Sunday, November 30, 2014

ACTU: Liberal Party attacks on workers rejected by Victorians

 Victorian workers have sent a clear message to the Napthine Government that they will not be taken for granted.


ACTU President Ged Kearney said the voices that came through loud and clear in this election were the voices of our paramedics, fire fighters, nurses and other Victorian workers.


“Victorian workers stood together and said loud and clear that they deserve better than a Liberal Government that doesn’t respect them or the work that they do,” Ms Kearney said.


“Victorian workers drove the agenda of this campaign which saw the key issues of jobs, services, wages and conditions front and center."


Ms Kearney also said that the totally overblown, expensive and relentless attacks on workers by the Federal and State Liberals throughout the Victorian election campaign were comprehensively rejected by Victorians.


“The default position of the Liberal Party when they are under pressure - at State and Federal levels - is to attack workers,” Ms Kearney said.


“Victorian voters rejected the Liberals' predictable rhetoric in favour of a positive vision for Victoria and a plan to address the jobs crisisrestore services and resolve public sector pay disputes.


“Liberal party candidates and supporters licking their wounds today should be asking their leaders Napthine and Abbott why they have failed so comprehensively in the eyes of voters."


Ms Kearney said the Abbott Government’s unpopular budget including savage cuts to health and education combined with their clear anti-worker agenda to slash wages and conditions was another contributing factor in the Liberal loss.


“Job security is the number one issue for Australians and yet you have a Prime Minister pursuing a workplace agenda that will cut wages, cut conditions and undermine job security."

Dangers of fracking exposed

​Fracking toxins may be as dangerous as tobacco, asbestos & thalidomide – UK chief scientist

November 28, 2014

The effects of fracking could be as dangerous as asbestos, thalidomide, or tobacco toxins, the UK’s leading scientist has warned, claiming the government has adopted the process without considering the side effects.

In a flagship report produced by Professor Sir Mark Walport, the government’s chief advisor on science policy, it is warned that fracking could have serious negative impacts on health and the environment that could last for decades.

Sir Mark Walport also said the government is putting too much faith in fracking, and that historical examples of cheap energy extraction often ended up causing more damage to the environment in the long-term.

“History presents plenty of examples of innovation trajectories that later proved to be problematic — for instance involving asbestos, benzene, thalidomide, dioxins, lead in petrol, tobacco, many pesticides, mercury, chlorine and endocrine-disrupting compounds,” he writes in the report.

Labor victory in Victoria

Daniel Andrews is Victoria's new premier, consigning Denis Napthine's Coalition to being the state's first one-term government in 60 years.

Amid an anti-Coalition backlash over rising unemployment, the East West Link, and the Abbott government, Labor has picked up at least 46 seats in the 88-seat lower house, winning the critical sandbelt electorates of Mordialloc, Carrum, and possibly Bentleigh and Frankston, while retaining seats around Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

The Greens have also made history in the Victorian Parliament, with Melbourne candidate Ellen Sandell beating Labor MP Jennifer Kanis to secure the minor party's first lower house seat, while former Labor minister Richard Wynne was also under threat of losing Richmond

Friday, November 28, 2014


By Neale Towart

Tuesday, 25 November, 2014

BEFORE Muriel Heagney, Kath Williams, Joyce Barry and latter day heroines like Jennie George, Sharan Burrow and Ged Kearney, there was Mary Gilmore.

The woman on our $10 note, Gilmore, was not just a pioneering journalist and poet.
She was a radical political campaigner who was the first woman to join the Australian Workers’ Union. And she did it by masquerading as a bloke.
Under her brother John Cameron’s name, she was on the executive of the AWU during the big strikes of the 1890s.

She broke Henry Lawson’s heart

In 1895, Mary had given up teaching to join William Lane’s New Australia Movement.
She sailed to his Cosme settlement in Paraguay, arriving in January 1896 and there married shearer William Gilmore (1866-1945). Her son William Dysart Gilmour was born in the new settlement in 1897.
Henry Lawson had wished to marry her.
In 1923 she recalled that “it was a strange meeting that between young Lawson and me. I had come down permanently to the city from Silverton”. They were very close from 1890-95 and he was heartbroken when she left for Cosme.
To earn the fare back from Paraguay (via London), Mary taught as a governess and learned Spanish (see Anne Whitehead’s book Bluestocking in Patagonia).

Mary GilmoreMary Gilmore celebrating her 90th birthday with the Bushwhackers in 1955.

She made a name for herself as one of the first to translate South American literature into English.
From 1902-1912 she lived with her son at William’s parents’ farm in Casterton in Western Victoria while William was establishing a station in Queensland. Here Mary was able to re-establish her writing and political links.
In 1903 she was featured on The Bulletin’s ‘Red Page’ and she helped with campaigning for the Labor Party in the 1906 and 1910 federal elections for the seat of Wannon (this was later Malcolm Fraser’s seat).
In 1908 Mary commenced editing the woman’s page of the Australian Worker, a position she held until 1931. In 1910 her first collection of poems Marri’d, and other verses was published.
Her interest in Aboriginal issues began early and she was possibly the first Australian writer to champion the need for writers to study Aboriginal story and myth
Later Mary Gilmore was associated with the Communist newspaper Tribune. Her column ‘Arrows’ appeared regularly until mid-1962, commenting on contemporary Australian and world affairs.

Still going strong in her ’90s

In 1954, as she approached her ninetieth year, she published her final volume of poetry, Fourteen Men.
The Australasian Book Society commissioned William Dobell to paint her portrait for her 92nd birthday in 1957. Mary strongly defended the controversial portrait because she felt it captured something of her ancestry: she later donated it to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Her last years were made memorable by ever-increasing signs of public esteem.
Her birthdays were celebrated publicly by Sydney literati and ordinary folk alike; streets, roads, schools, old people’s homes were named after her; literary awards and scholarships were given in her name; visitors from Australia’s literary and political world, and overseas admirers, made regular pilgrimages to her; her pronouncements were highlighted by the media; she made television and radio appearances; she led May Day processions as the May Queen, winning the fundraising as the Waterside Workers’ Federation entrant, in 1961.

The union movement recognised her contribution, the ACTU introducing a May Day literary prize in 1956. In 1973 – 11 years after she died, aged 97, she was honoured with a new stamp with her image from Australia Post.

The Canberra suburb Gilmore is named after her, as is the federal electorate of Gilmore. Beverly Dunn brought Mary to life in the one woman show The Dame on the Ten Dollar Note in 2009, performed at Melbourne Theatre Company.

So next time you pull out a tenner, dip your lid to a great Australian unionist.

ACTU: Unions put James Hardie on notice

27 November, 2014 | Media Release

Unions will take legal action to block any application to the Supreme Court to have asbestos victims paid compensation in instalments.

In a unanimous vote, the ACTU Executive committed to the action in response to a shortfall in the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF) set up to compensate asbestos sufferers.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the average mesothelioma victim dies within 155 days of diagnosis.

“Asbestos victims do not die by instalments and should not be paid in instalments,” Mr Oliver said.

Mr Oliver said today marks the seven year anniversary of the death of asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton.

“It is deeply disappointing that seven years on from his tragic death, unions and asbestos victims are once again fighting for James Hardie to do the right thing,” Mr Oliver said.

“James Hardie needs to recognise that the assumptions used to set up the compensation fund may no longer be adequate – the sad reality is that more people are dying and at a much younger age than was predicted.”

Mr Oliver said unions have obtained legal advice showing there is nothing in the asbestos compensation fund agreement to stop James Hardie from making a one-off ex-gratia payment to top up the fund.

“James Hardie has projected profits between US $205 - $235 million in 2014-15, pays little to no tax and its CEO earns $11 million a year,” said Mr Oliver.

“It’s outrageous that its management is seeking to avoid its moral obligation to fully compensate the victims of asbestos-related disease and cannot shirk that responsibility.”

The ACTU Executive called on the NSW and Federal governments to honour their commitment to make a loan facility available to the AICF in the event of any remaining shortfall.

Unions have voted unanimously to:
  1. Take legal action to block any application by the AICF to the Supreme Court to have asbestos victims paid compensation in instalments.
  2. Continue to negotiate with James Hardie representatives for an ex-gratia payment to ensure the Fund meets any shortfall.
  3. Hold the NSW and federal governments accountable to their commitments to provide a loan facility to the Fund to ensure victims are paid full and prompt compensation.
  4. Facilitate and resource a campaign to harness community, political and shareholder pressure on the company and the governments to meet their legal and moral obligations.


Tuesday 25 November 2014

Defence Minister David Johnston has joined Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, unfairly criticising Australian industry in a bid to cover his own broken promises over building Australia’s future submarines at ASC in Adelaide.

The PM and the Treasurer failed to support the Australian motor industry earlier this year, resulting in carmakers indicating they would pull out of the local market.

Asked during Question Time by Sen. Alex Gallacher (Lab. SA) why he was resorting to “trashing the hard working men and women of the Australian ship and submarine industry in order to justify breaking his promises,” Senator Johnston let out a stream of invective.

“You wonder why I’m worried about ASC and what they’re delivering to the Australian taxpayer, you wonder why I couldn’t trust them to build a canoe?” Sen Johnston said.

In a rambling answer, the Defence Minister revealed his Naval shipbuilding policy was in disarray, first suggesting ASC was $350 million over budget on the air warfare destroyer project, then telling the Senate: “It’s probably more than 600 million but because the data is so bad I can’t tell you.”

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is campaigning to overturn the minister’s push to send future Navy shipbuilding offshore. ASC and its workforce are a key part of our national security, with highly skilled shipbuilding jobs at risk if the Abbott Government once again fails to back Australian manufacturing industry.

“This is a total outrage that we have a government talking down industry, workers and jobs,” said Glenn Thompson, AMWU Assistant National Secretary. “This is an example of the Government walking away from the shipbuilding industry in the same way it abandoned the car industry,” he said.

The AMWU is backing its members and Australian-based shipbuilders, demanding two replenishment vessels and a fleet of submarines be built here. “Senator Johnston should stop attacking workers and listen to some of his Coalition colleagues who are clearly unhappy with the minister for breaking his promise to build submarines in Adelaide,” Mr Thompson said.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

We Are Better Than This

A group of more than 30 high-profile Australians, including actors Bryan Brown, Claudia Karvan and Deborah Mailman, businesswoman Ita Buttrose, author Thomas Keneally and former Wallabies captain George Gregan, have come together to record a song that highlights the plight of child asylum seekers in detention.

The recording brings together noted figures from a diverse range of fields, including business, the arts, academia, sport, religion and media, who together condemn the conditions in which children are being detained, particularly on the islands of Nauru and Christmas Island, highlighting an unsafe environment and lack of schooling.

Brown, who has been instrumental in the project, told Guardian Australia he had no difficulty finding participants. “We’ve all read a lot [about this issue] over these last few years and been very troubled by it and not really known what to do,” he said.

The actor decided that recording a song might help attract attention to the issue. We’re Better Than This Australia was recorded in a Sydney studio, with musical direction by Darren Percival from The Voice.

In a video recorded on the day, Buttrose says: “I think when you lock a child up, you lock up their imagination, and when you do that, you destroy their childhood.”

Professor Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, also took part in the recording and said: “No other country in the world holds children in the way we do, and the United Nations is very, very concerned about Australia’s policies.”

"A movement for ordinary Australians who want both sides of politics to hear us when we say we believe we can do better than we are currently doing when it comes to managing kids seeking refuge." Bryan Brown. Please share this video and go to — three easy ways to be part of the movement. #WBTTAUS on Twitter

GetUp! - Protect the Renewable Energy Target

If you ask Charlie Prell, a farmer from the NSW town of Goulburn, what the government could do to support farmers, he'd say it'd be keeping a solid, stable Renewable Energy Target.

Charlie's neighbour Kim agrees. As a small-business owner down the road, she's watched the local economy boom as a result of the renewable energy industry. John, from the nearby earthmoving company, has hired an extra 40 locals since the introduction of solar and wind projects into the community. Even the Mayor of Goulburn, a staunch conservative, believes that renewables are the future for the area.

But the continued prosperity of townships like Goulburn is now at risk. With two weeks left of Parliament, it's likely Tony Abbott will attempt to push through cuts to the Renewable Energy Target (RET). If he succeeds, it'll be devastating for our clean energy industry and regional Australia.

Charlie features in this powerful TV ad, telling his story and the story of his community. With the help of GetUp's environmental partner organisations, we've secured advertising spots on Sky News (the channel shown on every TV screen in Federal Parliament). If we can air this ad in the offices of MPs and Senators during the critical final sitting days of Parliament, we'll show them just how much worse off Australians will be, including those in the Coalition's heartland, if the Government cuts the RET.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ACTU: Government must target policies to close the gender pay gap

25 November, 2014 | Media Release

A new study showing Australian women are paid almost 25 per cent less than men who perform the same work highlights the need for comprehensive government action to close the gender pay gap and increase women’s participation in the workforce.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found just 13.6 per cent of employers have a strategy for flexible working.

“The reality is women are facing outdated workplace practices and inadequate laws that make it difficult to return to work after having children. This has a significant impact on women’s wages and participation in the workforce,” Ms Kearney said.

“Women with child care responsibilities are often forced to take lower paid, lower status and insecure work with little career development opportunities – or risk being forced to trade off entitlements such as penalty rates in exchange for flexible work hours under unfair individual contracts.

If Tony Abbott is serious about closing the gender gap and increasing women’s participation in the workforce then he needs to release a plan of targeted and deliverable policies, said Ms Kearney.

“Tony Abbott’s own party doesn’t even support his paid parental scheme – so why doesn’t he focus on passing laws that are realistic and will actually make a difference to Australian women.

“Instead, the Abbott Government has cut out of school hours care and slashed funding to improve the wages of low paid women working in childcare and aged care.”

The Government’s Fair Work Amendment Bill also allows employers to ask women with caring responsibilities to trade off wages and conditions in return for family friendly hours of work, which will exacerbate the gender pay gap.

Ms Kearney said the Abbott Government has also ruled out increasing funding to the childcare sector in the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission review into childcare.

“The International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation have all recognised childcare as a critical factor in increasing women’s workforce participation.

“Yet in Australia we currently spend only 0.3 per cent of GDP on early education and care, compared to an average of 0.7 per cent by OECD countries.

Unions are calling on Tony Abbott to support women’s workforce participation and earn decent wages by:

  • Funding childcare to the OECD average of 0.7% of GDP
  • Targeting funding to ensure the mostly female social, community and care workers receive decent wages and conditions
  • Revoking the Fair Work Amendment Bill’s proposal to allow employers to ask women with caring responsibilities to trade off wages and conditions in return for family friendly hours
  • Boost rather than water down the Workplace Gender Equality legislation and reporting

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CFMEU: Mineworkers call for end to local jobs discrimination at BHP AGM

Mineworkers from around Australia attended BHP’s AGM in Adelaide to protest practises they say are alienating workers and communities and tarnishing the company’s reputation.

  • Locals are not allowed to work at nearby mines
  • Fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers have to live where the company dictates
  • Permanent, full time jobs are outsourced to labour hire

General Vice President of the CFMEU’s Mining and Energy division, Wayne McAndrew, said an example of BHP’s mistreatment of workers and their communities was their compulsory 100% FIFO policies at the new Caval Ridge and Daunia coal mines in Central Queensland.

“Compulsory 100% FIFO discriminates against local workers who can’t apply for jobs in mines near their communities, and it also denies FIFO workers any choice about their lifestyle and where they live,” said Mr McAndrew.

“In the Central Queensland mining town of Moranbah local workers who want a job at these new mines would have to first fly to Cairns or Brisbane and then fly back to work, where they can’t stay with their family but instead have to live in camps.

“This is an absurd situation which shows the lack of respect BHP has for workers and the communities near its mines.

“At the same time BHP is denying FIFO workers the choice about where they live, requiring that they  reside within a radius of Brisbane or Cairns set by the company.

“BHP’s preference of lower-paid, insecure labour hire above permanent, full time jobs is also an attack on workers rights and has left workers across its mines living in fear that they will lose their jobs.

“Although BHP has some nice ideals in its charter such as respect and integrity the reality we see at the mines and in the communities is vastly different.
“BHP is at serious risk of tarnishing its reputation if it continues to alienate its workers and the communities near its mines.

CFMEU representatives will present a petition signed by thousands of Australians calling on BHP’s CEO Andrew Mackenzie to end BHP’s 100% compulsory FIFO at its two new mines in the Bowen Basin.

Workers from BHP mines in QLD (Goonyella Riverside, Blackwater No.1, Gregory, Saraji, Peak Downs), NSW (Westcliff Colliery, Mt Arthur) and WA (Nelson Point Port Hedland) were represented at the AGM.

MUA Proud To Support White Ribbon Day

Posted on November 25, 2014

The Maritime Union of Australia is proud to once again support White Ribbon Day, which coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The MUA has been actively engaged with White Ribbon for many years to try to eliminate violence against women.

White Ribbon is Australia’s only national, male-led campaign to end men’s violence against women.

MUA Deputy National Secretary and former White Ribbon Ambassador of the Year Mick Doleman said the awareness created on November 25 was vital.

“On average one woman each week is murdered by her male partner,” Mr Doleman said.
“That is simply unacceptable in a modern society and that is why the MUA has worked so hard to pull our weight on White Ribbon Day.

“I am always pleased with the reaction I get from blokes in our industry who I talk to, who are comfortable in discussing the issue and taking the White Ribbon oath: never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

“But we still have a long way to go. We will know we are really winning this battle when the vast majority of men feel brave enough to speak out in everyday situations, at the pub, in the mess room, or over the back fence.

“This is not a campaign that can be won through laws and regulations - we need to shift the culture.”

- See more at:



Thousands of shipbuilding jobs are at risk as the Abbott Government fails to back Australian shipyards. The industry is crying out for support from the Government which has so far failed to commit to building our future submarine fleet and two badly needed Navy replenishment vessels here.

The Senate Economics Reference Committee has heard the evidence and recommends that both these projects be built in Australian shipyards. Several Coalition members, and Committee deputy chair Senator Edwards are at odds with the Government over this issue, and agree with Unions, shipbuilding companies and workers that taking this work off-shore would be a grave mistake.
Australia stands to lose vital industrial capability and highly skilled workers if the Abbott Government decides to turn its back on Australian workers and locally based shipbuilding companies.

Defence Minister David Johnston misled shipbuilding workers and their families before the last Federal Election when he promised to build our submarines at the ASC facility in Adelaide.

“Workers will not stand by and let the Government break such an important election promise,“ said AMWU National Assistant Secretary Glenn Thompson. “We will be doing everything we can to hold the Government to account over this important issue,” Mr Thompson said.

A rolling build program across a range of Navy projects is the only way to maintain shipbuilding jobs in several dockyards around Australia. Not only should the ships and submarines be built here, they should also be maintained here. To do otherwise, would undermine Australia’s sovereign capability and place our national security interests at risk.

The AMWU is calling on the Government to not exclude the ASC from bidding in any tender for the future submarine project and to allow Australian-based shipbuilders to tender for the Navy replenishment ships.

“Shipbuilding is a high technology capability that Australia needs to protect and foster,” Mr Thompson said.

“And the skilled jobs that the industry offers should be valued by the Abbott Government, rather than being discarded in the rush to meet its budget bottom line.”

ACTU: Government must target policies to close the gender pay gap

25 November, 2014 | ACTU Media Release

A new study showing Australian women are paid almost 25 per cent less than men who perform the same work highlights the need for comprehensive government action to close the gender pay gap and increase women’s participation in the workforce.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found just 13.6 per cent of employers have a strategy for flexible working.

“The reality is women are facing outdated workplace practices and inadequate laws that make it difficult to return to work after having children. This has a significant impact on women’s wages and participation in the workforce,” Ms Kearney said.

“Women with child care responsibilities are often forced to take lower paid, lower status and insecure work with little career development opportunities – or risk being forced to trade off entitlements such as penalty rates in exchange for flexible work hours under unfair individual contracts.

If Tony Abbott is serious about closing the gender gap and increasing women’s participation in the workforce then he needs to release a plan of targeted and deliverable policies, said Ms Kearney.

“Tony Abbott’s own party doesn’t even support his paid parental scheme – so why doesn’t he focus on passing laws that are realistic and will actually make a difference to Australian women.

“Instead, the Abbott Government has cut out of school hours care and slashed funding to improve the wages of low paid women working in childcare and aged care.”

The Government’s Fair Work Amendment Bill also allows employers to ask women with caring responsibilities to trade off wages and conditions in return for family friendly hours of work, which will exacerbate the gender pay gap.

Ms Kearney said the Abbott Government has also ruled out increasing funding to the childcare sector in the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission review into childcare.

“The International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation have all recognised childcare as a critical factor in increasing women’s workforce participation.

“Yet in Australia we currently spend only 0.3 per cent of GDP on early education and care, compared to an average of 0.7 per cent by OECD countries.

Unions are calling on Tony Abbott to support women’s workforce participation and earn decent wages by:

  • Funding childcare to the OECD average of 0.7% of GDP
  • Targeting funding to ensure the mostly female social, community and care workers receive decent wages and conditions
  • Revoking the Fair Work Amendment Bill’s proposal to allow employers to ask women with caring responsibilities to trade off wages and conditions in return for family friendly hours
  • Boost rather than water down the Workplace Gender Equality legislation and reporting

CPSU: Save Our ABC - playschool sing-along

ABC supporter singing the Play School theme song at rally in Sydney 22/11/14

Monday, November 24, 2014

AMWU: Air Traffic Control Debacle - HMAS Albatross

An industrial drama has flared up at the Royal Australian Navy's only air station because of a lack of public servants to maintain vital radars and other air traffic control equipment.

A cease work notice was issued at HMAS Albatross in Nowra for three days last month because of safety concerns.

It shut down regular air traffic control services at an airfield which hosts 130 flight movements daily.

It followed a "cut to the bone" reduction in technical staff looking after the equipment, according to one union.

It is believed concerns about a lack of personnel had been frustrating staff for the past year.
Mostly military aircraft used HMAS Albatross, the nation's largest operational Naval establishment.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said the safety concerns were not surprising given staff numbers had been cut to the bone.

Eight technical staff had been whittled down to two, he said, although the Defence Department said seven technical staff had reduced to three.

"Two people are straddling much longer than the average working day," Mr Ayres said.
He was sceptical about how long it would take to fill the shortage.
"It takes 6 months to train one of these people," Mr Ayres said.

The Australian government is already experiencing a drought of experienced technical staff to support defence operations.

Read more:

CPSU: Abetz' Nasty Pay Deal

NOV 24, 2014
Vote expected soon.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz’s hardline approach to public sector pay and conditions is facing a big test with staff in his own department set to vote on a deal that cuts a raft of their conditions and rights in return for a pay rise of less than 1% a year.

The Minister’s own staff are expected to vote on a new agreement in early December but already a survey of workers indicates the Department’s proposals are unacceptable. The Department is proposing a pay rise of 0.5% a year in return for cutting a raft of conditions, or 1% if staff also increase working hours, with the loss of 46 jobs.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Employment staff are angry and disappointed by these mean and nasty proposals, but they are not surprised by them.

“Bargaining across the public service has become a battleground as workers face wholesale cuts to their conditions and rights in return for pay offers under 1%.

“Minister Abetz is the one who imposed this unworkable policy on Departments and now he is trying to get his own staff to swallow the dud deal the Government’s policy has produced.

“More than 70 public service agencies have been trying to bargain under his policy for the last six months and not one has been able to present a reasonable deal to staff. Does he really expect his own staff to stomach such a terrible deal?” asked Ms Flood.

Staff are particularly alarmed by the fact that in order to meet Government bargaining rules, the Department of Employment is required to cut 46 jobs over the life of the agreement.

Last week Human Services staff voted overwhelmingly for industrial action in protest at a proposal that will see two thirds of their rights stripped and cuts to conditions for an annual pay offer of below 1%. An industrial action ballot at Veterans’ Affairs is currently underway.

The cuts to conditions and rights in the proposed Employment Department agreement include the removal of protection around 15.4% super, making it harder for staff to progress to higher levels, cutting employees rights to be represented by a union, increasing working hours, stopping offices from closing early on Christmas Eve and many others.

“ This offer to Minister Abetz’s own staff shows how ludicrous the Government’s policy is. These show that while the Department has gained efficiencies in travel, accommodation, printing, reducing duplication and simplifying business processes, none of these count in bargaining under Minister Abetz’s rules. He defines productivity as new cuts to employee’s conditions that provide cashable savings. It is a bizarre, alternate IR universe.

“This deal for Employment staff follows the script that Eric has written for public service bargaining -  strip away important rights, make it easier to sack public servants, and remove protections around their super, all for a 0.5% pay rise, way below the cost of living.

That is why public servants are moving towards industrial action to try and press Government for a fairer approach to their working conditions.”

“Minister Abetz needs to acknowledge that his approach is not working and agree to sit down with the CPSU to work out a sensible way forward. I’ve left the door open but the Minister refuses to meet and discuss the Government’s policy.” said Ms Flood.

Draconian ABC Staff Cuts - Abbott and Turnbull in a China Shop

The ABC is set to dramatically overhaul its online and mobile reach, as staff brace for significant staff and programming cuts to be announced on Monday.

Fairfax Media understands the public broadcaster will reinvest in a digital division, which will re-focus core ABC programs towards online, mobile and tablet audiences, a move that could create up to 100 new jobs.

ABC has confirmed the digital investment will take place.

On Monday staff will be briefed by managing director Mark Scott about the changes. It is expected 400 jobs will go in targeted redundancies, as the ABC searches for $254 million in savings after the government's funding cut.

This will include axing locally produced 7.30 current affairs shows, paring back Lateline and cutting 30 jobs from the news division.

But an internal ABC email obtained by Fairfax Media shows a number of cuts could be made without affecting programming.

The document, "Follow up from meeting with Minister of Communications", from October suggests 26 cuts that could save the broadcaster $33 million.

This includes: the number of managers and administrative staff in ABC television, news and radio; centralising internal mail; selling the car park in Lanceley Place in Artarmon; and renegotiating key contracts. By combining transmission costs of ABC and SBS the broadcaster could save another $30 million, the Abbott government says.

But despite this, programs are likely to go. Local radio stations, Radio National and Classic FM are expected to be hit, with an estimated $6 million being ripped from the radio division. The cuts will mean a decrease in the number of music concerts recorded by Classic FM.

Mr Scott told the Weekend Australian the ABC would be investing more in online and mobile services.

"We have let a thousand flowers bloom in our online and mobile services, but we can't do everything we may have wanted to do and we will need to focus our online and mobile ­development around key products and ensure we have a clear sense of priority and focus," he said.

In an impassioned speech on Sunday, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: "This Government is not just cutting the ABC, it is laying waste to the moral basis of our public, democratic life.

"And do not be fooled by Malcolm Turnbull – his crocodile tears count for nothing as he lifts the axe," he told protesters in Melbourne.

Lateline presenter Emma Alberici told Fairfax Media she would be relieved when Monday's staff briefings were over.

"It's an uncomfortable time for everyone," she said. "In all honesty, we don't know what cuts will be made. It's very hard when you don't know what resources you have."

An ABC spokesman said: "After months of uncertainty, as the ABC waited for the final size of budget cuts from the federal government, managing director Mark Scott now welcomes the opportunity to discuss with staff the impact of those cuts in a series of meetings around the country this week."

Rod Brooks Memorial - 22 November 2014

The next Politics in the Pub is on Saturday 22nd November 2014 at 2.30pm in the Dining Room of the Family Hotel, 15 Parke St Katoomba.

  • Phil Chadwick - President of the TAFE Teachers Association
  • Jan Falloon - NTEU UWS Branch President, Lecturer Community Welfare & Social Work
  • Chris Gall - UTS Students Association President
  • Luke Heffernan - Business & Law student & UWS student representative 
Should governments invest public money into higher education, or is TAFE training or
a university degree a privilege to be paid for? 
Are graduates the only people to benefit from their tertiary education?
Does everyone in society benefit from dedicated public investment in education and

Please share this event with your networks or better still, come as well! 

D Smith
Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Landmark report - Indigenous people

A landmark report to be released today shows there is still a long way to go when it comes to improving Indigenous disadvantage.

The Productivity Commission report shows there has been an alarming jump in the number of Indigenous people being jailed and self harming, and while life expectancy and child mortality rates have improved, the rates of disability and chronic disease remain high.

In a statement, the productivity commission said the 2014 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) report showed "some positive trends in the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, with improvements in health, education and economic outcomes".

But it said results in areas such as justice and mental health continued to cause concern.

Peter Harris, chairman of the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, said the OID paper served as a "public report card". 

"It can help governments assess the effectiveness of current policies and inform the development of new approaches," he said.

"It can assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to hold governments to account, and to develop their own responses to the disadvantage that limits the opportunities of too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians."

Mr Harris said "several health outcomes [had] improved, including increased life expectancy and lower child mortality. However, rates of disability and chronic disease remain high, mental health outcomes have not improved, and hospitalisation rates for self-harm have increased". 

Hospitalisations for intentional self-harm increased by 48 per cent from 2004-05 to 2012-13, while the report found the proportion of adults reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress increased from 27 per cent to 30 per cent for the same period.

But it is not all bad news, with the gap in life expectancy narrowing from 11.4 years to 10.6 years for males and from 9.6 years to 9.5 for females from 2005-2007 until 2010-2012.

Mortality rates for children improved significantly, particularly in the 0-1 year age group, where rates more than halved.

Report card captures mixed results

Mr Harris said economic outcomes improved over the longer term "with higher incomes, lower reliance on income support, increased home ownership, and higher rates of full-time and professional employments," but added that improvements had slowed in recent years.

There was an improvement in post-secondary education outcomes, but almost no change in literacy and numeracy results, "which are particularly poor in remote areas", Mr Harris said.

The report found the number of 20-24 year olds completing year 12 or above increased from 45 per cent in 2008 to 59 per cent in 2012-13.

There was also an increase in the proportion of 20-64 year olds with, or working towards, post-school qualifications.

The report recorded little or no change in the proportion of students achieving national minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy from 2008 until 2013.

Justice outcomes continued to deteriorate, "with adult imprisonment rates worsening from already high rates," Mr Harris said.

Juvenile detention rates also increased dramatically between 2000-01 and 2007-08, and "fluctuated since at around 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth".

The adult imprisonment rate which rose 57 per cent between 2000 and 2013.

Rates of family and community violence "were unchanged between 2002 and 2008, and there was little change in alcohol and substance use and harm over time".

$110 billion ripped off by bosses each year

The balance between work and life is deteriorating for four in 10 people, according to a new study which also found Australians are donating $110 billion in free labour each year.

Job insecurity and an expectation from bosses that employees will work longer hours are the reasons why people are doing more overtime.

The average full-time worker is doing six hours of unpaid overtime each week worth an estimated $9471 a year, according to a report to be released on Wednesday by The Australia Institute think tank.

Executive director Richard Denniss said many Australians were giving their valuable time freely to organisations that are legally obliged to pay for it.

"Whether they realise it or not Australians are far more generous to their employer than they are to any charity," he said. 
The survey of close to 1000 people around the country found 46 per cent of people are expected to work longer hours and 27 per cent said their position had become insecure. 

Director of Research, David Baker, said fear about job security was widespread. 

"For many Australian workers rocking the boat appears to be a genuine concern," Mr Baker said. "If seeking better balance is perceived to be a threat to career prospects people are unlikely to freely raise the issue with their boss," Mr Baker said.
Most people said they were willing to get more flexible work hours and fixed finishing times to improve their work/life balance, but three quarters said they were unwilling to reduce their pay

Dr Denniss said the study suggested it was not enough to raise awareness among workers about the need for work/life balance.

"It's time that employers and industry groups started to talk about how they are going to tackle this problem. It's time that governments took this problem a lot more seriously. A simple thing they could do is require all large companies to survey their employees each year on work/life balance and publish those surveys on their websites."

Read more:

Government needs to come clean on impact on jobs of China FTA

18 November, 2014 | Media Release

The Abbott Government needs to come clean on the impact the China free trade agreement will have on Australian jobs, Unions said today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the scant information provided by the Government is deliberately vague but certainly proves there will be considerably less protections for Australian jobs. 

“The Abbott Government claims Australian jobs will be protected because the current rules on labour market testing – that genuine skills shortages must exist and jobs have to be advertised locally before foreign workers can come in - will apply to the Chinese deal,” Ms Kearney said.

“Apart from the fact that these current labour market testing rules are woefully inadequate, the Government’s own information on the trade deal doesn’t even make this guarantee clear.”

Under the trade deal, Chinese companies can bring in Chinese workers for projects of $150 million or more under new labour agreements called Investment Facilitation Arrangement (IFAs) which allow for so called ‘increased labour flexibilities’.

“Despite the Government today saying labour market testing will apply, their own fact sheet says rules for these new agreements will be based on Enterprise Migration Agreements – which do not require labour market testing.”

Ms Kearney said that Enterprise Migration Agreements were set up for projects of more than $2 billion with more than 1500 workers but what the Abbott Government has now done is drop the threshold down to $150 million projects and used the same rules.

“Does this mean jobs for these much smaller projects don’t have to be advertised to Australian workers first?

“There are more questions than answers and the Government needs to come clean and explain what this deal means for Australian workers.”

Ms Kearney said the free trade agreement also allows “guaranteed access” to Chinese citizens who are: 
·                Intra-corporate transferees and independent executives for up to four years 
·                Contractual service suppliers for up to four years
·                Installers and servicers for up to 3 months

“The Abbott Government needs to explain exactly what ‘guaranteed access’ means, how many foreign workers it will apply to and exactly which jobs it includes.

“The Australian community deserves open and transparent answers from their Government.”

Unions have written to both major parties and the crossbench urging them to reject any deal that does not protect Australian jobs.

Signatories to the letter include the ACTU, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, National Union of Workers, Australian Workers Union, Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, United Voice, Transport Workers Union and the Rail Tram and Bus Union.

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the death of Whitlam

Maurie Mulheron

President NSW Teachers Federation
Whitlam’s death last month struck a chord with the community, and particularly with those who take an interest in education.
But too much of the commentary has meant that young people could be forgiven for believing that the program of social reform between 1972–75 was due to the imagination of one individual or one political party, rather than acknowledging that the ALP in 1972 reflected the broad social movements that had been building throughout the 1960s.
After the frightened ‘fifties, the campaign for nuclear disarmament morphed into the anti-war movement. This led to student radicalism, agitation for free speech, the counter-culture, women’s liberation, gay rights activism, concern for the environment, the push for land rights — and all these turned into a massive set of social movements that swept a reforming government into power.
Clearly his death triggered an inevitable comparison with the Australia of that period and what a reforming government can achieve, with what we are seeing under the Abbott Government of today. Michael Pascoe summed it up particularly well in the Sydney Morning Herald (October 23): “The optimism, the positivity, the change, the opening up, the justice, the independence, the betterment of the nation, the internationalisation that Whitlam sought and represented has been replaced after four decades with a more general negativity, with so little ambition, with a conservative determination to uphold the status quo or even return to some earlier imagination of it, with white-bread nationalism resplendent. I fear we don’t mourn Gough, but ourselves.”
The policy settings that became legislation under the ‘Whitlam Program’ were the product of agitation, social unrest and protest. The achievements have been extensively covered so I will refrain from listing them here but they cover so much — from free university education to universal health-care to environmental protections to equal pay for women to law reform and so much more.
On higher education, the Whitlam Government deserves to be commended. We also know of course that the Karmel Commission introduced massive increases in schools funding, for the first time giving Commonwealth funding to public schools and creating the Disadvantaged Schools Program, the first equity based scheme.
But we also know that the Karmel Commission brought in increased funding to Catholic schools and that this was part of the attempt to politically settle the State Aid dispute within the ALP. We know the consequences of this. After the ALP lost office, the record funding levels remained for non-government schools but declined for public schools.
Under the Whitlam Government’s special women’s grant, the NSW Teachers Federation applied for and was successful in having our Women’s Officer salary funded for two years by the Commonwealth Government. The Whitlam Government was also responsible for setting up the Trade Union Training program.
In the two years and nine months that the ALP was in government, over 93 pieces of legislation were blocked by the Senate, including an unprecedented blocking of the Budget Supply Bills, starving the government of money. This was extraordinary obstructionism.
Economics was the excuse used by the conservative forces at the time to push back against social reform. But the Dismissal had little to do with economics and everything to do with social policy.
The economic myths are still repeated such as the lie that somehow the Whitlam Government was good on social policy, but dreadful at economic management, whatever that means. We do live in a society, after all, not an economy.
These conservative commentators deliberately ignore the oil shock of 1973 when the OPEC countries, in response to the US giving military aid to Israel, increased oil prices by a massive 70 per cent. This had an immediate shock on economic systems right around the world.
There’s a myth that it was a big spending government (as though ‘big spending’ is a negative). It was a government of reform and the net debt was only 0.4 per cent of GDP. When the Fraser government lost office in 1983, the net debt was 7.5 per cent of GDP.
We should remember the role of Rupert Murdoch and his empire which had originally supported the Whitlam government. Getting the taste for being ‘King Maker’, Murdoch then turned the entire News Ltd Press disgracefully against the government. We have seen that behaviour repeated in every election ever since.
John Kerr was the unelected Governor-General at the time responsible for sacking a twice-elected government. Kerr had form. He had deep and long standing relationships with the American Secret Service and close connections with very right-wing political forces in this country.
Kerr was an unreformed Cold War warrior. He had been involved with a shadowy organisation called the Association for Cultural Freedom and had been on its Executive Board as far back as 1957. It is well-documented that this organisation was created during the Cold War as an anti-communist front funded by the CIA.
The seriously corrupt NSW Liberal Premier, Sir Robert Askin, had recommended Kerr for a knighthood reflecting the Liberal Party’s affection for Kerr. Whitlam, ignoring the unequivocal advice of many of his colleagues, in 1974 appointed Kerr to the position of Governor-General. It was an appalling appointment.
There is no doubt in my mind that there was a conspiracy, a coup occurred, and the ramifications of that are still felt in this country today.
A reform government that had been swept to power by the social movements of the day was destroyed so as to intimidate any party that might want to enact social reform in the future. Politics shifted to the Right.
We need look no further for evidence of this than in the recent comments of the current Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, who boasted, “We’ll find any way we can to take the money out of universities” (Australian Financial Review, November 4).
This teaches us one important lesson which we pass on to each generation: every achievement must be defended forever. This is why schools funding must and will be a permanent campaign.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SPRINGWOOD - stop the sell off rally - 29 November 2014

stop the sell off rally
12 noon-1pm Saturday 29th November
Springwood Town Square, Macquarie Street, Springwood
Download official flyer here in A4 or A5 format.
Premier Mike Baird will sell off a big chunk of the NSW electricity industry if he wins  the March Election. The history of privatisations tells us that ex Banker Baird's  plans will result in:

* HIGHER ELECTRICITY PRICES - Pensioners, families, businesses and individuals will all pay more as private companies seek to maximise  profits.
* POORER SERVICES  - 32% increase in blackouts in Victoria after privatisation.
*REDUCED PUBLIC SAFETY - Cuts to maintenance spending results in reduced public safety, particularly during bush fires and storms.
*JOB LOSSES - Private owners move quickly to close local depots, sack local workers and stop training apprentices.
*REDUCED REVENUE: N.S.W poles and wires currently fund hospitals, schools and community services to the tune of $2.5 billion PA

KEEP THE POWER WITH THE PEOPLE: STOP THE SELL OFF: JOIN THE SPRINGWOOD RALLYSpeakers - Mark Lennon, secretary Unions NSW, Adam Kerslake, Director, Stop The Sell Off Campaign. Plus Candidates for the Blue Mountains in the NSW election - All declared candidates have been invited

Authorised by K. Cooke, President, Blue Mountains Union Council

Friday, November 14, 2014

TPP Trade Talks Must Stop

11 November, 2014 | Media Release

The ITUC and the ACTU have called on governments to stop negotiations on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement, criticising the secrecy and corporate bias in the current negotiations.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments. Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark. What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits. Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney called on Prime Minister Abbott to be upfront with workers about the detail of the TPP.

“If this deal was as good as Mr Abbott says it is, he would be out telling workers all about it – but he isn’t,” Ms Kearney said.

“Workers have good reason to be worried about the trade deals Mr Abbott is negotiating given until now he hasn’t protected Australian jobs, he has made it easier for foreign workers to come to Australia and he is actively pushing for cuts to wages and conditions."

The current TPP proposals include provisions which would:

  • Make governments submit to so-called investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures whereby investors can sue governments on a wide range of policies, including environmental and social policies ;
  • Introduce patent protections that would boost pharmaceutical companies’ profits, but put vital medicines out of reach for millions of poorer people;
  • Severely restrict governments’ ability to make national laws for public health, safety and general welfare with a ‘regulatory coherence’ chapter;
  • Stop governments from giving priority to public policy aims when making decisions about public procurement;
  • Impose a series of restrictions on governments’ abilities to regulate the financial sector, thus holding back efforts to reform damaging financial speculation and impeding governments from taking measures to maintain their balance of payment.
Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation. The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

“A fair and open global trading system is essential to prosperity, but this proposed TPP is nothing of the sort. Global and regional trade needs to create jobs and prosperity for the many, not just provide welfare for corporations and transfer more power from the parliaments to the boardroom,” said Burrow.

Trade unions in the countries negotiating the TPP are today formally calling on their governments to stop the negotiations, and to seek a proper negotiation mandate if they are to engage in the negotiations again.

The trade unions that support this call are: Australia, ACTU; Canada, CSN y CSD; Japan, JTUC-RENGO; Mexico, UNT; New Zealand, NZCTU; Peru, CUT y CATP; United States, AFL-CIO. Some of these trade unions, as well as the unions of Chile (CUT-Chile) and Malaysia (MTUC) had asked for the negotiations to stop at an earlier stage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Noel Pearson on Whitlam

It was a memorial service of powerful tributes - from political comrades, artists and family. Here Indigenous leader Noel Pearson salutes former prime minister Gough Whitlam, without whom "the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day". 

Paul Keating said the reward for public life is public progress.

For one born estranged from the nation's citizenship, into a humble family of a marginal people striving in the teeth of poverty and discrimination - today it is assuredly no longer the case: this because of the equalities of opportunitiesafforded by the Whitlam program.

Raised next to the woodheap of the nation's democracy, bequeathed no allegiance to any political party, I speak to this old man's legacy with no partisan brief.

Rather my signal honour today, on behalf of more people than I could ever know, is to express our immense gratitude for the public service of this old man.

I once took him on a tour to my village and we spoke about the history of the mission and my youth under the government of his nemesis: Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

My home was an Aboriginal Reserve under a succession of Queensland laws commencing in 1897. These laws were notoriously discriminatory and the bureaucratic apparatus controlling the reserves maintained vigil over the smallest details concerning its charges. Superintendents held vast powers and a cold and capricious bureaucracy presided over this system for too long in the twentieth century.

In June 1975 the Whitlam government enacted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 (Cth).

The law put to purpose the power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the 1967 referendum: finally outlawing the discrimination my father and his father lived under since my grandfather was removed to the mission as a boy, and to which I was subject the first 10 years of my life.

Powers regulating residency on reserves without a permit; the power of reserve managers to enter private premises without the consent of the householder; legal representation and appeal from court decisions; the power of reserve managers to arbitrarily direct people to work; and the terms and conditions of employment - were now required to treat Aboriginal Queenslanders on the same footing as other Australians.

We were at last free from those discriminations that humiliated and degraded our people.

The companion to this enactment, which would form the architecture of indigenous human rights akin to the Civil Rights Act 1965 in the United States, was the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

It was in Queensland, under Bjelke-Petersen, that its importance became clear. In 1976 a Wik man from Aurukun on western Cape York Peninsula, John Koowarta, sought to purchase the Archer Bend Pastoral Lease from its white owner. The Queensland Government refused the sale.

The High Court's decision in Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen upheld the Racial Discrimination Act as a valid exercise of the external affairs power of the Commonwealth. However in an act of spite the Queensland Government converted the pastoral lease into the Archer Bend National Park.

Old man Koowarta died a broken man. The winner of a landmark High Court precedent, but the victim of an appalling discrimination.

The Racial Discrimination Act was again crucial in 1982 when a group of Murray Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, claimed title under the common law to their traditional homelands in the Torres Strait. In 1985 Bjelke-Petersen sought to kill the Murray Islanders' case by enacting a retrospective extinguishment of any such title.

There was no political or media uproar against Bjelke-Petersen's law. There was no public condemnation of the state's manoeuvre. There was no redress anywhere in the democratic forums or procedures of the state or the nation.

If there were no Racial Discrimination Act, that would have been the end of it. Land rights would have been dead. There would never have been a Mabo Case in 1992. There would have been no Native Title Act under Prime Minister Keating in 1993.

Without this old man the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day. The importance of Mabo to the history of Australia would have been lost without the Whitlam program.

Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil. Only those who have never experienced prejudice can discount the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act. This old man was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination but understood the importance of protection from its malice.

On this day we well recall the repossession of the Gurindji of Wave Hill when the prime minister said:

Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people, and I put into your hands this piece of earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever.

It was this old man's initiative with the Woodward Royal Commission that led to Prime Minister Fraser's enactment of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth), legislation that would see more than half of the territory returned to its traditional owners.

Of course recalling the Whitlam government's legacy has been for the past 39 years since the dismissal, a fraught and partisan business. Assessments of those three highly charged years and their aftermath, divide between the nostalgia and fierce pride of the faithful, and the equally vociferous opinion that the Whitlam years represented the nadir of national government in Australia.

Let me venture a perspective.

The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management. In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government. The country would change forever. The modern, cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a Technicolor butterfly from its long-dormant chrysalis.

Thirty-eight years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin's Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding "and what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?"

Apart from Medibank?

and the Trade Practices Act 1974?

cutting tariff protections?

and no-fault divorce and the Family Law Act 1975?

the Australia Council?

the Federal Court?

the Order of Australia?

federal legal aid?

the Racial Discrimination Act 1975?

needs-based schools funding?

the recognition of China?

the Law Reform Commission?

the abolition of conscription?

student financial assistance?

FM radio and the Heritage Commission?

non-discriminatory immigration rules?

community health clinics?

Aboriginal land rights?

paid maternity leave for public servants?

lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years?

fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the Territories?

Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?

And the prime minister with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth - in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers.

There is no need for nostalgia and yearning for what might have been. The achievements of this old man are present in the institutions we today take for granted, and played no small part in the progress of modern Australia.

There is no need to regret three years was too short. Was any more time needed? The breadth and depth of the reforms secured in that short and tumultuous period were unprecedented and will likely never again be repeated. The Devil may care attitude to management as opposed to reform is unlikely to be seen again by governments whose priorities are to retain power rather than reform.

The Whitlam program as laid out in the 1972 election platform, consisted three objectives:

  • to promote equality;
  • to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land; and
  • to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people

This program is as fresh as it was when first conceived. It could scarcely be better articulated today. Who would not say the vitality of our democracy is a proper mission of government, and should not be renewed and invigorated? Who can say that liberating the talents and uplifting the horizons of Australians is not a worthy charter for national leadership?

It remains to mention the idea of promoting equality.

My chances in this nation were a result of the Whitlam program. My grandparents and parents could never have imagined the doors that opened to me which were closed to them. I share this consciousness with millions of my fellow Australians whose experiences speak in some way or another to the great power of distributed opportunity.

I don't know why someone with this old man's upper middle-class background, could carry such a burning conviction that the barriers of class and race of the Australia of his upbringing and maturation, should be torn down and replaced with the unapologetic principle of equality. I can scarcely point to any white Australian political leader of his vintage and of generations following of whom it could be said without a shadow of doubt he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body. This was more than urbane liberalism disguising human equivocation and private failings. It was a modernity that was so before its time as to be utterly anachronistic.

For people like me who had no chance if left to the means of our families, we could not be more indebted to this old man's foresight and moral vision for universal opportunity.

Only those born bereft truly know the power of opportunity. Only those accustomed to its consolations can deprecate a public life dedicated to its furtherance and renewal. This old man never wanted for opportunity himself but he possessed the keenest conviction in its importance.

For it behoves the good society through its government to ensure everyone has chance and opportunity. This is where the policy convictions of Prime Minister Whitlam were so germane to the uplift of many millions of Australians.

We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people. When he breathed he truly was Australia's greatest white elder and friend without peer of Indigenous Australians.

This speech was delivered as part of the State Memorial Service for the Hon EG Whitlam AC QC on 5 November 2014 at Sydney Town Hall.