Monday, August 31, 2015

U.S.: Obama push for labour rights

WASHINGTON — With little fanfare, the Obama administration has been pursuing an aggressive campaign to restore protections for workers that have been eroded by business activism, conservative governance and the evolution of the economy in recent decades.

In the last two months alone, the administration has introduced a series of regulatory changes. Among them: a rule that would make millions more Americans eligible for extra overtime pay, and a guidance suggesting that many employers are misclassifying workers as contractors and therefore depriving them of basic workplace protections. That is an issue central to the growth of so-called gig economycompanies like Uber.

A little more than a week ago, a federal appeals panel affirmed an earlier regulation granting nearly 2 million previously exempted home care workersminimum wage and overtime protections. And on Thursday, President Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board issued an important ruling that makes it easier for employees of contractors and franchisesto bargain collectively with the corporations that have sway over their operations.

“These moves constitute the most impressive and, in my view, laudable attempt to update labor and employment law in many decades,” said Benjamin I. Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former assistant general counsel for the Service Employees International Union. The goal, he said, is to “keep pace with changes in the structure of the labor market and the way work is organized. That’s a theme that runs through all of this.”

Standby to repel borders !

Richard Flanagan writes

Australia's treatment of asylum seekers was bound to lead to something like Border Force

With such actions as Friday’s aborted exercise in police state intimidation, the Abbott government also begins to look in its desperation to cling to power the most dangerous. Perhaps knowingly, perhaps not, they are summoning into existence forces with powers they do not understand and no democracy should allow. These excesses will be a very long time being forgotten ...

... The Liberal party can look forward to decades of living such ignominy down. For the highest purpose of a democratic government is to bring a society together and hold it together, not to divide it with fears, with rumours of wars, with acts of belligerence against other and then against its own. It is not to instil fear on our streets with a paramilitary force run by politicians ...

... Much as the prime minister wishes to distance himself from Friday’s fiasco, he cannot. It is he who created the climate of division, promoted the hysteria and cultivated the hate; who sanctioned the offshore crimes and the lies and legal ruses to hide them; who passed the laws that protected the guilty and punished the innocent and sanctioned the creation of a state paramiltary force to enforce it all. As he said on the day of the inauguration of Border Force: “God bless you, God bless your work.” ...

The forces that for two centuries held nations together are now in eclipse, and new ideas that make a murderous cult in the Middle East more attractive to young Australians than their own society can only be battled by finding new ways of bringing us together, not further dividing us and weakening our sense of ourselves as a society.

A political party needs reminding that they are only that, that it’s our Australia, not theirs, and certainly not their goons. And it’s time we took it back.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

NSWTF: Beth Godwin Interview

MUA: One Step Forward: Parties Meet at Table in Hutchison Dispute

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has welcomed Hutchison Ports Australia back to the negotiating table following the sacking of 97 wharfies three weeks ago.

The MUA and Hutchison have agreed to a six-week negotiation process to be overseen by the Fair Work Commission.

This defers a Federal Court case which was set to begin next week.

“The MUA welcomes a mature and normal process of consultation and negotiation with Hutchison – that’s what we have been after all along,” Crumlin said.

“It’s pleasing that Hutchison has returned to the negotiating table rather than sacking workers at midnight by text and email and preventing them from clearing out their own lockers.

“We look forward to the fact that if this new attitude is maintained by the company – because it certainly will be by the MUA – then a solution can be found that both deals with the difficult commercial reality the company is facing and repairs the damage that has been done to the company’s relationship with its workers over the past few weeks.”

FWC Deputy President Anna Booth released a statement today, outlining private meetings set down for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week in Sydney.

“The parties have met in conciliation before me on a number of occasions, most recently on Thursday 27 August 2015, in an effort to resolve the dispute between them,” Booth said.

“They have reached an agreement to adjourn the Federal Court proceedings that relate to this dispute and to put their efforts into resolving this dispute through further conciliation before me.

“I believe the parties are committed to reaching an agreement that best meets the interests of Hutchisons Ports, its employees, the Maritime Union of Australia and its members.”

Meanwhile, Hutchison Ports worker Scott Matthewson appeared on the 2UE Drive program yesterday to update listeners on what is happening down at the community assembly at Port Botany.

Presenter Justin Stephens described Hutchison as a “pack of mongrels” for the way they had treated their workers and asked whether Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz had apologised to workers after saying it was ok to be sacked by text.

Matthewson said spirit was still strong down at the line and thanked other unions and the community for their support.

He said sacked workers were still not rostered on and had not yet received their belongings out of lockers.

“We just have to last one more day then the company,” he said.

You can listen to the audio here:


AUG 28, 2015


The union representing Australian Border Force workers has welcomed news that Operation Fortitude will not go ahead. The union was contacted by Border Force members who raised concerns their safety would have been compromised by the publicity surrounding this operation.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “We have been contacted by Border Force members deeply concerned about the way their work has been politicised raising safety concerns about the public reaction”

“While Border Force staff (formerly Immigration) have been involved in these types of operations before, they have never been publicised in this way. They were deeply concerned at the suggestion they would be stopping all people on the street, which is not how their work has been done in the past.

“Border Force staff do important work stopping drug importation, targeting organised crime and terrorism. Making them a public target through this sort of hysteria is completely unacceptable.

This high-profile approach has come as a major shock for Border Force staff who are frequently instructed not to wear their uniforms in public due to safety concerns.

“Their work is challenging under most circumstances but this adds another and unnecessary layer of difficulty to an already taxing task.

“We are calling on the Federal Government to stop cynically exploiting the work of the Australian Border Force for its own political ends, potentially putting these officers at risk.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

7-Eleven empire exposed

The 7-Eleven empire is owned by Russell Withers and his sister Beverley Barlow. The pair brought the franchise licence to Australia almost 40 years ago.

They are two of Australia's richest people and their franchise network has been caught underpaying some of the nation's poorest and most vulnerable people. Mr Withers has for many years sat on the Australian Olympic Committee.

Explosive internal documents obtained by Four Corners and Fairfax Media show the results of a review of 225 stores through July and August by 7-Eleven's head office.

It found that a staggering 69 per cent of stores had payroll compliance issues, including falsification of records and rosters.The documents show stores are manipulating their rosters.

This is known because when rosters are cross-checked against CCTV footage, the surveillance footage reveals that people not on the roster are actually working at the store. Instead those manning the tills are often students on visas getting illegal cash payments well below legal minimums.

A Fairfax Media-Four Corners investigation has uncovered much more. There are staff log books, court documents, financial accounts of individual stores – including one owned by 7-Eleven head office – and it all paints a grim picture of what it is like to work for one of the most well-known brands in Australia with 620 outlets.

Damning review

In the wake of inquiries from Fairfax Media and Four Corners, store reviews ramped up. The findings are damning.

"I ask why they're not paying correct rates for this trading period. The reply was to save money," one review on a store in outer eastern Melbourne reads. While yet another review on an inner city suburb in Melbourne declares: "Clear evidence payroll is being falsified."

On and on it goes.

Under the current immigration law student visas allow students to work only 40 hours a fortnight. If they breach the law they face the risk of deportation, which makes them targets for exploitation.

Unscrupulous employers allow students to work more hours but threaten to report them to authorities for breaching their visa if they complain about working conditions. Employers time sheets and rosters are doctored to maintain the scam.

To pull off the fraud, the franchisee or a family member, nicknamed the "ghost worker", pretends to work up to 80 hours a week to disguise the fact that the student worker is really doing the hours.

Read more:

"Time's Up Tony" – Melbourne stops Border Farce

The Abbott government is under pressure to explain why a police operation that included the Australian Border Force involved stopping people for visa checks, prompting a public backlash and forcing the event to be cancelled.

The operation was ridiculed on social media and protesters took to Melbourne's streets. Victoria Police released a statement just before 3pm saying the operation had been cancelled.

Victorian Police Minister Wade Noonan said the operation was supposed to be a standard police one aimed at keeping the public safe, but was cancelled after the "unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation by the Australian Border Force".

Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie lashed out at the prospect of the random visa checks, comparing the Abbott government to a series of police states.

"Joseph Stalin would be proud of Tony Abbott," he said. "Just as East Germany's Stasi would be delighted with the Australian Border Force – why, even General Pinochet would be impressed."

The ABF began in July and reflects the federal government's hardline national security stance. It combined Customs and Immigration functions.

There has been concern that ABF officers have more powers than former department officials, including the power to detain offenders, carry guns and gather intelligence.

Victorian Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton cancelled the measure, dubbed Operation Fortitude, after learning of the "specifics" of the ABF's involvement and the public outrage.

A spokesman for Mr Dutton said "ministers don't direct operational matters". He did not respond to questions over whether he knew about the operation in advance.

Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles said Mr Dutton should "come out of hiding" to explain "the shambles that has seen a cross-agency operation compromised and a key government agency left red-faced".

"This has been incredibly badly handled and Peter Dutton needs to immediately come clean on how this announcement was so botched," Mr Marles said.

Former independent MP Tony Windsor has hit out at the bungled operation, telling ABC radio he had no doubt that some in the Abbott government "hopes that something goes wrong domestically".

Speaking on ABC radio national current affairs program AM, Mr Windsor said the Border Force operation was no mistake, but a "deliberate agenda to create fear in the community".

Mr Windsor said: "I've got no doubt that some of these people in Abbott's government hope that something goes wrong domestically. That they can taunt a Muslim into doing something so that they can say that we're the only ones that can protect you, the Labor party are too weak to protect you, vote for us," he said, adding, "I think that's an extraordinary agenda to go to an election on."

His comments came more than a month after he announced he would consider returning to politics, after the disappointment at the conditional approval of the Shenhua Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains in northern NSW.

Read more:

TWU Slams Joyce $11.9 million pay rort

The national secretary of the Transport Workers Union has slammed Qantas CEO Alan Joyce's 11.9 pay packet.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce's $11.9 million pay packet is an affront to staff forced into part-time work who are struggling to support their families, Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

Mr Joyce was awarded $6.9 million in shares in 2014/15 as part of long-term incentives, a week after the company reported the largest financial turnaround in Australian corporate history.

Mr Sheldon has slammed Mr Joyce's pay packet, saying Qantas should better conditions for all workers, not just executives.

"Management are paying themselves millions while thousands of employees in the Qantas supply chain are on wage freezes and forced into part-time work, Mr Sheldon said.

"You can't pay full-time bills with part-time pay."

Mr Joyce's tenure has been mired in controversy since he grounded the Qantas fleet in 2011 amid a battle with unions over pay agreements.

He launched a major overhaul of the company in 2014, including plans to axe 5000 staff, as it plunged to a $2.8 billion loss.

Qantas has since cut 4000 of those jobs, and along with a drastic reduction in fuel costs, Mr Joyce's restructure helped deliver a profit of $557 million in the 2014/15 financial year.

The huge long-term bonus is the first granted to Mr Joyce in five years.

Mr Sheldon said there was "no justification for this level of greed".

"This is an industry where 21 per cent of employees are earning below the poverty line."

ACTU: Royal Commission is now terminally tarnished

Statement from ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:
29 August 2015

Acting on behalf of a number of affiliated unions, the ACTU has today made a further submission to the Royal Commission into Trade Unions, in relation to our application that the Commissioner disqualify himself, following the production of further documents by the Commission yesterday.
The ACTU is concerned that there have now been two occasions where it has become apparent that we have not had all of the relevant information provided to us despite our requests.

It is now also clear that Counsel Assisting Mr Jeremy Stoljar was aware that not all of the information regarding the Liberal Party fundraising event had been disclosed to the ACTU or the public.

This Royal Commission is now terminally tarnished.

The ACTU has always maintained that the Royal Commission is a political witch hunt by Tony Abbott designed to weaken his political opponents.

When it came to light that Commissioner Dyson Heydon had agreed to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser we called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission.

The ACTU again calls on the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission into Trade Unions and to stop wasting millions of tax payer dollars pursuing his own political agenda.

Friday, August 28, 2015


By the Working Life Team

Friday, 28 August 2015

TURC commissioner Justice Heydon twice delayed handing down his judgement this week on whether he will recuse himself from heading up the commission.

As we wait for his decision, here’s a statement from ACTU Secretary, Dave Oliver: he says the latest round of revelations just leads to more questions.

Statement from ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver regarding the Royal Commission into Trade Unions:

Acting on behalf of a number of affiliated unions, the ACTU has today written to the Royal Commission into Trade Unions following an article published in The Australian newspaper by Michael Pelly which suggests:

1.    A well-known journalist and lawyer Marcus Priest, telephoned Mr Chris Winslow, the publications manager for the NSW Bar Association at 5.30 on August 12 and inquired about a ‘bar association alert’ put out in April 2015.

2.    In the conversation, Mr Priest expressed surprise that Commissioner Heydon had agreed to speak at the event because of its connection to the Liberal Party.

3.    In response to the call, Mr Winslow sent an email to Mr Priest with the relevant invitation to the event attached, at 5.50pm.

4.    Later that evening, Mr Winslow became concerned that a story about the matter might be about to appear in the media.

5.    Mr Winslow felt an obligation to inform Counsel Assisting Mr Jeremy Stoljar of his fear to that effect.

6.    Mr Winslow emailed Mr Stoljar shortly after 7.00pm with an email which included the following: “Re the Barwick lecture: Does Dyson know this is connected to the Liberal party?”

7.    Counsel Assisting replied to Mr Winslow almost immediately with a statement which included the following: “I’ll raise that with him.”

This disclosure raises concerns for the union movement. In particular that:

1.    The explanation contained in the media release of the Royal Commission on 13 August 2015, that the Commissioner had acted to withdraw from the event (“if it could possibly be described as a Liberal party event”) before it attracted any media attention, might be misleading.

2.    We believe there has been inadequate disclosure of relevant documents made by the Commission as to this matter.

3.    That on 17 August in the initial hearing of the ACTU’s application, Counsel Assisting Mr Jeremy Stoljar, criticised the ACTU’s application as ‘grand-standing’ when in fact he knew the events described in this correspondence and today’s  Australian article had not been disclosed to the ACTU or to the public.

As such the ACTU requests:

1. The Commission urgently provide any emails or other communications which are referred to, or relate to, today’s article in The Australian.

2. Once the material is received sufficient time be given to the ACTU to consider the information.

3. A deferral of the handing down of the Commissioner’s ruling which is due to occur at 10am tomorrow morning so that the ACTU can consider the implications.

The ACTU has always maintained that the Royal Commission is a political witch hunt by Tony Abbott designed to weaken his political opponents.

When it came to light that Commissioner Dyson Heydon had agreed to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser we called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission.

The ACTU again calls on the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission into Trade Unions and to stop wasting millions of tax payer dollars pursuing his own political agenda.

Qld: Abbott wrong again

The Prime Minister has caused upset on his remote Indigenous trip over his comments about a far north Queensland primary school.

During his five-day trip Tony Abbott visited the Bamaga primary school as part of his drive to get more kids to school.

It was a highlight of the week and gained national coverage.

Mr Abbott held a press conference at the school in the Northern Area Peninsula (NPA) and attributed the high attendance rate partly to the Government's new school attendance officers.

Their role is to provide encouragement, work with families who are not showing up, help transport children to school and follow up on school absence.

But the head of the school's P&C and husband of the school's principal, Richard McLean, said the remote attendance officers were not a key reason so many kids were coming to class.

He said the statistics were just as positive before the attendance officers started work.

They put in a huge effort, the parents and the students who are innocent in all this. For that praise to go to somewhere else I think was unfair.

Richard McLean, head of Bamaga P&C

"The statistics have clearly shown that before the ... program was rolled out they were quite high," he said.

Mr McLean said there were a number of factors behind the strong figures.

"I believe the credit needs to go to where it is deserved," he said.

"It's things like working collaboratively with parents, understanding the community, stronger relationships with families and students, great teachers - not just wanting to come up here for the points or the lifestyle - and really good leadership along valuing our identity.

"We also set high expectations for our students and with the support from parents and teachers we are seeing them succeed.

"This, in turn, empowers the students and they are proud to come to school because of their success."

'Maybe he hasn't done his homework'

At the same media event the Prime Minister spoke about the teaching methods he had witnessed at the school.

"Certainly we did see a form of explicit and direct instruction in these classrooms today and as someone who has been in Indigenous classrooms at different times over quite a few years now, they were the best classrooms I've ever seen," Mr Abbott said.

"And most of those classrooms had a very high percentage of people attending."

Mr Mclean objected to Mr Abbott's statement.

"That's not correct at all. There is no direct instruction taught in this school, it's explicit teaching and explicit teaching only," he said.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Newcastle City Council to favour renewables

Newcastle City Council has voted to dump fossil fuel investments and has told its major banks they need to divest portfolios of assets that include resources such as coal and oil.

The decision to focus on investments that are both environmentally and socially friendly challenges Newcastle's image and rich history given its status as the world's biggest coal port.

The motion to shake up the City of Newcastle's $280 million investment was driven and won by Labor councillor Declan Clausen who was elected on a platform of moving away from fossil fuel investments.

"It's about ensuring that where we have the choice - where investments are going to provide equal returns to the city, where the investment opportunities we're seeking has the same credit rating - we're going to preferentially invest in activities that are environmentally and socially productive," Mr Clausen told the ABC's AM program.

"Ratepayers of Newcastle are very keen to see a city that continues to diversify as an economy, that continues to acknowledge the past and future of the coal industry while also looking at alternatives technologies and embracing renewables in particular, and that's certainly what we're seeing in Newcastle."

Redfern Tent Embassy Win

The Redfern Tent Embassy is claiming a victory, after Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion arranged a deal for 62 new affordable homes for Aboriginal people.

Ms Munro said the year of struggle had paid off.

"I'm old school. My teachers taught me the principles of our resistance - we never ceded our land to anyone," she said.

"The embassy has demonstrated that for our people, resistance is the only way to go.

"For all the communities around the country facing closure - don't talk sovereignty, assert your sovereignty."

Progress on Aboriginal housing 'big win'

Her lawyer, Lisa De Luca, said this was a big win.

"Had it not been for the hard work of Jenny Munro and the supporters at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy, my opinion is that [Indigenous Affairs Minister] Nigel Scullion would never have come to the table with this offer," she said.

the Aboriginal Housing Company offices which look over the protestors' camp

"Before the embassy was set up there was no finance for this development, either commercial or Aboriginal housing, and Aboriginal housing didn't look like it would ever be built.

"Now there's a deal before the Aboriginal Housing Company being offered on the basis that they build Aboriginal housing first or at the same time as the commercial property, so it's a wonderful result."

Ms De Luca said the Government has committed to a $5 million grant and helped the AHC secure $65 million in bank finance so it could proceed with the project.

Senator Scullion said the deal was "a win for everyone".

"It has been a very vexed issue, people have been divided on this matter for quite a long time in the area," he said.

"Congratulations to the Tent Embassy and Jenny Munro and what I consider significant leadership in these matters."

Senator Scullion said the best outcome for The Block has been achieved for the community.

"Everybody wants, on Aboriginal land, affordable housing for Aboriginal people," he said.

"I have a sense that everyone is working far closer together than they have been in the past."

Djamilah, Jenny Munro and Felicity Coombs discuss allocation of chores

Baird falls for Shock Jock Gayby Baby lies

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has condemned a New South Wales decision to ban a documentary on gay parenting from high school classes, labelling the apparent controversy over the film “cruel rubbish”.

Students at one school that planned to screen the film, Burwood girls high, have also spoken out, saying they “pride ourselves on our support of diversity” and are “leaders in the push for equality and acceptance for all people”.

Andrews said he had taken his family to see Gayby Baby, an Australian documentary highlighting the unique and the ordinary challenges faced by four children with same-sex parents.

“But apparently the NSW government thinks it’s all too confusing and distressing a subject for high school students,” the premier said “I’m getting really sick of this stuff.”

The NSW education minister, Adrian Piccoli, ordered NSW schools not to screen the documentary during class time.

“During school hours we expect them to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters,” Piccoli told 2GB Radio. “This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that direction.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

TWU: Qld truckie convoy set for Sydney

A convoy of unionists from Queensland has set off for Sydney as part of a mass protest highlighting the pressure they claim is put on truck drivers to meet dangerous and unreasonable deadlines.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) plans to stage a demonstration with more than 700 members in Sydney after delegates from Queensland and South Australia arrive on Thursday.

The convoy will stop at the Gold Coast, Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Newcastle en route to Sydney.

The union has taken particular issue with supermarket giant Coles, accusing it of creating an unsafe environment through deadlines set by economic pressure.

While TWU Queensland secretary Peter Biagini conceded supermarkets and other major retailers didn't actually employ any trucks or drivers themselves, he argued they put implicit pressure on transport companies to meet unsafe standards to win contracts.

"For them to survive they've got to bow to their clients, which means cutting back on maintenance, pushing the drivers and making sure that the wheels are turning 24 hours, seven days a week," Mr Biagini said.

He said this contributed to fatalities on the country's roads.

Mr Biagini called for retailers to help craft a more "sustainable" standard for truck drivers by taking responsibility for the risks of these cost-cutting measures.

Driver Guillaume Maze said he observed other trucks cutting corners every day by speeding or driving erratically.

He said his boss was usually understanding if he failed to meet a deadline but not all workplaces would be as reasonable.

Monday, August 24, 2015

MUA: Foreign Slave Ship Trading in Australian Waters

A foreign crew in Mackay has been denied basic rights such as access to food and has been forced to work without pay.

One crewmember aboard the Korean bulk carrier, the C. Summit, was found to have malnutrition and a further four have since left the ship claiming they feared for their lives.

The shocking accusations have been substantiated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), following an inspection of the vessel early this morning. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority will join the ITF in a further inspection this afternoon.

ITF Assistant National Coordinator Matt Purcell said the crew, a mix of Cambodians and Burmese, had been subject to the worst kind of bullying he had encountered.

“We have discovered two contracts, one contract was the one the workers signed prior to boarding and the other, which doesn’t meet even the most basic international standards, was signed shortly after the crew joined the ship,” Mr Purcell said.

“The crew claim they have received no wages for several months and are forced to do jobs outside of their requirements.

“They have been locked in hatches and have survived on what I can only describe as a starvation diet.”

The vessel, owned by Korea-based Chang Myung Shipping Co, is a repeat offender in that deficiencies have been noted by a number of different port state control areas.  The ship was found to be breaching labour standards in Denmark as recently as November last year.

The ship visits Australia, mainly Hay Point and Newcastle ports, a couple of times a year.

ITF President Paddy Crumlin said although this ship was an extreme example of crew abuses, many ships calling into Australian ports had dodgy records when it came to safety, pollution and crew welfare.

“The sea is a largely unregulated environment whereby greedy ship owners and operators are allowed to get away with egregious breaches of human rights and the Australian Government is regularly turning a blind eye to the breaches happening in our waters,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Further to that, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss seems to want these awful breaches to increase by wiping out the Australian merchant navy fleet through complete deregulation.

“Mr Truss has to understand that opening up Australia’s shipping industry so it can ‘compete’ with the lowest common denominator is consenting to these kind of human rights violations.”

The Abbott Government is attempting to dismantle the Coastal Trading Act, which dictates that ships trading between Australian ports must be crewed by Australian workers, or pay Australian award wages.

The amendment to the Act was inserted into May’s Budget papers but is yet to be debated in Parliament after it was sent to a Senate Inquiry.

UK: Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party

The ultimate triumph of the political right in the 1980s was that its actions eventually forced the left to sell its soul for power – but many of today’s young voters neither remember nor care quite why it did so. All we have known are progressive parties that were callous in office and gutless in opposition. That’s why we almost suspect that it has all been a con. We almost suspect that when Jeremy Corbyn, a sexagenarian socialist with a 32-year parliamentary record of actually having principles and sticking to them, is elected leader of the Labour Party, the jig will be up. Corbyn will pull off his suspicious, bearded mask and underneath will be some baby-faced student organiser, or the unquiet shade of Michael Foot, or Russell Brand declaring that it was just a scam to see what Labour would do with a real left-wing candidate.
What the party has done so far is panic in a manner so incoherent and undignified that the Tories have marvelled, finishing the popcorn and starting on the dodgy dips as they watch the chaos unfold. We are told that a “Free French” resistance is being plotted within the Labour Party. The image of Blairites and vacillating former Miliblands as a “resistance movement” is worth savouring. What on earth would their slogans be? “What do we want? Strategic capitulation to the centre right with a view to contesting an election in five years!” “When do we want it? Subject to legal review!”
The big problem with Corbyn is that he throws the collapsed vacuum of mainstream Labour rhetoric into sharp relief. None of the other three leadership candidates has a single memorable political idea beyond the idea of themselves as leader. The anointed heirs of New Labour appear to believe in nothing apart from their right to rule – and they seem agnostic about even that, given the invertebrates they have put up against the Corbyn threat.
The “electability” conversation is where it all becomes clear. The argument that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable is being made by three candidates who can’t even win an election against Jeremy Corbyn. Their arguments are backed by two former prime ministers: Gordon Brown, whose main claim to fame is losing an election to the Tories in 2010, and Tony Blair, the Ghost of Bad Decisions Past. Both of them are making the case that the ability to win a general election is the first and only important quality in a leader after years of muttering and shuffling behind Ed Miliband, a very nice man whose middle name could have been “Constitutionally Unable to Win a General Election”.
Corbyn, however, has been re-elected by the people of Islington North consistently since 1983 and, like Bernie Sanders in the US, seems as surprised as anyone suddenly to be reaping the rewards of a lifetime of sticking to his principles – principles that once put Corbyn on the moderate left of Labour and now make him look, at least in the estimation of much of the press, like the nightmare offspring of Che Guevara and Emma Goldman dressed up in a Stalin costume. And all for proposing a modest increase in the top rate of income tax.
Rumours of the death of the political left have been exaggerated. Corbyn, like Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and the Scottish National Party, is an immune response from a sick and suffering body politic trying to fight off a chronic infection that threatens to swallow hope for ever. There is a crisis in representative democracy in the west and it was established well before the stock-market collapse of 2008. The old centre left is at odds with its electorate because it decided for itself the limits of what was politically possible a decade ago.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

ACTU: Abbott’s anti-worker laws defeated in win for rights at work

18 August 2015

The Senate’s decision to reject the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and Registered Organisations bills is a win for the rights at work of millions of Australians.

These proposed laws are a key part of the Abbott Government’s agenda to weaken unions and attack our rights at work.

Since coming to office the Abbott Government has attempted to pass laws that strip away rights at work, embarked on an $80 million dollar political witch hunt with its flawed Royal Commission into Trade Unions and launched the Productivity Commission review of workplace relations that has recommended cutting penalty rates and introducing new enterprise contracts that will take away rights and conditions at work.

Australian Unions will continue to stand up for workers’ rights and commend the Senate for rejecting the ABCC and Registered Organisations bills.


The Abbott Government’s attempt to set up anti-worker bodies like the ABCC, with coercive powers designed to intimidate safety reps and union activists, would have led to more injuries and deaths as occurred under the previous ABCC.

During the period of the most aggressive activities of the ABCC in the last years of the Howard Government, workplace fatalities in construction peaked at 48 deaths in 2006 and 51 deaths in 2007, making them the worst two years for deaths in construction in the last decade.

In contrast, 30 deaths were reported in 2012 following the abolition of the ABCC – the lowest number of deaths in the past ten years.

Workers need strong rights and strong unions to protect themselves from injury and death through cost and corner cutting and the desire of many employers to put profits ahead of safety.

Registered Organisations Bill

The Abbott Government’s attempt to set up a Registered Organisations Commission is another attempt to hamstring unions to make it harder for them to effectively represent Australian workers.

This unfair law would have seen union officials, many who are ordinary workers in unpaid voluntary roles, subject to potentially multi-million dollar fines for speaking out on important issues such as health and safety.

The effect would have been to silence workers from speaking out and standing up for rights at work.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

“Australian Unions commend the Senate for protecting the rights at work of millions of Australians by rejecting the Abbott Government’s unfair laws.”

“The Abbott Government has a clear agenda to attack rights at work whether through unfair laws like the ABCC and Registered Organisations bills, its flawed and compromised Royal Commission into Trade Unions or its Productivity Commission inquiry that is trying to cut penalty rates and workplace rights.”

“Australian Unions will always stand up and fight for rights at work.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

Greece: New Elections

The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has announced he will step down from his role temporarily in the hope of regaining power after a snap election scheduled for next month.

Mr Tsipras was elected seven months ago on a promise to overturn Greece’s crippling austerity measures, but faced strong opposition in his Syriza party over the plans Europe forced on the country.

Last month, his party won a national plebiscite, securing support for a defiant anti-austerity position. Mr Tsipras then seemed to reverse his position, securing a bailout in exchange for austerity measures. This has forced him to again seek voter support — this time for capitulation.

“I want to submit to the Greek people everything I have done so that they can decide once more,” Mr Tsipras told the media.

“I will shortly meet with the president of the republic and present my resignation and that of my government.”

Nearly one third of his left-wing party refused to back austerity measures demanded from Mr Tsipras and Greece by the Eurozone.

The massive new international bailout deal is worth about 86 billion euros ($129 billion) over three years.

Mr Tsipras successfully persuaded Greeks to reject tough reforms in July, only to adopt them at a eurozone summit a week later.

Despite going against their emphatic “no” vote against austerity, Mr Tsipras remains popular. His Syriza party is predicted to be returned at the fresh election, reportedly scheduled for September 20.

The hard-left leader said it was up to Greeks to judge whether he adequately represented them in a battle with foreign lenders on austerity demands.

“The political mandate of the January 25 elections has exhausted its limits and now the Greek people have to have their say.”

Jeremy Corbyn – The Man With the Plan

Campaign song composed by cabbie and part-time songwriter Gary Duncan

Here comes the man, the man with the plan
Can he change a thing? Well yes he bloody can
I think that we can win, cos we've got Jeremy Corbyn
Here comes the guy, the guy for you and I
Can he change a thing? Well at least he's gonna try
I think that we can win, cos we've got Jeremy Corbyn
Well please tell Tony Blair when the b****** comes around
Along with Maggie Thatcher his plan is in the ground
Oh, here comes the man, the man with the plan
Can he change a thing? Well - Jez we can
I think he can win cos we've got Jeremy Corbyn
Here comes the bloke and it's no bloody joke
This time can be different if you give him your vote
I know that we could win cos we've got Jeremy Corbyn
Well please tell David Cameron his cuts are under threat
The Tories have been winning but they've not beat us yet, no
Here comes the man, the man with the plan
Can he change a thing? Well, yes he can
I think that we can win cos we've got Jeremy Corbyn
Here comes the change, a big old rearrange
The future's looking rosy, oh it's really strange
I think that we can win, cos we've got Jeremy Corbyn

Blue Mountains Domestic Violence Benefit Gig 5 September

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Indigenous rights organiser Kevin Cook 'opened the pathways' for all Australians

SMH August 19, 2015

Kevin "Cookie" Cook, a Wandandian and Yuin​ man, was born in Wollongong in September, 1939. After work in the steel mills, he headed to Sydney to work on the new high-rise city buildings. Cookie became a dogman, the dangerous job riding the loads up the towers. This was a dramatic time in the industry: the Builders Labourers' Federation had shifted to leadership by workers from the job sites, making uncompromising demands for safety and developing green bans to protect residents and the environment.

Cook brought his knowledge of Aboriginal and migrant communities together with these new BLF methods when he became the organiser for Aboriginal BLs on the Redfern Housing Company, and worked with the National Black Theatre in Redfern, before becoming involved in Tranby​ Aboriginal Adult Education Cooperative College in 1975. He believed cooperatives were useful for Aboriginal communities, but went further.

Cook had seen for himself in Wollongong how the education system was failing Aboriginal kids. With Tranby​ support, he spent six months at Coady Cooperative Institute in Canada, meeting activists from Africa and around the world, building international networks. He returned to become General Secretary of Tranby​ and built it into a centre for adult learning and cultural revival. Young Aboriginal men and women travelled from across the country to undertake courses in basic literacy, community studies, business training and preparation for tertiary education.

Cook used his many contacts and his enthusiasm to draw in young activists. One was Brian Doolan, a teacher working in the Wilcannia community who became Tranby's​ first Director of Studies. There were Indigenous educators like Terry Widders​ and Lynette Riley, unionists and academics. At first it was mostly unpaid until, after lots of submission writing, support flowed from the new Federal Aboriginal Education structures.

Cook was taking an active role in NSW political life, becoming involved in the Labor Party's Aboriginal Affairs Policy Committee, with Bob Bellear​, Rod Pickette​ and Meredith Burgmann​. At the same time, Kevin was building his Trade Union networks, setting up the Trade Union Committee on Aboriginal Rights (TUCAR) at Tranby​ to strengthen communication between unions and Indigenous organisations.

But Cook's priority was education in the community. Despite struggling with funding, Tranby​ started courses in communities – with many in the bush. The funding mainstays were unions like the MUA, individual donations and the backing of the Australian Council of Churches. Linked with the courses running at the college and those in communities, he built links with campaigners on issues such as Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Stolen Generations.

At the same time, Kevin developed Tranby​ as a base for bush people involved in the struggle for Land Rights in NSW. From 1979 to 1983, Kevin was chair of the first NSW Aboriginal Land Council, a community organisation which led campaigning for land rights. He travelled from one end of the state to another, getting to know and listen to communities and to bring their concerns to centre stage. The final NSW Bill in 1983 was a frustrating mix which recognised some rights but took away others. After much consultation, Cook decided to work with the new Land Rights Act as Chairperson of the Interim Land Council, set up to organise the policy's structures. He insisted that community voices should be heard, and encouraged many different strategies to achieve land rights – some within the Act like land claims and others outside it altogether, such as heritage protection.

Through this time, Tranby​ offered support for communities struggling with the new policy's demands by running new courses in rural areas to build skills in accounting, legal and management skills. National Land Rights laws were promised in the early 1980s and a unified national Aboriginal response was needed.

Pat Dodson has said of Kevin that he "opened the pathways" by which leaders from all states could feel safe and confident in their new relationships with those from other states. Cook built those national relationships which brought the Federation of Land Councils into being. This network built the foundation for the push into the international arena. In the mid 1980s, Cook and Aboriginal unionists used their ACTU standing to take the arguments for Indigenous rights into the International Labour Organisation, then revising Convention 107 on Indigenous people. As unionists, they demanded the ILO listen to Indigenous people in any vote on Indigenous labour conditions. Their arguments won: the ILO meetings were henceforth opened to hear Indigenous people speak on Convention 107.

His view was that these were issues of social justice.

"We needed to take it out of this narrow focus of 'these are issues for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people need to be the ones that fight it'. These issues do restrict and oppress indigenous peoples. But we needed to involve a much larger portion of the community to achieve what needed to be achieved, because it was a thing for all of us. It wasn't just a thing for black fellas. It was for all Australians."

In the later 1980s, despite his worsening emphysema, Cook continued to nurture the innovative role of Tranby​ in education, national and international politics. As a national hub, Kevin enabled Tranby​ to be the base for the long march Bicentenary Celebrations in 1988. Over this same time, his support for international movements was extensive, building on the links he had made at Coady Institute, Tranby​ had visits from Hilda Lini​ and Barak Sope​ from Vanuatu; Herbert Chitepo​, the Zimbabwean leader; Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela's ANC comrade; and from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In the last years of his life, bed-bound and using an oxygen mask, Cook remained more active than most healthy people. Young Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers would often drop in to visit him. And he stayed closely in touch by phone with activists from across the country.

Kevin Cook was an Aboriginal activist, a worker, a trade unionist, a leftie and an internationalist. All those things explain why he was admired, but not the mourning following his death. He thought that everyone had a value, and he worked on that principle. In an era when many of our leaders have egos that need their own postcode, Cook had no need for an ego to be stroked and did not have a grain of pretentiousness. He liked to assist, help, promote and encourage other people and never to take the limelight.

It was why people who might not work with each other elsewhere, would find they could come together within his framework and why, as Terry O'Shane joked, before people met him, "They thought he was 10 foot high and bullet-proof!" Cook was not someone who came to believe that everyone was equal. It'd just never occurred to him that it would be any other way.

Kevin Cook is survived by his brother Ronnie, sister Joy, cousin Kathy and by his children Suzie and Mereki and first wife, Margaret. In the early 1980s he entered a life-long partnership with Judy Chester, sharing her life and her children: Peter, Jody and Janette, and five grandchildren.

Paul Torzillo and Heather Goodall

SMH Read more:

CPSU – Reject Backwards Steps on Paid Parental Leave

AUG 18, 2015

The Community and Public Sector Union has called for the wholesale rejection of the Abbott Government’s proposed changes to the PPL Scheme in its submission to the Inquiry into the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill.

The CPSU, other unions and parenting groups are meeting with key cross-bench Senators to argue for the Senate to reject the changes to Paid Parental Leave.

In the submission, the CPSU has dispelled the myth being perpetuated by the Federal Treasurer and senior members of the Government of new mothers in the public sector being fraudulent, highly paid ‘double-dippers’.

Union research shows that 44.5 per cent of new mothers in the public sector accessing paid parental leave earn less than average weekly ordinary time earnings. This is well short of the Federal Treasurer’s claim that “it's mostly people who go on parental leave that earn more than $90,000 a year."

The breakdowns show that 41.2 per cent of public sector women taking paid parental leave earned between $61,512 (APS3) and $69,239 (APS4) and a further 33.2 per cent earn between $74,331(APS5) and $86,844 (APS6).

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “What the Abbott Government is proposing for the nation’s universal paid parental leave scheme would be a retrograde step that would leave thousands of women and their families financially worse off.”

“The average woman working in the public sector that has been the subject of this unfair and vicious attack by the Abbott Government is young, starting out on their career and earning around $69,000 a year – exactly the type of person paid parental leave with an employer “top-up” is designed to assist.

“The Government has done a complete 360 on paid parental leave – it has gone from bitterly opposing a universal PPL scheme, to proposing a very generous scheme at two elections, to now wanting to rip the existing PPL away from new mothers.”

Ms Flood said that only an all-male expenditure review committee could fail to see that forcing 70,000 women with newborn babies back to work sooner would put a massive squeeze on childcare places.

“Our estimates, based on ABS and Productivity Commission data, show this retrograde policy could create a shortfall of over 13,000 childcare places, with another 19,000 forced to find family or informal care.

“Where is the Government's modelling on the impact of these changes? They have already admitted in Senate Estimates there is virtually none.

“All the evidence, both domestic and international, highlights the benefits to new families and the economy of providing parental leave up to a minimum of 26 weeks to mothers with newly born babies.

“The proposed changes to the PPL should be wholeheartedly rejected by the Inquiry because they simply make no social or economic sense.

“The reality for a woman working in the public sector, who has a new born baby, is that they need access to both an employer-provided scheme and the universal PPL scheme to allow them to have anything close to the minimum 26 weeks that is recommended,” Ms Flood said.

TWU demands Qantas provide good quality, permanent jobs

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 20 August 2015

The Transport Workers’ Union is demanding that Qantas provide good quality, permanent jobs at the airline instead of forcing working families into part-time, casual work which is driving them into poverty.

Qantas’ full-year results show an underlying profit before tax of almost $1billion – a figure which could not have been achieved without the commitment of its workers.

Many employees at the airline are forced onto part-time jobs which do not give them a living wage or the ability to support their families, said Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of Transport Workers’ Union.

“One in five aviation workers are earning below the poverty line and this is because of the poor quality, part time nature of jobs at airlines like Qantas. Our members are forced onto part-time pay but have full-time wages,” Sheldon said.

The Qantas workforce is calling for an end the redundancies and provide job security at the airline. Employees want to be well-trained to deliver quality service to customers. Instead Qantas awards low cost contracts where workers are hired on low pay and conditions.

“Workers have been intrinsic to Qantas’ spectacular return to profit and they should be given the ability to support their families. Qantas needs to improve conditions for all workers at the airline instead of just remunerating its top executives,” Sheldon added.

ACTU Statement - the Royal Commission into Trade Unions

19 August 2015

Statement from ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

Acting on behalf of a number of affiliated unions, the ACTU has today advised the Royal Commission into Trade Unions that it has determined to proceed with an application on Friday that the Commissioner disqualify himself.

The ACTU has always maintained that the Royal Commission is a political witch hunt by Tony Abbott designed to weaken his political opponents.

When it came to light that Commissioner Dyson Heydon had agreed to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser we called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission.

Given Tony Abbott has failed to act the ACTU must now take further action.

The ACTU again calls on the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission into Trade Unions and to stop wasting millions of tax payer dollars pursuing his own political agenda.

A Nurse's Letter to Abbott

Dear Mr Abbott,

I am writing to you after just finishing a gruelling 12 hour night shift. I am tired, my eyes are sore, my head aches, and my body feels sweaty and dirty.

I am an Intensive Care Nurse, and last night I spent many hours resuscitating someone's baby. My amazing team and I just saved a life. And in some way - perhaps from providing that glimmer of hope during one of their darkest hours, we have saved the lives of the child's parents now as well.

You, and the Australian public need me. In fact you need my whole team. We are a group of highly trained and highly skilled individuals, who stayed awake all night - while the rest of the country slept in their nice warm beds. We left our husbands, wives, and our own children to go and care for the lives of strangers. We do this week in, and week out - and we do it damn well.

We do this ALL THE TIME, and at ANY TIME of the day and night.

You see in the world of clinical nursing, there are no boundaries to the hours of the day we work. We need to have a savvy team on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The sick do not stop being sick by 5pm on a Friday, and they do not miraculously get better just because it’s the weekend. And as for the holidays - well let’s just remind you that even more accidents and injuries occur during these periods.

I work long, hard, unsociable hours – but our camaraderie is paramount to get us through. And last night I saw camaraderie at its best.

But luckily (to sweeten what we do just a little bit), we get rewarded by our penalty rates. So when my body feels aged more than it should do because of the lack of sleep I get from staying awake all night, at least I get a little remuneration for it in the end.

And when my circadian rhythms are so messed up, and my hormones become imbalanced, and my immunity gets lowered from not getting the regular sleeping patterns that a "normal" worker would – And so on, and so on… (I am sure you get my drift).

But the hardest part is when I have to miss out on spending time at the weekends or holidays with my own family. So when I do come to work at these times, at least I get a little extra pay to make up for it.

And yes sure, as you have stated in regards to shift workers before: “If you don’t want to work weekends, then don’t work weekends”… But my contract doesn’t allow for that. I have to do my fair share of days, nights, holidays and weekends – we must ensure that the correct mix of expertise is available at all times of the day and night for the safety of our patients. Shift work is NOT a lifestyle choice for us.

Nurse and mother Dani Tinkler says any changes in penalty rates of hospital workers won't just affect her family, it will ultimately affect yours too.Nurse and mother Dani Tinkler says any changes in penalty rates of hospital workers won't just affect her family, it will ultimately affect yours too.
I suppose I could go and get a different job and only work Monday to Friday… But then why would I waste these tremendous skills that I already have. I have been resuscitating people’s loved ones now for over 16 years. Intensive Care needs these skills, and our patients need us nurses that have gained these skills.

Intensive care needs us shift workers. We are a special breed. All nurses are.

What it comes down to is that we are the front line. As shift working nurses, we are providing the direct care to our patients to make them well again. At all hours of the day and night, we hold in our hands the most innocent individuals of our population – children.

I consider us to be like a bunch of super heroes – super heroes disguised in a pair of navy blue scrubs.

I’m not saying that you need to pay us the earth, just pay us what we are worth. And if you (and the public) need us to stay awake all night to heal these precious little bodies, then don’t take away our penalty rates. Give us this small reward for the amazing job that we do.

You need to be attracting nurses to the profession, not driving us away. And that is exactly what will happen if you take our penalties from us.

Is it really worth it?

Mr Abbott, one day you might be a Grandfather, and heaven forbid if your precious little darling ended up needing the help of this highly skilled team that I am so honoured to be a part of. Can you imagine if we all packed up our tools and went home for the day – just because it’s now past 5pm, and considered “after hours”?

Sorry, health care doesn’t work like that. We have a duty to our patients, and to their families.

I hope that you never have to walk inside the doors of an ICU. It’s a scary place to be. Not many people have it in them to do what we do. To keep it together in times of adversity, to keep a level head, and then to use our skills to save a young life.

It’s humbling. And it’s also very grounding. It really puts things into perspective as to what is important in life.

I hope that you can keep all of these points in mind, and show us the respect that we deserve. Please do not take away our shift penalty rates.

Respectfully yours,

All of the diligent and deserving shift workers of Australia.

Australian banks milking customers on credit card rates

Australian banks will come under renewed pressure to reduce rates on credit cards after Reserve Bank research shows the industry is milking extra profits from customers.

The average interest rates on standard credit cards have soared.

The Reserve Bank this week confirmed that banks and other financial institutions are gouging millions from Australian credit card holders.

In its submission to the Senate inquiry into credit card interest rates, the RBA asserts that as the banks’ funding costs have declined since the global financial crisis, the average interest rates on standard credit cards have soared.

“Advertised rates on standard and lower-rate cards have been quite sticky in recent years, despite significant falls in funding costs,” the RBA stated in the submission.

“Spreads on advertised credit card interests rates over funding costs increased during the global financial crisis and have remained at that level or drifted modestly higher since then.”

In plain English, the RBA found that banks are enjoying fatter margins on credit card lending because they have not passed on official rate cuts to borrowers.

The RBA also found that the banks’ total loss rate on credit card lending has been falling since 2013 to 2.5 per cent from above three per cent.

So, even though the total cost of managing their credit card businesses has plummeted, none of the major banks have passed on rate relief to most of the country’s 15 million credit card holders.

Banks have snookered themselves

The RBA’s findings appear damning for the major banks and are likely to embolden members of the Senate inquiry to recommend the government take some form of action to restore price competition in the credit cards market.

As the accompanying chart shows, the banks are claiming profits of up to nine per cent on every dollar that they lend to credit card customers.


The chart (right) shows that the difference between the banks’ funding costs on credit cards and the rates they charge is about nine per cent.

Arguments stumped up by the Australian Bankers’ Association in the last month that the local credit card market is competitive, simply don’t stack up when one examines the failure of lenders to pass on sustained cost reductions to customers.

Earlier this month the ABA’s director of industry policy Tony Pearson tried to argue that the widening margins between funding credit cards and the interest rates charged were justified.

“Since the global financial crisis, banks have had to re-price risk in response to the increased volatility in financial markets,” he said.

“Accordingly, we have seen the gap widen between the cash rate and advertised interest rates on a range of household lending products – not only credit cards, but also mortgages, personal loans and some deposit products.”

This argument defies almost every law of a properly functioning market.

The ABA seems to be using the global financial crisis of seven years ago to explain why credit card rates rose in the last two years.

This is misleading because the default risks on all forms of lending have reduced significantly since 2008.

And this is borne out in the RBA’s research, which shows that the average loss rate incurred by banks on credit card lending has fallen consistently in the last two years.

Fewer borrowers are defaulting, funding costs are lower, but credit card rates keep rising.

It makes no sense.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

AMWU: Save Australia's Rail Industry and Rail Jobs!

Australia wide, state governments are in the process of buying over $10 billion worth of new trains, locomotives, and freight cars.  

In every state except Victoria, those billions are being spent supporting the Indian, Korean, Chinese, and United States rail industries, not Australian rail jobs.

In Victoria, the Andrews Labor Government announced a plan for Australian rail jobs:
  • 900 train carriages and 240 trams built in Victoria
  • $2 billion local investment
  • 50% minimum local content
Imagine how internationally competitive our rail industry could be if State Governments followed Victoria’s example and abandoned their ad-hoc approach to the purchase of Australia’s future public transport and rail freight requirements.

Imagine the positive impact on Australia’s record unemployment if the $3 billion of your tax dollars was invested in our local jobs and industry. 

Sign the Petition to Save Rail Jobs

CFMEU: Royal Commission ... Honestly

Labor to ask governor general to close union inquiry over Dyson Heydon row

Senate support sought for extraordinary motion calling on Peter Cosgrove to terminate inquiry after commissioner accepted an invitation to speak at a Liberal party fundraiser

Labor has given notice that it will seek Senate support for an extraordinary motion calling on the governor general, Peter Cosgrove, to terminate the royal commission into trade unions because of the dispute over the commissioner, Dyson Heydon.

The party - which remains furious about the dismissal of the Whitlam government by the then governor general, John Kerr, in 1975 - insists it is within the Senate’s power to convey the request, and it would be up to Cosgrove to consider how to handle it.

If the majority of senators agree to the motion, the Senate would send a message to Cosgrove saying that Heydon “by his conduct in accepting an invitation to speak at a function raising campaign funds for the Liberal party of Australia (New South Wales Division) has failed to uphold the standards of impartiality expected of a holder of the office of royal commissioner”.

“Accordingly we respectfully request Your Excellency to revoke the letters patent issued to the Honourable John Dyson Heydon AC QC,” the proposed motion states.

The practical effect of revoking the letters patent, in absence of any other action, would be an end to the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption.

But Labor insists its motion is focused on Heydon and does not preclude the government from taking other steps to continue an inquiry into unions. One option suggested by the human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC is the appointment of a new commissioner who could consider evidence already given.

When's a political fundraiser not a fundraiser? When it doesn't raise much

Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, gave notice on Tuesday that she intended to move the motion on the following sitting day, Wednesday, although she has kept open the option of delaying the push until after a potential hearing on Friday. Heydon has given unions until Thursday to lodge submissions on whether they were formally asking him to stand aside, which he would consider on Friday.

AMWU: Time to End Royal Commission Farce

Paul Bastian - National Secretary

It’s now clear that the Abbott Government must immediately disband its Royal Commission into Trade Unions, after revelations that Commissioner Justice Dyson Heydon has continued to dally with the Liberal Party.

Any credibility this union witch hunt might have had with the public is now laid bare for the truth – an inquiry that exists solely to attempt to discredit the union movement – the strongest force in Australia against the Prime Minister.

The arrangement for the Royal Commissioner to speak at a Liberal Party legal dinner fundraiser has exposed the commission to ridicule and clear bias against the movement from the start.

Since it began we have said that the Commission was an unnecessary, taxpayer-funded hunt into the PM’s enemies. Union members and the general public have had enough - $80 million in taxpayers money has already been wasted.

Justice Heydon has left himself open to the claims of political bias, which by any standard - including his own - would undermine public trust in the Royal Commission and discredit its findings.

Nothing that the Commission says or does can ever be taken seriously - or believed to be impartial.

We’ve always believed that the Commission was conceived by Tony Abbott as part of a wider attack strategy on unions, to divert officials and to try to weaken our ability to improve wages, conditions and jobs for working people.

It’s even clearer now that this is the case.

If Mr Abbott fails to terminate the Commission it will be yet another instance where he has defied the community’s expectation of the leadership a Prime Minister is expected to show.

Much of the Commission’s work has been a political show trial, particularly the lengthy and inconclusive interrogation of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

And there is no excuse for the continual leaking of Commission evidence, exposing union officials to trial by media, full of accusations days before they had the opportunity to defend themselves in the witness box.

The fact Justice Heydon’s office was in contact with Liberal Party apparatchiks over this engagement is in itself enough to put in doubt the public’s perception of his neutrality and his judgement.

It’s time to end this farce of a Royal Commission immediately.

Power companies spend almost $5 million to attack workers

ETU: 03-8-2015

Disclosures by NSW Government-owned electricity network companies have revealed almost five million dollars was spent in just four years to hire external law firms and private investigators to attack their workforces over disciplinary and industrial matters.

Documents released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act revealed Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid spent $4,604,703 on external legal services between 2010 and 2014.

An additional $223,832 was spent on private investigators in 2014, with Essential Energy revealing that more than 90 per cent of their spending on these services involved workers being investigated for “alleged non-compliances” with the company’s code of conduct.

The GIPA documents showed Ausgrid had spent $1,276,013 on industrial matters, $181,673 on disciplinary matters, and $40,569.20 on private investigators. Essential Energy paid $1,457,824 for industrial matters, $21,398 for disciplinary, and $67,847 for private investigators. And Endeavour Energy reported $1,420,000 for industrial matters, $150,000 for disciplinary matters, and $48,149 for private investigators.

Representative from the Electrical Trades Union and the United Services Union said it was outrageous that millions of dollars in public money, that came directly from consumers, had been spent by the management teams at the four public companies to attack their own workforces.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler also highlighted the vast difference between the amount spent by the four companies, with those under the control of Networks NSW chief executive Vince Graham spending on average nine times as much to attack workers and unions.

“Networks NSW have been crying poor in recent months, announcing that 2,800 jobs at Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy need to be slashed,” Mr Butler said.

“What they haven’t revealed is that they were able to find more than a million dollars a year to spend on external law firms and private investigators solely to attack the hard working men and women who maintain our electricity network and respond during natural disasters.

“Transgrid, who announced no job losses following the determination of the Australian Energy Regulator, has also been shown to have far more modest spending habits compared to the remaining three electricity network companies who are currently slashing jobs.”

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said it was particularly concerning to discover that in addition to the large amounts spent attacking workers and their conditions, private investigators had been recruited to spy on employees without any disclosure.

“Last year alone, nearly a quarter of a million dollars in public money was handed over to private investigators so they would spy on the hard-working employees of these four companies,” Mr McNamara said.

“The fact that such large sums were involved, and the spending was spread across all four companies, shows this approach has become common practice among management teams at war with their own staff.

“The NSW Government tries to blame workers for electricity prices, but what they don’t tell consumers is that millions of dollars from their power bills have been poured into the pockets of large law firms and private investigators.

“This kind of behaviour may be commonplace in communist North Korea, but it is not acceptable in NSW, where committed workers dedicate their working lives to serving the public by ensuring they have a safe, reliable and affordable electricity supply.”

CFMEU: Unpopular China Free Trade Agreement

Plans to undertake a taxpayer funded advertising campaign on the China Australia Free Trade Agreement highlight the failure of the Abbott Government to sell its own policies to the Australian people.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said no amount of advertising spin would change the unpopular anti-worker provisions in the Agreement.

“The crisis-ridden Abbott Government has failed to sell its own policies. It will now waste more taxpayers' money on an expensive advertising campaign to try and tell the Australian public that black is white,” CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said

“If the China Free Trade Agreement was good for Australian workers, the Abbott Government would have had no problem in getting that message across.

“They've already wasted $80 million of taxpayers' money on a now-proven partisan Royal Commission.

“Having failed to convince Australian workers that the China Free Trade Agreement is good for them, they want to spend even more on spin.

“An ad campaign would almost certainly be a waste of public money - our polling shows that voters in key marginal seats hate the China Free Agreement.

“No amount of advertising will change the anti-worker provisions in the Agreement - they need to remove them if they want to win the public back over.”

Under the China Free Trade Agreement, Chinese companies will be able to bring in their own workers on projects worth as little as $150 million (down from $2 billion), a move that will lock qualified Australian workers out of many construction and mining projects.

The Agreement will also allow Chinese companies to bring in semi-skilled workers for the first time – a completely unjustifiable change when there are now more than 800,000 Australians unemployed – the first time it has reached this number since 1994.

“This Free Trade Agreement is unprecedented and with unemployment at highest levels since 2002, it is completely unjustified.”

MUA takes Special Purpose Visas to High Court

The High Court today agreed to hear the case involving the Abbott Government’s use of visas for cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector that are normally reserved for royal guests and overseas dignitaries.

In a hearing in Sydney, Her Honour Justice Bell accepted the argument that the case is important and therefore should be kept in the High Court.

‘In light of the importance of the matter the court will not be remitting the case to the Federal Court,’ Justice Bell told the hearing.

Thousands of Australian jobs in the offshore oil and gas sector are being threatened by the Federal Government’s sneaky means of issuing Special Purpose Visas to cheap overseas labourers.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash has used Ministerial discretion to issue the visas, usually reserved for top dignitaries including the royal family and military attaches.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) have taken the Federal Government to the High Court to challenge the use of the visas.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said Justice Bell had outlined a further directions hearing in Canberra in seven weeks time ahead of a trial anticipated to take place early next year.

“A similar case has already been heard by the full Federal Court and the MUA thinks the High Court is the appropriate jurisdiction,” Mr Tracey said.

“Justice Bell’s acceptance of the MUA’s argument for the case to be heard in the High Court is an important first step.

“The Abbott Government has already been defeated in the Senate and the full Federal Court and it simply beggars belief that they continue to try to deny Australian workers the capacity to work in their own country.

“These Special Purpose Visas have always been NON-WORK visas simply for visiting dignitaries.

“To use them in this underhand way as work visas in the offshore oil and gas industry again displays the Abbott Government’s contempt for hardworking Australians doing the heavy lifting in the country’s lucrative resources sector.

“Yet these hugely profitable companies are looking to import cheap workers, who don’t have to pay tax in Australia and with no security checks or Australian-approved skill sets.”

- See more

Sharing Our Gonski Stories - Blue Mountains

WHEN September 01, 2015 at 6pm - 8pm
WHERE Mavis Wood Hall, Lawson
7 New St
Lawson, NSW 2783


Michelle Barlow
0419 319 371

Please join us to celebrate the achievements of our public schools as we look in more depth at the programs and initiatives made possible because of the Gonski school funding reforms. Hear from local Principals, teachers and parents about the difference Gonski is making for our students.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Climate Change Authority issues blistering rebuke to Abbott government

August 15, 2015

Labor's proposed emissions trading scheme does not equate to a new carbon tax and the Abbott government assertion that its emissions cuts are akin to the United States are incorrect, according to the government's own climate change advisers.
Climate Change Authority chair Bernie Fraser issued the strong statement late on Friday, responding to the government's post-2020 emissions targets announced this week.

The government intends to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere by 26-28 per cent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament that Australia's target compares well with other developed countries and was "the same as the United States", despite that nation promising to meet its cuts five years earlier. He stood by the comments after Labor called on him to apologise.

Mr Fraser said Australia's targets put the nation "at or near the bottom" of comparable countries.

A table showed Australia was well behind Britain, who will seek 61 per cent cuts in the same period, and below the United States, which will pursue cuts of 35-39 per cent.

Mr Fraser said all nations had a lot of work to do to keep global warming below two degrees. On the basis of the government's current targets, Australia "would slip further behind the efforts being made by comparable countries and likely face large catch-up adjustments down the track," he said.

The government has said Australia keeps its commitments to emissions cuts while other nations make "airy-fairy promises that never come to anything".

Mr Fraser said in relation to the Kyoto protocol, all nations except the US and Canada, which never agreed to the protocol, met their targets in the first commitment period.

Labor has announced plans to implement an emissions trading scheme if it wins power, as well as other schemes affecting the power industry and vehicles.

Mr Abbott said it showed Labor had plans for a "triple whammy" carbon tax.

Mr Fraser said ETS proponents were "criticised by government members" every time the idea surfaced, adding an ETS was "not [a tax] in substantial respects".

News Corp has reported that official modelling showed the more ambitious emissions cut the authority called for - 40-60 per cent by 2030, based on 2000 levels - would deliver a $600 billion hit to the economy.

The government seized on the figure and claimed Labor has aligned itself with this target, although Labor rejected this.

Mr Fraser said claims the target would cost $600 billion were "incorrect" and did not reflect the findings of Treasury modelling.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt insisted the figure was accurate.

He said it was "clear" Labor planned to adopt the authority's emissions target, which would be "devastating ... for Australian families and the economy".