Friday, July 31, 2015

Stan Grant: I can tell you how Adam Goodes feels.

I can tell you how Adam Goodes feels. Every Indigenous person has felt it

I have wondered for days if I should say anything about Adam Goodes.

Stan Grant
My inclination is to look for common ground, to be diplomatic. Some of the fault is with Adam. Maybe he’s been unnecessarily provocative. Racism? Perhaps. Perhaps the crowds just don’t like him.

Yes, I could make a case for all of that. But there are enough people making those arguments and all power to them. 

Here’s what I can do. I can tell you what it is like for us. I can tell you what Adam must be feeling, because I’ve felt it. Because every Indigenous person I know has felt it.

It may not be what you want to hear. Australians are proud of their tolerance yet can be perplexed when challenged on race, their response often defensive.

I may be overly sensitive. I may see insult where none is intended. Maybe my position of relative success and privilege today should have healed deep scars of racism and the pain of growing up Indigenous in Australia. The same could be said of Adam. And perhaps that is right.

But this is how Australia makes us feel. Estranged in the land of our ancestors, marooned by the tides of history on the fringes of one of the richest and demonstrably most peaceful, secure and cohesive nations on earth.

The “wealth for toil” we praise in our anthem has remained out of our reach. Our position at the bottom of every socio-economic indicator tragically belies the Australian economic miracle.

“Australians all let us rejoice” can ring hollow to us. Ours is more troubled patriotism. Our allegiance to Australia, our pride in this country undercut by the dark realities of our existence.

Seeds of suspicion and mistrust are planted early in the Indigenous child. Stories of suffering, humiliation and racism told at the feet of our parents and grandparents feed an identity that struggles to reconcile a pride in heritage with the forlorn realities of a life of defeat.

From childhood I often cringed against my race. To be Aboriginal was to be ashamed. Ashamed of our poverty. Ashamed of the second-hand clothes with the giveaway smell of mothballs and another boy’s name on the shirt collar.

Ashamed of the way my mother and grandmother had to go to the Smith Family or Salvation Army for food vouchers. Ashamed of the onions and mince that made up too many meals.

We were ashamed of the bastardised wreckage of a culture that we clung to. This wasn’t the Dreamtime. This was mangy dogs and broken glass.

Like the Goodes family, we moved constantly as my father chased work. But wherever we went we found our place always on the fringes. What semblance of pride we carried too easily laid low by a mocking glance or a schoolyard joke.

We were the blacks. So easily recognised not just by the colour of our skin but by the whiff of desperation and danger we cloaked ourselves in. What resentment we harboured, we too often turned on ourselves, played out in wild scrambling brawls from the playground to the showgrounds that sent the same message: stay away from the blacks.

There was humour and there was love and there was survival. And as I grew older I pieced together the truth that we didn’t choose this. We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier.

As Australia welcomed waves of migrants and built a rich, diverse, tolerant society, we remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation’s prosperity.

We survived the “smoothing of the dying pillow” of extermination to end up on the bottom rung of the ladder of assimilation. Too many of us remain there still. Look to the statistics: the worst health, housing, education, the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality. An Indigenous youth has more chance of being locked up than educated.

To Adam’s ears, the ears of so many Indigenous people, these boos are a howl of humiliation.
If good fortune or good genes means you are among the lucky few to find an escape route then you face a choice: to “go along to get along”, mind your manners, count your blessings and hide in the comfort of the Australian dream; or to infuse your success with an indignation and a righteousness that will demand this country does not look away from its responsibilities and its history.

I found a path through education that led to journalism. A love of knowledge and an inquisitiveness that has shot me through with anger. A deeper understanding of history, of politics, of economics, leaving me resentful of our suffering.

I wrestle with that anger as the boy I was wrestled with his shame. I want to see the good in a society that defies the history of its treatment of my people.

It is the legacy of my grandfather who signed up to fight a war for a country that didn’t recognise his humanity, let alone his citizenship. It is the lesson of the example of the lives of my mother and father, my uncles and aunties. Lives of decency and hard work and responsibility and rooted in our identity as Indigenous Australians.

When I was 16 I summoned the courage to speak to my class. As the only Indigenous kid, the only Aboriginal person my schoolmates had met, I wanted to tell my family’s story. My teacher was proud and encouraging. When class returned after lunch the words “be kind to abos” were scrawled across the blackboard.

The rejection, the humiliation, cut me to the core.

This is the journey too of Adam Goodes. A man whose physical gifts have set him above and given him a platform available to so few and whose courage demands that he use it to speak to us all.

Events in recent years have sent Adam on a quest to understand the history of his people, to challenge stereotypes and perceptions. I have spoken to him about this. I recognise in him the same quest I see in myself. It is a conversation I have had with so many of my Indigenous brothers and sisters.

This is rare air for anyone, let alone a footballer. He has faltered at times and the expression of his anger at our history and his pride in his identity has been challenging, if not divisive.

The events of 2013 when he called out a 13-year-old girl for a racial taunt opened a wound that has only deepened. To some the girl was unfairly vilified. Adam’s war dance of this year challenged and scared some people. His talent, the way he plays the game, alienates others.

And now we have this, a crescendo of boos. The racial motivation of some giving succour to the variously defined hatred of others.

To Adam’s ears, the ears of so many Indigenous people, these boos are a howl of humiliation. A howl that echoes across two centuries of invasion, dispossession and suffering. Others can parse their words and look for other explanations, but we see race and only race. How can we see anything else when race is what we have clung to even as it has been used as a reason to reject us.

I found refuge outside Australia. My many years working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa liberated me. Here were the problems of other peoples and other lands. Here I was an observer freed from the shackles of my own country’s history.

I still wonder if it would be easier to leave again.

But people – like Adam Goodes, other Indigenous sportsmen and women who are standing with him, his non-Indigenous teammates and rivals who support him, and my non-Indigenous wife, my children and their friends of all colours and the people of goodwill who don’t have the answers but want to keep asking questions of how we can all be better – maybe they all make it worth staying.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Abbott attempt to sabotage our Super Funds

The Federal Government’s proposed changes to the governance of superannuation funds will undermine Australia’s high preforming Industry Super Funds and could see millions of Australians retire with less in their super.

The ACTU submission on the Treasury Department’s Reforms to Superannuation Governance exposure draft outlines the threat to Industry Super Funds should the Abbott Government succeed in its bid to require one-third of the directors on their boards be so-called ‘independents’.

Unions warn so-called ‘independent’ directors the government wants appointed are likely to come from the business sector, tipping the balance on Industry Super boards away from members.

Industry Super Funds operate on an ‘all-profits-to-members’ model with an equal balance of employer and union representatives on boards.

This model ensures decisions are made in the best interests of super fund members and has seen Industry Super Funds consistently outperform retail super funds by around two per cent.

This means millions of Australians have received tens of thousands of dollars more in their retirement savings.

The Abbott Government wants to change this successful model to one similar to the financial advice industry, which is one of the most distrusted sectors in the economy. 

The finance sector has been plagued by scandal with advisors accused of giving advice that is not in the best interest of their clients, but for their own and their employer’s benefit. 

The proposed changes to Industry Super Fund boards is another example of the Abbott Government putting big business profits ahead of the best interests of hardworking Australians.

Key facts:
  • Not-for-profit super funds outperformed retails funds on average by 2 per cent per annum over the 11-year period to 30 June 2014, according to APRA performance data.
  • 47 of the top 50 performing funds over the 11-year-period to 30 June 2014 were not-for-profit super funds and only three were retail funds, according to APRA performance data.
Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

“Industry Super Funds have outperformed retail funds over any time period measured and that’s because the board members represent the fund members and put their interests first.”

“Why the Abbott Government would want to make such drastic changes to the highly successful Industry Super Fund sector beggars belief.”

“Based on past investment performance, a worker is two per cent better off in an industry fund than a retail fund. Over the lifetime of that fund they could have 10-15 per cent more in their retirement savings – that is tens of thousands of dollars in the pockets of hardworking Australians instead of the big banks.”

“When you compare the for-profit retail super funds with the not-for-profit Industry Super Funds there is no contest.  On one hand you have a sector plagued by scandal and deeply mistrusted, while on the other you have Industry Super Funds which have consistently delivered more money into the retirement savings of millions of Australians.”

“One look at the track record of these two sectors clearly demonstrates we should leave industry funds as they are. It also raises serious questions about the Abbott Government’s motivations.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Seed, Australia’s Indigenous Youth Climate Network

Can you believe it’s already been a year since we launched Seed, Australia’s first Indigenous Youth Climate Network?

Seed has been going from strength to strength. Across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are leading the movement for climate justice. Today, we’re excited to launch our new website that tells the story of our people by our people - visit seedmob.org.au

SEED MOB.jpg

It’s been a huge year. There’s a growing movement of young people involved in Seed and we’re working alongside our brothers and sisters speaking out against all forms of injustice facing our people.

Climate change is an issue of environmental and social justice. It is an issue that affects everybody but the impacts are not evenly distributed. Too often it’s the people who have contributed the least to the causes of climate change that are facing the most severe impacts.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are often hit first and worst, not only by the impacts of climate change but the impacts of extractive, polluting and wasteful industries that are devastating our country and fueling the climate crisis.

As young people, it’s our generation with the most at stake. It’s our communities on the frontline who need to be at the forefront of change, leading the solutions and building a society that is healthier, cleaner, more just and puts people first.

Over half the population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are under 25. Increasingly young people are leading the way in many areas of social change for our communities. At Seed, we are committed to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are supported to lead the movement for climate justice and to ensure our voice is heard on issues that affect our future.

Since our Seed summit in 2014, we’ve been sowing the seeds of climate justice all across Australia:

  • Seed volunteers have been out knocking on the doors of Australian banks, raising concerns about the impact that the Abbot Point coal port expansion and opening of the Galilee basin would mean for our country, culture and the climate,

  • We have called on world leaders at the G20 to listen to our message rather than that of vested interests,

  • We have stood with the Pacific Climate Warriors who are fighting to keep their islands above water and fossil fuels in the ground, and

  • We have been working alongside the AYCC to continue building the power of the youth climate movement.

seedmob4.jpg

Seed is an example of AYCC’s commitment to building a generation-wide movement that sees those who have the most at stake at the forefront of change. 

Already, thousands of people have shown their support. You can join them by sharing our new website with your family and friends.

Right now, we’re gearing up for a huge second half of the year. We’re going be leading a road trip from Cairns to Brisbane, visiting a number of Aboriginal and regional communities throughout QLD. We’ll gather and share stories, and raise the voice of our people in the lead up to the UN climate negotiations in Paris and beyond.

For all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, sign up to be a part of building the movement for climate justice led by our mob.

Now more than ever, we need to be standing up for a more just and sustainable future for all people.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

FMG and chosen elders saga

Andrew Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) helped organise a meeting of Aboriginal leaders aimed at ousting the recognised Indigenous representatives and freeing up access to land its mines sit on.

The iron ore miner provided logistical support and funding for a breakaway group of Aboriginal elders who have been seeking to wrest control of the authorised native title body away from the existing leadership.

Last week a Federal Court judge laid bare the part played by FMG in organising the meeting, which took place in Roebourne, east of Karratha in Western Australia.

Justice Steven Rares told the court participants at the meeting would have been unaware of FMG's involvement.

"FMG orchestrated the convening of the meeting and the voting procedure to a considerable degree," Justice Steven Rares told the court.

"The meeting and voting arrangements were sophisticated and organised through the active involvement of FMG.

"Significantly, each of the members ... who gave oral evidence accepted that no one at the meeting would have been aware that FMG had played any role in the logistics or arrangement of the meeting or in apparently supporting the pursuit of the resolutions that were proposed."

FMG's mines sit on Yindjibarndi land, officially represented by the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation.

However, an ongoing dispute over compensation has led to a bitter falling out with leaders of the group.

FMG has instead thrown its support and resources behind a breakaway group, the Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation.

At the June meeting, participants voted on whether to elevate the members of the Wirlu-Murra group to represent the area in a native title claim, replacing the current representatives.

It would have also deprived the body from being able control access to their land.

Emails, seen by Four Corners, show Fortescue employees helped to organise the printing of 50 T-shirts with "yes" printed on them, as part of a campaign by the breakaway Wirlu-Murra group for a "yes" vote at the meeting.


Monday, July 27, 2015

ACTU: China FTA opposition

Together, we've just scored a great win. 

Over the weekend, the Labor Party agreed to oppose the parts of the China trade deal that shut out locals from jobs. If Abbott doesn't go back to the negotiating table, then Labor will block the legislation needed to make this deal happen.  

For everyone who has taken action against this deal, you are making a difference. 

Help us stay on the front foot. We still need more parliamentarians to listen, and we need to hold Labor to its promise. 

Send the China FTA inquiry a strong message. And come to one of the actions nearest to you. 

In unity, 
Ged and Dave

Danger of military artificial intelligence arms race

Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aries, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

The authors argue that AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, but that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life.

Should one military power start developing systems capable of selecting targets and operating autonomously without direct human control, it would start an arms race similar to the one for the atom bomb, the authors argue.Unlike nuclear weapons, however, AI requires no specific hard-to-create materials and will be difficult to monitor.

“The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting,” said the authors.

Toby Walsh, professor of AI at the University of New South Wales said: “We need to make a decision today that will shape our future and determine whether we follow a path of good. We support the call by a number of different humanitarian organisations for a UN ban on offensive autonomous weapons, similar to the recent ban on blinding lasers.”


Clinton renewable energy pledge

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced goals for increasing US reliance on renewable energy, pledging to have more than half a billion solar panels installed nationwide within four years of taking office. 

Clinton, the front-runner for her party’s 2016 presidential nomination, also pledged on her website on Sunday that the United States would generate enough clean renewable energy to power every home in the country within 10 years of taking office.

The two goals were the first elements of what she said would be a comprehensive climate-change agenda to be announced over the next few months.

Her campaign said the goals would lead to a 700% increase in the nation’s installed solar capacity from current levels, and eventually could generate at least one third of all electricity from renewable sources. 

Clinton’s plans also call for extending federal clean energy tax incentives and making them more cost effective both for taxpayers and clean energy producers, her campaign said. 

“We’re on the cusp of a new era,” Clinton said in announcing the goals on her website. “We can create a more open, efficient and resilient grid that connects us, empowers us-improves our health and benefits us all.” 

Clinton will discuss the proposals in more detail during a campaign stop on Monday at an energy-efficient transit station in Iowa, the state that kicks off the 2016 presidential nominating race in barely six months and is a leading wind energy producer. 

Clinton has promised to make the issue of climate change a key pillar of her campaign platform, and the proposals she will discuss on Monday are the first steps toward fleshing out what has mostly been bare-boned climate rhetoric.

Alarming increase in the rate of suicide among women

Australia's peak suicide prevention body is reporting an alarming increase in the rate of suicide among women, and says they are increasingly using more violent methods to take their own lives. 

Suicide Prevention Australia has also drawn attention to a doubling in the rate of self-harm among young women in little more than a decade.

About 2,500 Australians take their own lives every year, and while 75 per cent of deaths from suicide are men, more women are attempting to take their own lives.

Suicide Prevention Australia will tomorrow release a report, titled Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour in Women - Issues and Prevention, that shows a 10 per cent increase in deaths for each of the past three years.

Chief executive Sue Murray said while the focus on men's suicide was critically important, women's suicide had largely been ignored.

"We need new investment, greater investment and more targeted programs that will address suicide as a gender issue," she said 

Ms Murray said a disturbing trend uncovered in the report was an increase in women using more violent methods to take their own lives.

"Therefore we're seeing an increase in the number of deaths every year," she said.

The report's author, Susan Beaton, said she believed it was the first serious examination of women's suicide in the world.

"I was staggered at the number of policy documents and strategy documents that really had very little, sometimes no commentary at all, about women's suicidal behaviour," she said.

Ms Beaton said much of the increase came from young women.

Abbott backdown on renewables demanded by backbench

Government backbencher Sarah Henderson said renewable energy was an important issue in her Victorian electorate of Corangamite, prompting her to call for the decision to be reversed.

"I've written to the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann seeking his consideration that emerging technologies in wind and small-scale solar be included in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation's investment mandate," Ms Henderson told ABC NewsRadio.

"It's very important not to exclude small-scale solar and also wind, because there are new and emerging technologies in these sectors as well," she said.

She said Mr Cormann had been open to her advocacy on the issue but she was just "one cog in the wheel".

Mr Abbott deflected a question about the backbench intervention by focusing on Labor's policy to significantly increase the Renewable Energy Target to 50 per cent by 2030.

"This constitutes a massive hit on consumers and on jobs," Mr Abbott said.

He said the Opposition's policy would allow a "massive overbuild of wind farms".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used the ALP conference to challenge the Goverment: 

"Mr Abbott's society of flat earthers" and accused the Government of smashing confidence in the renewable energy industry.

A spokeswoman for the CEFC said the corporation would provide a response to the Government's draft directive "in coming weeks".

NSW Teachers Federation

John Dixon
General Secretary 

Teachers and other professionals working with children in immigration detention now face up to two years in gaol if they speak publicly about the conditions endured by their students.

Since July 1, the Border Force Act makes it an offence for employees of the Australian Border Force to make “unauthorised disclosures of information”. Previously, employees have publicly voiced their concerns about conditions in immigration detention centres.

I sometimes watch the news and grieve for this country, and we have to stand up. Annual Conference passed a motion stating Federation’s serious concern about Federal Government policies that “impinge on civil liberties and human rights and indeed, the rule of law itself”.

"These policies include:

  • that teachers working in detention centres face up to two years in jail in speaking up for the students in their care
  • the continuing detention of children in detention centres
  • the denial of rights to asylum as provided for under international covenants
  • attempts to silence the Human Rights Commission and the national broadcaster
  • Royal Commissions which appear politically motivated.”

Federation is to campaign against these laws.

Teachers who have worked in immigration detention centres are among the signatories to an open letter, dated the day the new Border Force Act came into effect, declaring:

“We have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for the health of those for whom we have a duty of care, despite the threats of imprisonment, because standing by and watching sub-standard and harmful care, child abuse and gross violations of human rights is not ethically justifiable. If we witness child abuse in Australia we are legally obliged to report it to child protection authorities. If we witness child abuse in detention centres, we can go to prison for attempting to advocate for them effectively. Internal reporting mechanisms such as they are have failed to remove children from detention; a situation that is itself recognised as a form of systematic child abuse … We are aware that in publishing this letter we may be prosecuted under the Border Force Act and we challenge the department to prosecute so that these issues may be discussed in open court and in the full view of the Australian public.”

Vale Kevin Cook 1939 - 2015

'Today, July 25, 2015, is a sad day. Kevin Cook, the first Indigenous head of Tranby Aboriginal College in Sydney, has died. Kevin, or Cookie, as he was known to everyone, had been confined to bed with emphysema for many years. The disease crippled his body but it did not constrain his  mind. Cookie never gave up fighting for what he believed in, the rights of Aboriginal people, the working class, and the oppressed of the world. From his bed he advised and encourage the never ending flow of visitors. In all the years that I knew him I never heard him complain about his own  predicament. Neither did I hear him badmouth a single person. He died as poor as he was born, because Cookie was concerned not with self-enrichment, but with the enrichment of the many.

Professor Heather Goodall, in introducing Cookie’s story to readers of, Making Change Happen, said, “He was well-known as a unionist, as an advocate of innovative, Aboriginal-controlled adult education, highly respected as a nation-wide land rights organiser, a key player in transnational links with liberation movements and a man of exceptional integrity and dynamism.”

But Cookie’s book is not in the normal meaning a book about him. Heather went on to say, “Cookie was not interested in searching for the meaning of his own life. Instead, he has always focussed on what he grew up calling ‘sticking fats’ – sticking together with fellow activists, sharing the good and the bad in everything he was involved in – sharing not just the hopes but the hard work to reach goals and the scarce resources you had to live on to get there.”

Kevin was born in 1939 of the Wandandian people, and grew up in the steel town of Wollongong on the New South Wales south coast.

He is a much missed, friend, comrade and inspiration.

Cookie has always been, and always will be, the heart and soul of Tranby Aboriginal College.'

Derek Mortimer, FoT.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jimmy Barnes has asked anti-Islam protesters to stop playing his songs at rallies.

Cold Chisel Singer Jimmy Barnes asks anti-Islam rally groups like Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front to stop playing his songs at protests

Protests across Australia took place over the weekend, with clashes between anti-Muslim and anti-racism demonstrators.

Barnes took to his Facebook page acknowledging the use of his music at the rallies by the groups, but saying he did not support them.

The Scotland-born Barnes said in the statement: "If you look at my family you can see we are a multicultural family."

His wife Jane, with whom he has four children, was born in Thailand.

"It has come to my attention that certain groups of people have been using my voice, my songs as their anthems at rallies," he wrote.

"None of these people represent me and I do not support them.

"I only want to say the Australia I belong to and love is a tolerant Australia. A place that is open and giving.

"It is a place that embraces all sorts of different people, in fact it is made stronger by the diversity of its people."

The singer is known for his pub-rock classics including Working Class Man, and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2005.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed that Greece has cleared overdue debt repayments of €2.05bn

The repayments, and another for €4.2bn to the European Central Bank (ECB) due on Monday, came after the EU made Greece a short-term loan of €7bn.

Cash-strapped Greece missed one repayment to the IMF in June and another earlier this month.

Earlier on Monday, Greek banks reopened after being closed for three weeks.

However, many restrictions remain and Greeks are facing price rises with an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT).

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice confirmed in a statement that Greece had repaid the totality of its arrears.

"As we have said, the fund stands ready to continue assisting Greece in its efforts to return to financial stability and growth," he said.

Greece missed its first repayment to the IMF on 30 June and another on 13 July during deadlock over negotiations for a third bailout.

The crisis brought Greece to the brink of economic collapse and an exit from the euro.

The government has since reached a cash-for-reforms deal with its creditors and negotiations are due to begin on the proposed €86bn rescue package.

VAT is rising from 13% to 23% meaning Greeks will pay more on a range of goods and services, including taxis and restaurants.

The rise was among a package of reforms demanded by Greece's creditors.

Dimitris Chronis, an Athens kebab shop owner, said the new taxes were bad news for his business. 

"I can't put up my prices because I'll have no customers at all," he said.

"We used to deliver to offices nearby but most of them have closed. People would order a lot and buy food for their colleagues on special occasions. That era is over."

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced a rebellion from within his left-wing Syriza party over the tough austerity measures being demanded by other eurozone leaders, who are among Greece's creditors.

But last week's vote in the Greek parliament paved the way for Greece to receive the €7bn bridging loan that enabled the reopening of the banks.

Mr Tsipras has since replaced his rebel ministers but analysts say his government has been weakened and fresh elections may be held in September or October.

The Greek parliament is due to hold a second vote on Wednesday on measures including justice and banking reforms. The government is again likely to scrape through, supported by opposition parties.

Government leaders urged to find long term solutions to fund vital public services

Tuesday July 21, 2015


Councils of Social Service (COSS) across Australia today called on the Council of Australian Governments to work together on long term solutions to fund important universal and social services such as health, education, housing and community services into the future.
 
As our national leaders prepare to meet, we urge them to put aside political differences and forge a way forward which guarantees access to services for all Australians into the future, regardless of location or income, through secure long-term revenue streams.
 
“Governments, including the Commonwealth, must not retreat from their responsibility to guarantee universal access to services across the country. The $80 billion cut from health and schools funding to the States over the next decade will severely hamstring the states and lead to a deterioration of services and adverse outcomes, especially for those on low incomes. The federal cuts to community services have also been damaging. This is a critical time.
 
“States and territory governments need secure, reliable sources of income to fund vital services. Competitive federalism undermines their ability to generate adequate revenue. Federalism must be a partnership.
 
“We believe there is a fairer alternative path to the repair of the federal budget without cutting vital services or simply shifting the problem on to the states by cutting federal funding. Unfortunately the best options have been ruled out by the Government in advance of the taxation review.  
 
'We need a structural approach to tax reform which improves the overall progressive collection of revenue, improves job opportunities, investment and productivity. We need revenue to be shared equitably to deliver essential services across the country.
 
“We want to see everything on the table, not just the GST, but also land taxes, superannuation tax breaks, capital gains tax, negative gearing and other areas of taxation. We cannot rule things in and out at the start of a reform process. The community will not accept any secret deal struck on the GST, when the formal tax reform process involving the community has just got underway with the release of the Federal Tax Discussion paper.
 
“Ultimately who pays is a key question, in the short and long-term. We believe that those with the greater capacity to pay should pay more than those who struggle to pay for bare necessities.
 
“The community is looking for leadership from our Governments. With so much at stake, we urge them to come together in a spirit of cooperation to agree on a reform process that will enable both the Commonwealth and State Governments to secure a sustainable revenue base to invest and fund the important community programs and services we all want into the future."

Monday, July 20, 2015

RTBU: Stop Baird's moves to tear up the rail line into Newcastle.

July 15

The Newcastle rail line saga is continuing, with the Government’s appeal against the recent Supreme Court ruling now set to be heard.

The Supreme Court last year ruled that the NSW Government couldn’t remove the rail line between Wickham and Newcastle stations, because legislation hadn’t been passed allowing it to do so.

The ruling was a huge win for local community groups who had fought hard against the Government’s move to tear up the rail line.

The Government found a way to sneakily get around the ruling by leaving the tracks in place but simply tarring over the top of them.

The issue of the rail line has caused huge controversy in Newcastle, with residents angered over the inconvenience of the line cut, the lack of public consultation, the impact the government’s city ‘revitalisation’ plans are having on local business and parking, and the additional cost of the government’s plan.

The RTBU has been a strong and vocal opponent of the NSW Government’s moves to tear up the rail line into Newcastle.

The appeal hearing is currently underway.

See more at

AMWU: Abbott’s latest attack on renewable energy

Dismayed workers at a major wind tower maker have hit out at PM Tony Abbott’s latest attack on renewable energy for jeopardising local jobs as the industry gets back on its feet.

Tower fabrication workers at Keppel Prince in Victoria fear that Mr Abbott’s hatred of wind farms risks scaring off billions of dollars in energy investment which had begun to flow again with the new Renewable Energy Target.

AMWU member David Mills said workers’ “jaws dropped” when they heard the Prime Minister’s tirade against wind towers as “utterly offensive” and “visually awful.”


Having failed to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Mr Abbott is now trying to ban it from assisting firms with any projects in wind or small-scale solar.

Mr Mills said: “We’d had our hopes raised, we thought the Government was getting back on board for the renewables industry to pick up again, to meet the RET.

“It seems Abbott is pandering to his friends in the coal industry.

“He should walk out near Portland, the noise from the wind towers is nothing compared to the din from the rubbish coming out of Canberra. That’s bad for everyone’s health.”

Keppel Prince has won the contract to supply six wind towers for the small Coonooer Bridge wind farm near Bendigo.

But its best chance of recovering nearly 100 jobs lost at the firm a year ago is a $450 million wind farm near Ararat announced by a consortium the day after the new RET was formally approved.

That would require 75 wind towers, which Keppel Prince is competing to build.

AMWU delegate Craig Mannix said members were “confused and angry” over Mr Abbott’s statements, which wrongly equated renewable energy with upward power prices.

“Here is a bloke completely opposed to renewable energy as an alternative, thinking that there will be more jobs under threat if he doesn’t stick only to coal – he’s got it totally wrong,” he said.

The AMWU members are backed by National Secretary Paul Bastian, concerned at the blow to business confidence and investment from the Abbott Government war on renewables and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which it had tried and failed to ban.

 “This is about growing Australia’s energy mix, growing innovation and manufacturing in wind power and solar, but Tony Abbott is addicted to coal even if it will cost this country the jobs of the future,” Mr Bastian said.

Not happy Mr Abbott: Some of the AMWU members in the Keppel Prince fabrication
area who are hoping for a big revival in work on wind towers for the company.

ACOSS and BCA – Joint Statement on Tax Reform

JOINT STATEMENT: ACOSS/BCA

Monday July 20, 2015

Groups representing business and the community sectors have called on Australia’s leaders to approach the task of tax reform in an open, inclusive and transparent way that does not rule out options because it is politically expedient to do so.

Ahead of this week’s Leaders’ Retreat involving Australia’s First Ministers, the groups are releasing a set of agreed messages on tax reform.

The groups, which include the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Council of Social Service and Business Council of Australia, are urging leaders to demonstrate a level of bipartisanship and inter-jurisdictional cooperation not seen for a long time.

They are focused on supporting leaders to work towards a tax system that raises the revenue governments need to provide services to the community in a way that supports a stronger economy and job creation, and is fair.

The groups also support leaders having an ambitious and far reaching agenda for federation reform, and commend Premiers who have already demonstrated that they are approaching the task in that spirit.

Roles and responsibilities of different levels of government should be determined as part of the review of the Federation. While these are clearly relevant to tax reform, the best starting point for the tax review is to design a robust, fair and efficient national tax base: revenue distribution arrangements across the Federation can then follow.

Every one of the leaders knows that we need to reform a tax system that’s out of step with the rapid economic and social changes Australia faces.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “We can no longer afford to avoid serious tax reform. If we postpone it until governments really do face a Budget crisis the choices will be a lot tougher.

“Experience shows us that tax and budget reform can be achieved, but it will require a degree of vision, consensus and bi-partisanship, starting with our political leaders. ACOSS is up for reform, this is why were are working with business and others.”

Governments and all stakeholders must remain open to looking at the tax system as a whole, and considering all the options which could deliver the optimal system for the 21st century global economy.

Reform will only happen if our political, business and community leaders take the long view and put the national interest first.

BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said: “If our diverse organisations can sit down together and nut out the objectives for tax reform, core problems with the current system and some directions for change, this provides our political leaders with a solid platform of consensus and support to take things forward.”

Vic: Workers burn’d. Grill’d Burgers sacks worker who speaks out over unfair pay

A 20 year-old Melbourne hospitality worker is taking Grill’d Burgers to the Federal Court today in a bid to get her job back, after being sacked for raising concerns about below-award wages.

Lawyers acting for United Voice, the hospitality union, have filed for an urgent interlocutory injunction, asking the court to reinstate member Kahlani Pyrah.

United Voice members hope this legal action will send a strong message to hospitality employers that this kind of intimidation and victimisation of workers who want to have a voice at work has to stop now.

Overnight there was an enormous outpouring of support for Ms Pyrah on social media and her petition to be reinstated received almost 7000 signatures.

Ms Pryah was sacked after raising questions with Grill’d about a WorkChoices-era “Greenfield Agreement” that removes overtime, penalty rates and undercuts award pay.

When Ms Pyrah began at Grill’d Camberwell in June 2014 she received a flat-rate trainee wage of just $15.20 p/hr. There was no on-the-job training and it has been revealed Grill’d failed to register her as a trainee.  Under the award she would be paid $18.02.

When she turned 20 she was paid a flat rate of $17.50 p/hr. But under the Restaurant Award she was entitled to be paid $18.47 plus shift loadings. For Sunday shift she would be entitled to be paid $27.41 p/hr, meaning she missed out on $52.05 per 4.5 hour shift.

Ms Pyrah received advice from her union that Grill’d staff could ask the Fair Work Commission to terminate the job contract and receive their full award entitlements.

Ms Pyrah held a meeting with co-workers to discuss their options and circulated a petition to management asking to be paid full award entitlements which was signed by eight staff.

But despite repeated promises over many months Grill’d management failed to satisfactorily address staff concerns. On 30 June Ms Pyrah applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the Work Choices-era job contract.

Ten days later Ms Pyrah was sacked by Grill’d.


Ms Pyrah is accused of bullying two male managers. Both are older, more senior and considerably taller than Ms Pyrah, who is 5 foot and recently turned 20. Ms Pyrah has provided a comprehensive rebuttal to these allegations.

“Kahlani’s case is a shocking example of just how hard it is for vulnerable workers to join together and have a voice at work,” said Jess Walsh, United Voice Victorian Secretary.

“Kahlani has been incredibly brave speaking up for her coworkers and asking Grill’d to respect their legal rights. For that, Grill’d has tried to silence her and force her out of her job.”

“It’s disgusting treatment. We will fight this injustice. That’s what unions are for."

“There is a toxic culture in many hospitality venues in Australia. Our office is inundated by calls from workers being bullied, intimidated and underpaid. We want to send a strong message to employers: this kind of treatment of vulnerable workers has to stop now."

Ms Pryah says she is devastated by her treatment from Grill’d Burgers.

“This job means so much to me. I am good friends with my coworkers and I really like working there. I come from regional Queensland and this job allows me to support myself while I study here in Melbourne,” she said.

“I want my job back. I want my workmates to get paid the award minimum and I want Grill’d to respect our right to join a union and speak out. This is supposed to be a democratic country so it should be our choice. But it’s not. Many of my coworkers are just too scared."

PSA: 40% pay rise while 2.5% forced on NSW public servants

Media reports that two senior public service positions are to receive massive pay rises after public sector workers again had to argue for a 2.5% increase is hardly a level playing field says the Public Service Association of NSW.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Baird issued a “Premier’s direction” to the Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal in relation to the two positions.

The PSA believes that a reported increase of almost 40% for the new head of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority and 24% extra for the new Secretary of the Treasury sets a poor example at a time when public servants are again being faced with further cost cutting measures under the recent state budget.

The Government’s argument that offering a low salary might not attract the best candidates is exactly what the PSA has been concerned about since the 2.5% wage policy was introduced.

“How can the NSW public sector be an employer of choice and destination for the highest quality workers with pay rises that don’t keep pace with inflation?,” said Acting Public Service Association General Secretary, Steve Turner.

“Clearly however, the Government feels it is more important to pay management whatever is necessary in order to get the best candidates while restricting by law the salary increases of those who actually deliver services to millions of NSW residents each day.”

“Why not also invest in the people who provide services and attract the best possible candidates for those vital roles to ensure the people of NSW are getting the best from the best?”

Japan: Mitsubishi makes prisoners of war apology

Japan's Mitsubishi corporation has made a landmark apology for using US prisoners of war as forced labour during World War Two.

A senior executive, Hikaru Kimura, expressed remorse at a ceremony in Los Angeles that prisoners had been put to work in mines operated by the firm.

It is believed to be the first such apology by a Japanese company.
One of the few surviving former US prisoners forced to work in Japan was present to accept the apology.
James Murphy, 94, said this was "a glorious day... for 70 years we wanted this."
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About 500 American POWs were forced to work in the mines by the Japanese
"I listened very carefully to Mr Kimura's statement of apology and found it very very sincere, humble and revealing," he added.
"We hope that we can go ahead now and have a better understanding, a better friendship and closer ties with our ally, Japan."

'Important gesture'

Relatives of other former prisoners were also present at the ceremony, held at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Mitsubishi is acting independently of the Japanese government which has already issued a formal apology to American prisoners.
Japanese government officials say that it is an important gesture ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in August.
"We hope this will spur other companies to join in and do the same." said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
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Protesters of mostly Korean or Chinese descent took to the streets of Los Angeles in May to protest against Japanese war crimes, during a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
The mines operated at four locations run by Mitsubishi's predecessor company, Mitsubishi Mining Co.
Only two living survivors could be located to accept the apology, and, only Mr Murphy was fit enough to make the trip to Los Angeles, local media reported.
About 500 American POWs were forced to work in the mines from among the thousands of allied, Philippine, Korean and Chinese prisoners who were pushed into slave labour by the Japanese.

'Slavery in every way'

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James Murphy said his experiences in the mines had been "slavery in every way"
Mr Murphy told US media earlier that he spent a year at a copper mine near Hanawa, an experience he described as "a complete horror".
"It was slavery in every way: no food, no medicine, no clothing, no sanitation," he said, adding that it was all the more galling to know that Mitsubishi built fighter aircraft used against American forces.
He said that, while he had forgiven his captors, he still wanted the apology for his ordeal.
Although no cash compensation is being offered by Mitsubishi, the apology was "a big deal", he had said.
Correspondents say it is not clear why the apology has come so long after the war.
The Japanese government officially apologised to American former POWs five years ago.

MUA: Anthony Albanese: Border Protection Chief Exposes Workchoices on Water

The head of the Abbott Government’s new Border Protection Command has exposed Tony Abbott’s plan to remove any preference for Australian flagged ships around our coast, Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said today.

"Today The Australian newspaper referred to Rear Admiral Michael Noonan as stating that  'vessels that flew flags of convenience flouted safety and employment standards and posed risks to revenue, trade and envir­onmental hazards'," he said

"This extraordinary intervention by one of Australia’s most senior military officials is a stark warning about the consequences of Mr Abbott’s plan to pass the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, which is the equivalent of WorkChoices on Water.

"If passed, the legislation will allow foreign-flagged vessels working between Australian domestic ports for up to 183 days a year to pay Third World level wages, undercutting Australian shipping companies.

"The former Labor Government levelled the playing field on Australia’s domestic sea routes by requiring people seeking to move freight by sea to first seek out an Australian vessel. Where an Australian vessel was unavailable, domestic freight could be moved by foreign-flagged vessels provided they paid Australian-level wages.

"Labor’s reforms, the result of a comprehensive consultation process with stakeholders, also included tax breaks for Australian-owned vessels as well as support for skills training.

"If Tony Abbott’s changes to shipping laws are passed, not only will thousands of jobs be put at risk, but so too will our environment. 

"If Tony Abbott won’t listen to the Australian shipping sector, he should listen to his own Border Protection Chief and drop his plan for WorkChoices on Water now."

- See more at

Fair Work Commission – Time off and overtime changes

Claiming a victory, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the decision was an "important step in the right direction of freeing up the award system to remove barriers to employers and employees agreeing on workplace flexibilities of benefit to both parties".

The AIG successfully argued that a large number of employees value time off more than extra pay, particularly those with caring responsibilities.

It also argued that individual employees are in the best position to decide whether they value time off more than payment for overtime and that it is not appropriate for awards to stop employees from making that choice.

The Fair Work Commission has developed a clause that provides for one hour of time off for one hour of additional time worked.

The commission rejected union claims for the clause to provide for time off equivalent to the higher overtime penalty rate.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said the decision was another "example of employers claiming a win for flexibility, when it actually equates to a real loss for workers".

"If this was a genuine win for workers, they would not be disadvantaged by the process and would be receiving time off in lieu the equivalent to their overtime rates, instead workers will not be fairly compensated for working long and unsociable hours," Mr Lennon said.

"While we support the ability of employees and employers to negotiate flexible working arrangements to balance the commitments of work and family life this should not be at the expense of wages and conditions that people depend on to put food on the table."

Mr Willox said the new clause would be introduced into more than 90 per cent of awards that will now provide the so called "time for time" arrangements. About ten per cent of awards already provide a provision for time in lieu and some provide arrangements in line with higher penalty rates for weekend work.

The full bench decision is part of the Fair Work Commission's four-yearly review of modern awards.
Tim Ayres, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary welcomed the decision in providing a "sensible framework".

He said people who wanted the flexibility of time off for family would get it. While workers saving
for a house deposit could still claim overtime pay.

"It means that workers can have a realistic prospect of being able to use the extra hours that they've worked so that they can participate fully in family life," he said.
"People will still have a right to overtime payments. This will not disturb that right. This can only happen at the initiative of the employee.
"We will be watching carefully for any employees who try to misuse the provision to steal workers' overtime."

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