Thursday, December 31, 2015

CFMEU: Royal Commission report should be relegated to the dustbin

Royal Commission report should be relegated to the dustbin of 2015, along with Abbott and Co

The CFMEU welcomed the decision of the Turnbull Government to bury the final report of Abbott's Royal Commission into Trade Unions by releasing it in the dying days of 2015.

National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said that comments by Tony Abbott and former Workplace Minister Eric Abetz in today's media where they discuss the outcome of the report before its release, proves the overt political bias of the Commission.

"It was a predetermined outcome. Dyson Heydon had his instructions from the beginning. That's why this report deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of 2015 along with Abbott himself, Brough, Briggs and Abetz's ministerial term," he said.

"My hope, like that of many Australians, is that the Turnbull government will turn its attention to more positive pursuits in 2016," he said.

The lengthy report of the Royal Commission was released today after almost 2 years of hearings that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

During the course of the Commission, it was revealed that former Justice Heydon had agreed to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser. When the unions asked him to step aside because of the perception of bias, he declined.

"Dyson Heydon should have stood aside," Mr Noonan said.

"You can't sit on a politically charged Royal Commission and speak at Liberal party fundraisers. It's just not on."

Mr Noonan said the report – which he described as tiresomely long and vitriolic in parts – will achieve little.

"Despite the enormous resources expended looking into our union, the report comes up with very little of substance.

"Some officials in NSW raised funds for victims of a building accident and are accused of minor breaches of charity laws.

"This is pretty minor stuff. Maybe they were j walking at the time too. It's all very petty and like Tony Abbott, very passé."

Mr Noonan said if the Turnbull Government was serious about rooting out rorters, rogues and crooks, the Liberal Party would be a good place to start.

"They could start with Bishop, Briggs and Brough, then travel further down the alphabet to Mantach, their chief in Victoria who stole $1.5 million."

Mr Noonan said that the matters of substance in the report could have easily been dealt with using existing mechanisms such as the Federal Police.

"We have always said that we will cooperate with the police in investigating any allegations of corruption.

"In the construction industry there are plenty of real issues that need investigating. Safety is at an all time low. Fatalities and accidents continue as employers cut corners and avoid their legal responsibilities.

"Phoenixing is hurting small businesses and workers as companies take advantage of legal loopholes to avoid paying debts, taxes and wages.

"The focus of the Turnbull Government should be on these issues as well as investigating the return of black lung in the mining industry and doing something about the use of flag of convenience ships to ply the seagoing trade between Australian ports.

"Rather than attack workers' pay and conditions and wage war on the low paid through the eradication of penalty rates, we call on the Prime Minister to put resources into backing ordinary Australians as they seek to build a life for themselves and their families.

"When their workplaces are safe and half their wage isn't been taken away from them, working people might also share Mr Turnbull's excitement about living in Australia.

"In 2016, Mr Turnbull can really excite us if he attends to the real problems that working people face and not the imaginary problems of a previous ideologically blinded leader."

Mr Noonan concluded by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. 

ACTU: A tale of two Commissions: Government attempts to justify assault on penalty rates

30 December 2015
acturelease - 151228 TURC.pdf

The release of the Trade Union Royal Commission’s final report, just days after the Productivity Commission’s workplace relations review, is further evidence that the Royal Commission has been used by the Coalition Government to pursue its own political ends.

This Royal Commission was a political exercise from the start.  The Coalition Government will attempt to use the Royal Commission’s findings to weaken unions and the Government’s political opponents as it gears up for a 2016 assault on penalty rates.

It is clear from the timing of the Royal Commission’s report that these two reports were always designed to attack the rights and pay of working people and undermine unions who defend their rights and pay.

The ACTU rejects any accusation of widespread corrupt, unlawful behavior in the union movement.  We take a zero-tolerance approach to unlawful conduct, whether in the union movement or elsewhere.  Isolated instances of unlawful conduct must always be referred to the police.    Unions stand united to ensure any individuals convicted should feel the full force of the law.  There is no place for crooks in our movement.

The ACTU welcomes sensible discussions about best practice governance.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must allow space and time for these discussions to occur.  This report should not be used to rush legislation that removes employee rights.

While the Government has spent $80 million taxpayer dollars on its Royal Commission, they have slashed education, health and services, while threatening to cut peoples’ penalty rates and rights at work.

Unions will not be distracted from our goals in the coming election year to build a better future for Australian workers, by defending them from the Government’s planned cuts to penalty rates, rights at work and important services like Medicare and education.

Quotes attributable to Dave Oliver:

  • This Royal Commission was a biased and politically motivated exercise from the start.  It was always about prosecuting an ideological agenda to cut workplace conditions.
  • The release of this report, just a week after the Productivity Commission recommended slashing penalty rates, show this Government’s real intention to slash living standards for working families.
  • I reject any assertion of widespread, unlawful corrupt conduct.  There is no evidence of systemic, corrupt conduct in the union movement.  Over five thousand union officials and tens of thousands of delegates across the country defend employees working conditions and make workplaces safer every day.
  • We are very happy to have a sensible discussion about further reform that will deliver the best governance standards for union members.  However, this cannot come at the expense of the capacity of workers to engage collectively, fight for improved wages and conditions and safer workplaces.
  • Between 2009-13, 837 workers in the industries investigated by this Royal Commissioner have died doing their job.  We are very concerned some recommendations will make it harder for workers to raise safety concerns in their workplace.
  • This Royal Commission went back 30 years, spent $80M taxpayers’ money, examined 505 witnesses and has found only a handful of matters to prosecute.
  • We call on Prime Minister Turnbull not to rush through any legislation until such time as we’ve had an opportunity to have these discussions with the government, the Labor party and the cross-benchers. 
  • We will not let debate about these findings distract us from our core business - protecting the real interests of working families and building a better future for all Australians.

Turnbull prepares to ditch Gonski

December 29, 2015

A plan by the Turnbull government to ditch the final two years of the Gonski school funding deal has drawn a furious reaction from the Victorian government, with the acting education minister branding it "sneaky and mean and tricky".

Acting state education minister Jenny Mikakos has said the move by federal minister Simon Birmingham to derail Gonski will have terrible consequences for Victoria.

"The Turnbull government has made it clear they are walking away from years five and six of the Gonski education funding [plan]," Ms Mikakos said. "This means that Victorian schools will lose $1 billion in funding."

This would pay for 8000 Victorian teachers, "or 10,000 allied health staff working to support our most disadvantaged students", she said.

And she said it was "particularly disappointing" voters were learning of this federal funding cut in the post-Christmas lull.

"This is sneaky and mean and tricky on the part of the Turnbull government. We were accustomed to Tony Abbott engaging in this kind of mean and tricky behaviour but Victorians expect more of Malcolm Turnbull," Ms Mikakos said.

Turnbull's chosen Education Minister Senator Birmingham said the Coalition would seek to strike fresh funding deals with the states from 2018 - the year two-thirds of the $10 billion Gonski funding was scheduled to start flowing.

On Tuesday, speaking at a press conference with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at Wye River in the wake of the Christmas Day bushfires, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tried to calm concerns about the changes to the funding model.

"We are absolutely committed to all Australian kids getting a great education," he said. "Funding is important but there is a lot more to it. The key element is teacher quality. Our common challenge is that all Australian kids get access to a high-quality education."

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Age: It is time for Australia to set the refugees free

The Age Editorial December 28, 2015

Not since the Second World War has there been displacement of people on the scale that occurred in 2015; nor it seems, since that dark nadir of the 20th century, has there been such ugly division over how millions of people fleeing war and persecution might be helped.

They sailed in tiny rubber boats or wooden fishing vessels. They tramped through fields and along railway tracks, with children slung over their shoulders and old people leaning on canes. Some nations built wire fences and walls to keep them out. Some deployed armed forces, water cannon and dogs to deter them at border crossings.

Terrorism and civil wars have destabilised the governments of their nations, and always the wickedness of persecution rolls on. But instead of demonstrating compassion and care for the disadvantaged and dispossessed, political opportunists and fear-mongers have fomented wicked cynicism, racism and malice.

In Australia, our government continues to use the most despicable tactics to deter asylum seekers. For the past two years, this nation has turned back boats at sea, directing them to other countries. It has detained asylum seekers on naval vessels and handed them back to nations that persecute them for fleeing. Have we shown these people that this is a nation governed by wise and kindly people, or by political grandstanders pursuing their own interests?

The Age believes strongly, and we will say this until the policy ends, that the strategy of turning back boats carrying asylum seekers is ignoble. It demonstrates a paucity of imagination. It has been ruthlessly executed, without proper regard for the asylum claims of those people intercepted. And it has brought this nation into disrepute around the world.

The asylum seekers who arrive here have not broken the law. We will say it again: they are not "illegals". They have used the avenues allowed to anyone under international law – under the United Nations covenants to which Australia subscribes – to seek refuge from all forms of persecution.

It is time to call an amnesty, to end the imprisonment of people who came here seeking help and a better life. It is time to recognise that jailing people in detention facilities for years on end, denying them hope or any alternative, and treating them without compassion, is the most inhumane thing that we could do – short of shipping them back to the situation that they fear in their own countries.

No good can possibly be served by detaining people a day longer in camps in Third World nations. No good is served by denying refugees who are living in Australia the right to work. No good comes from demonising refugees, by ostracising them from the mainstream community.

Good will come by dissolving the oppressive, offshore prisons, by allowing the 827 people who have been detained for more than a year (436 for more than two years) to be let free and to be given a chance to make their way in this country.

The policy of locking up those who did arrive on Australian shores before late 2013, and detaining them on Nauru or Manus Island – where their options, if resettled, are extremely limited – defies common sense. It is costly, and it is a corruption of our vows to pursue humanitarian principles.

We call on the Turnbull government to allow all asylum seekers who are found to be refugees to join our community, on Australian soil. Give them the freedom to be productive members of our democracy, and show the world that we are made stronger by doing so, that we are a compassionate and free people, a resolute and confident nation that properly respects the full range of human rights.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

WA: Outrage over workers charged with attending a union meeting

Tue 15/12/2015

A major rally and protest is set down for tomorrow morning as 101 workers will appear at the Federal Court of Australia in Perth to defend proceedings after being charged with simply attending a union meeting.

All of the workers are facing extraordinary fines of $10,000 each!

The meeting took place on July 18th 2013 on grounds outside the New Children's Hospital in Nedlands to discuss issues surrounding wages and conditions including pay disparity.

Some of the workers charged were from the St John of God Hospital projects which were being built at the time in Midland and Murdoch. Neither of these two projects suffered disruption to their completion deadline as a result of the workers attendance at the meeting, the construction phase of both projects were completed on time and budget.

CFMEU State Secretary Mick Buchan says: "The Fair Work Building Inspectorate has been politicised to the extent that they are implementing charges like this in an attempt to justify the full reintroduction and coercive powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. These workers simply gathered to be informed and have a discussion about a whole range of issues affecting them and their industry, including disparity of wages and conditions. Now they face fines of $10,000 each. The day that workers can't have a meeting in this country to discuss important issues is a sad indictment on our democracy.

What's going on?

The question also needs to be asked: why are construction workers always singled out when other unions and their members have meetings across various locations without so much as a whimper.

These charges come on top of 76 workers were charged for attending a rally to support local jobs and another 51 workers who are heading to court for attending a union meeting in Joondalup. No union or their members should be charged for having a meeting to discuss relevant industrial issues which affect them and their families. As the 101 file into the Court, the crowd will be there to support them 101% and we'll do whatever we can to put a stop to these draconian laws. Under the Federal Liberal Government Workchoices isn't coming back, it's already here."

Corporate Culture: The growing assault on our democratic rights

George Williams in SMH
December 27, 2015

An extraordinary number of Australian laws now infringe basic democratic standards, but we hardly bat an eyelid.

This year has borne out former prime minister Tony Abbott's prediction that "for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift". Government agencies can now access the metadata of every person, journalists can be jailed for reporting on matters of public interest and Australians can be banished after having their citizenship revoked. This has led one Liberal MP, Andrew Nikolic​, to suggest that the idea of protecting civil liberties in the context of national security has become "redundant".

Comments such as this reveal how far the Coalition has travelled since it took office in 2013. As a new government, it cast itself as the champion of basic freedoms, and lambasted restrictions on speech such as section 18C of the racial discrimination act. Any such pretensions have since been demolished by the government's own rhetoric and actions. It has moved on from section 18C to introducing laws that jail people for up to decade for disclosing information about intelligence operations that show a misuse of power.

Something needs to change if the slide towards ever greater government power, and fewer rights for the people, is to be stopped.

This shift by the Coalition is more than just an example of changing political priorities. Indeed, the same change has been evident in Labor, which has voted for every one of the government's national security measures. Something deeper and more troubling is at work.

This year I conducted a survey of the statute book to find out how often our politicians have passed laws that infringe upon democratic rights. The results were surprising and disturbing.

First, an extraordinary number of Australian laws now infringe basic democratic standards. All up, I found 350 such laws in areas as diverse as crime, discrimination, anti-terrorism, consumer law, defence, migration, industrial relations, intellectual property, evidence, shipping, environment, education and health. The scale of the problem is much larger than might be thought, and extends well beyond a few well-known examples.

Second, what is striking is not only the number of laws raising a problem, but that so many have been enacted over recent years. Of the 350, around 60 per cent have been made since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with a high number also enacted since 2013. That event marked an important turning point. It and subsequent acts of terrorism have given ever greater licence to politicians to depart from long-accepted understandings about democratic rights. As a result, measures that were unthinkable have become commonplace.

Third, since September 2001, enacting laws that infringe democratic freedoms has become routine. Rights are not only being removed in the name of national security or counter-terrorism, but for a range of mundane purposes. Speech offences now apply to many public places and occupations, and parliaments have greatly expanded the capacity of state agencies to detain people without charge or arrest. Laws such as these have become so normal and accepted that they tend to be enacted without eliciting a community or media response.

As a result, our elected representatives can abridge democratic rights without paying a political price. Indeed, in many cases, such laws pass with the support of the opposition, and after only cursory debate in parliament.

Fourth, not only has the number of laws infringing democratic freedoms increased, but so has their severity. The survey reveals many laws enacted prior to September 2001 that run counter to democratic rights and freedoms. However, for the most part, these laws have a significantly lower impact upon those freedoms than the laws enacted after then.

For example, laws such as section 18C enacted prior to 2001 target freedom of speech, but impose relatively minor penalties, such as the possibility of having to pay compensation. The contrast with more recent laws is stark. A number carry the possibility of a lengthy term of imprisonment merely on the basis of a person's speech.

These observations reveal that Australia has entered an era in which politicians cannot be counted upon to uphold our most important rights. Rather than acting as a check upon laws that infringe democratic values, politicians are now campaigning for such infringements. Often, they are doing so with impunity.

This is especially a problem in Australia. We are unique among Western nations in lacking a national bill of rights or human rights act. In our system, rights usually exist only as long as they have not been taken away. This is not an issue if politicians exercise self-restraint, but if that disappears even the most important rights become vulnerable.

Something needs to change if the slide towards ever greater government power, and fewer rights for the people, is to be stopped. The long-term health of our democracy depends on it. The most obvious answer would be to follow the path of other nations, and to introduce a national bill of rights.

George Williams is the Anthony Mason Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CFMEU: Attacks on Workers will keep on coming

As you know 2015 has been a challenging year for workers and our union.

The unprecedented attack on the union movement launched by the then Abbott Coalition Government in 2014 continued in 2015 as they attacked workers’ superannuation funds, our right to organise together to ensure better wages and conditions and our right to a safe and healthy workplace.

But we fought back and in many cases we triumphed. They did not get through their regressive changes to superannuation, they did not succeed in resurrecting the Australian Building Construction Commission and they did not achieve their dream of weakening workers’ entitlements under the Fair Work Act.

In fact despite the attacks together we managed to achieve many gains.

Our persistent campaign got rid of Tony Abbott.

We managed to win extra protections in the worst ever agreement for workers, the China Free Trade Agreement, an unprecedented accomplishment in the face of big business and their lobbyists.

And we brought back unions’ rights to ensure health and safety in workplaces in Queensland which was taken away by the fanatical Newman government.

This does not mean that the battle is over. This week’s the Productivity Commissions recommended to the Turnbull Government that they slash penalty rates even though many Australians are battling to stay afloat.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that the attacks will keep on coming.

So in 2016 we will stand united as never before and keep fighting for our jobs, our families and our communities.

Have a safe and happy festive season and thank you all for your support in our ongoing struggle.

In Unity

Michael O’Connor
CFMEU National Secretary

Union achievements – never forget them – help preserve them

Union achievements

So many things we take for granted and are now enshrined in law were secured for working Australians by workers in their unions. Unions work to defend and improve these conditions for all working Australians:

Annual Leave

Paid Annual Leave was first won after a campaign by printing workers in 1936. The Arbitration Commission granted the workers paid leave, which was then gained by other workers through their unions in different industries. Annual leave loading of 17.5 per cent was first won by workers in the Metal Industry in 1973.


Awards are legally binding documents that set out the minimum entitlements for workers in every industry. The first industrial award, the Pastoral Workers Award was established by the Australian Workers Union in 1908, mainly covering shearers. The shearers had experienced a terrible deterioration of their wages and conditions during the 1897 Depression and decided to take action to protect working people. Since 1904, awards have underpinned the pay and terms and conditions of employment for millions of workers. Awards are unique to Australia and integral in ensuring workers get 'fair pay for a fair day's work'.

Penalty Rates

Penalty rates were established in 1947, when unions argued in the Arbitration Commission that people needed extra money for working outside normal hours.

Maternity leave

Australian unions’ intensive campaigning for paid parental leave ended in victory with the introduction of the Paid Parental leave scheme by the Gillard Labor government. Under the scheme, working parents of children born or adopted after 1 January 2011 are entitled to a maximum of 18 weeks’ pay on the National Minimum Wage.


Prior to 1986, only a select group of workers were entitled to Superannuation. It became a universal entitlement after the ACTU's National Wage Case. Employers had to pay 3% of workers' earnings into Superannuation. This later increased to 9% and on November 2, 2011 the ACTU and its unions’ “Stand Up for Super” campaign celebrated another win for working Australians, when the Labor Government moved to increase the compulsory Superannuation Guarantee to 12% over 6 years from 1 July 2013 to 1 July 2019.

Equal Pay for Women

Although there were attempts to introduce equal pay going back as far as 1949, the principle of equal pay for women was finally adopted by Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1969.

Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation

Workers compensation laws first came into existence in West Australia in 1902. For many years unions agitated and campaigned for health and safety laws which compelled employers to provide a safe working environment. In Victoria, legislation was introduced in 1985 which saw the active role of workers in maintaining safety on the job. Building unions agitated for many years to ban the use of asbestos, finally succeeding in the 1980’s.

Sick leave

Before sick leave, you turned up to work if you were sick, or you went without pay. Sick leave provisions began to appear in awards in the 1920’s and unions have campaigned hard for better sick leave conditions over the years, across all industries.

Long service leave

Coal workers went on strike in 1949 over a 35 hour week and Long service leave. Long service leave was finally introduced in New South Wales in 1951. Unions in other states followed.

Redundancy pay

The Arbitration Commission introduced the first Termination, Change and Redundancy Clause into awards due to work by metalworkers and their union. This entitled workers to redundancy pay.

Allowances: shift allowance, uniform allowance

Unions in different industries have campaigned for allowances that pertain to their members. Many workers who are required to wear uniforms in their jobs, get an allowance for this rather than having to pay for uniforms themselves. 

Shift allowances are money that's paid for working at night or in the afternoon. Different industries have different allowances that were won by workers and their unions over the years.

Meal Breaks, rest breaks

Before unions agitated for meal breaks and rest breaks to be introduced, workers were required to work the whole day without a break. In 1973, workers at Ford in Melbourne engaged in industrial action over many issues, one of their demands being a proper break from the production line.

Collective Bargaining

Enterprise Bargaining was introduced in 1996 which allowed workers and their unions to negotiate directly with their employer over pay and conditions. Evidence from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that collective bargaining delivers better wages than individual agreements for ordinary workers.

Unfair Dismissal Protection

Unfair Dismissal Protection came from the concept of a "fair go all round", after the Australian Workers Union took a case to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on behalf of a worker who had been unfairly sacked in 1971. Since then, unions have campaigned for laws that reflect that 'fair go' principle, which is about having a valid reason to sack someone and that the dismissal cannot be harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Professional Pharmacists Australia – Strike to Preserve Penalty Rates

Pharmacists in Australia have voted to launch industrial action for the first time, starting Christmas Eve, as a national pharmacy chain moves to slash penalty rates.

It comes amid tense debate over a proposed Australia-wide rollback of Sunday penalty rates for workers in hospitality, retail and entertainment jobs, following an inquiry by the Productivity Commission.

Pharmacists employed at dozens of National Pharmacies sites across Victoria and South Australia will become the first in their profession to take action against an employer, as anger rises over threats to their penalty rates.

From Thursday, pharmacists will embark on a campaign against National Pharmacies, authorising strikes of up to 24 hours that could force the temporary closure of some sites if the deadlock continues. The campaign this week will begin with pharmacists refusing to perform a range of work duties.

National Pharmacies is attempting to cut pharmacists' penalty rates by as much as 50 per cent for certain hours on Saturday shifts. Double-time Sunday rates would remain in place.The company also wants to lower overtime pay, freeze the wages of existing pharmacists and introduce a two-tiered pay scheme that would slash the wages of new employees, according to the union.

The union, Professional Pharmacists Australia, estimates the proposed cuts could trim new pharmacists' pay cheques by up to $10,000 a year.

Union lead negotiator Sarah Andrews said pharmacists were taking a stand.

"Members are upset that they are being asked to accept cuts to their take-home pay," Ms Andrews said.
"Nobody likes to take industrial action, but employee pharmacists feel that they have no other option but to make their voice heard."

According to wage data compiled by Graduate Careers Australia, pharmacy graduates are paid a median starting salary of $44,300, the equal lowest of all graduate salaries.

A union survey of 1000 pharmacists found the average hourly pay rate to be $35.

Ms Andrews said pharmacists employed by National Pharmacies were witnessing rising workloads, and the "deep cuts" proposed by the company would put its quality reputation at risk.

Nationwide Pharmacies operates 36 pharmacies in South Australia, 17 in Victoria, one in Western Australia and one in New South Wales.

Penalty rates have become a hot reform topic in Australia after the long-awaited release of a Productivity Commission report on Monday recommended cutting Sunday rates in line with lower Saturday pay.

Unions have vowed to wage a national campaign leading into the 2016 election, describing any penalty rate reduction as an attack on workers who deserve remuneration for sacrificing Sundays.

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UK: National Health Service Singers – Defending 68 Years of Free Healthcare

Published on 15 Dec 2015
Please show you #LoveYourNHS by downloading the single NOW!! #NHS4XmasNo1 

Monday, December 21, 2015

WA financial fiasco

Western Australia's Opposition has offered a scathing assessment of the Barnett Government's financial management, arguing it has no one to blame but itself for worsening deficit and debt levels.

Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan said the state was caught in a "perfect storm" of falling commodity prices, reduced royalties, lower tax income and dwindling GST revenue.

But shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said the revised deficit of $3.1 billion and forecast of debt rising to $39 billion was a result of mismanaging the boom.

"When you look at the statistics, when you look at the figures contained in this document, this shows an economy that has literally fallen off a cliff, and Mr Barnett just doesn't know what to do with it," he said.

He also dismissed the Government's continuing assertion that the budget problems could be blamed largely on WA's declining share of GST revenue.

"This is not a GST shock. Our revenue has increased while Mr Barnett has been premier," Mr Wyatt said.

"This is a comprehensive failure on a scale that West Australian's haven't seen before and are unlikely to see into the future."

ACTU: Turnbull must reject Productivity Commission call to cut take-home pay

21 December 2015

On the eve of Christmas, the Productivity Commission has recommended cutting the take-home pay of Australia’s lowest-paid workers. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must now reject these recommendations and give certainty to families who rely on weekend penalty rates.

“This is an attack on the pay and rights of the hardest-working Australians. Employees who work on weekends must be paid properly,” said Dave Oliver, ACTU Secretary.

The Productivity Commission’s workplace relations review final report recommends a raid on the pay packets of working Australians by taking away their Sunday penalty rates.

“The Commission’s recommendations are out of step with Australian values, out of touch with the modern lives of working people, and would compromise future economic and productivity growth.

“If it is not Malcolm Turnbull’s intention to slash penalty rates he must rule out any future cut backs of these entitlements and make a submission to the Fair Work Commission that they be protected.

“We have seen stronger growth in the retail and hospitality sectors over the past year than we have in the rest of the economy. Workers in those industries deserve increased job security and proper compensation, not wage cuts.

“Real wages have stagnated, despite strong jobs and productivity growth – so we have a widening wage gap, with those on the lowest wages missing out. Families on lower wages will struggle if Turnbull refuses to reject this report as an excuse to slash penalty rates,” said Mr Oliver.

  • September ABS figures show wages growth at its slowest rate since 1998.
  • Unemployment is at its lowest level for 18 months – up 71,400 in November.
  • Labour productivity increased by 1.3 per cent in the year to June 2015, following a 2 per cent increase in 2013-14 and leaving productivity at a 25    year high.
  • The NAB Business Conditions Index remains at +10 points in the month of November, the fourth consecutive month of conditions well above the long-term average.
  • The accommodation and food services sector – perhaps most exposed to penalty rates – had the highest business entry rate with 15,615 new entries.

The release of the review coincides with a new poll, which shows that only 16 per cent of Australians think Malcolm Turnbull understands the issues of low income, casual and part time working Australians and is likely to act in their interests.

Today is an opportunity for Mr Turnbull to demonstrate that he is prepared to act in the interest of all Australians and reject the out-of touch recommendations of the Commission.

Penalty rates

Penalty rates are an essential part of the income of 4.6 million Australians. For them, penalty rates aren’t extra pay - they help provide the basic income their families need just to get by.

This Inquiry was created the Coalition Government to legitimise cutting penalty rates. The Productivity Commission is seeking a pay cut for all Australians who work on Sundays in restaurants, cafés and shops around the country.

Cutting penalty rates does not increase employment or productivity – it is simply a raid on low income people’s wages that will create an underclass of working poor.

Penalty rates are not an impediment to economic growth. The retail and hospitality sectors grew at 3.6% and 3.2% respectively last year, significantly outperforming the rest of the economy. There is no justification for cutting employees’ wages.

The minimum wage

Minimum wage rises relied on by 1.9 million Australians would stagnate under the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, falling behind the rising costs of living.

The gap between the minimum wage and average wage is the widest on record yet the Productivity Commission recommends using this as a starting point for future minimum wage increases, guaranteeing the gap will widen in the future.

Worker’s rights

Every single Australian’s rights at work are under attack with a recommendation to dig up Work Choices style individual contracts that would sit outside the award system, which is the safety net for the most vulnerable workers.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

  • “The Commission’s recommendations ignore the economic evidence, expert advice and very real concerns of everyday Australians. This Report attacks the take-home pay and rights of hardworking Australians.
  • “We will not get a more productive economy by cutting wages. The Productivity Commission’s recommendations are out of step with Australian values, out of touch with the modern lives of working people, and would compromise future economic and productivity growth.”
  • “Wage growth is weak, yet employment is up and labour productivity is at a 25 year high – now is not the time for industrial relations reform that increases inequality.”
  • “This report is a dying legacy of Tony Abbott’s divisive approach to government and politics and his ideological war with Australian workers, which Malcolm Turnbull must reject.”
  • “The Prime Minister talks innovation, but what we really need to see from him is a new approach to dealing with economic management that doesn't resort to squeezing workers every time the business community knocks on the Coalition’s door.”
  • “Make no mistake, if the Prime Minister accepts these recommendations, he will be starting the biggest industrial relations fight over workers’ pay and conditions since Work Choices.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

US : Obama climate pocket veto

President Barack Obama has vetoed two measures that would have blocked steps that his administration is taking to address climate change.

One would have nullified carbon pollution standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The second would have voided a set of national standards designed to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas pollution from existing power plants.

In a letter notifying Congress of his decision, Obama says climate change is a "profound threat" that must be addressed.

Some Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates scoff at the climate science.

Obama has made addressing climate change a priority. He recently praised a new international climate agreement reached at a Paris conference and credited his administration as being a driving force behind the deal.

He rejected the measures through a rare "pocket veto," intended to be used when Congress has adjourned, as it did Friday for the year. A pocket vote essentially takes effect when the president fails to sign a bill within 10 days.

MUA Message to members

The union has become aware that the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) may attempt to communicate with members regarding the recent MV Portland dispute.  While this is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money, it may also cause unnecessary concern among the membership.

Accordingly, the union advises Members not to communicate with the FWO and to direct all correspondence to the union’s National Legal Unit: (a focused phone photograph of a FWO letter should suffice). 

The union also confirms the Fair Work Ombudsman does not have the power to compel answers to any questions besides a person’s name and address, and only then if the FWO reasonably believes the person has committed an offence under the Fair Work Act.   

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Puerto Rico : Corporate Culture and bankruptcy

The money poured in by the millions, then by the hundreds of millions, and finally by the billions. Over weak coffee in a conference room in Midtown Manhattan last year, a half-dozen Puerto Rican officials exhaled: Their cash-starved island had persuaded some of the country’s biggest hedge funds to lend them more than $3 billion to keep the government afloat.

There were plenty of reasons for the hedge funds to like the deal: They would be earning, in effect, a 20 percent return. And under the island’s Constitution, Puerto Rico was required to pay back its debt before almost any other bills, whether for retirees’ health care or teachers’ salaries.

But within months, Puerto Rico was saying it had run out of money, and the relationship between the impoverished United States territory and its unlikely saviors fell apart, setting up an extraordinary political and financial fight over Puerto Rico’s future.

On the surface, it is a battle over whether Puerto Rico should be granted bankruptcy protections, putting at risk tens of billions of dollars from investors around the country. But it is also testing the power of an ascendant class of ultrarich Americans to steer the fate of a territory that is home to more than three million fellow citizens.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Plain packaging victory

Australia has won an international legal battle to uphold its world-leading tobacco control measures, with Philip Morris failing in its long-running attempt to challenge plain packaging laws under a bilateral trade agreement with Hong Kong.

The decision could give other countries greater confidence to follow Australia’s lead in outlawing tobacco company logos on cigarette packets and moving to drab, uniform designs dominated by graphic health warnings.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Victoria; Shonky Abbott Roads Deal exposed

The Abbott government inflated the deficit during its first year in power by transferring $1.5bn to Victoria for the East West Link despite “clear advice” the payments were not yet needed, an audit report has found.

The government approved the funding even though it had received departmental warnings that neither stage of the Melbourne project had proceeded through a full assessment of its merits, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said in the report issued on Monday.

The report raises serious questions about the federal government’s handling of the 18km project, which was also championed by the former Victorian Coalition government but was subsequently scrapped by the Andrews Labor administration.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi in child labour scandal - Corporate Culture

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi are embroiled in a child labour scandal, with all three supermarket chains confirming they sell prawns or seafood supplied by a Thai company at the centre of the allegations.

Graphic evidence of forced labour, including child labour, has been uncovered at a prawn peeling factory owned by major seafood supplier Thai Union.

An investigation by Associated Press found hundreds of workers at the company's factories working under poor conditions with some workers, mainly from Myanmar, locked inside or otherwise unable to leave the factory.

Children were observed working the production line and witnesses told the news wire service they worked under the threat of violence.

The Thai Department of Fisheries shows Thai Union has several facilities approved to export seafood to Australia.

The child and forced labour was seen at the Gig Peeling Factory in Samut Sakhon, about an hour's drive from Bangkok.

GetUp – It's people vs big polluters

After 20 years of fraught negotiations, people like you around the world pushed our leaders to work together to tackle global warming. 

It's a phenomenal outcome. This is our chance to celebrate, reflect and ready ourselves for the real work to come.

It's a big step in the right direction. The world agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees. And more importantly try for 1.5 degrees. It's bolder than almost anyone predicted.

On its own, it won't be enough. Australia's current policies won't get us anywhere near these targets. In fact, if every country sticks with their current domestic policies, we'll end up at somewhere between 3-4 degrees warming. An unmitigated disaster.

Forces are already at work to undermine the progress we've made. Without missing a beat, sceptics in the Liberal and National Parties are already doing everything they can to undermine the deal -- and they have the Murdoch press cheer squad on their side.

But worse still -- Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop are using this historic agreement to back in the biggest polluters.

It's clear -- conservatives will do anything they can to undermine the Paris Climate Agreement -- and it's our job to stop them. 

We are at our most powerful during an election year, and one could be only months away. 

Can you volunteer to help change this election?

RTBU: Transport workers’ union wins 14 percent wage increase in Australia


The Victoria branch of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Australia, has won at 14 percent wage increase from Metro Trains Melbourne and Yarra Trams after determined industrial action in August and September.

The Victoria branch of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Australia, has won at 14 percent wage increase from Metro Trains Melbourne and Yarra Trams after determined industrial action in August and September.

The new four year Enterprise Agreement (EA) also includes a one-off 3 percent payment for the delivery of all-night public transport from 2016, improved dispute resolution clauses and job security provisions.

Luba Grigorovitch, RTBU Victoria branch secretary, said: “All in all the new EA will deliver fairer conditions and a vastly improved work-life balance for Metro’s workers.

“We warmly thank Mac [Urata] and the ITF and all transport unions for their support and solidarity. This showed that if workers stand together they can win any dispute with an employer or government.”

RTBU Protest Video from Aljojo Mojo on Vimeo.

Ninety eight percent of RTBU members voted to take action for the first time in 18 years after negotiations with Metro and Yarra broke down.

Melbourne’s public transport system was shut down by four-hour work stoppages, followed by partial work bans. On 4 September hundreds of RTBU members marched through Melbourne and the companies’ approach to bargaining changed for the better.

ITF inland transport secretary Mac Urata congratulated the union on their victory. The ITF had sent a solidarity letter to the union and encouraged its affiliates in Hong Kong to send messages of support, as Metro is owned by Hong Kong-based MTR.

AEU: Court orders $37 million back pay for Victorian teachers

11 December 2015

Teachers in Victoria will receive back payments totalling more than $37 million as a result of orders made in a landmark case today. Orders handed down by the Federal Court of Australia this morning will see approximately 46,000 teachers and principals receive back payment from the State Government after unlawful deductions were made from their wages for laptop computers.

"Laptop computers are essential equipment for teachers and principals," said Meredith Peace, president of AEU Victoria. "This was a matter we had to pursue.

"Expecting teachers to pay out of their own pockets for a computer that they use to write school reports, communicate with parents and other teachers, and plan lessons is absolutely unfair.

"We must attract and retain the best teachers and principals in our public school system and providing them with the equipment they need to support the learning and welfare of all students is essential."

The Federal Court found the Victorian Government made unlawful deductions from teachers’ and principals’ salaries in contravention of the Fair Work Act, by requiring them to pay for access to the Education Department’s laptops directly out of wages.

Teachers and principals currently employed by the Department of Education who had money unlawfully deducted from their wages will be repaid by the 24 December 2015, including a 5% interest payment. Former employees who participated in the program will have repayments made by 31 March, 2016.

The Fair Work Act provides that an employer can only make deductions from an employee’s salary in limited circumstances.

"Today's orders mean 50,000 teachers and principals will receive the recompense they deserve for having these deductions made from their salary, and ensure nothing like this happens in the future."

CFMEU: Dangerous incidents at Visy in Tumut

A string of potentially fatal incidents and near misses have occurred in recent weeks at the Visy Pty Ltd Tumut paper mill, including the collapse of internal roofing and a number of electrical shocks experienced by several workers, including an apprentice. Other employees have suffered broken bones and minor injuries.

The incidents have prompted the CFMEU to call for urgent intervention by WorkCover NSW and instigate a special investigation by the Inspectorate. The union fears a fatality is inevitable without an immediate investigation by WorkCover NSW.

"The CFMEU has long held concerns about the safety performance at the Visy Pty Ltd Tumut paper mill," CFMEU Pulp & Paper District Secretary Alex Millar said.

"We wrote to the owner, Anthony Pratt, in 2010 seeking an urgent meeting to discuss those concerns, said Mr Millar. The request was refused by Mr Pratt's office.

"The CFMEU and its members are frustrated by the lack of focus on safety issues at the mill and the absence of action on health and safety concerns when they are raised by the employees.

"An OHS Committee member recently resigned from the committee due to his 'lack of faith in the company's commitment to safety'. The employee has subsequently been sacked by the company."

VISY is a multi-­‐billion dollar company and the Visy Pty Ltd Tumut paper mill is a major, heavy industrial facility with many high risk processes, yet does not have a full time health & safety professional on-­‐site.

"This is unthinkable at any other pulp & paper company in Australia. WorkCover NSW must step in and place the work practices of this company under scrutiny before someone is killed or seriously injured.

"People aren't disposable commodities. The inaction and complete disregard for safety by Visy Pty Ltd Tumut paper mill is entrenched. It will take serious, high level intervention to enforce change at this mill," Mr Millar said. 

MUA: Black Bans and Blackmail

By Jeff Sparrow
7 Dec. 1915

There’s something dodgy going on in the construction industry but it’s not trade unionism.
Today, the arrests of CFMEU officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon feature on the front page of every newspaper – as, of course, was always intended.

The two men are public figures, and scarcely difficult to find. Yet police pulled Setka over in his car, arresting him in front of his infant children. They raided Shaun Reardon in his house near Geelong, driving him to Melbourne to be charged with blackmail.

‘Blackmail’ comes with connotations of sly underhandedness. It’s the crime of the door-peeper and the mail-steamer, a nasty offence in which private weakness is exploited for personal gain.
Except that’s not what Setka and Reardon have done.

The Australian explains:

Peter Head, general manager at Boral Concrete, Southern Region, and company official Paul Dalton testified at the royal commission that Mr Setka and Mr Reardon warned at a meeting in 2013 that the CFMEU would continue to escalate a black ban against the company if it did not block supplies to Grocon.

‘By making that demand, Mr Setka may have committed the criminal offence of blackmail,’ Mr Heydon, the royal commissioner, said in his interim report in December last year. ‘Mr Reardon also may have committed the offence of blackmail or may have aided and abetted Mr Setka and may be liable as an accessory.’

In other words, police arrested Setka and Reardon because of the CFMEU’s campaign against Grocon. The two weren’t shaking down individuals for cash. They didn’t have their fingers in the till. They didn’t stand to benefit personally at all. They were enforcing a union black ban in the context of a long-running industrial dispute: it’s because of that they face up to fifteen years in jail.

To put the penalty in perspective, note that in 2013 a wall collapsed on a Grocon construction site, killing three people on Swanston Street. Grocon accepted responsibility – and paid a $250 000 fine.

The comparison is not made at random. The Grocon dispute is often portrayed as a power struggle, nothing more – a contest over influence between a major firm and a major union. It’s invariably discussed by political pundits exclusively in terms of its consequences for the political fortunes of Bill Shorten, Daniel Andrews or the ALP more generally.

The commentariat rarely mentions the CFMEU’s central demand: union-appointed OH&S representatives to monitor safety on site.

Why might that be important?

Because 185 people died in workplace accidents last year, because construction remains one of the most dangerous industries in the nation, and because the average fine a company receives for a fatal incident stands at about $100 000.

That’s right: if you’re a boss whose shoddy practices leave an employee dead, the cops are not going to pull over your car or come knocking on your doorstep. Criminal prosecutions for industrial negligence are vanishingly rare; the civil penalties imposed so light as to be almost meaningless (does a billion-dollar company even blink at a hundred grand?). Yet in an industry where time equals money, there are obvious material incentives for employers to rush jobs, to take shortcuts, and to skimp on safeguards, particularly in the context of the governments’ drive to reduce ‘red tape’ and restrictions.

That’s why having workers’ representatives monitoring safety matters. Last month, when a concrete slab crushed two men to death on an East Perth worksite, it transpired that the CFMEU had been refused entry to the site sixteen times. As the national security crusaders tell us: if you’re doing nothing wrong, then you’ve got nothing to hide.

Yet it’s one rule for the employers and it’s another for everyone else.

In August, Dyson Heydon ruled himself eligible to continue running the Trade Union Royal Commission (and thereby receiving an annual salary of close to a million dollars), despite having signed up to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser. His Honour explained why he’d found in his own favour: he was, he declared, incapable of reading emails unless someone had printed them out and thus shouldn’t be held responsible for his actions. This, mind you, in the context of an inquiry that has regularly browbeaten witnesses about their memories of documents they may or may not have signed decades ago.

Since then, we’ve learned that one of the policemen working for the commission had been speaking at forums organised by the Master Builders Association (the professional body for construction bosses) where, according to the CFMEU, he explained to businessmen that ‘CFMEU officials were all criminals and urged them to sign enterprise agreements with the MBA’.

Yesterday’s decision by police to stage the arrests of Setka and Reardon as if the men were dangerous fugitives comes after the AFP took the bomb squad to its raid (which has now been declared illegal) on the CFMEU’s Canberra headquarters, solely to prevent union officials from observing its search.

Bill Shorten was quite right to label the royal commission a ‘politically motivated’ stunt. For Shorten, however, the politics pertain primarily to the conservative effort to link the Labor Party with union militancy. That’s why he’s issued a new policy promising more power for authorities to crack down on unions: essentially, endorsing all the right-wing talking points.

The real issues are far more fundamental.

If the CFMEU can’t enforce workplace safety, more workers will die.

Furthermore, since the inception of combinations in the eighteenth century, trade unions have fought to prevent the criminalisation of their basic function: that is, the facilitation of collective action by employees against employers. Increasingly, tactics that would have been taken for granted a generation ago – picket lines, secondary boycotts, etc. – are being rendered illegal, while unionists who employ such methods are punished as criminals.

That’s why this case matters. The bosses have always called trade unionism ‘blackmail’. If we allow them to set the definitions, the ramifications will be enormous.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Turnbull's NBN Mess

Two years on, most of Turnbull's August 2013 election promises are broken. His "multi-technology mix" NBN, which uses a mix of technologies including old Telstra copper cables and Telstra and Optus hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cables (the kind used for Foxtel connections), faces many of the problems that dogged Labor, and is arguably more politicised than it was then, with one expert describing the NBN company's relationship with media as "adversarial".

The 25Mbps by 2016 is not going to happen, and the overall completion date is now 2020 (originally 2019). Peak funding costs have blown out three times: from $29.5 billion before the election; to $41 billion following the Coalition government-commissioned Strategic Review; to a range of $46 billion to $56 billion in August this year.

Now, thanks to recent media leaks revealing the costs to upgrade the copper and HFC networks, many are beginning to question whether Turnbull's revamped NBN was the cheaper, quicker option.

First came Fairfax Media's leak showing parts of the Optus HFC network, which NBN paid $800 million for, were "not fit for purpose". (NBN originally paid Optus to decommission the network in 2011 under Labor, but Turnbull opted to upgrade it and use it as part of the MTM.)

The leaked document showed the HFC network would require up to $375 million to fix, and would cause NBN to miss its 2017 and 2018 connection targets.

A week later came a document in The Australian showing a 10-fold blowout in remediation costs for Telstra's copper nodes, totalling $641 million.

To many industry analysts, none of this was surprising.

"Here in Australia [HFC is] quite old and hasn't had as much maintenance done on it as perhaps some countries overseas," explains Mike Quigley, who was chief executive of NBN under Labor.
"That's the reason we didn't use it [under the original design]."

The NBN company says it accounted for scenarios like these in its latest corporate plan: that's what the broad cost estimate range is for. But according to the warnings, these were not contingencies so much as inevitabilities.

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde believes Turnbull ignored good advice on the state of the networks for political reasons, and "only surrounded himself with friends who all had the same sort of view on the NBN".

Budde is concerned that the NBN's mix of "second-rate" technologies, which lag significantly in speeds compared to fibre-to-the-premise, will leave the NBN vulnerable to competition from private players like Telstra, which is investing heavily in its fixed-wireless network.

"If the NBN is no longer super duper, the next thing obviously is others [telco providers] are going to step in [and offer quality of service that the NBN is not delivering]," Budde says. "That will massively undermine the core business model [of the NBN], no doubt about it."

The operational costs of the mixed technologies are also higher thanks to a more complex IT network, plus electricity to power copper nodes and copper maintenance costs. And some telco providers are not happy with the complexity of managing different technologies on the network.

"Instead of spending our time innovating for customers we're spending it on interfaces with NBN," says one senior telco executive.

"It's turning out to be a bit of a shoddy, delayed, 'sticky tape and rubber band and gaffer tape' solution. We've got a more complicated process of lesser quality with difficult upgrade paths and added cost on telcos, which at the end of the day translates to added costs for consumers."

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CPSU: Remuneration Tribunal – Double Standards at Work

The main public servants' union has urged federal politicians to knock back their latest pay rise until the long-running wage dispute in the bureaucracy is resolved.

The Community and Public Sector Union said public servants would be "outraged and offended" at the Remuneration Tribunal's decision on Wednesday to recommend a 2 per cent pay increase for parliamentarians, government agency heads, judges and other public office holders.

Most of the senior officials have not received a pay rise for 2½ years, as a result of a wage freeze proposed in May 2014 by then prime minister Tony Abbott.

Next month, the base salary of a parliamentary backbencher will rise to $199,040 a year, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's will climb to $517,504.

The independent tribunal said an increase was due given the length of the freeze and the need to keep politicians and other senior officials' remuneration "at appropriate levels over the longer term to attract and retain people of the calibre required for these important high-level offices".

"The tribunal is generally conservative in its approach to annual increases and, in this case, is conscious of the government's continuing policy of wage restraint for the Australian Public Service and non-APS government agencies," it said.

However, CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said it would be hypocritical for politicians and top bureaucrats to accept a "no-strings-attached" pay rise when they were demanding that public servants only accept wage increases if they traded off their conditions.

"The double standard at work here is breath-taking. These same politicians are demanding ordinary mums and dads working on average wages in the public sector accept cuts to their rights to get 2 per cent and their wage freeze lifted," Ms Flood said.

"And now the same politicians are quietly lifting the pay freeze for themselves so they get an easy 2 per cent increase, no trade-offs, no questions asked. Even more galling is the fact that politicians' previous pay hike back in 2012-13 was a staggering 37.7 per cent."

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Friday, December 11, 2015

ACOSS: Worst Possible Tax Proposals

Friday 11 December 2015

ACOSS has rejected the effort at so-called tax ‘reform’ emerging from the Treasurer’s and Leaders meetings held over the past two days.

‘Of all the packages and reform proposals on the table over the past six months, this attempt at a deal has picked up their worst elements’, said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, at a meeting with Directors of Councils of Social Service from across the country in Melbourne today.

Dr Goldie said, ‘The purpose of tax is to raise the revenue for social investment in the essential supports and services for people that enable a productive economy. The only way to reduce demand for services is to reduce inequality and increase access to jobs, yet the current proposals increase inequality and do nothing for growth.

‘Tax reform worthy of the name should pay for the essential services the community needs and expects, in a way that’s fair and causes the least harm to the economy.

‘The best test for reform of taxes and spending is not whether it serves the interests of governments but whether it serves the community.

‘The argument that growing costs in health, education and community services can either be curbed with a dose of “competition” or funded through higher economic growth is naïve at best, dangerous at worst. Public health care costs alone are rising over the long term in all wealthy countries and will rise further as the population ages. There are still serious gaps in essential services such as early childhood, affordable housing and dental and mental health, which hold back participation and productivity.

‘The “deal” on tax and federalism reform is far from done’, said Dr Goldie. ‘Federal, State and Territory governments have agreed to consider changes along these lines. Before this is taken any further, the public are entitled to know that the tax reform package will deliver the following:

  1. Guaranteed and sufficient revenue to ensure access to quality services, with tied grants remaining in place (tied grants provide at least some guarantee of access to services for people across Australia);
  2. An overall package that is not based on a regressive switch from income tax to consumption taxes including the GST (which shifts taxation from high income earners to low income earners without providing any guarantee that essential services will be available to those who need them); and
  3. Tax reform that effectively tackles continuing tax shelters including capital gains, negative gearing and superannuation, and enables States and Territories to shift from economically harmful taxes such as Stamp Duties towards more efficient tax bases such as broad-based Land and Payroll Taxes.'

NSWTF: School Funding Furphy

Commonwealth spending on schools has not kept pace with real per capita economic growth.

Over the period 2000–2013 real per capita economic growth was 1.48 per cent, yet the real funding increase per student was just 0.97 per cent.

The analysis was conducted by the NSW Department of Education, using Commonwealth data.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron said: “The data exposes the myth spread by some federal politicians that governments have poured funds into education with no results.”

On the ABC’s Q&A program on November 2 new Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: “over the last decade or two we’ve spent a lot more in school education over that time and we have seen many of our international ratings and comparisons go backwards in that time”.

On October 30, Department of Education Secretary Michele Bruniges speaking at the World Teachers’ Day lunch in Sydney said: “To those who say Australia has poured money into education with little to show for it, let me say the evidence is clear that levels of investment in this country have lagged behind other countries…despite data showing that education produces tangible benefits for students and the economy.

“Since 2001, according to the World Bank, the estimated economic return to an additional year of education in Australia has been consistently higher than the OECD average, and shows a strong increasing trend. Using the most recent estimates, Australia has the highest return in the OECD for an additional year of secondary education (30.8 per cent). But actual Australian expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP has been substantially lower than the OECD average.

“More was spent on schooling in 2013 than 2000 because the inputs involved in education cost more and there were more students to educate. In real terms over this period, the tangible resources available to students grew by less than the overall economy.”

Dr Bruniges said that over time, the Commonwealth plans to reduce spending on education from 1.7 per cent of GDP to 1 per cent of GDP.

Mr Mulheron said: “We’ve had 20 to 30 years of politically driven experiments in education, which have led to greater inequity and segregated schooling in Australia.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


Lowest income earners would spend 3.5 times more of their disposable income on the goods and services tax (GST) than higher income earners if the base was expanded and the rate was increased to 15%, new modelling has found.
The Parliamentary Budget Office found that the lowest income earners spend 12% of their disposable income on the 10% GST – three times the percentage the highest income earners pay.
Expanding the base of the tax to include fresh food, education and childcare services, healthcare and water and sewerage rates, while concurrently increasing the rate to 15%, would raise just under $50bn.
But the impacts of that scenario would leave the lowest income earners worst off.
The modelling found that the poorest households would pay an additional 14.2% of their incomes to the GST under that scenario, compared with 4% for the highest income bracket.
“Around 25% of the additional revenue under the GST reform scenarios is paid by the lowest 40% of households,” the modelling found.
The modelling does not take into account any compensation packages that could be put in place to help low income earners.
Low income households fare worst in all the possible scenarios modelled by the Parliamentary Budget Office. The other scenarios include broadening the base overall, broadening the base to only take in fresh food, increasing the rate to 15%, and increasing the rate to 15% while also broadening the base to take in fresh food.
The existing GST exclusions are worth more to the poorest, representing 4% of the disposable income of households in the lowest income bracket and less than 1% of the disposable income of the highest bracket. 
Despite that, only a quarter of the GST concessions go to the poorest 40% of households, the Parliamentary Budget Office said.
“If the principal policy objective of GST concessions is to protect lower income households from disproportionate impact, they are not well targeted compared with Australia’s tightly means tested welfare system,” the modelling found.
it is clear that, in the absence of compensation arrangements targeting lower income households, each of the scenarios analysed would have a greater relative impact on lower income earners. 
Changing the GST is one tax measure that the government is keeping “on the table” in the lead up to next year’s election, despite Labor staunchly opposing any changes.
State and territory leaders will discuss changes to the GST, including broadening the base and increasing the rate to 15%, when they meet for the Council of Australian Governments meeting (Coag) on Friday.
Treasury modelling leaked on Wednesday, that will form the basis of discussions at Coag, found that increasing the GST to 15% and including fresh food, non-alcoholic beverages and water and sewerage could raise $45bn in the 2017-18 financial year.

Fair Work Ombudsman: BP Wage Exploitation Case Exposed

A new wage exploitation case has led to a Melbourne service station being fined and having to backpay staff.

At BP Berwick in the city's outer east, the two Indian console operators were given flat rates of as little as $10 an hour, well below the minimum wage.

They were also denied casual loadings and penalty rates for overtime, weekend and public holiday work.

"It was very hard to survive when I was getting paid $10 to $14 an hour," one of the workers, Sukhpal Singh, said in an affidavit.

"At times, we would have to borrow money just to pay the rent at the end of the month."

Investigations by Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman led to the service station operator, Liquid Fuel, back-paying the pair more than $53,000 each, for underpayments spanning 2008-2012

And it has now been fined more than $92,000 in the Federal Circuit Court, including individual fines against the company directors.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the watchdog decided to prosecute the company because of the "blatant nature" of the underpayments and the involvement of vulnerable overseas workers.

The workers, both aged 28, were in Australia on a 496 designated area sponsored visa and a 485 temporary graduate visa when they started working for Liquid Fuel.

In his ruling last week, Judge John O'Sullivan​ said the company's actions were "at the very least, reckless and show a disregard for their obligations".

He also found there was an "absence of genuine contrition or remorse".
Ms James said the heavy penalties should send a strong message to employers who exploited minimum-wage workers, particularly those from overseas.

"There are a minority of rogue employers that need to get the message that exploitation of these workers is unlawful and unacceptable conduct," she said.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, $1.6 million has been recovered for visa-holders in the 2015 financial year, up from $1.1 million the previous year.

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