Sunday, August 31, 2014

US: Citizen-funded Battle to save Democracy from Corporate manipulation A Citizen-Funded Super PAC to End All SuperPACs

While infrastructure collapses, while our schools fail, while we have a healthcare system that costs too much and does too little, while climate change remains totally unaddressed, while our tax system remains a gift to those who can afford to lobby for loopholes, politicians from both parties still spend endless time raising money from the tiniest fraction of the One Percent.

And as a recent study from Princeton confirms, the result of this fundraising culture is a government that is responsive to that tiny fraction of the one percent while, "Average American citizens have little or no independent influence."

We want to fight back.

Lawrence Lessig talks about the #MaydayPAC at and why it is important to take action now to get a Congress dedicated to reform by 2016.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ACTU: Tony Abbott and his Anti-worker Agenda

Tony Abbott is trying to rush through laws that introduce new unfair individual contracts that cut take home pay, give more power to employers in bargaining and make it harder for workers to access their union. But to do all this he needs the crucial votes of at least six cross-bench senators.

We can stop Abbott’s attack dead in its tracks if just three cross-bench senators vote against the bill. It looks like the vote will take place this Wednesday so we need to act fast and we need everyone to play their part.

Click here to ask the cross-bench senators to vote against Tony Abbott’s unfair anti-worker amendments:

Tony Abbott’s new laws bring back some of the worst parts of Workchoices. Among other things, the bill:

  • Reintroduces unfair individual contracts that can cut take home pay including weekend and penalty rates
  • Gives employers a veto over industrial action.
  • Allows employers to not pay-out some annual leave if you’re sacked or leave a job.
  • Gives mining and construction employers a special deal that allows them to write their own Enterprise Agreements.
  • Reduces the rights of workers to talk to their union at work if they need help.

These laws are part of the Abbott attack on the Australian way of life. Let’s make sure that the cross-bench senators know this.

Click here and ask the senators to vote against Tony Abbott’s horrible laws:

We’ve shown before that by standing together we can help put the brakes on Tony Abbott’s radical and unfair agenda. It is going to take a big effort to knock off these laws but, together, I think we have it in us.

Let’s get one over Tony Abbott and his radical anti-worker agenda.

Many thanks --

Ged Kearney


Blackheath fire engine unable to respond to incidents as impact of emergency service budget cuts worsens

There will be one fewer Fire and Rescue NSW appliance available to respond to emergency incidents in the upper Blue Mountains today following a decision to temporarily close Blackheath Fire Station from 10am this morning.

The decision by Fire and Rescue NSW management to reduce the number of fire and rescue appliances in the Blue Mountains is the result of a new staffing practice, introduced in late 2012, following emergency service budget cuts by the NSW Liberal Government.

The closure is the third time in the last fortnight that fire services in the upper Blue Mountains have been reduced for a period of at least four hours, with Mt Victoria Fire Station impacted by similar closures on August 22 and 25.

Fire Brigade Employees’ Union country sub-branch secretary Tim Anderson said that rather than ensuring all fire stations had adequate staff numbers, management were robbing the Katoomba community to fill gaps elsewhere in the Blue Mountains.

“Firefighters from Katoomba Fire Station, which operate the only permanently staffed FRNSW appliance in the upper Mountains, will instead be based at Blackheath for the duration of the temporary closure today,” Mr Anderson said.

“FRNSW did not have an adequate number of firefighters available at Blackheath to allow the safe operation of that appliance, but rather than bring extra firefighters in to fill the gaps, they are choosing to rob neighbouring communities of resources.

“While the specialist rescue appliance from Katoomba is still available to respond to fires and rescue incidents, response times may be delayed as it will need to travel from Blackheath.

“Worryingly, there will be one fewer FRNSW appliance available to respond to any emergency situations that occur in the Blue Mountains today.”

Mr Anderson said fire incidents in the Katoomba area will be responded to by local retained firefighters — on call firefighters not based at the fire stations full time.

“These highly trained professionals have the same skills and experience as their full time colleagues, however the community is asked to understand that response times may be slightly delayed as retained firefighters are required to attend the fire station from their home or workplace before responding to incidents,” he said.

Rescue operations will be responded to by Blue Mountains Police Rescue.

Further information about the practice of closing fire stations rather than using off-duty firefighters to fill staffing gaps is available at

Australian unions protest denial of visas to dismissed Ansell workers

Aug 26, 2014

Unions held a rally outside of Ansell’s Australian headquarters following the denial of entry visas to a delegation of Sri Lankan union members. The Australian government denied the visas in an apparent attempt to shield glove and condom maker Ansell from public exposure of its harsh and unjust treatment of its workers in Sri Lanka.

The visas were denied to the Sri Lankan head of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU), and two workers recently employed at Ansell’s manufacturing operation in the Biyagama Free Trade Zone in Sri Lanka. Ansell fired these and nearly 300 other workers when they struck in support of 11 sacked colleagues and trade union representatives in October 2013.The Australian government’s official decision records state that the visas were denied for failing to have sufficient personal wealth.

AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said that it is clear the Australian Government led by anti-union Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused entry to the Sri Lankans on political grounds.

We have a federal government denying lawful entry into Australia based on ideology and wealth. Is it any wonder that three Sri Lankan workers, two of whom were recently sacked by Ansell, have ‘insufficient’ personal funds by Australian standards?

Michele O’Neil, National Secretary of the TCFUA, said the head of the FTZGSEU, Anton Marcus, is an international trade union figure and has been to Australia four times previously and it has never been a problem before now.

 These union delegates planned to come to Australia to talk about the anti-worker tactics                      implemented in Sri Lanka by Ansell and to seek international solidarity. We will continue to                  protest with or without our honoured guests to expose this company’s harsh and unjust treatment        of workers in Sri Lanka.

The FTZGSEU is pressuring for a fair settlement in Sri Lanka as the case against the unfair dismissal slowly winds its way through the Sri Lankan judicial system.

IndustriALL continues its campaign in support of the nearly 300 Sri Lankan workers unjustly dismissed by Ansell. It has included outreach to Ansell customers, 11,000 protest emails sent to Ansell management, a support mission to Sri Lanka, and an OECD Complaint.

“We commend our Australian affiliates CFMEU, TCFUA and AMWU for their support and we condemn the Australian government for siding with Ansell in blocking this union delegation,” stated IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina.

“The best way to resolve this dispute is through good faith dialogue with Ansell, not in the courts or in the streets. However until Ansell shows a willingness to work toward a fair settlement, we’ll continue to do everything we can to support FTZGSEU in this struggle,” added Raina.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

March In August: Rally for Better Government

By NSW Teachers Federation 26 August 2014

Marches will be held across Australia on the weekend of Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 August, to send a message to the elected government of Australia that, united, people are opposed to the actions and decisions which go against the best interests of our country and that we won't be silent. 

Locations are shown below.

If you are outside NSW, rallies are also organised for: Brisbane, Caboolture, Cairns, Fraser Coast, Geelong, Geraldton, Hobart, Horsham, Melbourne, Perth, Townsville.

Details here

Locations not yet confirmed: Alice Springs, Bendigo, Blue Mountains, Broome, Bundaberg, Castlemaine, Darwin, Denmark, Grafton, Traralgon, Mackay, Mildura, Rockhampton, Swan Hill, Toowoomba.


Sunday 31 August - meet at Hyde Park North at 1:00pm
March 2:15pm - Market St, George St, Park St,  return to Hyde Park

The Jezabels will perform music. 

Speakers are: 

  • Coral Levitt - Health and Medicare
  • Jenna Price - Women's services
  • Nick Riemer - Asylum seekers
  • Blair Palese - Climate change
  • Ken Canning - Indigenous issues
  • Maurie Mulheron - Education

MUA and ITF Applaud Banning of Flag of Convenience (FOC) Ship from Australian Ports

MUA Media Centre / News
Posted by Ashleigh Telford on August 28, 2014

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) applauds the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s decision to ban the containership, Vega Reederei, from Australian ports for three months for repeated breaches of seafarer welfare and ship maintenance.

The Liberian flagged Vega Reederei was a serial offender when it came to safety and seafarer welfare and had been detained at Australian ports three times since July last year, according to AMSA.

ITF President and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said he hoped the move was an indication of how new AMSA chief executive Mick Kinley intended to lead the safety regulator.

“This is the first time the full force of the Maritime Labour Convention has been used in Australia and AMSA should be congratulated for taking this stand to protect the welfare of seafarers and for setting a good example for other countries to follow,” Mr Crumlin said.

“AMSA has been very focused on implementation of the MLC and has worked with the entire maritime community in Australia - including the ITF and unions - to ensure seafarers’ safety and wellbeing under the new convention.

“I think the Australian public would be shocked to see the conditions many international seafarers are forced to endure.

“ITF inspectors have seen environments aboard these flag-of-convenience ships, that are freely plying the Australian international shipping trade, that are not fit for human habitation.

“Some international crews have had to live only off the fish they have caught themselves, while working 12 hour days, seven days a week for months, sometimes years on end, away from their families for an unbelievably meagre wage.

“These are the kind of conditions we will see more frequently if the Abbott Government is able to deregulate the coastal shipping trade.”

Abbott and Johnson: “Stop Breaking Election Promise on Submarines”

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday 27 August

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) – which represents thousands of shipbuilders around Australia – has accused the Abbott Government of breaking its election promise to build Naval submarines in Australia

A delegation of Shipbuilders from around Australia has descended on Canberra to call on the Government to commit to its election promise to build Australia’s next round of Submarines in Australia.

“Tony Abbott and Minister Johnson are looking to put thousands of workers out of a job, and are breaking an election promise made to workers and the people of South Australia,” said AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian.

In 2012 Tony Abbott stated that “A Coalition government would treat the replacement of the submarine fleet as a matter of urgency, and work on the project will centre around the South Australian shipyards." [Adelaide Advertiser – 27 Aug 2012]

In 2013, after accepting the Submarine Strategy in the former Government’s Defence White Paper, the Coalition recommitted to building 12 submarines in Adelaide on May 2013: “We will deliver those submarines from right here at ASC in South Australia. The Coalition today is committed to building 12 new submarines here in Adelaide.” [David Johnston Adelaide Press Conference – 8 May 2013]

However in recent weeks Defence Minister Johnson has suggested that the Government will look to import submarines from Japan. “As well as destroying jobs and industry, the Government is risking our national security with this reckless move. “We are an isolated island nation. If we stop building our own ships and submarines the industry will die. Once it dies it will never come back again and we lose the ability to supply our own Defence Force. “This is an incredibly reckless move.”

Building Workers ‘More Productive Than Most’

Dozens of standard conditions in building industry workplace agreements – including the employment of apprentices and guaranteed public holidays – could be axed under the Abbott Government’s new construction code, unions have warned.

The fate of the new national building and construction code will rest with a handful of independent Senators in coming weeks. It will take effect if legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission is passed by the Senate.

The code will effectively provide the guidelines and rules that the ABCC will enforce if it is resurrected. This reflects the way the ABCC operated from when it was established by the Howard Government until it was dismantled by the Gillard government in 2012.

In the lead up to a vote on the ABCC, possibly next month, the Electrical Trades Union’s Victorian branch is heading a new public awareness campaign about the impact the code would have on more than a million workers and their families.

The ETU says employment conditions which could be prohibited by the new code include clauses that:

  • Prevent unlimited ordinary hours being worked per day.
  • Guarantee time off on public holidays.
  • Encourage the employment of apprentices and mature workers.
  • Include agreed stable and secure shift arrangements and rostered days off.

Economic argument debunked

Research commissioned by the union also debunks an economic argument for the new code.

A technical brief by The Australia Institute, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data, shows that productivity in the construction sector has matched or exceeded the broader economy for the past 20 years.

Since 2007-8, while the market sector as a whole registered an average annual increase in labour productivity of 3.52%, the average for construction has been 4.81%, up to 6.38% for building.

In 2012-13, the value added per worker by the construction sector was $96,838, compared to an economy-wide average of $94,052.

Tas: Unions Stage Major Budget Day Rally

28 August, 2014 | ACTU Media Release

Hundreds of Tasmanians will converge on Parliament Lawns from 12 Noon today in response to massive job cuts and a wage-freeze flagged in the Liberal’s first State Budget.

Nurses, teachers, doctors, ambulance officers, firefighters, transport and construction workers will be amongst the crowd, which is also protesting the State Government’s extreme and draconian Anti-Protest Laws.

Thousands of teachers from across the State who could not attend today will be represented by personally signed pledges of support in paper apple cut-outs placed on the Lawns.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions will fight to protect the rights of Tasmanian workers.

“Unions have fought for generations to ensure Australian workers have the right to bargain collectively for decent wages and conditions and we will continue to fight to make sure Tasmanian workers are not stripped of these hard won and important rights.

Annie Butler, the Assistant Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said more than 7,000 Tasmanian nurses and midwives would not accept the broken promises and lies of the new Liberal Government.

“The Federal Government recently brought down the most devastating budget in decades. With the Tasmanian Government’s plans for this State Budget, it seems Will Hodgman wants to take us from devastation to total despair.

Unions Tasmania President Roz Madsen said the Government appeared determined to take away workers’ rights and steal their wages.

“Instead of sitting down and talking with workers and unions the Government is proposing to enforce its wage-freeze through legislation which ends collective bargaining in the public sector, rips-up legally binding workplace agreements and overrides the independent industrial umpire.

Mat Johnston from the Community and Public Sector Union said the Premier had lied to the Tasmanian people.

“Will Hodgman never said the Liberals would break wage agreements that workers and the Government agreed to in good faith. This is a dangerous and unprecedented course of action, it’s a breach of international law, and it must not be allowed to pass the parliament.

Health and Community Services Union Secretary Tim Jacobson said the Premier was set to announce massive job cuts that he promised wouldn’t happen.

“The sad truth is you simply can’t trust anything this Premier says. Job cuts of this magnitude will cripple public services in this State and will have a serious impact on our economic recovery. 

For further information: Adam Clarke – 0448 672 449

ACTU: Qantas Mismanagement Owes Answers

28 August, 2014 | Media Release

The ACTU is deeply concerned by the unprecedented $2.84 billion dollar statutory loss announced by Qantas today.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said Qantas management has serious questions to answer about how the company reached this point.

“This is deeply shocking and worrying news for the 30,000 Australians who work for Qantas and their families,” Mr Oliver said.

“While unions note the commitment that there will be no further job losses, we continue to maintain that not all of the 5,000 job cuts announced in February are necessary and will continue to hold talks with Qantas to minimise those cuts.

“Qantas workers are the backbone of our national carrier and the reason the airline enjoys the excellent reputation that it has.  They deserve better than being buffeted by a series of horror announcements from the airline’s management and an uncertain future.

Mr Oliver said unions will also be seeking guarantees from the Qantas board about its move to set up Qantas International as a separate entity.

“Qantas must guarantee this will not impact the jobs, wages, conditions and accrued entitlements of the workers involved.

“Qantas workers and the Australian community want the airline to demonstrate that they have a sustainable long term business plan that is not reliant on a spiral of job cuts.

“There is a strong national interest in ensuring Qantas remains a viable Australian airline which maintains a true Australian identity and supports local employment and investment.”

ACOSS calls on Government to tackle Sacred Cow of Super Tax Breaks

Thursday August 28, 2014

The Australian Council of Social Service today said the Federal Government cannot afford to keep giving the top 20% of income earners half of all superannuation tax concessions if it wants the superannuation system to be effective in helping the majority of people to have a decent standard of living in later life, and have the revenue to pay for vital services for an ageing population.

“Right now, the superannuation system has become one of the most favoured tax minimisation vehicles for high net worth individuals, whilst it fails to deliver decent savings for the great majority. To reduce poverty and future pressures on the age pension, we need to target super tax concessions so that they help saving by people on low to middle incomes, not wealthy people who will have no trouble securing their retirement future,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Chair of the Financial Services inquiry David Murray is right to question whether superannuation is doing the job it is supposed to do. Our superannuation tax concessions are inefficient, inequitable and wasteful.  As Mr Murray points out, those on higher incomes would save for their retirement without such generous incentives.

“When the top 10% of male tax payers receive more from super tax concessions over their lifetime than they would if they received the full rate of the age pension in retirement, we have a system that is not achieving its aims of ensuring adequate retirement incomes and taking the pressure off the age pension.

“We can no longer afford to allow the majority of super funds to pay no tax at all of their investment incomes, when any other investment would be taxed. The Government should shut down tax schemes which allow people over 55 years to churn their wages through their superannuation accounts, reducing their income tax rates to 15%, at most.

“Decent reform of superannuation tax concessions is long overdue. With broad consensus that Australia faces a budget challenge in the medium term, now is the right time to grapple with the deep inequities in who gets tax relief through superannuation.

"The fact is there are alternatives to the current Budget proposals on the table which overwhelmingly hurt people on the lowest incomes. Instead of cutting future age pensions for those with the least, and penalising low income people on their super contributions, the Government should reduce super tax breaks for those with the most.

“It is unbelievable that the Government wants to abolish the Low Income Superannuation Contribution which would have supported retirement saving by people on lower incomes, when such generous tax concessions are going to top income earners.

“The reality is that we will need to pay for services for an ageing population. Retired people on the lowest incomes cannot afford to pay for doctor’s visits or aged care. Nor can they afford to have the real value of their  pensions frozen, or to live on the $36 a day Newstart Allowance until they reach the age of 70. These budget proposals shift the burden to those least able to pay.

“In the short term ACOSS proposes that the $25,000 annual cap on super contributions attracting tax breaks be restored and that super fund earnings in the ‘pension phase’ be taxed at 15%, the same as fund earnings in the contributions phase.

“Over time, the system of tax breaks for contributions should be restructured, so that all contributions are taxed at the individual’s marginal tax rate, minus a rebate. The high income earners would get the same tax break per dollar invested as low income earners, no more and no less.

“It is important that we look at how to fund quality aged and health care in an equitable way, by identifying areas of inefficiencies where those already on high incomes are being subsidised to do what they would do anyway,” Dr Goldie said.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MUA: Stena Clyde Oil Rig Safety Scandle

Today marks two years since the deaths of two workers on the Stena Clyde oil rig in the Bass Strait off the coast of Victoria and still no action has been taken over long-standing safety concerns.

Unions are calling on the Federal Government to launch a review into the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA), which is responsible for the investigation into the deaths.

MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said two years was far too long for the families of those killed on the Stena Clyde to wait for answers.

“Our highest priority is to ensure workers go home the same way they arrive – alive and healthy,” Crumlin said

“The MUA has long held concerns that NOPSEMA does not adequately work with unions to prevent safety breaches.

“This needs to change and both NOPSEMA and the Abbott Government must commit to involving unions in workplace safety matters.”

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said the families of Peter Meddens and Barry Denholm are still waiting for answers two years after they got the terrible news that they would never see their loved ones again.

“The ACTU is concerned NOPSEMA is too close to the industry to act as an effective regulator,” Borowick said.

“The fact that there has been no prosecution and the report into the investigation has not been released two years after these tragic and avoidable deaths gives weight to this concern.

“Without a full and independent investigation into the tragedy we cannot ensure other workers will not be exposed to similar dangers.”

Students Condemn Hockey Attack on Universities

The national student union has condemned the federal budget’s shake-up of tertiary funding as ''horrifying''.

The president of the National Union of Students, Deanna Taylor, said she was ''horrified but not entirely surprised'' by the government’s most significant reform to the HECS scheme since its introduction in 1989.

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget announced restrictions on course costs will be scrapped while the amount of funding for university courses will decline from 2016. Graduates will also repay their HELP debts once they earn $50,638, rather than $53,345

Ms Taylor said the changes mean a generation of high-school students nearing the end of their studies will have to reassess whether university is a viable option, given their family's financial situation.''The deregulation of fees is without a doubt going to leave students with a sharp increase in fees, which will hit disadvantaged students the hardest,'' she said.

Ms Taylor said given the reforms announced in the budget, we may see more students paying in excess of $100,000 to receive a university education.

''We’re slowing moving towards United States models of tertiary education, which most people would agree is not the shining beacon of access to education,'' she said. ''Obviously, we want our universities to be world class but the way to do that is not to punish disadvantaged students.''

Ms Taylor said there were some ''very big question marks'' over the government’s promised scholarships for disadvantaged students and on access. The budget details 20 per cent of additional revenue raised through increased fees will be used to fund scholarships for disadvantaged students.

''The scholarships that the government has been talking about will not nearly make up for the increases in student fees and it remains to be seen how that equity scheme will actually work,'' she said.

Read more:

Community groups in Canberra demanding halt to harmful Budget measures

Dr Cassandra Goldie, representatives of community sector organisations and people directly affected by Budget social security changes

When: 11.30am, Wednesday 27th August, 2014

Where: Senate Courtyard, Parliament House, Canberra

The Australian Council of Social Service is leading a large delegation of community sector representatives to Canberra on Wednesday, to call on their elected representatives to reject harmful social security changes in this year's Budget.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie will be joined by representatives from community welfare agencies as well as people directly affected by Budget changes, to highlight the impact of proposals, including:

  • removing income support for six months of the year for young people looking for work;
  • the transfer of 22-24 year olds from the Newstart payment to the lower Youth Allowance;
  • reducing indexation of pension payments;
  • reducing assistance to low income families, including sole parent families, through changes to family payments.

The delegation of 50 community representatives will meet with parliamentarians throughout the day. It will also release a statement signed by more than 100 community organisations from around the country expressing serious concerns about unfair budget measures and urging parliament to reject those changes which will adversely affect people on low incomes.

The delegation will offer to partner with government in a process of responsible reform to the tax and transfer systems to ensure we can maintain a robust system of supports and services into the future.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Undermining Democracy: Increasing investor rights in trade agreements

Seminar: Thursday 4th September 12-2pm
Finance Sector Union, Level 2, 321 Pitt St, Sydney

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) presents a public seminar to discuss the impact of clauses in trade agreements which elevate investor rights above our democratic rights.

Known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), these clauses essentially give foreign companies extra rights to sue governments for millions of dollars in international tribunals over democratic legislation. Just the threat of an ISDS case could prevent governments from regulating in the interest of public health or the environment.

The timing of this Seminar is critical, as it will be held in a week where Parliamentary inquiries will be reporting on this issue.

Come along to learn more about this important issue and the implications it has for your ability to campaign for democratic changes which would protect the environment, public health, or workers’ rights.

Seminar highlights:

  • Screening of short documentary ‘Water or Gold’: A Canadian mining company, now majority Australian owned,  is suing the government of El Salvador through an ISDS clause because of their refusal to issue a mining permit based on environmental concerns and community opposition
  • ISDS and the rights of workers: Dr Tom Skladzein, the National Economic s and Industry Adviser for the AMWU, will speak about a current ISDS case in which a rise to the minimum wage for Egyptian workers was challenged by French multinational Viola
  • ISDS in the Australian context: Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET’s Convener, will present an analysis of the outcomes of current Parliamentary Inquiries into ISDS and the Korea Free Trade Agreement, which contains ISDS, and the implications for the TPP campaign.

A discussion and Q&A session will follow.

This event is free and all are welcome. It will be particularly useful for campaigners, environmental activists and union members to learn about the impacts of ISDS on their areas of interest.

Please RSVP to

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

A song by Dave Lippman©Dave Lippman 2014

Michael Brown went down
Laid there, stayed there
Four hours to show the powers
Of the powers that be
This is F.U.Q.D. up up up, alla way up
This system is deranged

Tanks in the cities
Tear gas in our eyes
Your average police spokesbot
Almost always lies
Military occupying brown communities
Has anything really changed?

Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and Michael Brown
If the list gets any longer this whole system will go down
Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and Michael Brown
If the list gets any longer this whole system will go down

Clergy wearing gas masks
Why you killin' us, a mother asks
Nothin' left to live for, feels like Palestine
A mere child, state gone wild, no charges filed
Death by assembly line

They coulda tried anything besides six shots to kill
No job, bad schools, worse cops - call it what you will
When the whites gonna get it, this goes on because we let it
Hands up don't shoot

Two days later, seven more shots
Another child falls, democracy rots
American trees bear strange fruit
Hands up don't shoot

Looks like Katrina, looks like Gaza, looks like South Africa
Warehouse the poor and colored, police lied, justice died
Black youth caught in the jaws, cops are the cause
Where's our nation of laws?


Nurses: Australians can’t swallow Mr. Abbott’s bitter pill

Tuesday 26th August, 2014

Australians pay too much for their medicines, and depending on the drug, up to an astonishing 40 times more than New Zealanders pay. And yet, this week the Abbott Government will be asking the Senate to approve the Government’s plan to make Australians pay even more when the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 is debated.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is warning that any further rises in the cost of pharmaceuticals will see more and more Australians struggling to fill their scripts.

ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said today: “Earlier this year the COAG Reform Council reported that 8.5 per cent of people in 2012-13 delayed, or did not have prescriptions filled due to cost. The report identified that this is up to 12.14 per cent in disadvantaged areas and a shocking 36.4 percent for Indigenous Australians.

“This is on top of all the other health costs the Government asks us to pay, which add up to $1,075 per person per year, in addition to our taxes, in costs for health care. This is one of the highest out of pocket costs for health care in the world.

“Health professionals and experts have been speaking out about this situation for years and it has finally been recognised by the recent Senate Inquiry into Out of Pocket Expenses in Australian Healthcare.

“The Inquiry concluded that out of pocket health costs are so unacceptably high that they create an environment where individuals already defer treatment, which could be going to see the doctor or getting their prescriptions filled. To avoid making this much worse, the Inquiry has recommended against any further additional co-payments.

“But the Abbott Government appears to have paid no attention to the findings of the Inquiry. Instead of learning from and listening to all the expert advice provided to the Inquiry, Government Senators have issued a dissenting report.

“The most absurd thing about this and the Pharmaceutical Amendments Bill is that the Government is sitting on billions of dollars of savings if they just had the political capacity to negotiate better pricing for prescription medicines. Instead, they’re content to say to Australians you all have to pay more, while we continue to waste $3.5 million a day in medicines.

“There is just no sound reason why Australians should be paying so much more than the rest of the world for our medicines and even less justification for the Government to ask us to pay more. Rather than hurting people through the introduction of more co-payments, the Government should accept the Senate Committee’s recommendation to undertake a comprehensive review the of PBS price structures to identify greater efficiencies.

“It’s also important to ensure that prescribing practices are evidence-based and cost-effective, given the estimated enormous wastage we see in the use of medicines Australia-wide every day.”

Ms Thomas said the ANMF stands ready to work with the Government and other health stakeholders to find solutions to the high out of pocket costs for healthcare and pharmaceuticals rather than resorting to “cynical co-payments, which will only cause further pain for Australian health consumers” and is urging Senators to reject this Bill for the health of all Australians.

The ANMF, with over 233,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

Universities - Investment for the Future

The Federal Government is introducing into Parliament legislation which will make major changes to Australia’s higher education system.

An innovative, accessible and affordable higher education system provides life-changing opportunities for individuals and builds future national economic and social wellbeing.

By backing the tertiary education sector, you are investing in a stronger and more prosperous Australia.

Tertiary education and research in Australia builds industry, innovation and jobs for the future. Without cutting-edge research and skilled graduates, we cannot hope to create the strong  economy and clever society that we aspire to have.

Your support is everything. So please invest 30 seconds by clicking here to send an email to your MP  and ensure that we all keep Australia clever.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Budget: No Need To Increase Inequality

24 August, 2014 | ACTU Media Release

New economic analysis shows the Government can improve the budget bottom line without introducing unfair budget measures that target vulnerable Australians and increase inequality.

As the Parliament resumes this week to debate the Federal Budget, figures in the latest ACTU Economic Bulletin show Australia redistributes less income than the majority of OECD countries, which results in a relatively high level of inequality.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Abbott Government has made a conscious choice to increase inequality by choosing budget measures that slash income redistribution even further.

“By freezing family payments, slashing family tax benefits and cutting increases to parenting, aged, disability support, carer and veterans’ payments – the Government is saying that it does not believe in an equal society for all Australians,” Ms Kearney said.

Federal Budget measures that reduce income redistribution and increase inequality include:
  • Freezing family payments for four years
  • Limiting Family Tax Benefit payment B to families with children under six
  • Cutting indexation on the Single Parenting Payment from July 2014
  • Cutting indexation on the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment and Veterans’ Affairs Pensions from September 2017
  • Freezing eligibility thresholds for three years on the Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit and Rebate, Parenting Payment, Newstart and Youth Allowance
A low income couple with kids will lose an average of $1138 this year as a result of the budget, while a single parent in the same circumstances will lose an average of $1086, according to NATSEM figures.

“These unfair budget cuts aren’t the only way to repair the budget bottom line”, said Ms Kearney.

“The ACTU Economic Bulletin shows the Government could reform superannuation tax concessions instead of choosing a package of budget measures that will make Australia a more unequal society.

“The value of the superannuation concession to top income earners is so large that they actually receive more support for their retirement, through super tax concessions, than low income earners do through the age pension.

Australia forgoes more revenue on tax expenditure than many advanced economies yet the Abbott Government has a blinkered approach to this budget.

“There are alternative budget measures – the Government is choosing not to consider them.”

Building Corporations and Phoenix Scams

Regulators are probing eight of ­Australia’s largest big construction projects for the existence of ­phoenix scams and are preparing to file criminal charges.

The Tax Office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate are co-operating on the problem of contractors sending their companies into liquidation to avoid debts to employees, the Tax Office and others. Phoenix scams are regarded as a serious problems facing industries with large numbers of short-term blue-collar workers, including construction, labour hire, meat processing and horticulture.

Consulting firm PwC estimated in 2012 the problem costs between $1.8 billion and $3.2 billion a year.

Big construction companies have agreed to provide financial information and documents about their contractors to the Tax Office, which is using it to identify sub-contractors breaking the law.

The regulators wouldn’t identify which companies are providing them with information, but they are likely to include Lend Lease and Leighton.

“Yes we are aware that the ATO and ASIC are investigating the issue of phoenix companies,” a Lend Lease spokeswoman said. “We work with the regulators as required.”

“The construction industry is the highest represented sector in illegal phoenixing activity,” said Brett Bassett, ASIC’s senior executive for small business compliance and deterrence.

“There are still a percentage of people who, even if they have had a knock on the door from ASIC, will still do the wrong thing.”

By liquidating front companies, owners avoid paying taxes and money owed to employees, including leave and superannuation. They transfer the collapsed company’s assets to a new company, which later repeats the process.

The owners reap big profits with little chance of being prosecuted, at least until now.

<<< More >>>

NSWTF: Conference 2014

Cause for optimism

While Mr Mulheron sees the policy settings to allow privatisation are here, he has cause for optimism for the future of public education.

“We have significant support across the community,” he said.
“Our Federal political system has dispersed power over education making it more difficult than has occurred in the UK.
“We have a united teacher union movement.
“Unlike our counterparts in the USA and the England, we have neutralised and quarantined the worst excesses of the testing agenda.
“There is strong community support for retaining public ownership of TAFE.
“We have slowed the pace and reduced the impact of devolution in NSW by protecting staffing levels and class sizes in the last Staffing Agreement — an extraordinary achievement.
“Gonski is the most significant setback for the Right in many years.
“But one great advantage is that we are aware of what the corporate agenda is, what instructions they have delivered to their political mouthpieces.
“We will not be ambushed so easily.
“Teachers working together are a formidable force,” he said.

Four waves of attack:
  • First wave: weaken citizens’ trust in public education.
  • Second wave: lay the blame for the crisis with the profession.
  • Third wave: convince the community there is need for structural changes (that almost inevitably lead to the withdrawal of systemic support for schools, and governments retreating from any obligation to build, maintain, fund and staff schools).
  • Fourth wave: edu-businesses push for full privatisation.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Maritime Unions - Offshore Resources Act

The Maritime Union of Australia, in conjunction with the Australian Maritime Officers Union, will continue to fight for the right to work in the offshore oil and gas industry.

This week the MUA and the AMOU’s case that the Government had acted contrary to its powers in making a Determination that overrides the Offshore Resources Act was heard in the Federal Court in front of Justice Buchanan. He has reserved his decision, on which the MUA will inform members when it's handed down.

The union continues to meet with crossbench Senators as well as the Labor Party and the Greens to ensure they are kept appraised on our campaign to ensure workers are given priority for projects in the offshore. Senators are also being asked to vote against the Government’s Bill to repeal the Offshore Resources Act.

The MUA opposes using the Maritime Crew Visa (MCV) as a way to undercut current, and hard-fought, conditions and wages in the offshore sector.

National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has vocally condemned the decision undertaken by Assistant Immigration Minister Senator Michealia Cash to run roughshod over the Senate’s Disallowance Motion, which effectively overturns the application of the entire Offshore Resources Act reversed the use of MCVs.

US: The Deliberate March to Inequality

The Choices We've Made

In his deeply researched book Who Stole the American Dream?, Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Hedrick Smith reports on the structural choices that have brought the United Stales to a crisis of inequality. He describes the heyday of the middle class: from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, when higher wages gave tens of millions of families steady income to spend generating consumer demand,
expansion of production and higher living standards.

Social movements of the 1960s, building on labor agreements from earlier decades, pushed forward new legal protections for consumers and the environment. Smith's detailed timeline from the book, excerpted and adapted here, charts how strategic lobbying and legislation over the next four decades gave corporations dominion over the economy and eroded the security of the American middle class.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Corporate Culture: Undermining Hunter Jobs

The futures of Tomago Aluminium smelter and Liddell power station are under a cloud after the power station’s new owner, AGL, said both could shut in 2017.

The announcement puts a cloud over an estimated 1200 jobs at Tomago and 250 at Liddell, with neither Tomago Aluminium nor the Australian Workers Union denying speculation over the threat.
It also raises the spectre of power price rises.

Privatised AGL and its main rival, the Chinese-owned EnergyAustralia, are both pushing to close ‘‘excess’’ generating capacity, claiming falling demand. 

The shock news was disclosed to the stockmarket  yesterday morning by AGL, which announced it had finalised the $1.5 billion privatisation of Macquarie Generation and its Liddell and Bayswater power stations.

MacGen’s biggest customer is the Tomago smelter, which is owned by a consortium of Rio Tinto, CSR and Norwegian company Hydro.

Hunter youth unemployment has jumped from 5.8 per cent to 16.8 per cent within 18 months.
The alarming figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics refer to 15- to 24-year-olds in the lower Hunter outside Newcastle between January, 2013, and June, 2014.

US: Bank of America 17 Billion Dollar Fines

The Bank of America has paid almost $US17 billion to settle allegations about its role in the events leading up to the global financial crisis.

US regulators had been probing claims that the bank misled investors into buying dodgy mortgage-backed securities which exploded when America's housing boom went bust more than six years ago.

It is a record payout, but Bank of America was not on its own in spruiking these risky subprime mortgages.

There were trillions of dollars of bets that US housing prices would continue to rise.

However, at almost $US17 billion, Bank of America is paying a much bigger price than other banks to resolve around a dozen state and federal investigations.

This morning, the US attorney-general Eric Holder said Bank of America's unlawful, unethical and immoral behaviour in marketing dodgy products had taken to US economy to the brink of collapse.

"These loans contained material underwriting defects. They were secured by properties with inflated appraisals. They failed to comply with the federal, state and local laws and they were insufficiently collateralised," he said.

"Yet these financial institutions knowingly and fraudulently marked and sold these loans as sound and reliable investments."

Around $US7 billion of the settlement will be used for what is being called "consumer relief" for Americans who found the value of their home was suddenly a lot less than the outstanding mortgage.

Some will see their mortgage debts reduced, others will get lower interest rates and some of the settlement will be used to build affordable rental housing.

While that is a long-awaited positive, there is criticism that, so far, no banking boss has faced criminal charges in relation to the subprime mortgage collapse.

Dennis Kelleher of US financial watchdog Better Markets says, while a $US17 billion fine for Bank of America sounds like a lot, it might be only be a fraction of what banks made from marketing dodgy products.

"There's no way to evaluate whether or not it is a lot of money, or whether or not it's fair punishment, or whether or not it will deter or incentivise future crime unless you actually know how much money the Bank of America actually made from its illegal conduct, how much money its investors, customers and clients lost," he argued.

"So, for example, if they paid $US17 billion but they actually made $US200 billion from illegal conduct, then that's not much money and not only won't it deter future crime, it actually incentivises future crime."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Community Groups Reject Secret Co-Payment Talks

Thursday 21, 2014

National peak community and health consumer groups today called on the Parliament to reject any deal struck by the Health Minister and the doctors union, declaring that a Medicare co-payment posed an unwarranted burden on the chronically ill and the most vulnerable in our community.

“Health and illness concerns us all and Health Minister Peter Dutton should be listening to voices in the community and groups representing all users of the health system,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service.

“We know that imposing a fee to see a doctor will lead to people putting off visits than can lead to early treatment which is the best health outcome, both for them and the community because later interventions are always more costly.

“It would hit poor and chronically ill people hardest, and exemptions would not go far enough. Many people would remain exposed and people on the lowest incomes will still face cost barriers,” Dr Goldie said.

Consumers Health Forum CEO, Adam Stankevicius said: 

“The Government suggests the Medicare co-payment is a price signal for consumers.  Price signals work for discretionary items.  Health care is not discretionary!”

“It is unacceptable that consumers have been left in the dark. Why is the minister restricting his negotiations with doctors, what about the people who will have to pay?

“At a Consumers Health Forum conference this week, leading health system experts suggested several ways Australia could make the health system more effective and save billions of dollars a year.  We should be considering these options before slugging consumers with a $7 price hike,” Mr Stankevicius said.

The CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, said:

"At a time when so many countries across the world are working to achieve universal health care it is appalling that the Australian government is working to undermine the very same thing. Hopefully the government will be held to account by those in the Senate who really understand that we need more than a 'safety net'.

“Illness is not something we can always plan for, it tends to hit people at particular points in life, such as childhood and old age.  It’s often something that can hit many individuals in a family at once. This is why we decided 30 years ago that fairest and most humane is to provide universal primarily healthcare for everyone for whenever illness strikes.

“We all pay for visiting our doctor - it is not free - it's called Medicare. And it works pretty well. Suggestions that health spending is unsustainable are not borne out by the figures.  Australia spends almost half as much as United States on healthcare (10% of our GDP) but have higher health outcomes. So why would we want to down the US road?” Mr Moore said.

In conclusion, the three organisations made the following points:
  • When it comes to health costs, no decision about us should be taken without us.
  • A mandatory co-payment would wreck a fundamental principle of Medicare: universal access to healthcare.
  • We urge the Health Minister, Peter Dutton, to consult on the Medicare co-payment issue with groups representing all users of the health system, not just the doctors.

BMUC and ETU - Stop the Sell Off Campaign

Members of the BMUC joining with ETU members at a Stop the Sell Off workshop held at Penrith RSL.

The BMUC has joined forces with the Stop the Sell Off Campaign as a major activity on the run up to the NSW State Election, and will be out campaigning across the Blue Mountains in the coming months.

For more information go to:

Lend Lease and Millers Point

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SMH: Time For Serious Budget Compromise

"Australia needs a reality check on the state of the budget.'' So said the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, last night in a speech at the Sydney Institute. These were his opening words. We agree. We also believe Senator Cormann himself needs a reality check on the public perceptions and political ramifications of the first Abbott-Hockey budget.

The public believes the government has presented a budget which is unfair by pushing too many sacrifices onto the unemployed, students, aged pensioners and the poor. It has not helped that Treasurer Joe Hockey has given one of the most accident-prone budget sales jobs in many years. The budget itself has proved politically damaging and unpopular with the public.

What an irony that the Abbott government, with the help of the Greens, has abolished the federal debt ceiling and introduced a tax surcharge on high-income earners, making it one of the biggest tax-and-spend governments in history, in contradiction of its own rhetoric. The government has not produced a budget that the public regards as fair. It has lost the argument. The minor parties have been all over the place.

Given all this the Herald believes it is time the government made some serious compromises on its remaining budget agenda. It needs to address the perceived unfairness. It needs to give up trying to appease Palmer. It needs to open discreet negotiations with the Greens, and the Greens should reciprocate.

The Greens have said they will never vote for a budget which includes a $7 fee for visits to the doctor, an issue which has also caused the government grief with the public, the crossbenchers and Labor. The idea that most of the proceeds from this tax will go into a medical research fund has been a giant miscalculation.

The government that talks about the drastic need to cut debt and deficit is the same government that wants to pour billions of dollars into a new medical research fund and billions more into one of the most generous paid parental leave schemes in the world. This makes no sense.

If the government were to abandon these two big tax-and-spend proposals it would not only be true to its own overarching budget promise, it would be more likely to find compromises from the cross benchers and the Greens. It also needs to scale back the harshness on the unemployed.

In short, the government needs to re-make its remaining budget. This is its reality check. It could then get on with governing, and seeking to restore its standing with the public.

SMH Read more:

CBA: Wealth For Some

The usual suspects are constantly trumpeting the benefits of privatisation ("Scandal? What scandal? Big bonuses for CBA bosses", SMH August 19).

The case of the pay rise to the high-ranking executive who presided over the Commonwealth Bank's financial advice scandal provides an example of who wins and who loses when a business goes private.

Could this have happened when CBA was the people's bank? 
Where did the bank get all that money to reward their man so generously? 
Could it have been at the expense of their loyal customers? 

True to form your story ended with an all too familiar line from the bank - no comment. So many questions, so few answers.

Nick Franklin Katoomba

NBN: Abbott / Turnbull Plan a Broadband Backwater

The Coalition’s NBN is proving expensive

Rod Tucker
Laureate Emeritus Professor at University of Melbourne

Under the previous Labor government, NBN Co negotiated a deal with Telstra to provide access to Telstra’s ducts and pits, enabling fibre to be laid with fewer trenches needing to be dug. The cost to NBN Co of this access was A$11 billion, and added a hefty overhead to the total cost of the NBN.

Even if we make the optimistic assumption that NBN Co will not have to pay any more than this $11 billion to access and maintain Telstra’s copper wires inside those ducts, the Coalition’s (predominantly FTTN) NBN will suffer the same $11 billion overhead. Consequently, the factor of five difference between the cost of FTTP and FTTN given in the Analysys Mason report drops to something around two or three. By world standards, the Coalition’s NBN is turning out to be very expensive.

What has Australia lost in the transition from Labor’s FTTP NBN to the Coalition’s multi-technology mix, with a large proportion of FTTP? In my view, a big danger is that future upgrades from FTTN to FTTP will be slow and that Australia will continue to lag behind the rest of the developed world in terms of broadband access.

With such a huge investment sunk in the Coalition’s multi-technology mix NBN, there is going to be very little appetite in government to fund future expensive upgrades to FTTP. If the government sells the NBN to a commercial monopoly operator, there could be even less incentive for upgrades to FTTP. There is a real danger that Australia will remain trapped in a broadband backwater.

Read More

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Abbott's Dream – Nightmare Team

Scientists' Warning re Barrier Reef Pollution Ignored by Hunt

Abbot Point: Jon Day, until recently a senior director at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, told ABC’s Four Corners dredged spoil was having ‘adverse impact’ upon the reef. Photograph: AAP
The government’s marine scientists warned against dumping millions of tonnes of sediment inside the Great Barrier Reef’s marine park, only to be overruled, according to a former government official.

Jon Day, who was until recently a senior director at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said the decision to dredge and dump 5m tonnes of seabed to expand the Abbot Point port in Queensland would prove harmful to the reef.

Day told ABC’s Four Corners on Monday that dredged spoil was having “adverse impacts” upon the reef.

“We’ve seen that elsewhere and there are alternatives,” he said. “Sure, they may cost more, but again we’re dealing with a world heritage area, the most important world heritage area on the planet, a magnificent marine protected area that the world wants us to protect.

“Our own legislative mandate says ‘the long-term protection and conservation of the values’ and we’re not doing that.”

According to internal documents obtained under freedom of information law, scientists at the GBRMPA were opposed to dumping dredged sediment within the marine park, with one calling it “environmentally and socially unacceptable”.

Greg Hunt, the environment minister, who approved the dredging, told Four Corners: “I made the decision that this would be the last time that we were changing the practice and since then we have stopped four inherited proposals from proceeding which would have seen material deposited into the marine park. So five down to one.

“That was actually included in this decision. I remember the very words were, ‘This is a line in the sand.’”

Environmental groups dispute Hunt’s assertions, pointing out that the GBRMPA allowed the dumping of a further 378,000 cubic metres of dredged material into the marine park at Hay Point earlier this year.

Unesco has warned that the Great Barrier Reef may be placed on its “in danger” list next year, with the UN body expressing concern in June over the plan to dump sediment within the marine park.

A GBRMPA report released last week found that the overall outlook for the reef is “poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future.” Climate change, pollution from land-based chemicals and coastal development were cited as the reef’s main threats.

Seabed sediment dumped near coral is a concern because it can smother the organisms, hindering their ability to feed. Recent research indicates dredging can double the risk of coral disease.

Hunt has also specified that the project results in a “150% net benefit” to water quality, achieved by cutting down the amount of sediment flowing onto the reef via rivers.

Terry Hughes, head of the coral reef centre of excellence at James Cook University, said this stipulation was “fanciful”.

“Around $400m has been spent in reducing sediment by about 10%, so it’s just not logical to expect it to be offset,” he told Guardian Australia. “The problem is that sediment doesn’t sink like a stone. Particles can travel up to 100km. The notion it will stay in a nice neat box is just not credible.

“The outlook report makes it very clear that the condition of the reef is declining. If the reef is not able to cope with the current level of impacts, what’s the rationale for allowing further impacts to take place?

“Climate change is the biggest threat and so logically to improve the prospects of the reef, you shouldn’t approve the opening of one of the world’s largest coalmines.

“It’s also not entirely logical to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce sediment run-off from land and then turn around and allow millions of tonnes of it to be dumped directly into the reef’s marine park.”

Hockey Budget Future Fund Farce

The $400 million donated to the health and medical research sector every year could be at risk if the Federal Government's Medical Research Future Fund goes ahead, a survey suggests.

Research Australia says a survey found four out of the 10 people who donate regularly are less likely to do so once the new fund is established with money from the GP co-payment.

Research Australia chief executive Elizabeth Foley says the issue is being raised at the Philanthropy for Health and Medical Research Conference in Melbourne today.

"Anecdotally, we've got evidence and reports that donors were ringing up institutions like the Garvan Institute, Macular Degeneration Foundation and the like saying, 'Well, you're covered now; you don't need to donate; the Government's going to increase health and medical research expenditure'," she said.

"So we decided to put these questions into our polling, just to see how widespread that belief system was, and we found that four out of 10 regular donors thought that they might donate less next year if the Government plans for the Future Fund went ahead."

Ms Foley says it will take a decade for new Medical Research Future Fund to get going.

"I was surprised that there was so poor understanding of when this Medical Research Future Fund would happen and the fact that it's actually going to take about a decade before it gets to the $1 billion payout that's going to go ahead," she said.

"I guess it raises the question in the public's mind as [to] how much is enough for the country to be spending on health and medical research?"

TWU: Save the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has begun a campaign to try to stop the Federal Government axing the new road safety watchdog.

An average of 330 people die every year in Australia in crashes involved with trucks.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was established under Labor to address the issue of low pay and tight deadlines, which some had linked to truck crashes, but funding for the tribunal is being reviewed.

Nick McIntosh, of the TWU, says the tribunal's role is to hold everyone to account to make roads safer.

"By making sure that the person at the top of the supply chain makes sure that every single company, no matter how far down they subcontract, pays a proper rate of pay and makes sure fatigue management laws are followed.

"Unfortunately, right now that's not happening everywhere and I know that for a fact."

Federal MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones were updated today by the TWU on the danger of more people being injured or killed on Illawarra roads if the Federal Government succeeded in abolishing Australia’s road safety watchdog - the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

The Tribunal is proposed for abolition when parliament resumes later this year. Some Liberal MPs have described the Tribunal as ‘red tape’ despite its critical role on road safety.

Ms Bird and Mr Jones today (15/8) joined local truck drivers and union leaders in Wollongong to call for the Tribunal to continue its work.

“Truck driving is Australia’s most dangerous job, with 330 people killed every year in truck smashes,” Ms Bird said.

“We need a greater focus on road safety in this country, not a weaker one. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal needs to be preserved.”

“Truck drivers are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than people in trades like construction, mining or law enforcement,” Stephen Jones said.

The RSRT is a national watchdog which intervenes when trucking clients use economic pressure to force drivers to speed, skip rest breaks or illegally overload their vehicles in order to meet unrealistic delivery deadlines.

Local truck driver Jeff Moses said he knew drivers who were forced to speed or overload their vehicles just to keep their jobs, or who had skipped rest breaks to stay behind the wheel to meet unrealistic delivery times.

US: Honeywell's Union Busting Attempt

United Steelworkers' Picket
Honeywell Inc.’s uranium conversion facility in Metropolis, Illinois has locked out nearly 150 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7-669 trying to break the union. IndustriALL Global Union gives full support to the campaign with its affiliates worldwide.

The facility converts milled uranium, known as yellowcake uranium, into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that is used in nuclear fuel enrichment. The potentially dangerous process requires the experience and knowledge of the now locked out Steelworkers, and the irresponsible corporate decision is putting local communities at risk.

The last time, three years ago, that plant management attempted to continue production during a 14-month lock out, there were two near-miss tragedies due to mishandling of dangerous chemicals, and management was cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for helping replacement scab workers to cheat on exams that ultimately allowed them to operate the facility.

The previous lock out was the precursor to a three-year collective agreement, ratified by USW members on 2 August 2011. At the start of that lock out, Honeywell was intent on taking away pension benefits, the accompanying health care benefits, as well as union-protection provisions. But Local 7-669 members won the decent collective agreement that is now up for renewal.

This time around, Honeywell is going all out in an attempt to bust the union. The company proposal in bargaining with USW includes language that would allow management to systematically replace permanent, union workers with contractors. The unskilled contractors cost Honeywell more than the permanent USW workers already at the plant.

At approximately 11:45 pm August 1, Honeywell management entered the bargaining room and offered a virtually unchanged proposal, despite the union offering a comprehensive counter proposal 4 hours earlier. When the union’s negotiating committee declined to take the offer to the membership for a vote, the company notified the union that they would be locked out of the plant effective immediately.

Sign the petition here -

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary told Honeywell CEO today in a letter:
What a message to send to your workforce and local community, that your company would rather risk a nuclear accident than bargain in good faith with their Local 7-669. This is disgraceful corporate misbehaviour and we will continue to support the USW members at Honeywell until they get a fair collective agreement they deserve.

Another round of bargaining will take place at 10 a.m. on 18 August. The job security issue is not the only company attack that management is refusing to address. The present company proposal is a cut to workers’ health care equaling a 10% cut in wages. Honeywell workers are exposed to increased radiation so justifiably propose proper safety checks.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Unions NSW: Support Locked Out CSR Workers

13 August 2014


CSR Gyprock takes pride in claiming to be Australia’s leading plasterboard manufacturer. But, it’s the workers for CSR that actually make it happen. In fact, in the past year, CSR made $92.6 million from building materials alone!
Despite recording these huge profits, CSR Gyprock has locked its employees out. CSR employees are keeping the company profitable, but CSR is refusing to negotiate a pay increase to keep its employees slightly ahead of the ever-increasing cost of living, despite the company’s super profits.
Workers at CSR take great pride in doing quality work and want to continue that work in rewarding jobs. But, they need your help to do it.
How can you help?

Busted Budget - Hockey Goes to Ground

What matters, Joe Hockey, are the words you haven't yet uttered. You're sorry about the interpretation. You're sorry about the words. In short, you're sorry about the impact that the budget and its failed sales pitch is having on you, you and you.

  • Permit me to outline what you omitted to say you are sorry about. Still not a word about being sorry for the inequality of opportunity for those directly affected by the budget. 
  • Nor any sorry for the family and friends who attempt to mitigate its worst effects. 
  • Nor any sorry for the organisations and community groups who seek to provide various forms of support. 
  • Nor any sorry for the business sector's adverse implications for sales and for employment decisions. 

In short, no sorry for the increased personal hardship, the dashed education plans and the despair for self, offspring and ageing parents which have already started to fill the space that hope and aspiration used to occupy.

This (unsaid) sorry state of affairs is of real concern to Australians irrespective of their own economic circumstances. If the best you can do is whinge about how bruised you feel and resort to argumentum ad hominem, then step aside for someone with genuine empathy for those who experience relentless (often inter-generational) hardship even at the best of times.

SMH Letters

Corporate Culture - Big Business Monopolises Training Board

15 August, 2014 | ACTU Media Release

No union or TAFE representation on new skills and training board – no surprise from this Government. Minister Ian Macfarlane is letting down the industries he is meant to represent by failing to include anyone from unions or the TAFE sector on the new Vocational Education Training (VET) advisory board announced today.

“There is not one person chosen to represent the interests of students or workers – instead it is a board picked to push the interests of big business,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“Instead of drawing on decades of experience from with the TAFE sector and unions, the Minister has chosen a Liberal party mate, John Hart, to chair the board,” said Ms Kearney.
“Not only is Mr Hart publicly campaigning to scrap penalty rates as head of the national hospitality industry lobby group - he’s also the chair of a controversial Liberal party fund-raising group who is due to give evidence before the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW next week.

“Yet this is who Minister Macfarlane believes is most qualified person to oversee the future development of vocational training and education in Australia – it beggars belief.”

The strength of the Australian VET system and the source of its strong international reputation is its industry focus and leadership – from both employers and unions.

“It is typical of this Government to pander to business groups while ignoring the interests of students and workers.  Indeed, Minister McFarlane tried to exclude unions from the initial stakeholder consultations altogether in February,” said Ms Kearney.

Decisions made about the VET system have the potential to impact workers in very practical ways such as the cost of training, the accessibility of training and the quality of training.

“It is extremely disappointing and concerning that the future of the VET system will be decided without a voice for workers at the table,” said Ms Kearney.

“If Minister Macfarlane is serious about training skilled and productive workers for the future, he needs to re-think this board and start talking to unions and the TAFE sector.”

Newcastle Mayor Resigns

Newcastle Lord Mayor and property developer Jeff McCloy resigns as Newcastle Mayor over ICAC probe into Liberal Party banned donations scandal. McCloy, has resigned in the wake of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into banned developer donations.
The Downward Slide ?
Mr McCloy, who is also a millionaire developer, refused calls for him to stand down for days, despite admitting he made banned donations to several Liberal candidates ahead of the 2011 New South Wales election, including to Newcastle's Tim Owen and Charlestown's Andrew Cornwell.

Both MPs have since resigned from politics.

Mr McCloy wrote to Newcastle City Council's general manager on Sunday and tendered his resignation, saying the controversy may affect the way council functions.

Corporate Culture: Chevron to Sue MUA

Earlier this year, Chevron refused to negotiate with the MUA for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) for offshore workers. It has now lodged a Federal Court damages claim for $20 million against the WA branch of the MUA over strike action in 2012.

Chevron has blamed the union for cost blowouts at its Gorgon gas project on Barrow Island, off the WA coast.

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin has told the International Transport Worker's Federation congress in Bulgaria that the island could be declared a "port of convenience" if the union is excluded from it.

A "port of convenience" designation applies where health and safety standards or working conditions are below those considered acceptable by international transport unions.

In comments reported by Workplace Express, Mr Crumlin claimed Chevron was suing the MUA because workers on the job were ensuring occupational health and safety standards were met.

"Employers need to clearly decide whether they want to work with unions - and we'll be there - or against unions - and we'll be there as well," he reportedly said.

Corporate Culture: UK Executive Pay Scams Exposed

Britain's top executives are now paid more than 140 times the wages of their average employee, according to a new study. Executive pay has increased "dramatically" in relation to most workers over the past 30 years, said the High Pay Centre.

The think tank called on the Government to take "radical action" on top pay, warning that the gap in wages was creating a "deep sense of unfairness".

The research showed that in 1998, the average chief executive of a FTSE 100 company was paid 47 times the pay of their average employee.

An analysis of six major firms in 1980 found that chief executives were paid between 13 and 44 times more than that of their average employee.

The figure has now increased to 143 times, although in some companies, top executives were paid hundreds times the pay of their average employee, said the report.

The study was published following figures from the Office for National Statistics last week which showed that average pay has fallen by 0.2 per cent over the past year.

High Pay Centre director Deborah Hargreaves said: "While Government figures confirm that wages for ordinary workers keep falling, it's clear that not everyone is feeling the pain.

"When bosses make hundreds of times as much money as the rest of the workforce, it creates a deep sense of unfairness.

"Britain's executives haven't got so much better over the past two decades. The only reason why their pay has increased so rapidly compared to their employees is that they are able to get away with it.

"The Government needs to take more radical action on top pay to deliver a fair economy that ordinary people can have faith in."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

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NSW Libs Shy Away From Hunter Bye Elections

The Liberal Party will not contest by-elections in two New South Wales seats held by MPs who resigned in disgrace amid a donations scandal.

The announcement followed revelations former Newcastle MP Tim Owen and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell accepted undeclared cash donations from developers.

Both men resigned after making admissions before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which is investigating political donations by developers.

Such donations are banned under NSW electoral laws.

NSW Liberal Party Director Tony Nutt issued an apology on behalf of the Party, saying the revelations "disgusted the honest, law-abiding parliamentarians, elected office bearers, members, donors and supporters of the Liberal Party".

"The people of NSW have every reason to be deeply disappointed and angry at those responsible," he added.

"As an act of atonement, the Liberal Party will not contest the Newcastle and Charlestown by-elections."

Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney described the decision as "astounding".

"It would have been a show of we're going to regain the trust of the people of Newcastle'," she said, "A notion of some act of atonement, I'm afraid, leaves me fairly cyincal."

Friday, August 15, 2014

MUA: ITF Congress Kicks-Off in Bulgaria

Congress got off to a triumphant start yesterday with a cavalcade of welcome from the Bulgarian hosts and a line up of national and international guests.

MUA National Secretary and ITF President at ITF Congress 2014 opening. Picture: Mac Urata
A troupe of traditional bagpipe players, renowned folk singer Valya Balkanska and a rendition of the Bulgarian national anthem were all met with enthusiastic applause by the near on 2000 congress participants who packed out the hall for the opening ceremony. Bulgarian youth volunteers joined eurovision stars Elitsa & Stoyan to release ‘one big can of Bulgarian whoop arse’, in the words of ITF president Paddy Crumlin.

Speaker after speaker delivered messages of protest, creativity and enthusiasm for the struggles ahead. All interspersed with examples of the best of Bulgarian culture.

FTTUB president Ekaterina Yordanova began the session by welcoming the friends from 116 countries who, she said, had helped make a dream come true. She proudly introduced Professor Georgi Biznashki, Bulgaria’s prime minister, who told the audience: “It is of paramount importance that the ITF supports the UN and the organisations that seek peace and social justice, and the congress slogan – From global crisis to global justice: transport workers fighting back – is proof of that willingness.”

There was fighting talk too from Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, who said: “Together we are the largest democratic force on earth.”

On Gaza, to widespread applause, she stated: “To target civilians is against international law. The killing must stop. The blockade must end.”

She also promised a joint fight against Qatar and FIFA and the evil of forced labour. She wished the ITF well in its fight back against injustice, saying, “I know the mighty ITF can and will deliver.”

Guy Ryder, International labour Organization director-general was another welcome guest, and delivered the ILO’s best wishes for the success of the ITF’s work “at the cutting edge of trade union internationalism”.

He spoke of the global crisis caused by incompetence and excess in financial markets.

“This is what transport workers are fighting back against,” he said, before wishing the delegates “good luck with the fight back”.

The final word went to ITF president Paddy Crumlin. “Everything we do is essential to the quality of human life” he said. “We are everywhere and we demand justice!” Then, after a rousing cinematic overview of how the past four years have seen uprisings against injustice and how a newfound consciousness has led to the questioning of the power of corporations in a system that does not work for people, he told the audience “I declare the congress open.”

ACTU: Pay Gap Will Worsen Under Stripped Penalty Rates

15 August, 2014 | Media Release

The record high 18.2 per cent gender pay gap will widen even further if business groups win their campaign to strip away penalty rates and attack the minimum wage.

“It is incredibly disappointing yet unsurprising to see the gender pay gap has blown out to its widest level in 20 years,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“We know women still face barriers in the workplace that contribute to the pay gap including lack of flexibility to accommodate caring commitments, pregnancy discrimination, higher rates of casualisation and fewer opportunities for training and promotion,” said Ms Kearney.

Yet instead of dealing with these important issues Tony Abbott and business associations want to exacerbate the situation by doing away with penalty rates and lowering the minimum wage.

“If Tony Abbott and employers are serious about addressing the pay gap then they need to start by changing the Fair Work Act to prevent discrimination against women workers,” Ms Kearney said.

“For example, there is currently no obligation for employers to show they have seriously considered a request for flexible work arrangements to assist with caring responsibilities.  As a result many women face discrimination when they return to work after having children and are pushed out of quality jobs into less secure, poorer paying work.

“Insecure work pays low wages, forgoes benefits such as paid leave, doesn’t provide for long-term accrual of entitlements, stunts career progression and places employees in vulnerable negotiating positions often subject to discriminatory practices.”

Nearly 60 per cent of the 1.5 million Australian workers on the minimum wage are women and many of them rely on penalty rates to survive, said Ms Kearney.

“With 40% of households now relying on women as the main breadwinners, a widening pay gap can only mean that families and communities suffer as well.

“Not only are business groups trying to lower people’s wages – the Abbott Government is pursuing its cruel and unfair budget measures that will push up the cost of health and child care, hitting women workers in particular even harder.

“It’s time the Abbott Government stops pretending it cares about discrimination against women and actually starts doing something.”