Friday, January 29, 2016

Cairns: Support for 36 Australian crew of the Hugli Spirit

The Australian crew has been told that once the ship arrives it will be retired from service and they will be flown home, replaced with a foreign crew.

A political protest rally at berth 10 Cairns Port in support of the 36 Australian crew of the Hugli Spirit, who are being replaced by foreign crew on as little as $2 an hour. Defiant crew members disembark the Hugli Spirit to talk to supporters and media.

Maritime Union of Australia Queensland secretary Mick Carr said the company’s decision is not just a threat to the job security of the Hugli Spirit’s 36 crew members, but a potential threat to our economy and national security.

“We’ve only got three weeks supply of fuel in this country and that petrol, aviation fuel and diesel – it’s critical to running the country,” he said.

“The ongoing closure of refineries around Australia means we’re already 90 per cent reliant on imports and with the possible closure of Queensland’s two remaining refineries in the near future we could be 100 per cent reliant.

“More than half of Australia’s fuel comes through the Straits of Hormuz to Singapore and then through the narrow Straits of Malacca, an area already notorious for its piracy.

“You only need a polluted cargo to come here, you don’t necessarily need a direct act of terrorism, just the polluted fuel to come here and go into someone’s aircraft and that’s as good as terrorism.”

About 20 unionists met the crew at the wharves yesterday.

South Korea trade unionists holed up in offices


Lee Youngjoo has not left her Seoul trade union offices for several weeks. If she does, she is afraid she will be arrested and put in prison like her colleague, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) president, Han Sang-gyun.

Instead she eats, sleeps and lives there while her family must travel to the offices to see her, so tells IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle who met Youngjoo in the KCTU offices last week. Youngjoo’s fellow trade unionists are also holed up in the offices.

Kemperle also visited Han Sang-gyun in prison during the IndustriALL solidarity mission to South Korea. Sang-gyun is accused of organizing illegal rallies and has been indicted with eight charges of the Criminal Code and the law on assembly and demonstration.

Sang-gyun became a target after thousands of people took to the streets of Seoul on 14 November protesting against proposed labour reform that would make it easier to fire workers.

After the rally, Sang-gyun took refuge in the Jogye Temple until he finally surrendered to police on 10 December.

“Han remains strong,” said Kemperle, who told how ten minutes into their meeting, loud music was played over a speaker making it almost impossible to talk. “We were not left alone and our entire conversation was written down and recorded.”

The KCTU strongly refutes the charges against Sang-gyun:

"The police and prosecution jointly attempted to demonize the KCTU as a mob of rioters. Such malicious attempts will not succeed and the KCTU will continue its fight against the government to protect the nation's 20 million workers' basic right to live.”

The 14 November rally also prompted police to raid the offices of KCTU as well as those of IndustriALL affiliate, the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU), where they seized computers and other documents.

At least 16 trade unionists are being held in detention and more than 400 have been investigated by police in South Korea as the government intensifies its crackdown. Police have reportedly been investigating a total of over 1,000 unionists.

In another downward development, a Korean court ruled this month that it was illegal for a teachers’ union affiliated to the KCTU to defend dismissed workers, therefore criminalizing a fundamental role of unions.

While in Korea, Monika Kemperle addressed a rally of 5,000 people in Seoul, organized by KCTU and other trade unions on Saturday 23 January.

“Desperate attempts by authorities to silence workers will not work. The brave trade unionists in South Korea refuse to be cowered by political persecution. The South Korean government must listen to its people and stop the suppression of democratic freedoms,” said Kemperle.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

NSWTF: Labor to "Deliver the Gonski reforms on-time and in-full"

The NSW Teachers Federation welcomes Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten's announcement that a Labor Government will "deliver the Gonski reforms on-time and in-full", President Maurie Mulheron said today.

Mr Shorten has announced an additional $4.5 billion for the nation's schools for 2018 and 2019 and a total provision of $37.3 billion for the package over a decade.

Mr Mulheron called on the Turnbull Government to match Labor's policy or better it.

"The Gonski-funded programs have been making a significant difference to the lives of NSW children," he said.

"Fully funding the Gonski model will ensure these programs will continue to improve students' educational outcomes into the future."

"This is not a cost; it's an investment in Australia's future," Mr Mulheron also said.

NSW Secondary Principals' Council President Lila Mularczyk said long term needs-based funding was crucial.

She said data and narratives show greater improvements in students' outcome since Gonski funding began flowing into schools, enabling schools to better meet students' individual needs.

Mr Mulheron said the NSW Premier Mike Baird and NSW Department of Education Secretary Michele Bruniges have championed the positive impact of Gonski funds.

He called on NSW Premier Mike Baird to put pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to fully fund the Gonski model.

Mr Mulheron said Gonski needs-based funding would be a federal election issue and called on Federation members to contact their federal MP to seek support for the full implementation of the six-year Gonski agreement.

Labor also plans to "properly fund" the Gonski disability loading from 2017 and implement the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry into the Education and Attainment of Students with Disability.

Women pay inequality global report

Although they make up 40 percent of the average company's workforce, women represent only 33 percent of managers and 26 percent of senior managers. Even fewer, 20 percent, have risen to the executive level because companies are slow to build talent pipelines to promote diversity.

The report by consulting firm Mercer, billed as the largest and most comprehensive research of its kind, showed there are still roadblocks preventing women gaining full equality in the workplace, despite advances over the past several decades.

"At this pace and rate of change globally, we won't see any form of gender equality in the workforce till 2050," said Mercer's Patricia A. Milligan after the report was released on Wednesday.

She described the under-representation of women as "an economic and social travesty" that will continue if companies do not take action.

"We won't see any form of real pay equity in our lifetime," Milligan, Mercer's global leader, multinational client group, added in an interview.

The report, which covers 583 organizations representing 3.2 million employees in 42 countries, showed the number of women in jobs declines as the career level rises.

Women are 1.5 times more likely than men to be hired at the executive level, but they are leaving at 1.3 times the rate of men.

"Simply bringing them in at the executive lever without looking at the talent pipeline is not a sustainable strategy," Milligan explained.

Forty percent of organizations in the United States and Canada offer pay equity remediation processes, compared to 34 percent globally, a quarter in Asia and 29 percent in Europe. But Mercer's When Women Thrive report showed progress has stalled with no improvements in the pay issue since 2014.

"Less than 30 percent of organizations routinely review performance ratings by gender to check for disparities that translate into difference in opportunities for men and women," the report said.
The United States and Canada ranked first with 14 percent of organizations offering women-focused retirement and savings programs, compared to only nine percent globally.

The report predicts Latin America is the only region expected to nearly reach equal gender representation in the workforce, rising from 36 percent in 2015 to 49 percent by 2025, followed by Australia and New Zealand, the United States and Canada with 40 percent of less.

Asia is projected to have the lowest representation of women in the workforce in a decade with 28 percent.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Plastics pollution wraps the globe

Humans have made enough plastic since the second world war to coat the Earth entirely in clingfilm, an international study has revealed. This ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming, say scientists – for it confirms that human activities are now having a pernicious impact on our world.

The research, published in the journal Anthropocene, shows that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste. Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps. The impact is often highly damaging.

“The results came as a real surprise,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, of Leicester University. “We were aware that humans have been making increasing amounts of different kinds of plastic – from Bakelite to polyethylene bags to PVC – over the last 70 years, but we had no idea how far it had travelled round the planet. It turns out not just to have floated across the oceans, but has sunk to the deepest parts of the sea floor. This is not a sign that our planet is in a healthy condition either.”

The crucial point about the study’s findings is that the appearance of plastic should now be considered as a marker for a new epoch. Zalasiewicz is the chairman of a group of geologists assessing whether or not humanity’s activities have tipped the planet into a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, which ended the Holocene that began around 12,000 years ago.

Most members of Zalasiewicz’s committee believe the Anthropocene has begun and this month published a paper in Sciencein which they argued that several postwar human activities show our species is altering geology. In particular, radioactive isotopes released by atom bombs left a powerful signal in the ground that will tell future civilisations that something strange was going on.

In addition, increasing carbon dioxide in the oceans, the massive manufacture of concrete and the widespread use of aluminium were also highlighted as factors that indicate the birth of the Anthropocene. Lesser environmental impacts, including the rising use of plastics, were also mentioned in passing.

But Zalasiewicz argues that the humble plastic bag and plastic drink container play a far greater role in changing the planet than has been realised. “Just consider the fish in the sea,” he said. “A vast proportion of them now have plastic in them. They think it is food and eat it, just as seabirds feed plastic to their chicks. Then some of it is released as excrement and ends up sinking on to the seabed. The planet is slowly being covered in plastic.” In total, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is manufactured every year, states the paper, The Geological Cycle of Plastics and Their Use as a Stratigraphic Indicator of the Anthropocene.

“In 1950, we virtually made none at all. It is an incredible rise,” added Zalasiewicz. “That annual total of 300 million tonnes is close to the weight of the entire human population of the planet. And the figure for plastic manufacture is only going to grow. The total amount of plastic produced since the second world war is around 5 billion tonnes and is very likely to reach 30 billion by the end of the century. The impact will be colossal.”

IQ2 Racism Debate: Stan Grant – The Australian Dream

Published on 19 Jan 2016

Is Australia really a multicultural safe haven of equal opportunity? Or is racism more prevalent than ever before? Stan Grant took to the stage for the last IQ2 debate of 2015. His speech is widely acknowledged to be one of the most powerful ever heard at IQ2.

Michael Moore Petition – Hold Gov. Synder accountable for poisoning Flint children

What's happening in Flint, Michigan, is disastrous—and it's personal for me: Flint is my hometown and the community at the forefront of my first major documentary film "Roger & Me." 

Gov. Synder violated the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations by cutting off clean drinking water to the city of Flint—impacting more than 100,000 people. Instead of safe, clean drinking water, the people of Flint had polluted water piped into their homes from the Flint River—water that was then contaminated with lead.

He said he did this to "cut costs". He knew he could get away with it because Flint is one of the poorest towns in the country.

There is no way to totally reverse the effects of lead in a child’s blood stream. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe blood level of lead for children.

The children of Flint, already among the poorest in the U.S., will now have to endure a life of pain, irreversible brain damage, and lower IQs because of Gov. Snyder’s actions and the ensuing cover up.

Justice must be served—and other elected officials must be put on notice that people’s lives are more important than balancing a budget.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

CPSU: Restore ABC funding - serve the Australian community.

JAN 21, 2016

The Community and Public Sector Union is urging the Federal Government to restore ABC funding to an acceptable level so the broadcaster can properly serve the Australian community.

The CPSU, in conjunction with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), has today launched a community campaign in support of the current triennial funding negotiations that will determine the ABC’s funding over the next three years.

The campaign urges all Australians to write to their local Member of Parliament demanding that recent cuts to the ABC are reversed and that the broadcaster is properly funded to reflect the values and spirit of Australia to make and provide distinctive local and specialist content in news, current affairs, drama, comedy and music.

CPSU ABC Section Secretary Sinddy Ealy said: “The ABC’s funding has been in decline in real terms for more than 30 years, but that damage has accelerated as the current Government has stripped $254 million in much needed funding.”

“The Government’s recent cuts have meant the loss of 400 jobs and irreplaceable experience and expertise from the ABC, with at least 100 more positions still on the chopping block.”

“The ABC has been further stretched providing the digital services that Australians now expect and demand, such as iview. The more popular and successful ABC content is on iview, the more it actually costs the ABC to provide it.”

“It’s time for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Government to recognise the importance of the ABC to all Australians and start to repair the damage they’ve caused. More funding is needed across the board, but particularly in regional and rural Australia where the ABC plays an even more important role.”

Other lost ABC services in the wake of the Government’s recent funding cuts include:

  • The closure of ABC’s TV production unit in Adelaide.
  • The axing of local state-based editions of the 7.30 program.
  • A reduction in the number of live recordings by Classic FM.
  • The axing of morning programs on all ABC regional radio stations.

In 2013 outgoing ABC Managing Director Mark Scott revealed the ABC’s funding had declined in real terms by 23% since 1985, as successive funding agreements have not kept pace with inflation.

For more information on the campaign and on how to get involved, go to or visit the Hands Off Our ABC Facebook page

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Japan: Buying votes in Okinawa

Japan's government is pulling out all the stops to ensure a candidate backed by the ruling party wins an mayoral election in the Okinawan city hosting a U.S. airbase whose planned move elsewhere on the island has set Tokyo and Okinawa at odds.

To help the incumbent's chances at Sunday's poll, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has dangled prospects of a bigger budget for Okinawa, backing for a Disney resort and aid for impoverished children in Japan's second-poorest prefecture.

Defeat would galvanise resistance to moving the Futenma base to the less populated Henoko area as agreed with the United States two decades ago.
The opposition candidate in Ginowan, like Okinawa's governor and many island voters, resents hosting the majority of U.S. troops in Japan and wants the base off Okinawa altogether.

The controversy poses headaches for Abe, six months ahead of elections for Japan's upper house, as close U.S.-Japan ties are regarded as crucial given China's increasing assertiveness in the region and North Korea's unpredictability.
"The central government always just talks about security and the U.S.-Japan alliance, giving the sense they aren't thinking seriously about Okinawa's benefit," said Tomoaki Iwai, a law professor at Nihon University in Tokyo.
"There is a sense of money being used as a sweetener."

Tokyo said in December it would boost Okinawa's budget by
1 billion yen ($8.5 million) to 335 billion for the fiscal year starting in April, having cut it last year in reaction to the election of anti-base governor Takeshi Onaga.
Ginowan's mayor, Atsushi Sakima, has played up his ties to Abe's government, and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has sent Shinjiro Koizumi, a telegenic lawmaker who is popular with unaffiliated voters, to campaign for him, along with the cabinet minister for Okinawa.
"The incumbent appears in the lead, but his opponent is catching up ... There is some doubt about whether the government-offered 'services' are helping," said Katsuhiko Nakamura, executive director at Asia Forum Japan, a think tank.

If the LDP's favoured candidate does hold onto the mayorship in Ginowan, it won't remove all the hurdles to relocating the base.

"I don't think if the incumbent wins that it is a vote of support for the Henoko relocation, it is just a vote in favour of getting rid of the base and getting a Disneyland in its place," said Gerry Curtis, Burgess Professor Emeritus at Columbia University.

"But if the opposition wins it is a huge defeat for Abe."

SBS: resource website live

SBS has launched a new online education hub, which houses free educational resources while providing a unique platform for teachers, schools and students to share in their classroom creativity.
The free, curriculum-aligned material on the SBS Learn website informs and expands on SBS content and is easily accessible to both students and teachers.

Key SBS Learn projects currently featured on the website include: Go Back To Where You Came From school packs, The Boat interactive graphic novel and First Contact learning resources.
SBS chief content officer Helen Kellie said: “SBS’s purpose is to inspire all Australians to explore, appreciate and celebrate our diverse world... The website closely integrates with social media, giving students the opportunity to discuss, share and actively participate in activities to support their learning.”

To celebrate the launch of SBS Learn, SBS developed the School Selfie photography resource with the Australian Centre for Photography, which is available online to all Australian schools. Schools were invited to apply to be part of the School Selfie project by telling SBS about their school community and what makes it unique. The four diverse, unique and remarkable high school communities that were chosen to take part in an engaging on-site mobile phone photography workshop led by Australian Centre for Photography educators were Bourke High School, Longreach State High School (Queensland), Hunter River High School (Raymond Terrace, NSW) and Murray High School (Albury, NSW).

The exhibition of works produced by students during the School Selfie workshops held at these schools, as well as photographs by acclaimed documentary photographer Marco Bok who visited the schools, was held at the Australian Centre for Photography, 257 Oxford Street, Paddington, NSW.
While these schools had ACP educators running their sessions, the School Selfie resource is an easy-to-follow mobile phone or tablet photography workshop encouraging students to reflect on, and celebrate their school. Students learn how to apply photographic techniques to produce a series of images that visually represent what makes their school unique.

The SBS Learn website will continue to add to expand over coming weeks and months including the English and history schools pack to accompany the Walkley award-winning online documentary Cronulla Riots: The Day That Shocked the Nation.

SMH: Underperformance of Bank-owned Super

Industry Super Australia chief executive David Whiteley said the data "highlighted the ongoing underperformance of bank-owned super funds". 

"The average difference in performance could translate into a difference of many thousands of dollars in Australians' retirement savings," he said. 

Separate research released by SuperRatings on Wednesday supported the Chant West data on the relative outperformance of industry funds versus retail funds.

A continued strong showing for the industry fund sector comes at time when it is pushing back against a raft of proposed legislation that would re-shape how it operates.

The government wants to break the "equal representation" model, that sees industry fund boards typically comprised of half employer and half union representatives, by forcing all super funds to appoint one third of independent directors and an independent chair.

The Productivity Commission has also been charged with a review of how default super funds are selected, with the government pushing for the $430 billion a year market to be opened up to more competition from retail funds.

Industry Super Australia and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees have led a campaign against the raft of changes arguing that non-profit funds should not be the focus of reforms when they have delivered superior long-term financial results and been relatively free of scandals that have plagued some of their retail rivals such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and IOOF Holdings. 

Diversification pays off

Overall super fund returns for 2015 were the lowest in four years, but they beat expectations amid tough market conditions.

A preliminary estimate released by Chant West last week had pitched the average annual return to be just 4 per cent.

Some super funds have warned their members in recent months that meeting their long term targets could prove difficult in the coming years against a global backdrop of weakening economic growth forecasts and rising interest rates.

"While the 2015 average return of 5.8 per cent is lower than the 12.7 per cent average over the previous three years members shouldn't be disappointed," Mr Chant said. 

"The typical longer-term return objective for these funds is to beat inflation by 3 per cent to 4 per cent per annum, and with the inflation figure likely to come in well under 2 per cent for the year they've pretty much hit that target." 

Chant West's analysis of the asset allocation of funds indicated that diversification into unlisted assets typically led to stronger returns.

"The better performing funds in 2015 were generally those that maintained a relatively high exposure to foreign currency (as the Aussie dollar fell),  Australian listed property, unlisted property, unlisted infrastructure and private equity, and a lower exposure to Australian shares, hedged international shares, the broader bond market, hedge funds and cash," Mr Chant said. 

This comes amid a debate about the relative importants of fees versus net returns, sparked by the 2014 Financial Services Inquiry that called on super funds to lower average fees.

Unlisted assets - such as private equity, infrastructure and private equity - are more expensive for super funds to hold. However these make for a more diversified portfolio and, as with MTAA's windfall on the sale of its petrol stations shows, can sometimes deliver a big boost to returns.

Read more:

ACTU: Coalition attacks training funds, axes Gonski and cuts TAFE funding

By the Working Life Team
Follow @thisworkinglife

Thursday, 21 January 2016
A GROWING number of workers are struggling with spelling and simple arithmetic, a new study has revealed.

The study, from the Australian Industry Group (AIG), titled Tackling Foundation Skills in the Workforce,  found many employees  can’t do simple sums, calculate orders,  type on a computer or give clear ­directions.

Unions warn the trend will get worse as the Coalition attacks training funds, axes Gonski and cuts TAFE funding.

Under the landmark Gonski review every child is guaranteed.a decent education from a fair, equitable and efficient school system.  Funding began in 2014, after it was revealed many children were missing out on an education due to a lack of resources.

Now, the Coalition is abandoning the programme.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver, a TAFE graduate himself,  says the new study highlights the need for decent education and training services.

Meanwhile,   leading business figures say falling  literacy and numeracy skills among Australian workers is a threat to economic growth and competition.

And as Aussie workers struggle, Mr Oliver pointed out the English aptitude test for foreign staff  seeking temporary 457 working visas has been lowered.

Instead, the Coalition should make sure all Australians have access to a good education, he said.

Labor said TAFE must be protected, not decimated.

“TAFE can’t operate without secure funding,” said Labor’s skills spokesman David Harris.

And the growing trend of staff unable to carry out simple maths or spelling tasks has bosses worried.

AI Group chief executive Innes Willox (pictured) said  the new report shows the importance of proper education for workers.

He called on the Turnbull Government to urgently address these failings, as the need for highly educated workers became more crucial, with a growing demand for  high-skilled occupations.

“These results indicate a deepening concern about the level of foundation skills in the workforce and a continuing drag on the nation’s productivity,” Mr  Willox said.

“As Australia continues to evolve towards the digital economy, increasingly more sophisticated skills within the workforce are required.

“The rapid expansion of ICT skills and technological advancement is changing the nature of employment. Occupations with highly-educated workers are expanding much more rapidly than other occupations. So the mastery of literacy and numeracy is increasingly more important to meet the challenges of this evolving economy.”

As well as the new study,  an international report has shown 44 per cent of Australians have literacy ­proficiency below a level set as the minimum to operate effectively in the workplace and ­society.

Numeracy was worse, with 55 per cent below the proficient level, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies found.

MUA: Government has questions to answer over sacked MV Portland crew

Thu 21/01/2016

For a Federal Government that extols the virtues of playing by the rules, Malcolm Turnbull’s administration has failed the basic political axiom of following its own advice and it may put at risk their legislative agenda.

At 1am on Wednesday last week, crew members aboard the Alcoa ship, the MV Portland, were taken from their bunks by up to 30 security guards and marched off the vessel.They had been sacked and replaced by overseas workers on as little as $2 an hour, paying no tax and working for international companies operating out of tax havens.

I know the Portland well – I was a seafarer in my twenties on its maiden voyage from Korea to Australia.

The ship was the first training vessel for the new ‘integrated rating qualification’ which meant non-officers and engineers on the ship were multiskilled and provided part of the basis for the revitalisation of Australian shipping by dramatically cutting the number and cost of an Australian ship’s crew. The ship was built by Alcoa. To this day, I hold “IR ticket 001”. I can vividly imagine the fear and surprise the crew would have felt when men dressed in black invaded their small rooms and threw them out. They were handed a letter by the ship’s captain but had no time to read it, nor assess whether it was given under duress. The crew at one stage thought they could be under terrorist attack.

The move is of questionable legality, including extreme bullying and harassment and that will be tested in coming months. This is an Australian workplace by any definition. The ship never leaves Australian territory.

There are plenty of questions for the Government here. How did the foreign crew gain permission to enter the country and sail the vessel once the Australian crew was unloaded? Where were the new crew from? What security and criminal checks do they have? What visa are they on?

Perhaps even more seminal, has the Federal Government really changed since the infamous waterfront dispute in 1998 when security guards were sent into the Patrick’s docks in the dead of night to forcibly remove an Australian workforce?

As you would expect in a dispute which went for two months, the MV Portland dispute was subject to Fair Work Commission hearings and Federal Court proceedings. The Federal Court never found against the union.

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash said during the dispute that it’s not up to industrial parties to pick and choose which decisions of the Fair Work Commission they will abide by. If not, the entire integrity of the system is put at risk.

OK then, let’s apply that logic to the Senate.

In October, the Government issued a license to Alcoa allowing them to engage a foreign crew on a domestic shipping route between Western Australia and Portland. Australia has cabotage laws which state that ships trading through domestic ports are to be Australian flagged and crewed.

The Senate voted in late November to oppose the Government’s attempt to change the relevantlegislation and retain cabotage laws because Labor, Greens and the crossbench are not prepared to send Aussie jobs offshore and open up a domestic transport mode to the security risk of unchecked foreign crews.

Sensible Senators know that we shouldn’t be promoting Flag-of-Convenience shipping, which is essentially a tax avoidance scam by registering your vessel in Liberia or Mongolia and then paying your workers as little as possible – if you pay them at all.

Besides, there is an ongoing Senate inquiry into Flag-of-Convenience shipping which is yet to report.

So by Minister Cash’s own logic, the Government should cancel the licence, right?

Apparently not.

While we’re on the subject of thumbing your nose at the Senate, Minister Cash has form. As Assistant Minister for Immigration, Ms Cash is the respondent in an upcoming High Court case.

The Gillard Government in 2013 passed the Offshore Resources Act, which offers labour market testing and appropriate protections for Australian workers in the offshore oil and gas sector.The Abbott Government’s regulations were subsequently disallowed by the Senate, so Ms Cash immediately made an obscure ministerial determination over the top.

The Federal Court later ruled the determination invalid, so the Minister narrowed the determination, effective immediately.

The matter is listed for the High Court on February 19 but possibly because they thought they would lose, the Government in December sneakily revoked the Ministerial Determination and Declaration and issued another effective that day.

All of this goes to the heart of whether Australian workers have fundamental entitlements to continue to work in their own country.

Multiple decisions of the Government have left many Australian seafarers in the precarious situation where they have no right at all to work in their own industry and employers can bring in any foreign labour they wish, at any rate of pay.

There is a pattern of behaviour here. Good governance is surely predicated on sitting down and dealing with the crossbench, unions and stakeholders on a productive and sustainable industry policy.

The Government’s ham-fisted approach has enraged many on the crossbench and rightly so as it marks a new low in parliamentary tactics and doesn’t exactly engender good will.

At an industry shipping forum today, which both Alcoa and the Government have declined to attend, committed industry stakeholders including three crossbenchers will be sitting around the table, trying to find a way forward to maintain an industry which has served us well.

It is counterintuitive for the Government to poke key Senators in the eye and maintain a ruthlessly partisan approach to matters requiring long-term political stability. The same goes for offshore visas.

Malcolm Turnbull said when he was appointed as Prime Minister that he would have a different approach to Tony Abbott in dealing with the crossbench, and indeed with the community. It seems not all of his ministers got that memo.

In the meantime, my old workplace, the MV Portland, sails into the night leaving its crew jobless and serious questions unanswered in its wake.

Paddy Crumlin is National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia

Scientists protest Japan whaling

In an open letter to the scientific journal Nature, 30 members of the 200-member scientific committee that advises the IWC have called for an urgent overhaul of the scientific process used by the commission to manage whale populations, describing the existing system as "a waste of time."

Andrew Brierley, a professor of marine biology at the University of St Andrews, is one of the authors of the letter and said the decision to publish was one borne of "frustration" at Japan's disregard of the commission's recommendations.

"Japan claims to have sincerely taken in account the view of the scientific committee and the view of the independent review panel, but in actual fact they haven't changed anything substantial in their scientific proposal," he said.

"[Japan] are going ahead to do what they set out originally to do regardless of any scientific opinion."

Japan suspended its annual whale hunt in 2014 after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that its whaling program — known as JARPA II — was not based in science and was therefore illegal.

Despite the ruling, Japan has designed a new whaling program, called NEWREP-A, which it submitted in November 2014 to the IWC's scientific committee for assessment.

The new research plan means that less whales will be killed, and that the hunt will take place over a larger area of the Southern Ocean.

Despite the revised scientific plan, the IWC's scientific committee found that there remained insufficient justification for killing whales in the name of science under the new program.

In December, Japan ignored that finding, with its whaling boats leaving port bound for the Southern Ocean with the aim of catching up to 333 minke whales.

'Japan is at liberty to do whatever they want'

Professor Brierley and his colleagues are calling for changes to be made at the IWC.

"Japan does not require the approval of the International Whaling Commission. All that Japan is required to do — or indeed that any country is required to do — is to present the proposal for consideration," he said.

2015 : Global Warming Record

Last year’s global average temperature was the hottest ever by the widest margin on record, two U.S. government agencies said on Wednesday, adding to pressure for deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts scientists say are needed to arrest warming that is disrupting the global climate.

Data from U.S. space agency NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that in 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 Celsius) above the 20th century average, surpassing 2014’s previous record by 0.29 F (0.16 C).
This was the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century, the agencies said in a summary of their annual report.

“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the larger, long-term warming trend,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The sharp increase in 2015 was driven in part by El Niño, a natural weather cycle in the Pacific that warms the ocean surface every two to seven years. But scientists say human activities – notably burning fossil fuels - were the main driver behind the rise.

"We would not have seen the record warming without the long-term trend,” Schmidt said.

The latest El Niño started in late 2015 and will last until spring 2016. It is among the strongest ever recorded but Schmidt and others say the weather phenomenon played just a supporting role in the earth's temperature rise.

The 2015 data underscores the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to hold temperature increases to well below 2 degrees C, the target agreed to by more than 190 countries at climate talks in Paris last December.

Schmidt said the fact that the world is now halfway to the U.N. goal has led many scientists to argue that even that target is too high and more stringent goals are needed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moir – the Morrison Effect

ANMF: Nurses will continue the fight to save Medicare in 2016

Wednesday 13th January, 2016

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) starts 2016 with a renewed campaign to save Australia’s successful system of universal healthcare after the MYEFO showed the Turnbull Government will slash $650 million from bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology services.

Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said the ANMF was extremely concerned about the impact of these Budget cuts, particularly for Australian women as they are forced to pay increased fees for critical preventative cancer checks, like PAP smears.

“It may be a new year, but the Government is up to its old tricks again,” Ms Thomas said today.

“After failing to impose a $7 GP tax for everyday health services, the Government continues to undermine Medicare by dramatically reducing the level of funding for bulk-billing incentives, this time for diagnostic and pathology services.

“Already, key health industry stakeholders like Pathology Australia have expressed concerns that bulk-billing rates will fall as patients are hit with upfront fees and higher out-of-pocket costs. The Minister herself all but confirmed this, after admitting in a recent media interview that ‘some may be worse off’.

“Most concerning is that these increased fees could result in patients deferring or declining essential, and in some cases such as PAP smears, life-saving tests.

“The ANMF is now calling on Health Minister Sussan Ley to come clean on exactly what these cuts will mean for women requiring their vital PAP smear screenings.

“As we know, Australians suffer some of the highest out of pocket medical expenses in the world and that’s why the Government can’t now slug us even more for these crucial, preventative, bulk-billed health checks.

“We welcome recent comments by the Opposition and Senators Lambie and Lazarus, who are committed to fighting the Government’s changes to bulk-billing incentives, through the Senate, to ensure that healthcare is affordable to all Australians, not only those who can pay for it.

“The Government is on notice: in 2016 the ANMF will campaign hard to protect Medicare as we know it.”

The ANMF, with close to 250,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ANMF media inquiries: 0411 254 390

Sign the petition to save Medicare and save lives: Keep vital testing free

ACTU: Rebuilding confidence in our public institutions

Rebuilding confidence in our public institutions: the need for a national corruption watchdog.

Opinion by ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver

First published in the Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 20 January, 2016

Sledging our political and public leaders is a favourite Australian pastime, but in recent years mistrust of government, political parties, corporate Australia and even some sections of the non-government sector has hit an all-time low.

Whether it be corruption uncovered in the Commonwealth Bank, corruption in the NSW Liberal Party which resulted in 10 MPs resigning from the Party, or corruption in our sports bodies, it seems to be everywhere we look.

The politicisation of public institutions such as the Royal Commission into trade unions only serves to reinforce this public sentiment. Partly because it highlighted a small number of individuals who have done the wrong thing, but equally because of the way the Commission was used by the Federal Government to pursue its own political agenda.

I suspect if you set up a Royal Commission into the any part of our society, you might find some examples of outrageous and terrible behaviour. Imagine what you might find in a Royal Commission into political parties, the finance sector or property development.

We are tired of seeing those in power trampling on workers and communities via corrupt business practices. That is why we need a permanent independent national body to investigate allegations of corruption across the board, wherever it hides.  Learning from the experiences of the NSW ICAC, a national independent body with the power to examine allegations of wrong doing in our political, business and social institutions will restore our faith in the governance of those institutions.

If we had a strong independent national corruption watchdog which was empowered to investigate sporting bodies we may not be seeing some of the scandals in recent times.

This approach stands in contrast to that of the former Abbott Government, which was to target organisations who opposed them while turning a blind eye to those who support them. Using a Royal Commission to interrogate trade union corruption did not address the need for high quality governance in all our institutions, it merely provided a vehicle for Tony Abbott to undermine his political opponents.

It was announced amid promises of improving outcomes for workers, but instead became a political witch-hunt. Initially planned to report in early 2015, it was extended to report at the start of an election year – red-flag. It was headed by Dyson Heydon – a known supporter of the Coalition, who accepted an invitation to be guest speaker at a Liberal party fundraiser. Big red-flag.

I’m appalled by the behaviour of rogue individuals in some labour organisations just as I’m appalled at what has happened in the banking sector and in the NSW Liberal Party. But with the extensive resources including a dedicated police force, access to all the records of unions, 500 witnesses, extensive phone tapping and looking at a period of over 30 years, the Royal Commission uncovered only a handful of individuals.

The fact that a Royal Commission supposedly about stamping out corruption has recommended that union officials lawfully on site to investigate safety breaches can be removed by government officials – for no reason – says a lot about the real agenda of the Commission.

The Government knows it will face stiff opposition from unions again on its plans to attack penalty rates and rights at work. So it was no coincidence that days before the Royal Commission report was released, the Government’s Productivity Commission handed in its report on workplace relations.  The report recommended cuts to the pay and conditions of workers in hospitality, retail, events, accommodation and entertainment.  Much of the report reads like sections of Workchoices – making it easier to fire people unfairly, individual workers being presented with take it or leave it contracts, cutting penalty rates and making bargaining harder.

Company executives are already emboldened by this agenda.  Alcoa last week used security guards to forcibly remove workers from their beds in the middle of the night, sack them and replace them with $2 per hour overseas workers.  

We recognise that in any part of society there is potential for corruption, but using a Royal Commission to attack one section of the community does not address the need to stamp out corruption across all institutions, without bias.  

The Union movement is a membership movement without equal in Australia.  By forming and being in unions, Australians have achieved annual leave, long service leave, protection from unfair sackings, personal leave for illness and caring, decent retirements and many of the other things.

From the ashes of a biased and politically motivated process, we may be able to salvage something and even deliver some sensible reform.

The question for Malcolm Turnbull is whether he is can put the political approach of his predecessor behind him and take a wider view of the need to stamp out corruption across the board, rather than simply targeting unions. A test of his ability to do so will be his willingness to embrace a permanent independent corruption commission.

Turnbull using Trade Union Royal Commission report as political plaything


The Trade Union Royal Commission’s report is reportedly going to be shared with select Senate cross-benchers, documents that Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon AC QC has expressly stated should remain confidential.

The government’s plan to reveal secret volumes to select Senate cross-benchers of its Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC) reports is another sign of the Liberals’ attack on workers, and a blatant sign of disrespect to Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon.

Labor’s shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus QC today accused the Liberal government of once more using the  TURC as a “political plaything”.

“It’s a a cynical attempt to win support for the government’s crackdown on workers’ rights,” Dreyfus said.

“Reports indicate the government will reveal secret volumes of their Royal Commission’s reports, but only to select Senate cross-benchers.

“The government is set to ignore the insistence of its own Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon that these volumes should remain confidential,” he said.

Shadow employment and workplace relations minister Brendan O’Connor said it was clear the government only respected the Royal Commission’s findings when it suited its immediate political interests.

“They can’t have it both ways,” O’Connor said.

“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to rely on these secret volumes to make the case for his legislation, he must provide them to all sides of the parliament and potentially other interested parties,” he added.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chubb: Scientist duty to offer unflinching advice

Outgoing Chief Scientist Ian Chubb says hostility towards climate science may be easing but scientists still have a duty to offer unflinching advice.

Australia’s chief scientist through the bitter “climate wars” has some advice for scientists denigrated and disparaged by those who do not like their evidence-based advice: “don’t flinch”.
And as he prepares to leave the job on Friday, Ian Chubb has some unflinching parting advice – Australia will inevitably have to adopt tougher greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Chubb is also on the board of the independent Climate Change Authority, which the Abbott government unsuccessfully sought to abolish, and he is convinced Australia will eventually have to adopt targets similar to those advocated by the CCA.
The CCA found Australia should be cutting emissions by between 40 and 60% by 2030, measured against 2000 levels. Measured the same way the target announced by Tony Abbott and then adopted by Malcolm Turnbull equates to a cut of between 19 and 22%.
“That was solid work and I stand by those recommended targets,” Chubb said in an interview with Guardian Australia.
He said the continuing process set up under the Paris international climate agreement, struck late last year, and Australia’s particular susceptibility to the effects of global warming, meant “we will have to reconsider our target, I cannot see how we could possibly not”.
The Turnbull government has not ruled out increasing its targets as a result of the five-yearly reviews required under the Paris deal but has said it has no plans to do so.
Chubb recalls that he had “a lot of pushback” during the first few months of the Abbott government, “the emails from the usual suspects, people like Maurice Newman [who headed Abbott’s business advisory committee] who continue to believe [climate change] is all some vast conspiracy involving thousands of scientists around the world”.
In 2014 Chubb suggested Newman should “stick to economics rather than “trawl the internet” for papers questioning the overwhelming scientific opinion on global warming.
But Chubb said his conversations with the former prime minister himself had always been “rational and reasonable.”
“I was surprised at some of Tony Abbott’s public comments about climate change and some of his government’s initial responses and policies ... because [Abbott] and I talked about climate change quite rationally and reasonably,” Chubb said.
“He didn’t necessarily agree with me, we tried to persuade one another, but his questions were primarily about the modelling and the sensitivity of the climate to CO2 and how to build policy around the range of the projections.”
He also referred to a controversy over claims of threats against climate scientists at the Australian National University, where he had been chancellor.
“I was also questioned in the early stages because there was a suggestion that some scientists at the ANU had received death threats,” Chubb said. 
“I never said there had [been] death threats but their offices were open to the street and I thought it sensible to move them to offices accessed with a swipe card. The Australian newspaper spent a long time running FOIs [freedom of information requests] on that. I think they wanted to prove that I’d somehow timed the release of the information for a particular purpose, which was of course ludicrous.”
But Chubb says the antagonism towards climate science was easing.
“The debate here and overseas is much more sensible now, the sheer weight of scientific evidence is having a bearing,” he said.
He said he had also been deeply disappointed by the science funding cuts announced in Abbott’s first budget but was happy that the last budget and the recent innovation statement had seen some “selective reinvestment”.

South Korea: Unions Take A Stand

South Korea's largest labour union grouping withdrew on Tuesday from a labour reform agreement, a setback for President Park Geun-hye's ambitious reform drive just a few months ahead of parliamentary elections.

Park has made the reform of South Korea's rigid labour practices one of the key goals of her government, to help revive Asia's fourth-largest economy in the face of an extended slump in exports and slowing population growth.

"The FKTU will no longer participate in the tripartite commission as agreements made there are not abided by," Kim Dong-man, president of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) which has a million members, told a news conference.

He criticised the government for breaching an agreement reached in September by representatives of business, labour and the government, referring to the government's bid to revise labour laws without full negotiations with the labour unions.

The government's proposed reforms aim to make hiring and firing easier and allow individual negotiations between employer and employee on working conditions. These changes currently require consent from the labour union.

In principle, the government could still push ahead with its attempt to enforce reform measures requiring no law revisions despite the federation's pullout but such a move could turn public opinion against the government just ahead of the polls.

Labor Minister Lee Ki-kweon told a separate news conference later on Tuesday that the government was open to more negotiations with labour but added it could not wait forever.

South Koreans will vote in April to elect all 300 members of the single-chamber National Assembly, in which 53 percent of seats are now held by the ruling party.

South Korea has scored poorly in international surveys on labour practices, especially for a lack of flexibility in hiring and firing workers and in setting wages.

Corporate Culture -- 116 Million hidden workers scam

New ITUC report exposes hidden workforce of 116 million in global supply chains of fifty companies

Brussels, 18th January 2016 (ITUC Online): The global supply chains of 50 companies employ only six per cent of people in a direct employment relationship, yet rely on a hidden workforce of 94 per cent according to new research from the International Trade Union Confederation.

“Just 50 companies including Samsung, McDonalds and Nestle have a combined revenue of $3.4 trillion and the power to reduce inequality. Instead they have built a business model on a massive hidden workforce of 116 million people,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The ITUC report, Scandal: Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies released on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos exposes an unsustainable business model, with a global footprint that covers almost every country in the world and profiles 25 companies with headquarters in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

“Sixty per cent of global trade in the real economy is dependent on the supply chains of our major corporations, which uses a business model based on exploitation and abuse of human rights in supply chains,” said Sharan Burrow.

ITUC research shows:

  • The cash holdings of 25 companies of $387 billion could increase the wages in their combined hidden workforce of 71.3 million by more than $5000 for a year;
  • The combined wealth of 24 companies in the US from including Amazon, Walmart and the Walt Disney company, could buy Canada;
  • Nine companies in Asia including Foxconn, Samsung and Woolworths have a combined revenue of $705 billion, the equivalent value of the UAE;
  • Seventeen companies in Europe including Siemens, Deutsche Post and G4S have a combined revenue of $789 billion, the equivalent value of Malaysia.
“Profits are driven by low wages levels that people cannot live on, these profits risk safety with the result of indefensible workplace injuries and deaths; that these profits are increased by tax evasion or tragically linked to pollution of community land and water.”

“When global business won’t pay the moderate demands of workers for a minimum wage on which they can live with dignity, $177 in Phnom Penh, $250 in Jakarta, $345 in Manila – then this is knowingly condemning workers and their families to live in poverty. It’s greed pure and simple,” said Sharan Burrow

The ITUC has set out five recommendations for companies to address the scandal of global supply chains:
  • Supply chain– know whom you contract from and publish this;
  • Safe work – inspect sites, fix hazards and recognise workers’ right to safety committees;
  • Secure work – end short- term contracts;
  • Minimum living wages – pay wages on which people can live with dignity;
  • Collective bargaining – for wage share and decent wages and working conditions.
“The number of global framework agreements between multi-national companies and global union federations which address these problems and establish a sustainable footing for the global economy are on the increase, but we still have a long way to go. Governments must not neglect their responsibilities,” said Sharan Burrow. 

Labour leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos will be putting forward a four step plan to transform the business model of global companies and address inequality:
  • Employers ensure fair distribution of wealth through minimum living wages and collective bargaining based on the fundamental guarantee of freedom of association;
  • Safety standards are respected with workers in engaged in safety committees;
  • Government leaders should implement and enforce the rule of law, mandating the due diligence that the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human rights demand;
  • Governments prioritise the dignity of the social protection floor for their people.

“Only by exposing the practices of these companies to consumers and citizens around the world will companies begin to take responsibility for their supply chains and follow the rule of law,” said Sharan Burrow.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary is a co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Oxfam – 62 People own half the world – Corporate Culture exposed

Sixty-two people have the same amount of wealth as half the world, says Oxfam
Date January 18, 2016 - 6:01AM

Just 62 people own as much wealth as the poorer half of the global population, a new report reveals, as the widening of the gap between the rich and poor accelerates.

As the business elite converge on Davos for the World Economic Forum, an Oxfam report shows wealth is becoming further concentrated, with the number of people owning the same amount as the bottom half of humanity falling from 388 to 62 in five years.

It says a "broken" economic model underpinned by deregulation, privatisation and financial secrecy has seen the wealth of the richest 62 people jump by 44 per cent in five years to $1.76 trillion.

The richest 1 per cent now have more wealth than the rest of the world.

"The big winners in our global economy are those at the top. Our economic system is heavily skewed in their favour. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate," the report said.

Oxfam acknowledged that efforts to tackle inequality had seen the halving of the number of people living below the extreme poverty line between 1990 and 2010.

"Yet had inequality within countries not grown during that period, an extra 200 million people would have escaped poverty. That could have risen to 700 million had poor people benefited more than the rich from economic growth," it said.

Oxfam said the growing problem of tax avoidance and use of tax havens was a prime example of how the economic system was "rigged" in the rich's favour and must be stopped.

It is also calling for workers to be paid a living wage rather than the minimum, for the end of the gender pay gap, for the influence of the powerful with vested interests to be kept in check, and for the tax burden to be shifted away from labour and consumption and towards wealth and capital.

The wealth of the 3.6 billion poorest people fell by just over a trillion dollars.

Since the turn of the century, the world's bottom half has received 1 per cent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 per cent, it also said.
For those comfortably living in Australia, it referred to a Credit Suisse study that revealed the richest 1 per cent now have more than the rest of the world. This occurred a year earlier than predicted.

So much of the world remains relatively poor that it has taken a net worth of just $4400 in 2015 to be counted among the wealthiest half of all world citizens, the study found.

Oxfam Australia's chief executive Helen Szoke​ said Australia was "dragging its feet" when it came to stamping out tax dodging.

"Australian multinational companies, and those that operate here, should be required to publish their profits and taxes paid in every country in which they operate," she said.

"Action to recover the missing billions lost to tax havens needs to be accompanied by a commitment by governments to invest in healthcare, schools and other vital public services that make such a big difference to the lives of the poorest people."

A senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance is due to deliver its report at the end of February. Tax Office data showed some tech companies such as Apple and Google are paying little or no tax in Australia.

The three richest men in the world – software mogul Bill Gates, Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu and investor WarrenBuffett – have a combined net worth of $230 billion, according to Forbes.

In China, the richest 1 per cent of households own one-third of the country's wealth, while the bottom 25 per cent account for only 1 per cent, a new report by Peking University researchers showed.

And in Britain, new data revealed growing house prices has led to the top 10 per cent now owning nearly half of the country's total private wealth.

The International Monetary Fund last year warned the gap between rich and poor in advanced economies was now at its highest level in decades, making widening income inequality the "defining challenge of our time" and suggesting "the benefits do not trickle down".​

Read more:

The Age: Attacking unions isn't a substitute for good policy formulation

January 15, 2016
Nick Dyrenfurth

Under a moonlit sky in January 1891, George "Mulga" Taylor, an organiser with the Queensland Shearers' Union, cycled some 60 kilometres from Clermont to Logan Downs. His mission: to warn fellow shearers that pastoralists were shipping non-union labour from the southern colonies to Queensland's central district ahead of the coming shearing season.
Thus began the 1891 shearers' strike, an oft-violent dispute that raged over four months.

Some believed Queensland was on the brink of civil war. Arrayed against wealthy pastoralists and colonial governments that used armed troops to protect strike-breakers, the shearers were humiliated. On May 1, 14 men, including Mulga Taylor, were sent to trial at Rockhampton on charges of conspiracy. A conservative judge sentenced all but two to three years' hard labour on St Helena Island prison. According to legend, aggrieved shearers responded by founding the Labor Party under Barcaldine's Tree of Knowledge.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaks to the media after he appeared at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on July 9, 2015 in Sydney.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaks to the media after he appeared at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on July 9, 2015 in Sydney. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Australian politics 125 years later still conforms to a "Labor versus the rest" paradigm. Policy settlements have ebbed and flowed but this political fault line remains defined by attitudes towards unionism. The strategy adopted by Malcolm Turnbull's government indicates that the 2016 federal election will prove to be no exception.

Most significantly, there is Turnbull's attempt to make political mileage out of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. On the heels of the commission's controversial five-volume final report, the Prime Minister threatened a double-dissolution election should the Senate not pass proposed laws to create a Registered Organisations Commission and re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Team Turnbull is fighting a war against ALP-affiliated unions on several fronts. On Monday, Liberal MP Dan Tehan called for legislation banning unions from paying fines on behalf of officials, who, he claimed, wore penalties as a "badge of honour", and for the government to ban from holding office unionists who have been fined.

The same day, the government flagged moves to introduce legislation allowing employees to choose their own superannuation fund rather than one stipulated by enterprise bargaining agreements.

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer argued this would be a means of wresting control of "money that belongs to workers" from, presumably, industry super funds controlled by unions.

There is nothing subtle about this anti-union strategy. These pieces of legislation are a means of tarring the Bill Shorten-led ALP with the corrupt brush of a few.

The government hopes the opposition will distance itself from unions, notably the CFMEU. In this unlikely scenario, Labor would be deprived of vital election-year funds.

Alternatively, the opposition will be portrayed as beholden to "union bosses".

Labor has accused the government of seeking to destroy unions to pave the way for a renewed attack on penalty rates and working conditions generally. And, indeed, the pragmatic Turnbull might well be careful for what he wishes for.

For instance, instead of a mere building and construction commission, Senator John Madigan, among others, has flagged a desire to establish a national corruption watchdog similar to NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption, a body whose ambit would spread far beyond that of chasing unionist bad apples.

A politically motivated royal commission instigated by the Fraser government also provides a cautionary tale. The 1980 inquiry overseen by Frank Costigan QC was tasked with investigating alleged criminal conduct within the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Violence and graft on the waterfront were unearthed, along with employer tax evasion courtesy of "bottom-of-the-harbour" schemes.

This proved a huge embarrassment to the big end of town, including Coalition-friendly companies.

Conventional wisdom holds that Shorten, a former state and national leader of the Australian Workers Union, is susceptible to Turnbull's strategy. But the next election will be decided by swing voters on the basis of the economy, jobs and job security, national security and bread-and-butter matters such as health and education.

Pursuing an anti-union agenda may be regarded as politically indulgent.

And although union membership is declining, Australians are not per se opposed to organised labour. The writer and historian Hilaire Belloc's cautionary advice to "always keep ahold of nurse for fear of finding something worse" is apt in this context.

Consider too that this is a government partial to the Productivity Commission's recommended removal of Sunday penalty rates but which refuses to rule out increasing the GST from 10 to 15 per cent.

Valuable lessons might also be gleaned from Tony Abbott's downfall. The Coalition's strategy following Turnbull's demise as opposition leader in 2009 was almost entirely negative. In 2013 this was enough to win office, given the scale of Labor's internal problems and inability to explain its economic management.

Yet this was no substitute for an effective governing strategy.

As Abbott adopted the mantle of the prime minister and pursued the disastrous 2014 budget, the polls turned against the Coalition. They never recovered, despite the royal commission and repeated government attacks on Labor's union links.

Since his ascension to the top job, Turnbull's rhetoric has stressed national optimism, sometimes comically so. Demonising unions and targeting Shorten with charges of guilt by association, however, threatens to derail Turnbull's shiny "new politics" narrative.

Just eight years after the shearers' strike, the union-backed party of Queensland workers took office, producing the world's first such government (albeit lasting only seven days). In 1901, Mulga Taylor began a colourful political career following his election to the West Australian parliament. By 1910, notwithstanding countless anti-union scare campaigns, federal Labor ruled in its own right, another world first. Be careful what you wish for indeed.

Read more:

ETU: Central Coast residents forced to wait for power reconnection

Posted on 18-1-2016

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) says Central Coast residents were forced to wait days for power to be reconnected following last week’s storm because of massive staff cuts at electricity network operator Ausgrid.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said that extended delays in the restoration of power supply following storms and major network breakdowns was becoming a regular occurrence because electricity network company’s across the state, including local provider Ausgrid, have cut more than 1,000 front line staff in the past year.

“What we have seen in the past year is the slashing of more than 1,000 front line electricity jobs across NSW with almost fifty of those coming from Ausgrid’s Central Coast depots.” said Steve Butler.

“The community should not be forced to wait days after a storm has passed to have their electricity supply restored.”

“Some parts of the Central Coast around Bateau Bay, Berkley Vale, Somersby and Kulnura were without power for up to four days and we believe that is a direct result of the fifty local jobs that have been cut on the Central Coast.” Mr Butler said.

“Imagine there were an extra twelve work crews out there reconnecting people following last Thursday’s storm – my bet is that every single resident would have been reconnected at least 24 if not 48 hours earlier than what they were.”

“My fear is that this type of delayed response will only get worse in the future because these power companies are planning even more cuts with Ausgrid wanting to sack a further 1,100 workers from the Central Coast, Hunter Valley and Sydney.”

“Our members pride themselves on going out to help the community after major blackouts, often in dangerous conditions, but to have management make a decision to slash jobs makes the task of reconnecting the public more difficult.” said Mr Butler.

“On top of this the Baird Government implemented new regulations in 2014 limiting the amount of compensation payable to customers following extended blackouts while adding a list of conditions that must first be met.”

“Ausgrid customers are now restricted to claiming a measly $80 for blackouts of more than 18 hours however this is not payable if the blackout was caused by a third party or natural disaster, including storm events, meaning that local residents will be left empty handed for the latest blackouts.” said Mr Butler.

“A lot of people are unaware of the massive changes taking place in the electricity sector, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but none of these changes are good for customers.”

Sunday, January 17, 2016

MUA: Third Alcoa Ship Arrives Owing Foreign Crew $190,000

Posted on January 15, 2016

It’s a hat-trick! the ITF says the FOC ship bringing Petcoke to Alcoa’s Portland refinery completes a shameful hatrick for the US mining giant

The Hong Kong registered “Gold River” - which berthed immediately after the MV Portland was taken away by a mystery crew – owes its foreign crew up to $190,000 in “stolen wages.”

ITF inspectors boarded the Gold River last night and today, undertaking a thorough audit of wage records, hours of work and rest and home allotments as well as speaking to the Chinese crew.

“From that we calculated wages withheld from the crew  amounting to more than $115,000 Australian dollars with another $72,000 in leave pay and home allotments still unaccounted for,” ITF National Co-ordinator Dean Summers said.

 “If there was an international award for dodgy dealings with FOC’s Alcoa would win hands down. 

“With the Strategic Alliance corruption allegations still under investigation by the AFP and dodgy wage books on the Greenery Sea still being disputed, one would expect ALOCA to pay a little more attention to the quality of ships it uses to make its huge profits.”

The Gold River episode come hours after MV Portland’s Aussie crew were woken by around 30 security guards at 1am yesterday and forcibly removed from their vessel.

Alcoa then secretly rushed a foreign crew on board to sail the MV Portland to Singapore.

The company is trying to circumvent Australia’s cabotage laws and use foreign vessels and crew, many of them Flag of Convenience (FOC’s) using exploited workers on as little as $2 an hour.

“This is the shipping that Australian workers are expected to compete against - where Seafarers aren’t paid, wages are stolen and the books are cooked,” Mr Summers said. 

“The Australian coast should be for safe, well trained Australian crews protected under Australian conditions.”

See more

Saturday, January 16, 2016

NBN Cringe: Don't Upset Turnbull !

The former technology editor of the ABC's website has claimed he was gagged from writing about the National Broadband Network because management "didn't want to upset" Malcolm Turnbull.

Nick Ross, the ABC's Technology and Games Editor, announced on Thursday he had left his job of five years. In posting the news on his Twitter account, he set off a storm when he alluded that he had not been allowed to write about the NBN.

Ross has made headlines over the years for his vocal opposition to the Liberal broadband network plan and his support for Labor's alternative model, including a lengthy segment on the ABC's own Media Watch TV program in 2013.

Among Ross' criticisms of the Liberal plan was the (for a journalist) unusually strong declaration that "in just about every case the Coalition's alternative compares unfavourably to the current plans - and usually in dramatic fashion." (read that whole article here)

Ross didn't give much detail around his departure, but the Twitter reception to his initial tweet encouraged him to hold an 'Ask Me Anything' session on Reddit on Friday afternoon, where he expanded on his claims about how the ABC treated his NBN stories.

"In early March 2013 I was told by a senior ABC manager that ABC Management was expecting the Liberals to win the next election and that Malcolm Turnbull would be in charge of the ABC and that they didn't want to upset him. From this point on I documented everything," Ross wrote, under the screen name 'teheditor'.

The Liberal party would go on to win the 2013 election, with Malcolm Turnbull assuming the Communications portfolio, which includes oversight on the ABC. Turnbull would go on in 2015 to assume the mantle of Prime Minister.

"After that I had articles held back (one wasn't published at all) and heavily pressured not to write anything on the matter," Ross continued.

"On one occasion, four months before the election, with regards to this article which raised huge questions about the viability of the copper network I was told that "there was nothing wrong with the article per se" but that 'The NBN was dead and so there's no point in causing a fuss.' I published it when I saw Emma Alberici had published hers right after the election. But it got buried and I only got social media traffic."

He also claimed the ABC's 2013 election guide included information on the NBN planted by Turnbull's staff.

"When it came to doing the ABC's pre-election guides to party policies, the NBN one was done without me. It looks like it came from Malcolm Turnbull's office. When I spoke to the creator of it (I forget who) about the fact we'd posted something that we knew was untrue, he said the team had decided to go with a 'he said she said' line to avoid trouble," Ross wrote.

The Huffington Post Australia attempted to contact the ABC for this story but calls to the corporate affairs team were not answered. In a statement to Mumbrella yesterday, an ABC spokesperson said they could not comment on the reasons for Ross' departure from the public broadcaster.

"The ABC does not 'gag' the coverage of any issues or topics of public importance. As our record makes clear, the ABC covers all issues of public importance thoroughly and independently," the statement to Mumbrella read.

"The only 'restrictions' on the issues the ABC covers and the way we cover them are our Editorial Policies, which set standards for things like accuracy, impartiality and fair dealing. All of our journalism is required to adhere to these standards at all times."

During his Reddit AMA, Ross resisted several questions about which specific managers had pressured him to leave the NBN alone, simply saying directions came from "very senior management" and "it will be out soon in the media if it's not already"'

He claimed he had suffered personally from the pressure placed on him.

"I knew when I was told to stop publishing on the NBN (three years ago) that this day would be inevitable. It's been a constant source of amazement that management have acted like people wouldn't notice me going from full-on NBN coverage to absolute zero and not ask why," Ross wrote.

"They've been asking me constantly throughout this time - such is the interest in ABC and NBN - to the point where it's literaly made me ill and I'm still recovering. I hope this will start drawing a line under things and let me move on, but let's face it, the stink caused here will linger."

He also claimed other ABC staff may have received similar treatment.

"The best outcome for me would be for other people to come forward. I can't and don't believe I'm the only one. But I also know all to well just what pressure and vindictive methods are used to defend core management... I've got it all documented after all. It's very unpleasant," he wrote.

Universal Basic Income is the policy that an innovative society needs

By John Tomlinson - 15 January 2016

Australia currently has a Prime Minister who claims he wants to create an innovative nation. I lost sight of how innovative we truly are whilst driving through the smog haze caused by the coal fired electricity generators around Yallourn in Victoria and similar monstrosities in the Upper Hunter in New South Wales. Our previous Prime Minister thought wind turbines an eyesore but at least you can see them clearly in the absence of choking smog.

We used to ride on the sheep's back until the wool market collapsed. Then we put our trust in extractive industries, particularly coal, other hydrocarbons and iron ore, but the price we are getting for them has gone through the floor. Prices do not appear likely to recover in the foreseeable future.

We have a well-developed tax avoidance industry propping up the big end of town and giant multinationals, which appear to believe that tax on profits is something that bears no relation to their operations. When we create an innovation we are often too mean to develop it here and happily let it go overseas to find risk capital and a new home.

Along with New Zealand we once had the most advanced universal social welfare and generous industrial protections in the world, which European observers described at the time as "Socialism without doctrine". But that was over a century ago.

Since the mid 1980s we have turned away from generous universal social protections and towards loading onerous obligations upon those who apply for working age social security. We have made their lives increasingly unbearable by extensive means testing. "Reciprocity" and "mutual obligation" have been the catch cries of Labor and Coalition governments respectively.

Tristram Hunt, a British MP, writing in the Guardian about the English Labour Party's continuing obsession with the Blair/Brown governments, but with equal relevance to the Australian Labor Party's preoccupation with the Hawke/Keating governments suggests we need to develop a:

socialism that embraces technology and modernity and sees the function of the state as supporting and empowering citizens in an age of insecurity.

The quickening pace of globalisation, changes to the labour market, the rise of robots and supercomputers, and the urgent need for social security reform are here to stay. And we need credible answers, which embody our values, to all these challenges.

Another Guardian writer John O'Farrell writing about the current Dutch pilots of universal basic income (UBI) makes the point that a UBI is about to be paid in Utrecht and 19 other municipalities in the Netherlands:

Everyone will get about £150 a week, whether working or not. The unemployed won't find themselves penalised for finding work, and the hope is that the state will spend less money snooping on benefit claimants, moving on the homeless or locking up those driven to crime.

The idea is so refreshingly contrary to the petty conditionality that is killing the welfare state that it began to fill me with optimism that there may be a few people lying in this political gutter still looking at the stars. Once upon a time, universality was the underpinning principle of welfare. Every mother got child benefit; every child got free school milk, until that was snatched away …

In Namibia and India pilot programs have demonstrated that people who are guaranteed a non-conditional minimum survival payment are far more productive, less criminal, more innovative, more inclined to send their children to school and health clinics than those without such a guarantee.

Finland is preparing to run a series of pilot programs to test whether universal basic incomes are an appropriate way to proceed in that country. They are employing a number of university-based institutes to run evidence-based experiments.

In Australia the Jenny Macklins, Tony Abbotts, Mal Broughs and other self-justifying politicians claim to have utilised evidence-based social policies to promote the Intervention in the Northern Territory, income support tied to compulsory school attendance, the need to cutback the universality of the income support system, workfare and other attacks on the less fortunate in this country.

Their claim to have evidence for their policies is nonsense. Julia Gillard's justification for imposing increased obligations on unemployed people because of "The simple dignity that work brings" still jars in my ears. Some forms of employment do increase dignity but many of the jobs that the precariat are forced to take in order to avoid social security sanctions are belittling.

An innovative society is not one where multinational conglomerates pay large amounts to those they consider the best scientists to work on inventions for the armament, chemical, electronic and pharmaceutical industries: that is a failed late capitalist model.

An innovative society is one in which all citizens are provided with the financial resources necessary to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Irrespective of whether they aim to work towards civic improvement, a healthier environment, ecological sustainability, more efficient production or even just an improved life style. Real innovation can only occur in the context of a static growth model of development.

Along the way some will choose to leave jobs in call centres in order to set up a pie shop or such like, others will increase their education, still others will fulfil their creative potential. People will be freed to take on caring responsibilities. Others will remain in the employment they had before a UBI was put in place.

The options of individual choice are limitless – what is limited is that we live in a world with finite resources, a world which can only handle a limited amount of pollution and one in which the population needs to be stabilised or even decreased if we are to avoid impending ecological and humanitarian catastrophes.

This is the sort of innovative society where a UBI is a necessity rather than an option. It is imperative because only a universal income guarantee can provide every permanent resident sufficient income to live in austere comfort. It is paid to each individual without demanding anything in return. It puts an income floor under every individual permanent resident without imposing an income ceiling.

Jenni Mays, Greg Marston and I have just completed editing a collection of articles entitled Basic Income in Australia and New Zealand: Perspectives from the Neoliberal Frontier, which Palgrave Macmillian will release in March. In the preface of the book Professor Guy Standing writes:

Many Australians and New Zealanders receive pocket money as children from their parents. Some receive vast fortunes through inheritance, or receive land or other property that way, without doing a day's work or labor for it. Yet such lucky people tend to be at the forefront of opposition to providing everybody with a basic income on the grounds that it would be "something for nothing." If they are against providing a basic income, they should in all consistency be against pocket money and inheritance.

I would encourage all who want to understand our income security options to read this book because "knowledge is power" - but then again "ignorance is bliss".