessions that mainly benefit people on higher incomes in the too-hard-basket: superannuation, the treatment of private and company trusts and generous housing tax concessions. It is vital that these are front and centre in the Government’s tax review.

“We urge the government to withdraw the harshest of the spending cuts and start an open dialogue on budget reform to design and build support for the structural change that’s needed on both the revenue and expenditure side. ” Dr Goldie.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

ABC Cuts: Turnbull Out of Touch

Cuts to the ABC budget will damage the broadcaster’s news and programming output, contrary to claims made by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull that cutbacks will be absorbed without hitting programs or its editorial independence.

The ABC will take an initial $120 million budget hit over four years through a combination of a 1% efficiency dividend and the scrapping of the $223 million Australia Network contract. Further cuts are expected to flow from an efficiency study completed in April.

CPSU National President Michael Tull said Mr Turnbull is out of touch with reality to claim that the 1% efficiency dividend announced in the Budget could be easily absorbed.

“Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he expects those efficiencies can be achieved without cutting the ABC’s ‘diverse range of programs and services, or affecting their editorial independence’. It’s clear he didn’t account for the massive cut his colleague Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has inflicted on the ABC by scrapping the Australia Network.

“Sadly reality is catching up with Minister Turnbull, albeit on a 48-hour delay,” said Mr Tull. After meeting with staff and ABC management the CPSU confirms that jobs and programs will be cut. “Australia Network staff and budgets underpin much of the ABC’s foreign coverage so it will have a flow on effect to domestic and international news. The bottom line is that there will have to be cuts to programs and output because it’s not possible for the ABC to do everything - including fulfilling its Charter obligations to be an international broadcaster – but with $120m less,”

“A cut of that size has to affect programs and newsgathering because it is people that make programs. Fewer people means fewer programs,” Mr Tull added. Mr Tull added that the CPSU is concerned that the cut will heap yet more pressure on areas of the ABC that are already stretched thin, such as Arts and Drama.

Hockey's Budget Con-tricks Damage Confidence

The federal budget has damaged consumer confidence, with more people feeling pessimistic about the economy than optimistic, a survey on Wednesday showed.

Westpac’s monthly consumer sentiment index fell by 6.8% in May to 99.7, its lowest point since August 2011.

A reading below 100 points indicates there are more pessimists than optimists on the state of the economy.

The survey was conducted with the Melbourne Institute between May 12 and 17 following the budget announcement.

"The sharp fall in the index is clearly indicating an unfavourable response to the recent federal budget," Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said.

The Westpac survey's result reflects that of the ANZ-Roy Morgan index, which showed consumer confidence had dropped 14% since April when leaks about government spending cuts and the debt levy started to appear.

The ANZ survey, released on Tuesday, was conducted on the weekend after the May 13 budget.

One of the questions in the Westpac survey asked about the impact of the budget on people's finances.

More than 59% of respondents said the budget would make it tougher on family finances in the next 12 months, while just 3.1% said it would improve.

Abbott Talks to John Faine

Hockey's Budget Hits the Bush !

From Professor Lesley Barclay

People living in remote and rural Australia already have a shorter life expectancies and higher rates of premature deaths. Last week’s federal budget will not only make that worse, it will introduce even more problems.

Let me explain with an example of what the budget means for one region. I live in rural New South Wales and lead a university department located in a large rural town with a Base Hospital.

There are 120 general practitioners who work in our rural valley and offer after-hours services. These doctors work hard to keep low-income people in their practices; despite advertising fees above the bulk-billing rate, 85% only charge many clients the Medicare rebated fee.

The viability of continuing to subsidise this clientele was already worrying these doctors. Many of them have clinics that employ practice nurses and other general practitioners, and their income is insufficient to continue to do this as well as subsidise poorer patients.

The introduction of the co-payment for visiting doctors will increase the number of local people who don’t seek care from a GP. This will damage their health and the viability of these rural medical centres.

Bad to worse

For the past 12 months, the Medicare Local in our area had provided services for rurally located vulnerable people without a doctor. Despite this effort 20% of the children admitted to the local hospital do not have access to family medical services.

These children – and their parents – do not have the benefit of a GP to implement prevention, early intervention and low acuity care. Nor do they receive general practice care after discharge from the local hospital.

People deterred by the GP co-payment to seek primary care will end up in our hospital’s emergency department. It’s likely these people will be considerably more ill by the time they get to hospital.

Our very busy Base Hospital is already underfunded by about $70 million a year. It’s likely to be further overextended as cuts to the health budget are felt – and it faces the prospect of more ambulance callouts and people needing help in its emergency department.

Not untypical

People in rural areas with poor primary health care are more likely than those in cities to end up in hospital. There’s evidence for this in a 2012 National Preventative Health Agency (NPHA) report that examined 21 causes of avoidable hospitalisations. Two of these are often suffered by children - vaccine-preventable disease and asthma.

Not only does the countryside suffer from a dearth of GPs, community nurses, pharmacists, dentists and allied health practitioners are also rare. And parents and others are stuck in a vicious cycle, because the lack of post-hospital care leads to another hospital admission and so on.

As shocking and distressing as this is, it’s not unusual in rural parts of this country. Our local hospital draws from a typical regional population, which has higher than urban rates of poverty and chronic illness.

Much of our population lives in small communities or towns that cannot sustain a general practitioner, pharmacist or allied health worker. Transport is difficult for many; cars may be shared but petrol is already expensive. And transport is about to become even more costly because of the decision to restore indexation of federal petrol excise.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Budget: Poorest Will Be Hit Hardest

Low-income couples with children and single parents will bear the brunt of the Abbott Government's first budget, losing up to 15 per cent of their disposable income when the measures hit in full, according to independent modelling.

The findings from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at Canberra University stand in contrast to the Government's insistence that the budget is "fair" and "shares the burden".

The Coalition has cut almost $7.5 billion over the forward estimates by freezing family payments and axing some benefits altogether, with most measures beginning on July 1, 2015.

Eligibility thresholds for payments will also be frozen for two years, a measure which effectively lets inflation reduce the cut-off for benefits over time.

NATSEM principal research fellow Ben Phillips has studied the effects of the budget and says it is "not fair at all".

"We'd estimate around 1.2 million families that would be on average around $3,000 a year worse off by 2017-18, whereas the top income groups - so the top 20 per cent of households - would have either no impact or a very small positive impact," he told PM.

Mr Phillips found that a single parent of two school-aged children who was looking for work would lose $4,243 a year or 14.8 per cent of their disposable income by 2017.

And they would still lose that much even if the parent found a job that paid $40,000 a year.

A couple with two school-aged children who both worked to bring in a combined income of $60,000 a year would lose $6,350 or 10.9 per cent of their annual disposable income.

And even if their household income climbed to $90,000 a year, the loss would remain the same.

Sydney March in May to Bust the Budget

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hockey's Misogynist Budget

May 16, 2014
Anne Summers

"Get thee to a workplace" was essentially the message to women from Treasurer Joe Hockey in the budget.

"Staying at home should be a parent's choice but there are limits on how much support the taxpayer can give," Mr Hockey said as he announced a raft of measures to effectively force women out of the home and into employment.

I have long advocated women being able to enjoy the economic independence and self-esteem that comes with being in the workforce, especially the full-time workforce, but the lengths to which this government was prepared to go to get women into employment were surprising.

Slashing family tax benefits and putting a work test on the paid parental leave scheme were the sort of things you'd expect from a champion of women's employment such as Julia Gillard (remember how much trouble she got into for her efforts to nudge single parents into employment) rather than the stogie-smoking blue ties of a conservative government.

This is the side of politics that had made the stay-at-home mother an ideological cornerstone, that introduced the dependent spouse rebate and the baby bonus.

Now they are the ones who are abolishing these inducements to be a stay-at-home mum.

Just how effective the measures will be remains to be seen. After all, the evidence is irrefutable that what stops mothers working are a lack of affordable childcare and the punitive effective tax rates that apply when family benefits are withdrawn as income is earned.

So if you wanted women back at work, you would not be cutting $230 million from childcare subsidies as Mr Hockey did on Tuesday.

Women are also discouraged by lack of equal pay (why bother if you are earning less than the bloke sitting beside you!) and by a culture in way too many workplaces that is discouraging, often hostile and sometimes downright misogynist.

If you want to encourage women into the economy, it would make sense to acknowledge and address the pay gap as well as some of these less tangible obstacles to women being able to enjoy employment parity with men.

Instead, the government has now announced yet another set of consultations into the gender reporting requirements of the Workplace Gender Equality Act legislated by the Labor government and administered by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

Employment Minister Eric Abetz had to retreat earlier this year from his blitzkrieg against the legislation. He wanted to abolish WGEA – something the National Commission of Audit has also recommended – and now he seems determined to consult it to death. A government that really wanted women to work would be enthusiastic about a law that required organisations to report on how many women they employed, what levels they worked at and how much they were paid.

The Age Read more:

Tens of Thousands on the March in May

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in cities across Australia to protest against the Federal Government's 2014 budget.

Protesters angered by the announced budget cuts to Government services - including health and education - gathered in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth today, as part of the nationwide March in May rallies.

In Sydney, the crowd was estimated at up to 10,000 people.

Protesters gathered in Sydney's CBD carrying placards with messages such as "hands off health, education and welfare".

Heather Williams, who works in education, said she was concerned about the Government's changes to unemployment benefits announced in the budget.

"I'm very concerned about the young, unemployed [people] under this budget," she said.

"It really worries me. I know a lot of people who tried very hard to get work."

For 15 Thousand in Melbourne, the proposed cuts to assistance for unemployed young people were also in focus, as was the lifting of the pension age to 70.

Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt told the crowd the budget unfairly targets vulnerable people.

"If you say to the Australian people, 'What do you think is better – asking Gina Rinehart and the big banks and the big polluters to pay a bit more or taking the axe to the young and the sick and the poor?' I know which way this country will vote," he said.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says thousands of people turned out to protest in Adelaide.

"Why are 6,000 South Australians raising their voices in Adelaide today? They understand that this is about making sure when they are sick, there is a hospital bed for them," he said at a joint news conference with other state leaders in Sydney.

"When their children have a learning difficulty, there is the extra teaching support to allow their child to be a success – that's what's at stake, that's what's motivating them, and we are speaking for those Australians as we stand here today together.

"We have not seen rallies like this in SA since WorkChoices."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sign of the Times - The Poor Get the Blame

Tony Abbott's Name is Mud

Mike Carlton SMH

The Prime Minister is a liar. 

There is no point mincing words. We have never seen anything like it.

With this budget he has shown himself to be cynically dishonest on a scale unprecedented in modern politics. Although Abbott is not the first political leader to break an election promise and will not be the last, no prime minister in memory, Liberal or Labor, has come even close to his contemptuous deception of the electorate he sucker-punched on Tuesday.

To a point, this is not surprising. All my adult life I have been lied to by the Tories, from the Vietnam war on down to John Howard's invention of the non-core promise. I was therefore expecting duplicity from Abbott. It's what people like him do, how they think, how they govern.

But it was genuinely shocking to see his wholesale abandonment of the bargain of candour to be expected between leader and people. Almost every significant commitment he made in the election campaign last year has been flung overboard or distorted beyond recognition.

No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.
Tony Abbott, SBS NEWS – September 6, 2013

There are five separate betrayals in that lot alone. The most heinous is his full frontal assault upon Medicare, with even the poorest families forced to fork out a $7 "co-payment" – as the euphemism goes – to see their GP, to get a pathology test, to have a CT scan, to fill a prescription. It's a tax from a government that promised no new taxes. Pay it, or join the ever-lengthening queue at your local hospital's emergency department, where Abbott has given them the green light to charge you as well.
In education, university fees will soar as they are thrown onto the open market. Stand by for the $120,000 arts degree. This, despite Christopher "Poodles" Pyne's promise to Sky News on November 7 last year that "we're not going to raise fees ... I am not even considering it because we promised that we wouldn’t."

But these two hits – gross as they are – pale against the enormity of the biggest surprise in this no-surprises budget, the government's decision to unload $80 billion of health and education spending onto the states in the coming years.

It is the end of the Gonski education reforms. It is the shredding of the health care safety net by a Prime Minister who just weeks ago could proclaim, without batting an eyelid, that he was "the best friend Medicare has ever had".

The state and territory leaders – Tories all bar one – are livid. Mike Baird rightly called it " a kick in the guts for the people of NSW," and Queensland's Campbell Newman demanded an emergency COAG meeting. At which, no doubt, the states will howl for an increase in the GST. Eventually they will get it, expanded to catch food and anything else it does not hit now, and then hoicked to 12.5% by a prime minister who could boast in opposition:

"We are about reducing taxes, not increasing taxes. We are about getting rid of taxes, not imposing new taxes. This is my whole reason for being in politics, in the Parliament."
Tony Abbott, November 20, 2012.

And on it goes. Up with the fuel excise, hitting you at the servo. Old people will fall back in the race against inflation. Eventually they will have to work to 70 to get the pension ; OK, perhaps, if you're an office worker. Frightening if you're on the tools, driving a truck, teaching infants, or nursing in intensive care.

The young unemployed are savagely bashed with the refusal of the dole for six months. The disabled are to be interrogated, yet again, to determine if they are cheating. The ABC, bludgeoned as well, will be forced to shed staff, cut programs and very probably close some of its foreign news bureaus. And that's before the so-called "efficiency dividend" is imposed. Goaded by the Murdoch press, the Liberals make no secret of their loathing for the ABC as a nest of lefty traitors. It is punishment politics at its most vindictive.

This is a fair budget, everyone is doing his or her bit, including, dare I say it, politicians.”
Tony Abbott, Channel Ten, May 14.

If Labor had brought in a "deficit levy" on the wealthy – yes, another tax – the Tories and their claque of media toadies would have shrieked blue murder about socialist class warfare. Instead, they portray Abbott as a strong leader taking tough decisions to end a budget "emergency" they themselves invented.

Actually, someone on $200,000 a year would pay around an extra $210 in tax, the cost of a business lunch. And the politicians' wage freeze is derisory. On $507,000 a year, Abbott is one of the world's best paid leaders, doing rather better than Barack Obama earning the equivalent of $425,000 or, say, the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who scrapes by on $161,000.

With Orwellian deceit, Abbott insists that "we have fundamentally kept faith with the Australian people". In fact, he and Smokin' Joe Hockey have brought down an oppressive, grasping budget. It is not so much a fiscal document as a political tract, driven by a brutal conservative ideology in which ordinary people are lashed to the wheels of "the market" and conscripted to serve an economy which should be serving them.

It is a delicious irony that Abbott has destroyed the faith the voters placed in him. Endlessly blackguarding Julia Gillard for her broken carbon tax promise and trumpeting himself as a paragon of probity, he raised the bar.

On Tuesday he fell beneath it, face down in the mud, and will never be trusted again.

SMH Read more

Friday, May 16, 2014

Budget Reply - Bill Shorten


This is the Budget of a Prime Minister and a Government who want to tear down everything Australians have built together.

By contrast, Labor invests in our people to make our country stronger. Labor educates. Labor cares for all. Labor believes in an Australia writ large.

We believe that economic growth comes from extending opportunity. We believe in a prosperous Australia: prosperity for everyone who works and prosperity which works for everyone.

An Australia where your Medicare card – not your credit card – guarantees you access to quality healthcare. An Australia where the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a reality for people with disability, their carers and the people who love them – not a scapegoat for complaints about spending.

Labor believes that a teenager in a regional town should be studying in a great school – and have the choice of a university education, learning a trade or taking up a rewarding job.

We believe that science and innovation should be at the heart of national policy – because they are central to our prosperity.

We believe in an Australia where small business can grow and thrive. An Australia that still makes things. An Australia with quality infrastructure – including digital infrastructure.

An Australia where women are equal – and pays them equally. An Australia that is closing the gap and extending opportunities for the first Australians. Labor believes in an Australia that cares for its environment – and takes the science of climate change seriously.

An Australia where multiculturalism is celebrated as a social and economic asset – not treated as sport for bigots and ideologues.

An Australia that is a good global citizen, confident and engaged with the opportunities of the Asian Century. An Australia ready for the future, optimistic about the future and investing in the future.

This Prime Minister and this Treasurer, talk a lot about the freedom of the market, deregulating and liberating. Of course, you can get rid of fairness and leave people to fend for themselves. That is a kind of freedom.

Tonight I say to Australians there is another freedom.

There is the freedom of integrity and the freedom of respect. The freedom that gives every person dignity and the right to be treated equally. There is a freedom of compassion and respect that gives individuals the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

That is the freedom I believe in.

This Budget undermines that freedom. This Budget weakens it. This Budget tears at the living standards of our people. And in doing so, this Budget tears at the fabric of our country.

On Tuesday, the Treasurer quoted from Robert Menzies’ ‘Forgotten People’. But the Government forgot a lot of people on Budget night.

They are the Australians I speak on behalf of tonight, the Australians I am speaking to.

The Government forgot you in its Budget – and it forgot what makes our country great. It forgot opportunity. It forgot reward for effort. It forgot the fair go.

Well, Labor hasn’t forgotten.

We still believe in fairness. We still believe in an Australia that includes everyone, that helps everyone, that lets everyone be their best, that leaves no-one behind. This is the Australia that the Prime Minister has forgotten.

And it is the Australia that Labor will always fight for.

If you want an election, try us. If you think we are too weak – bring it on. But remember – it is not about you or I Prime Minister. It is about the future of our nation and the wellbeing of our people.

NSW: Bentley CSG Blockade

From Nimbin Good Times

The Bentley blockade is proving to be so much more than a protest against a drill rig. It is one of the biggest and most significant outbreaks of democracy seen in this country for many decades. It is the physical manifestation of a truly matured social movement that has mobilised majority support, achieved an impressive level of selforganisation and quite apart from its role as a protest has become invaluable as a place where the community comes to learn, to discuss and to rediscover our power as a united community.

Thousands of people, many of whom may never have attended a protest before let alone a blockade have begun the journey from passivity and into active citizenship. For many it is a chance to meet the protesters, and the blockaders, who have for so long been portrayed by media and politicians as a separate species and realise they are us and we are them. We are the protectors. But beyond the amazing cultural transformations that are taking place at Bentley there is of course a deadly serious political reality.

Our democracy is in crisis. Our state government is riddled with corruption. We have watched over the last several years as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (that remaining bastion of transparency) has revealed the tip of the corruption iceberg in this state. Both Labor and the Liberal and National parties have been shown to be captured by vested interests in the form of the mining industry and other developers. Finally we can all see exactly who has been running this state; why gas and coal licenses have been granted and renewed with no regard to community consultation, environmental safety or proper process.

From Maules creek to Bentley and from the Pilliga to the Illawarra, communities are standing up and fighting back against the mining behemoth. Communities that have exhausted every conservative avenue for being heard, that have voted, marched, written to politicians, and participated in protests or appealed to the courts have all hit the same brick wall. The state government responds by backing the industry every time.

Even when the tiny town of Bulga beat the mining companies twice in court, the state government simply changed the legislation for the mining companies. Is it any wonder that formerly conservative communities all over the state have reached the same conclusion, there is nothing left than community led non- violent direct action. Non-violence is so powerful for communities because through it we can assert our true political power without giving the government an excuse for the violence they would meet us with.

Nevertheless our government at this time is busy developing its most absurd plan yet. To raise a force of over 700 police on an 80 day deployment to force mining by martial law upon the communities of this region. Apart from the fact that such a plan can never succeed against a united community, it represents a massive subsidy to Metgasco of over $3 million of public money just to get one drill rig in.

To the people of the region, have pride, be courageous and know that we are winning. The greater the force that the government uses the more it exposes the corruption of our state s politics and the sheer impossibility of Metgasco's business model. Over the coming weeks the government must decide whether it really wants to go ahead with its crazy military plan.

In the meantime we have nothing to fear, we need to keep visiting Bentley, keep enjoying our dawns, keep encouraging our friends and work colleagues and neighbours to make history with us. Whether the government backs down first or whether they go through the insanity of sending an invasion force for us to peacefully absorb, Bentley has already earned its place as a great stand for democracy. The only thing that could defeat us in the coming weeks is complacency.

Stay alert, keep visiting the blockade and keep your affairs in order so you can respond when called. Above all remain calm and peaceful in all your interactions with police, because for the vast majority of them as well their heart is not really in this madness.

Glenugie Community Blockade against Metgasco

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ANMF: Nurses Warn - Cuts To Health Won’t Heal

Wednesday 14th May 2014

Co-payments to visit bulk billing GPs and an increase in the price of prescription medicines will combine to have a devastating impact on Australia’s healthcare system now and into the future, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has warned.

ANMF Acting Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said the Prime Minister had broken his election promise by his savage cuts to Australia’s healthcare system and this would now dangerously compromise the amount of safe care able to be provided to people across the community.

“Tonight, Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare has ripped the heart out of the Australian health system and as a former Health Minister, he should be ashamed of that,” Ms Butler said.

“Mr Abbott has no mandate to kill off Medicare. Australians didn’t vote for these devastating changes to our health system. For him to do this now is simply immoral.

“Ultimately, it’s everyday Australians who will suffer. They will be paying $7 to see a GP and paying more every time they go to get their prescriptions filled.

“Under this Budget, it’s now only people with their credit cards handy who will be able to get care. The others, who can’t afford it, like low income earners, the elderly and struggling families, will be forced to put off seeking medical treatment until it’s too late. That means people will get sicker and sicker, deprived of the care they need.”

Ms Butler said all Australians already pay for universal healthcare through tax, the Medicare levy and private insurance for those who can afford it

“As a nation, we already have one of the highest out of pocket costs ($1075 per year) for healthcare in the world and this will massively increase as the Government moves to destroy Medicare,” Ms Butler explained.

“The Government claims patient fees will help sustain the health system, but this is destined to fail, as it will only increase costs and worsen health outcomes. Co-payments will shift the cost burden onto individual consumers and the Australian public hospital system overall by driving more and more people into busy emergency departments.

“But as frontline healthcare professionals, nurses know that people must seek treatment sooner rather than later, otherwise those so-called minor ailments develop into serious, often chronic illnesses which go on to require expensive chronic care in hospitals.

“As Australia’s largest health union, the ANMF is deeply concerned that the Government has failed to consult with nurses and midwives or any other health professionals on the best ways to sustain and improve the health system.

“Rather than choosing to slash spending and end Medicare, Mr Abbott should be directing resources into preventative and primary care, preventing unnecessary procedures and readmissions which will control costs and ensure that we use evidence based practice.

“Rest assured, the ANMF will now fight to defend Medicare and the health of our nation and we urge the Senate to reject these changes and protect our health system because these cuts to health won’t heal.”

NSWTF: Federal budget

By NSW Teachers Federation 14 May 2014

The Teachers Federation today called on the NSW Premier to maintain his funding advocacy now that the federal budget has been delivered. The June state budget will be the first opportunity for Mr Baird to show that his Government will honour their part of the deal.

Today the NSW Treasurer, Andrew Constance, issued a Media Release (see attachment below) in which he states:

“The NSW Government has major concerns over the Commonwealth’s Budget, with what appears to be ‘cost-shifting’ in health and education services….

“We are deeply concerned about what this budget means for health and education services. We make no apologies for fighting for the people of NSW when it comes to funding these vital areas.

“We will fight tooth and nail for every dollar.’

As well, Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli issued a media release in which he reaffirmed the NSW government’s commitment to fund its Gonski commitments in full, and saying he will meet with all school sectors to plan a strategy to ensure the Commonwealth Government meets its commitments.

Mr Piccoli said:

“As Minister for Education I am bitterly disappointed that the Commonwealth Government has walked away from a signed agreement with NSW.

Not only is this a breach of a commitment to NSW, it is breach of faith with all school students in the State.”

Prior to the budget, the Premier, Mike Baird, was on the record arguing that his Government continues to support the Gonski Agreement. He said:

“The NSW Government remains committed to the agreement and we will strongly advocate that the commonwealth government similarly agree to maintain the agreement for the full six-year period”, Mr Baird said. (SMH 29 April 2014)

Yesterday’s federal budget signalled that the Abbott Government intends to under-fund schools by at least two-thirds of what was promised in the National Education Reform Agreement reached between the NSW and Federal Governments.

Despite assurances given to the Australian public before the last election, the Abbott Government had already announced in December 2013 cuts of $450 million for after-school care and a $987 million cut in funding for trade training facilities in schools.

For NSW schools the federal budget represents a cut of $2.1 billion by abandoning the final two years of Gonski funding. As well, the vocational and training (VET) sector has also been hit hard.

The real losers in the Federal Budget are our students.

The cuts include $1.81 billion in additional funding for public schools which educate a disproportionate number of students from low-income families, students from rural and remote NSW, students with disability, Aboriginal students and students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The Gonski funding model was designed to close the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged. The Abbott Government has abandoned the Gonski principle of need-based, targeted funding. Instead, it is a budget that will entrench disadvantage and deny thousands of students the education they need to reach their potential. Up to one in five NSW schools will not meet even minimum basic resource standards.

Already in NSW public schools the additional Gonski funds are making a difference providing extra support to students in targeted, strategic programs. If Abbott is allowed to get away with the cuts, there will be no long-term certainty for these programs.

The Abbott cuts also hit VET hard, with the cost of gaining skills shifted from the government to young Australians and their parents and carers.

The Tools For Your Trade program, worth $914.6 million over four years, has been cut. Worse, the following programs will be abolished with cuts of over $1 billion to this vital area:

  • National Workforce Development Fund
  • Workplace English Language and Literacy Program
  • Australian Apprenticeships Access Program
  • Accelerated Australian Apprenticeships Program
  • Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Program
  • National Partnership Agreement on Training Places for Single Parents
  • Alternative Pathways Program
  • Apprenticeship to Business Owner Program
  • Productive Ageing through Community Education
  • Step Into Skills Program
  • These programs were critical in providing basic literacy and numeracy skills, and up-skilling existing workers to meet the needs of the modern workplace. They have been replaced with a Trade Support Loans Programme - $439 million over four years - a HECS-style loans scheme of up to $20,000 per apprentice restricted to skills shortage or "in demand" areas.

The loans scheme indicates that the federal government has abandoned any commitment to develop the skills of young Australians shifting the burden on the individual and placing them on a debt cycle even before they gain employment.

While a new Industry Skills Fund is worth $476 million over four years, the real impact on VET will be a net loss of at least $1.5 billion.

It is extraordinary that the Prime Minister can talk about long-term investment in Australia’s future while at the same time fail to invest in Australia’s most precious resource, our young people. The cuts to Gonski and VET show that this government understands the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Melting Ice in the Western Antarctic "unstoppable"

Ice is melting in the western Antarctic at an "unstoppable" pace, scientists said Monday, warning that the finding holds major consequences for global sea level rise in the coming decades.

The speedy melting means that prior calculations about how much the sea level will rise worldwide made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will have to be adjusted upwards, scientists told reporters.

"A large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return," said Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system science at the University of California Irvine.

"The retreat of ice is unstoppable," he said, noting that surveys have shown there is no large hill at the back of these glaciers that could hold back the melting ice.

Scientists have been warning about this so-called weak underbelly of western Antarctic for decades, but only since the 1990s have they been able to gather detailed information on this remote area.
The results are included in pair of published studies that document observational changes in the Antarctic in recent years, and predict the future behaviour of the melting ice through computer models.

"This retreat will have major consequences for sea level rise worldwide," Rignot added, anticipating the melting will take place largely in the next two centuries.

"It will raise sea level by 1.2 meters or four feet," said Rignot, whose paper appears in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said his study compiled data from satellites, airplanes, ships and ground surveys in the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Retreat of the area's Pine Island glacier has slowed in recent years, but scientists said that was likely to due to the very rapid retreat it went through early on.

The nearby Thwaites glacier has been melting faster since 2006, and the long term trend toward faster melting is clear.

A separate study published in the journal Science on Monday found that Thwaites glacier is melting fast and that its collapse could raise global sea level nearly 60 centimetres.

That study was based largely on computer modelling to predict future conditions, along with airborne radar measurements of the West Antarctic ice sheet that allowed scientists to map the underlying bedrock.

Study author Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington, said the process is now expected to take between 200 and 1000 years.

AWU: Brutal Budget - An Assault On Future Economy

The Abbott Government's first budget has slashed programs that promote economic and employment growth and disproportionately attacked the living standards of working people, according to Australian Workers' Union.

AWU Assistant National Secretary Scott McDine said it was absurd for the government to sell its brutal budget as responsible.

"Anyone can wield an axe - the tough bit is in planning for regrowth and this where the budget is disturbingly lacking," Mr McDine said.

"Conservatives may yearn for the perfect world of economics textbooks where everything magically sorts itself out, but the fact is that industry needs government support, guidance and leadership if it is to thrive and provide quality jobs for Australians into the future.

"Cutting programs that are designed to stimulate future economic and employment growth is not prudent management - it is simply irresponsible.”

Mr McDine singled out the $340 million in cuts to the research and development funding, and more than $1 billion cut from vocational training and apprenticeship support, as particularly damaging.

"Slashing the Research and Development Tax Incentive to support firms’ research and development will cost our economy untold millions in the medium to long term," Mr McDine said.

"Ripping a billion dollars from vocational training and apprentice support will only create a more dire skills shortage than we face at the moment. The future the Abbott Government is creating through these cuts is a future of dependence on guest labour - although perhaps that is the point."

Mr McDine said taking $850 million cut from industry programs was shortsighted thinking at its worst.

“The money that was assigned to industry programs is an investment, not a cost,” he said.

“Cutting it today is simply an assault on the economy of tomorrow.”

Mr McDine also took aim at the fairness of the budget, saying it disproportionately hurt average workers.

"There's been a lot of rhetoric about how this budget hurts everyone, but the fact is it is average workers who will feel most of the pain," Mr McDine said.

"When you rip $80 billion from public hospitals and schools, when you unwind universal healthcare, when you raise the pension age to 70 - these are measures that will cause genuine hurt in middle Australia. To say this attack on working people is fairly balanced by a temporary two per cent lift in the top income bracket is just insulting."

IndustriALL Global Union: Death Toll Turns Turkey Mine Accident to Carnage

IndustriALL Global Union and its worldwide family mourn the deaths of hundreds of mineworkers in Soma, Manisa province in Western Turkey. As of the time of writing, 205 miners are dead and more than 80 are hospitalized. Rescue efforts continue to safeguard hundreds more miners trapped underground. Oxygen is still being pumped into the mine, however hopes are diminishing.

Belonging to a private company, the mine is organized by IndustriALL’s affiliate Maden-İş, Mineworkers’ Union of Turkey. Around 800 miners were in and around the mine when an electrical fault triggered a transformer to explode causing a large fire around noon time on Tuesday 13 May. The fire caused a power cut in the mine rendering mine cages unusable and the majority of workers trapped 2km underground and 4km from the exit. Rescue efforts have continued through the night while families of the over 200 unaccounted for miners wait at the mine’s entrance and in the local hospital.

Turkey’s record on mine safety is poor, and IndustriALL labels the deaths of mineworkers as carnage. 

Every death in a mine is avoidable and IndustriALL’s campaign for ratification of the ILO Convention 176 will continue in Turkey and elsewhere. Pressure is already building on Turkey’s government, criticized for ignoring safety warnings while workers pay with their lives.

Nurettin Akçul, General President and Vedat Ünal, General Secretary of Maden-İş report that the blast occurred at the time of a shift change, making it more difficult to know how many miners are still trapped underground. The Maden-İş leaders report that: “the mine is registered with necessary legal certification, all workers are covered by social security. The local union reps confirm that all workers are equipped with oxygen masks underground, but nobody knows how long the masks can keep them alive in this situation.”

The survival rate for coal miners following explosions or fires is extremely low, as compared to accidents in mines for hard rock or metal. The rescue must happen as quickly as possible following an explosion in a coal mine if those trapped are to be brought out alive. IndustriALL and everybody watching hopes that this case will be the exception to the rule. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the biggest threat to those still trapped underground.

IndustriALL Global Union wrote today to Maden-İş:

"This tragedy must rank as the worst mining tragedy in recent memory, and is made all the more tragic by the seemingly uncaring attitude of the government and mining companies. This attitude is unacceptable and must come to an end. It is intolerable that mine workers in Turkey are denied their basic human right to work in an environment that guarantees their safety, and that instead they are expected to go to work to die.

"The number of mineworkers involved in the fatal accident is mind-boggling and staggering. We call upon the private company operating the mine and the government of Turkey to ensure that as many miners as possible of the 400 still remaining in the mine pit be rescued.

"Turkey has possibly the worst safety record in terms of mining accidents and explosions in Europe and the third worst one in the world. As recently as 7 January 2013, eight mine workers lost their lives in another mine-related accident, which the President of your sister organization Genel Maden-Is correctly labelled as “killing” of mine workers.

"As a matter of urgency, IndustriALL Global Union calls upon the Turkish government to immediately ratify and implement ILO’s Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines to save the lives of mine workers. The “killing” must stop. IndustriALL Global Union will do everything in their power to ensure that the Turkish government act responsibly and ratify Convention 176. We once again call upon the political authorities to take the lives of mineworkers seriously and to place it above profit."

“Turkish Government and employers have responsibility for this carnage,” said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Global Union’s assistant general secretary. “When governments fail to protect their citizens, it is not merely irresponsible; it is a breach of one of the most fundamental duties entrusted to any government. Turkey aspires to greatness, and it can achieve it: but not at the cost of workers' lives.”