Saturday, April 30, 2016

Brandising his ignorance again

The attorney general, George Brandis, has mounted a bizarre defence of the Turnbull government’s funding cuts to the CSIRO, saying there is no need to keep funding climate science if the science of climate change is settled – but adding that he personally doesn’t believe it is settled.
Brandis said the science body’s decision to cut funding for its scientists, who have produced vital climate science research – in response to the former Abbott government’s cuts to the CSIRO in 2014 – is what it ought to do if it believes climate change is real.
“If the science is settled, why do we need research scientists to continue inquiring into the settled science?” Brandis said on Tuesday.
“Wouldn’t it be a much more useful allocation of taxpayers’ money and research capacity within CSIRO to allocate its resources to an area where the science isn’t settled?
The attorney general’s argument is similar to that used by the CSIRO chief executive, Larry Marshall, who said in an email to staff in February that further work on climate change would be reduced because climate change had been established.

Barclays NeoLib Banking explained

When Barclays Plc sold a fund management business to U.S. financial group Blackrock Inc. in 2009, the larger-than-expected $15.2 billion (£10.4 billion) price tag was not the only good news for the British bank's investors.

The way Barclays structured the sale -- by booking part of the proceeds in Luxembourg -- allowed it to do something not possible under most tax systems: generate a tax loss from a tax-exempt transaction, a Reuters analysis of previously unreported company filings and statements shows.

The move has helped Barclays to earn billions of dollars almost tax free.

The entirely legal deal is the latest example of the ways in which some companies are able to benefit from tax regimes that regulators around the world are trying to crack down on so they can raise more tax revenue at home.

The small European state of Luxembourg is among those coming under scrutiny for its tax regime that local authorities and lawyers say is a legitimate way to attract business.

Barclays' tax loss was made possible because it sold its Barclays Global Investors (BGI) business tax free in Britain, but had part of the sale proceeds -- $9 billion in Blackrock shares – paid to a subsidiary in Luxembourg.

That way, Barclays was able to offset the risk of the shares losing value, something not normally possible in a tax-free deal. A rise would have netted Barclays profits. 

When instead the shares fell, Barclays used the loss to claim a tax deduction in Luxembourg that was not available in the UK.

Friday, April 29, 2016

U.S. and European Union trade agreement problems

U.S. and European Union trade officials said on Thursday they would not settle for a limited trans-Atlantic free trade deal that ignores deep divisions on agricultural products, services, public procurement and dispute resolution.

In separate briefings during the latest negotiating round in New York, the U.S. and EU officials said they would push for a comprehensive Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP, before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

"We are not going to shoot for or accept a 'T-TIP light,' a U.S. Trade Representative official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

"It has to be comprehensive, it has to be ambitious and we do think we have the time that we need this year to complete such an ambitious deal," the official added.

But the U.S. officials and their European counterparts said bridging gaps would take a lot of work and that progress this week had centred mainly on non-controversial technical language. They are trying to lay the groundwork to have all but the thorniest problems solved by the autumn.

Among the deepest divides concern Europe's food safety rules that exclude American beef raised with hormones, genetically modified foods and Europe's many local food naming rules, such as for asiago and feta cheeses.

U.S. negotiators have complained those rules have fuelled a $12 billion (8 billion pounds) annual food trade deficit with the EU, $1 billion in cheese alone.

NTEU and UniSuper Fund

Grahame McCulloch NTEU General Secretary

I am very grateful for the response of UniSuper Fund members including those who are members of NTEU in registering a strong protest about the serious mistake made by UniSuper Management in issuing a Press Release opposing the proposed Royal Commission into Banking.  This was a very serious error of judgement and I will be making a detailed presentation to a closed session of the Board next week.  As part of this presentation I will ensure the Board clearly understands the fundamental nature of this mistake, and had you not registered your protest this would not be possible.

This mistake has the potential to be a serious distraction from the Board’s core current strategic objective – to implement Flexichoices – a retirement product that has the potential to be of great benefit to Fund members.  Introducing this product is a very complex matter involving the interaction of many political, industrial, technical, investment and planning considerations, particularly because developing a consensus around the implementation of the product’s contribution flexibility component has still not been achieved.  The key obligation of NTEU as the pre-eminent Trade Union in higher education is to guarantee the success of this product and to deal with this outstanding matter.

Despite this serious error of judgement the overall shape of Flexichoices has been possible because UniSuper is overwhelmingly the best managed and run Fund in Australia (it has a talented CEO Kevin O’Sullivan backed up by one of the country’s most astute investment managers John Pearce and a very effective Chairman Chris Cuffe), and the best possible governance model for any of Australia’s superannuation funds blending staff and union representatives, employer representatives and independent directors with deep superannuation knowledge/experience.  And every one of them genuinely acts on what they perceive to be in the best interests of members.  The only thing it lacks is a proper voice for Trade Unions and Fund members in the core of its structure – the shareholding company (USL) and its Consultative Committee.  Had there been such a voice in these structures then this distraction would not have occurred.  The fundamental issue is that NTEU must have a genuine ownership share and there must be deep reform of the Consultative Committee.

This has placed me in a very difficult position in developing a creative and productive solution to ensuring that Flexichoices is implemented as seamlessly as possible given the complex factors referred to above – which is my key obligation as the General Secretary of the NTEU and a UniSuper Director.

The UniSuper Board has authorised a Statement to be issued by CEO Kevin O’Sullivan and Chairman Chris Cuffe, probably at around the same time that you will receive this Statement.  I support the Board’s Statement as I believe it contains the basis for resolving the issues as I see them.  And I intend to make a recommendation to the closed session which I hope can finally resolve all these issues on a comprehensive basis.  I am hopeful that all Directors will be able to support my recommendations but it is important for Fund members (including NTEU members) to understand that if a solution is not found it is unlikely that Flexichoice can be implemented as smoothly as the current planning process assumes.

I believe the UniSuper Board has genuinely heard the concerns of Fund members (including those who are NTEU members) and I would therefore urge that any of you who may still be wishing to register a protest should not do so.

Manus update - "freedom inside our prison"

Prisoners on Manus Island reported internal doors were temporarily opened on Thursday night, and guards had stopped performing searches on them.
Free movement was allowed between compounds before it was later restricted on Friday afternoon. From then detainees were only allowed to move between compounds where people had the same refugee determination.
“We can say that we got freedom inside our prison tonight,” said Behrouz Bouchani, a Kurdish-Iranian detainee on Manus Island, after the gates were opened.
“Some of the people are singing and the young boys have a lot of positive energy, they are active,” he said.
“The torturing system completely collapsed today and officers and case managers are only watching. I saw some officers say congratulations to refugees and get them in a hug. All people are happy, this is a big moment to forget the past three years.”
Bouchani said people were discussing where they would now go, with many hoping for New Zealand.

Lawyers for 850 refugees seek compensation

Lawyers for 850 asylum seekers held in a controversial detention centre in Papua New Guinea said on Friday they planned to seek potentially billions of dollars in compensation, as Australian officials prepared to travel to PNG for emergency talks.

PNG this week announced the closure of the detention centre it operates on behalf of Australia, which has pursued a hardline immigration policy criticised by the United Nations and international human rights organisation.

The issue has the two South Pacific neighbours at loggerheads, with each saying responsibility for the detainees' welfare rests with the other.

The closure of the Manus Island facility, which holds refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia, is a major headache for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the middle of a general election campaign.

The number of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia is small compared with those arriving in Europe, but border security has long been a major political issue and will likely feature again in campaigning for the July elections.

Lawyers for former PNG opposition leader Belden Namah are asking the PNG Supreme Court, whose ruling that the facility was unconstitutional prompted the government's decision to close it, to force Canberra to take the detainees to Australia.

PNG-based lawyer Ben Lomai, who represents more than 300 of the detained men, told the Post Courier newspaper that he would file a compensation case on Monday after the Supreme Court's ruling.

"We can go straight to assessing reasonable compensation without having to prolong the case any further," Lomai said.

Successive Australian governments have steadfastly said that people who attempt the dangerous sea crossing will never be allowed to settle in Australia. On Thursday, Turnbull warned against being "misty-eyed" over immigration, saying his government's policies had prevented thousands of deaths at sea.

PNG's High Commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani, said on Thursday responsibility for what to do with the men rested with Canberra. Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton suggested one option was to transfer them to another facility on tiny Nauru, another South Pacific island.

Nauru already houses about 500 people and has been similarly criticised for harsh conditions and reports of systematic child abuse. A 23-year-old man from Iran set himself on fire at the centre this week in protest against his treatment.

Broadspectrum Ltd, which runs the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, declined to comment.

CFMEU – International Workers’ Memorial Day – Stand Up Speak Out Come Home

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union calls on workers everywhere to speak out on health and safety issues to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day.

CFMEU members work in some of the most dangerous industries in Australia, where a worker is seriously injured or killed every 6 minutes.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said the union had a long and proud history of fighting for workers’ occupational health and safety.

“The CFMEU has for many years led the struggle to ensure that people can go to work and come home to their families without having to risk death or injury,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We always back workers to stand up and speak out about occupational health and safety at work. If you stand up and speak out, you save lives.

“The CFMEU will always work with our members to fight unsafe work practices so they that they can come home to what matters most.”

International Workers’ Memorial Day is a time to remember those workers injured or killed at work and fight for better occupational health and safety on sites, factories, mines and mills across Australia.

Visit Stand Up Speak Out Come Home

Industry Super Australia – Budget should protect low-income workers

ISA calls for Budget to protect low-income workers

Current proposals may result in higher taxes for the rich without boosting the retirement funds of poorer Australians, especially women.

Rule changes won't help low-paid workers, especially women.

The retention of the Low Income Super Contribution (LISC) would be more beneficial to women than ‘catch-up’ arrangements based on voluntary contributions, according to Industry Super Australia.

The claim comes on the back of data showing voluntary contributions are overwhelmingly made by high-income earners, not those on modest incomes.

The most recent ATO figures show a small number of high-income employees, with super balances averaging $600,000, are the main users of super tax concessions on large voluntary contributions made under existing caps of $30,000 to $35,000 a year.

“The figures simply do support the arguments being floated in the lead-up to the budget that the voluntary contribution caps should remain as high as they are currently set to allow women to make catch-up contributions,” ISA chief executive David Whiteley said in a statement.

It is widely expected that the Turnbull government will reduce tax discounts for voluntary superannuation contributions made by high-income earners in the May 3 budget. But there has been no suggestion that the LISC, designed to benefit low-income earners, will be retained. If true, this would effectively tax the rich more, while leaving low-income workers worse off.

The Industry Super Australia chief said the government was setting its own priorities.

“The numbers tell us the ‘catch up’ argument is a fiction. A majority of women, especially those in need of help to catch up after years of interrupted work patterns and part-time employment, do not and cannot afford to make large catch up contributions that attract tax concessions and help build super savings,” Mr Whiteley said.

Analysis of the ATO figures shows that 120,400 women aged 50 to 65 who made voluntary contributions of more than $20,000 had average super balances $500,000 higher and taxable incomes $100,000 higher than 441,650 lower-paid women of the same age who rely on the LISC.

The LISC is an annual government payment of up to $500 for workers who earn less than $37,000 a year and ensures they are not taxed more highly on their super contributions than the rest of their income.

It was introduced in 2012 by the former Labor government and is slated to be repealed by the Coalition as of June 30, 2017. There have been calls for its life to be extended by the government but Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer will not comment on its future.

According to the ISA spokesman, low income workers “rely heavily” on the LISC to keep their super savings moving upward. With their income taxed at 19 per cent or less and little capacity to make extra contributions, they effectively receive little or no tax concession on super contributions, Mr Whiteley said.

“From next year, the group that needs the most help will go backwards when the LISC is abolished, unless the government uses next week’s Budget to reverse this tax penalty on lower paid Australians.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Not a Totalitarian" – Baird's War on inner Sydney and City Dwellers

April 27, 2016 - Elizabeth Farrelly

NVDA may not yet be your go-to acronym if you are an inner-city dweller but it could soon be.

One year after his election victory, NSW Premier Mike Baird says he has responded to concerns raised over the WestConnex motorway and Sydney's lockout laws.

It's war. That's the word on the streets of Rozelle and Balmain, at Newtown, Ashfield, St Peters and Haberfield. Mike's Motorway Madness is not their war of choice. They didn't start it and certainly didn't expect to be fighting it all over again. But it is war and, they say, they'll fight it to the end.

So NVDA - Non-Violent Direct Action - is a thing again. If you're a city dweller, NVDA is coming to a hood near you. Motorways are to the city what coal-and-gas are to the country: means for cynical government to funnel both private property and public interest into deep corporate pockets. The country defended itself with Lock the Gate. The city has NVDA. Watch for it.

Protests, heritage, bulldozers, arrests, civil disobedience training days. There's a deja vu to all this, as though history tripped and fell into a half-century repeat cycle. Remember Arthur Dent, from Hitchhiker's Guide, whose planet was demolished for a hyperspace bypass? That was 1978. Even then motorway madness was meme enough for satire. Now, in world terms, it is simply old-fashioned. Yet we're still doing it.

Back in the '70s, Sydney fought the insanity and won, which is why we still have an inner city to protect. Which is lucky, because inner Sydney is that rare thing, a truly unique Australian gem in the crown of world culture. We didn't make the harbour, and our outskirts are like outskirts anywhere. But inner Sydney – chaotic, muddled, incongruous and intricate as medieval tapestry – is exquisite.

Yet the Baird government is at war with it. You think I exaggerate? Consider the signs: the propaganda, the covert action, the tactical secrecy, the outright lies, the surprise attacks, the rampant midnight destruction. Its weapons are many: sell off, chop down, develop. But its two biggest guns – WestConnex and Sydney Light Rail – are designed for maximum destruction, camouflaged as transport necessity and aimed, from east and west, straight at Sydney's beautiful, irreplaceable heart.

Yes, light rail is great, but routing it needlessly to destroy thousands of trees so the racecourse can expand is callous and cynical, designed to hurt those it should serve. As to WestConnex, it is next-level stupid.

First, it won't help congestion. Traffic planners have known since the 1970s that motorways actually generate traffic, so any congestion-beating effect is rapidly lost. Second, its enviro-unfriendliness is immense: massive quantities of greenhouse-generating concrete, huge increase in fossil-fuel transport, furtherance of sprawl. Third, as US cities dramatically discovered, to destroy the inner city to get people to it makes less sense than fighting for peace.

So, yes, dumb idea, as even the Auditor-General has recognised. So the question is this. Is Baird's big infrastructure binge also Baird's revenge? Is this the fightback of suburban puritanism against the inner city's freewheeling creativity? Perhaps even the ghost of transport minister father acting through premier son?

Motorways presume an eternal present – a Pleasantville as soulless and airless as the traffic jams they generate – so it's ironic that you can't understand them without history. Invented by Mussolini, developed by Hitler, beloved by New York's infrastructure muscleman Robert Moses and perfected by Los Angeles, the motorway soon failed as a transport device but was promoted anyway, as many cities including LA are now discovering, by an unholy alliance of automotive and construction companies who conspired first to remove trams and then to build more, bigger roads.

Sydney escaped. We lost our trams, yes, and to a minister who walked through the revolving door to a bus-tyre company. But we avoided most of the motorways – thanks to one individual, Neville Wran.
In 1976, after years of anti-motorway protest under Askin, Wran came in on a promise to end the Los Angelisation of Sydney. Immediately, he set about selling off the motorway reserves.

That was then. But the dream wouldn't die. It persisted under the Greiner government (with transport minister Bruce Baird), when only intense community activism saved the lovely Wolli Creek valley from becoming an eight-lane motorway. (This heartening story, of saving Sydney from the terrible empty-heartedness that flattened so many cities, is entertainingly told in Gavin Gatenby's YouTube doco Saving Wolli Creek.)

Now, three decades on, Bruce's son Mike is driving the same bulldozer through great swaths of inner-city neighbourhoods, home to that same "protest" demographic. While Greiner, having revived the motorway dreaming in the form of WestConnex for Infrastructure NSW, is Sydney's toll-roads grandfather, associated as patron with lobbyist Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and as "adviser" with tollway giant Transurban.

Never mind that Sydney's toll-roads have generally been catastrophes. Never mind that WestConnex is already 70 per cent over cost ($16.8 billion instead of $10 billion), or that the NSW Auditor-General expressed no confidence in its tendering, risk management or business case, or that billions of dollars in contracts were let before the business case was finalised, or that hundreds of submissions to that EIS were improperly treated.

Never mind that we, the NSW public, will pay exorbitantly to fund this most private of public assets – then pay again, between $16 and $26, to use the thing. Or that the tram (which might have helped ease congestion) was the first "luxury" to be excised in design, or that entire hectares of Rozelle waterfront and Sydney Park will disappear under LA-style concrete spaghetti.

Spare a thought for the thousands of teachers and tradies whose inner-west houses are being bulldozed or tunnelled under, including at least 50 listed heritage buildings. They are so undercompensated – often around half market value – that they'll likely end up at the far end of WestConnex, dependent on the public transport link it should provide but doesn't.

Usually, when history repeats, it's with a slight twist. Hence, the hipster is a hippie with 50 years added and the belief system removed. But this last might change. So rampantly unreconstructed is Mike's Motorway Madness that today's hipsters may need to dig deep – deeper than smiley Mike's tunnelling machines – find their beliefs and fight for them, if they want an inner city worth the name. NVDA.

Read more:

Across: What Australia’s community sector wants and doesn’t want in the Federal Budget

Joint community sector statement, Wednesday April 27, 2016

Community sector organisations today issued a united call for this year’s Federal Budget to put reducing poverty and inequality at the heart of its purpose. This should be done by prioritising revenue raising measures to fund essential services and jobs growth, rather than by focusing narrowly on cuts to spending and unaffordable tax cuts in an election year.

Joint Statement

“At a time when public budgets are under stress and key services such as health and education are underfunded, the first priority should be to make sure we have the revenue we need to fund our schools, our hospitals, the social safety net and vital community services to support vulnerable people in our community, including those newly arrived, as well as meeting our international obligations to those overseas.

The May Budget should realign spending priorities and strengthen the tax base rather than deliver further spending cuts. Tax cuts should be off the table until the Government can be confident it can fund essential services.

Ultimately, comprehensive reform of the tax system, not ad hoc increases in taxes, is needed to make sure Governments have the revenue they need. We must ensure revenue is raised in a way that is fair and avoids harming the economy.

Read the Full Statement and list of Signatories here.

Dutton's confusion over Manus exposed

The fate of around 900 asylum seekers on Manus Island hangs in the balance as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton struggles to explain why the government was ill-prepared for the detention centre's closure.

In a testy exchange with The Today Show's Karl Stefanovic, Mr Dutton insisted Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling and Papua New Guinea's subsequent decision to close the facility "hasn't taken us by surprise".

But he was unable to explain why the government had no immediate solution for the 900 men left in limbo on the island, more than half of whom have been assessed as genuine refugees.Advertisement

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conceded on Wednesday the government did not have "a definitive road map" on what to do, just hours before PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill announced the Manus Island facility would close and Australia would have to make "alternative arrangements" for the detainees.

But Mr Dutton told The Today Show on Thursday: "We've been anticipating the Supreme Court decision in PNG and we've been planning for this since late last year."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull haven't been taken by surprise by the PNG decision to close Manus detention centre.

That prompted Stefanovic to ask Mr Dutton why the government seemed to have been blindsided by the ruling.

"It doesn't say much about your planning," he told the minister. "You say you've known for months this ruling was coming, and yesterday he said we have no road map. How long does it take the Prime Minister to come up with a road map?"

Mr Dutton then said Mr Turnbull had been "part of these discussions for a long period of time". The discussions involved Cabinet's National Security Committee, Operation Sovereign Borders Commander Andrew Bottrell, Immigration Department secretary Michael Pezzullo and the Australian Federal Police.

Cabinet reportedly met on Wednesday night to discuss the urgent situation, with PNG suggesting the centre could close almost immediately - just days away from the May 3 budget and a week before the anticipated start of the official election campaign.

Mr Dutton suggested refugees who were owed protection could be resettled in PNG or elsewhere in the region, while those whose applications had been rejected would be sent back to their country of origin. But those plans were subject to ongoing negotiations.

"They obviously want to come to Australia but we've been clear that they won't," he said. "We are negotiating with third countries, we'll continue our discussions with PNG."

Again, Stefanovic fired up. "You can't answer the question what happens," he told the minister. "You've been told that this facility's closing and you can't answer the question for what happens to those 850 asylum seekers."

SMH Read more:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

UK - Hillsborough disaster a police failure blamed for 96 unlawful killings

Police failures were to blame for the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium crush, a jury concluded on Tuesday after two years of hearings into Britain's worst sporting disaster.

The verdicts of "unlawful killing", which could pave the way for prosecutions, were greeted with a mix of cheers and tears by relatives of the victims, who sang the Liverpool fans' anthem "You'll never walk alone" outside the court in Warrington, northern England.

They had campaigned for almost three decades to get "Justice for the 96", refusing to accept the deaths were accidental and accusing police of covering up exactly what happened.

"The story of Hillsborough is a story of human tragedy but it is also a story of deceit and lies, of institutional defensiveness defeating truth and justice," said a statement from some of the bereaved families.

The fans, many of them young, died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, northern England, at an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest on a warm, sunny afternoon in April 27 years ago.

Harrowing images of supporters crushed against metal fences, bodies lying on the pitch and spectators using wooden advertising hoardings as makeshift stretchers horrified the nation.

The jury overseeing the inquests heard evidence from about 1,000 witnesses, making them the longest jury proceedings ever held in England. It ruled by a 7-2 majority that the fans had been unlawfully killed.

The coroner, John Goldring, had told jurors that to return such a verdict they would have to be sure that David Duckenfield, the police commander in charge at the match, "was responsible for the manslaughter by gross negligence".

Duckenfield last year acknowledged at the inquests that his failure to close off a tunnel at the stadium had led directly to the deaths, and that he "froze" during the disaster.

The jury concluded police commanders had made mistakes in the build-up to the match and on the day itself, leading to fans being forced into central pens where they were crushed. It absolved Liverpool fans of any role in causing the disaster.

The state Crown Prosecution Service said it was considering whether criminal charges should be brought against individuals or any corporate body, and the independent police watchdog is also investigating.

The Hillsborough tragedy, which happened within minutes of kick-off, changed the face of English football. Banks of terracing and metal fences around pitches disappeared, replaced by modern, all-seated venues and better security.

It also led to a cover-up by police who attempted to deflect blame onto some Liverpool fans they portrayed as being aggressive, drunk, and ticketless, an independent panel set up to look into the disaster found in 2012.


"Landmark day as the Hillsborough inquest provides long overdue justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the tragic disaster," Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter.

"I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary courage of Hillsborough campaigners in their long search for the truth."

Andy Burnham, the home affairs spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said: "This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times."

Burnham , who comes from Liverpool, said people must be held to account and there should be prosecutions.

"The Hillsborough Independent Panel gave us the truth. This inquest has delivered justice. Next must come accountability," he said.

New inquests were ordered in December 2012 when London's High Court quashed accidental death verdicts from 21 years earlier after the independent inquiry found new evidence and absolved the fans of any responsibility.

The damning report also found senior police commanders had edited their officers' witness statements to paint them in a less damaging light.

The disaster is still an open wound in Liverpool, the port city of nearly half a million people that is passionate about football.

Many in Liverpool still boycott Rupert Murdoch's top-selling Sun tabloid after it accused their fans of stealing from the dying, urinating on policemen and beating up an officer giving the kiss of life. The newspaper's executives have since apologised for the story.

May Day March Sydney – Sunday 1 May 2016

For more than 125 years May Day has been a day when Australians remember the victories of the past while preparing for campaigns ahead.

Sunday, May 01, 2016
11:00 AM – 04:00 PM

Belmore Park
Corner of Railway Square and Eddy Avenue

Join us as we send a clear message to the Turnbull Government that we stand in
solidarity with each other in this crucial election year.

The Liberals and Nationals want to attack the workplace conditions we’ve fought so hard to
win. They want us to work for less, pay more tax by increasing the GST, destroy our
superannuation, dismantle universal healthcare and cut funding to education while increasing university fees.

We all need to join together to ensure we have a future that matches our aspirations.

The May Day march will be followed by a family fun day full of rides, food stalls, singing,
dancing, laughing and above all else community solidarity.

We hope to see you there. RSVP now.

Yours faithfully,
Mark Morey
Unions NSW

PS: Can't make it on the day or want to celebrate at home or in the office? We've set up a
resource centre with posters and images to share on social media that you can access here.

Blue Mountains Unions Council members will be travelling to the march by train in the second last carriage. No quiet carriage for us on May Day!

See the train schedule below.

Lithgow Station, Platform 2,

Zig Zag Station, Platform 1,

Bell Station, Platform 1,

Mount Victoria Station, Platform 1,

Blackheath Station, Platform 1,

Medlow Bath Station, Platform 1,

Katoomba Station, Platform 1,

Leura Station, Platform 1,

Wentworth Falls Station, Platform 1,

Bullaburra Station, Platform 1,

Lawson Station, Platform 1,

Hazelbrook Station, Platform 1,

Woodford Station, Platform 1,

Linden Station, Platform 1,

Faulconbridge Station, Platform 1,

Springwood Station, Platform 1,

Valley Heights Station, Platform 1,

Warrimoo Station, Platform 1,

Blaxland Station, Platform 1,

Glenbrook Station, Platform 1,

Lapstone Station, Platform 1,

Emu Plains Station, Platform 1,

Penrith Station, Platform 2,

Blacktown Station, Platform 5,

Westmead Station, Platform 2,

Parramatta Station, Platform 1,

Granville Station, Platform 1,

Strathfield Station, Platform 2,

Central Station, Platform 7,

Central Station, Platform 7

The negatives of negative gearing

When you are the parent of three millennials, you spend a lot of time worrying about money. Your money. Their money. Where they will live. And I swear to God the Mignaccas, whose one-year-old daughter owns a unit, have just made that a lot worse.

Is this what governments do about housing affordability?

My kids have all had jobs since they legally could, working in the local supermarket, stacking shelves, working the cash register. Now, they don't ask for hand-outs and they don't ask for hand-ups.

But I fear their housing future. I never needed to do three jobs at once to survive, nor did I need to worry about the permanency of my work. But even the child of mine who works in the most necessary industry – teaching English in the public education system – has uncertain work as state and territory governments all over Australia choose to keep their workforce casual.

What worries me is the way the jobs of my children – and the jobs of their friends – are put together. I've had only three jobs in nearly 40 years in the workforce. They have already had that many each. I've always had sick pay, holiday pay and superannuation. They often have super but, depending on the job at the time, not sick pay, not holiday pay. They often work on sessional contracts, as do the majority of their friends.

Which is why I am very disappointed in myself now that I have read about the Mignacca family, who are negatively gearing a unit for their daughter. Their one-year-old daughter. It never occurred to me to buy property on behalf of my kids. For years, I assumed that the three of them would inherit the house they grew up in, sell it and have enough money to buy something small but perfectly formed, through their jobs and various personal alliances. Since meeting the Mignacca family, I now think I should sell my house, give any profits to my kids and then rent from them as property owners.

Negative gearing is strange to me. The way I understand it is that the taxpayer funds some of my investment, part of the interest cost on my loan. I decide to buy a house or unit with a loan from a bank and I can then structure my investment so that the interest on the loan exceeds the rent on the property, and that reduces the tax I pay.

Who does it benefit? About half of the benefits of capital gains discount and negative gearing goes to the top 10 per cent of income earners. According to research completed by the Australia Institute last year: "Australian taxpayers are being hit for $7.7 billion, which is going overwhelmingly to the wealthy, and is driving families out of the housing market."

So it's not just property which is negatively geared, it's also the purchase of shares. But shares don't have the kind of deep and personal connection that houses do. You can't live in a share.

Matt Grudnoff is working in his garden on Anzac Day. But I drag him away to ask him to explain the impact that negative gearing has on millennials.

"There are real world consequences if you overinvest in the housing market," Grudnoff, senior economist with the Australia Institute, says.

"The government encourages everyone [through negative gearing] who has spare money to invest in the property market, and that drives up the prices. People on lower incomes will be excluded."

As he points out, if you drive up the price of shares through negative gearing, that's only likely to affect those who have got the disposable income to buy those shares in the first place. But if you drive up the price of houses, that makes it hard for everyone who wants somewhere to live.

"If you exclude people from the housing market, that has huge economic and social implications."

And we've witnessed a change in the labour market which will make it very bloody tough for anyone who wants to buy somewhere to live, as David Peetz, professor of employment relations at Griffith University, says.

The labour market has been subjected to forces of casualisation and contractualisation, turned from a place where we all had full-time jobs with the appropriate safety nets such as sick leave, to one where a greater proportion of full-timers are now casual and their jobs are less secure; and they may find themselves working for franchises and for labour hire firms, where work is never secure.

Security is where banks look first when they are lending money for homes. And job insecurity doesn't wash.

At the same time as this shift in employment, we have allowed successive governments to drive up house prices through negative gearing, which is just another unnecessary tax minimisation scheme.

Low levels of wellbeing have a lot to do with housing stress, particularly for older Australians. Now we are consigning our children and their children to a life of worry.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs speaks out

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs speaks out
In an Abbott government attack Gillian Triggs was very publicly upbraided in a senate estimates hearing last year. But despite the battering, the Human Rights Commission president has vowed to stay true to her cause.

When Gillian Triggs began her five-year term as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2012 she aimed to bring our domestic laws into line with our international treaty obligations. Now, after the government’s attempts to trash her reputation and to ignore most of the 16 recommendations in The Forgotten Children report, she’s just back from Geneva where the United Nations review of our human rights record found we’d regressed. Australia, the review found, continues to be in breach of its human rights obligations.

Ramona Koval Did you think it was going to be this hard when you started at the commission?

Gillian Triggs [laughs] No! I had absolutely no idea. I rather naively thought if you’d been dean of a law faculty you could manage anything. I was unprepared for dealing with senior political figures with no education whatsoever about international law and about Australia’s remarkable historical record which they are now diminishing. We’ve got senior public servants who will roll their eyes at the idea of a human right. They say, “Look, Gillian, you’re beating a dead horse.” It’s not going to work, because they can’t talk to the minister in terms of human rights. We’ve had, in my view, very poor leadership on this issue for the past 10 to 15 years, from the “children overboard” lie. They’ve been prepared to misstate the facts and conflate asylum-seeker issues with global terrorism. What I’m saying applies equally to Labor and Liberal and National parties. They’ve used this in bad faith to promote their own political opportunistic positions.

RK When you delivered The Forgotten Children report you said your investigations proved to be “life-changing”. What did you mean?

“When you see that you are being bullied by people who you know are not coming from a good place, you know you don’t have to give in to them. They are cowards…”
GT Talking to young men, old women and children on Christmas Island for the third time and they’re saying to me, “You’ve been here three times and what have you done? You’ve achieved nothing for us.” There were children in the dirt with chickens at our feet, the children waiting to use my pens and pencils because they had nothing to write with. Seeing women in their cabins who are starving themselves to death because they want to die, vomiting in front of me and I’m helping to clean them up and the guard turns away and says, “Nothing to do with me; it’s not my job.” And I said, “Get a doctor!” I’ve lived in a fairly lofty world of international law … Then you realise that you must learn how to translate these broad principles of law into action at a practical level.

RK What can you say to those men and women?

GT I say I have very limited powers and I’m doing everything I can but I find myself saying pompous things like, “Please don’t break the rules here in the camp. If you do they declare you noncompliant and you end up staying longer or they are spiteful to you. Please be patient.” You can hear I’m not saying anything very comforting. The government has used the word unlawful [in relation to asylum seekers] and George Orwell understood the power of language very well. In the department you have a minister saying, “You will call these people ‘illegals’.” It’s shocking that Australia would come to that depth of abuse of power.

RK You’ve said, “When I was younger I thought one could build on the past. But I have learned that we need to be eternally vigilant in ensuring human rights in a modern democracy.” Is that a sense of an idea of conservatism, building on the past, not letting go of good things that have been achieved? And feeling that confidence in that idea has been shaken?

GT A shocking phenomenon is Australians don’t even understand their own democratic system. They are quite content to have parliament be complicit with passing legislation to strengthen the powers of the executive and to exclude the courts. They have no idea of the separation of powers and the excessive overreach of executive government.

RK Sisyphus comes to mind.

GT Well, it’s quite true. One can be astonished at the very simplistic level at which I need to speak. Our parliamentarians are usually seriously ill-informed and uneducated. All they know is the world of Canberra and politics and they’ve lost any sense of a rule of law, and curiously enough for Canberra they don’t even understand what democracy is. Not an easy argument to make, as you can imagine: me telling a parliamentarian they need to be better educated. [laughs] But it’s true.

RK Have you done that?

GT Oh, I have. And I have to say that some parliamentarians, and surprising ones, a Nationals MP, says “Come and give us a seminar.” Another one asked me to come up and work in parliament with the members of a particular committee that she was on. Terrific! But they listened to me and do you know, the response of some of them was, “Well, we had no idea Australia had signed up to these treaties. We should withdraw from them!” So backward steps! You still hear people say we must withdraw from the Refugee Convention or we must withdraw from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

RK The treatment of you and your officers at last year’s senate legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee was quite shocking. You stood up to it with grace. Were you expecting it?

GT I expected questions on legal and constitutional analysis and on how we spend public monies. I have never had a question on that ever. I was completely unprepared for the attack at a personal level.

RK What were you thinking as the nine hours unfolded?

GT I was thinking, “I must stay calm, I must keep my answers measured, moderate and evidence-based, I mustn’t be rattled by them and I mustn’t react with the same lack of courtesy that they show to me.” The reality was that they could suffer no harm from this, whereas if I gave the wrong answers, I could lose my case and I just had to keep control of myself. I knew we had the law right and the facts right. I knew that anger was under the surface. I knew I could have responded and destroyed them – I could have said, “You’ve asked me a question that demonstrated you have not read our statute. How dare you question what I do?” And the chair [Queensland senator Ian Macdonald] said, “I haven’t read The Forgotten Children’s report because I’m far too busy.” How dare you do that when you are an elected parliamentarian and you are expected and required to read my reports.

RK I was astonished listening to him – how could the chair of the committee say he hadn’t read the report with such pride?

GT I know. So I could have reacted very angrily to that and I am quite articulate and I can be very strong if I need to be: I could have used those skills, but I determinedly did not. It’s an environment in which I must be respectful, so frankly I thought as a lawyer I’d lose my case if I did [react angrily]. There was a point when I thought, “I’ve had 50 years as a reasonably respectable and quite conservative lawyer, how on earth do I find myself in this situation?” [laughs] But in the end I just had to get through the moment. But there were some lovely little side things, like the public servants behind the scenes, coming around with bowls of Jelly Snakes and Jelly Babies and mini Mars bars. Because we’d had nothing to eat, and they wouldn’t get us any food. The senators and members of the committee were all going off and having lunch. We’d had no breakfast, no morning tea and no lunch and I thought I’d faint, but these wonderful people were coming in and we were grabbing the food and eating it and they were saying [sotto voce], “You do realise that we are not responsible for this, don’t you?”, because some might think the secretariat had fed them these questions.

RK But it was all the senators’ own work?

GT With the attorney-general sitting next to me and encouraging it. And he was writing the questions which would be taken by his staff up to one of the senators, so feeding them the questions – an extraordinary experience. People were hugely supportive afterwards. Flowers were coming in. Each one brought a cheer from the staff and eventually it was so full that I couldn’t get in the room anymore. It was almost as though I had died the week before, and I’m thinking I must have missed something because I’m still standing here.

RK Bullying in such a public forum made me think of the experience people have behind closed doors, especially in immigration detention, for example – such hubris to have this occur in a broadcast to the nation without any thought of what it might imply.

GT Yes, hubris, quite right – did they ever say, “What if people see me behave like this? What will this mean about Australia’s democracy?” And the other point is if they can bully the president of the Human Rights Commission when she is on very firm grounds in law and evidence, what are they doing in these detention camps with these concepts of “noncompliance”? What on earth does this mean? And the spitefulness of some of it – making women stand in the heat for sanitary materials, or they are given three nappies a day and the child has used more than that and they have to stand again for more nappies.

RK The extent of the hostility and the personal nature of the attacks must have shocked you.

GT To use those terrible words that the prime minister and especially the attorney-general used: “We have no confidence in Gillian Triggs.” The words reverberated around my head for a very long time. It was a very cruel and unjustified comment and the attempt to get me to resign for another position was a disgraceful thing to do, but it was exposed by the questions in senate. I could have had other options, the possibility of criminal prosecutions of the attorney.

RK I wondered why you decided against pursuing that avenue?

GT The AFP did consider it. They dealt with it extremely professionally. They were courteous but I made the decision that the greatest recognition of this wrongdoing was in the senate itself, when the senate censured the attorney for the first time in about 80 years and I felt that this issue was much more political than it was legal. I also wanted to move on, and I think that this underlies a lot of cases that don’t proceed.

RK Senator Brandis told a journalist a year or so into your appointment that: “My sense is that she’s more conservative than her predecessor and therefore more open to cultural change at the commission.” Was it a message to you?

GT Oh, it was a deliberate message. I’m a lawyer and lawyers tend to be conservative. I really love the law and that means you tend to be cautious and careful and I have been for 50 years. It was a message that he expected me to stay away from the controversial matters. Well, no Human Rights president in the world could have turned their backs on the human rights issue.

RK Did you note it at the time as a message to you?

GT Yes. I thought politicians work in curious ways. Wouldn’t it have been nicer of him to pick up the phone or meet me for coffee, which he was happy to do in the glare of publicity in other contexts.

RK Could the government’s laws to prevent doctors speaking about the harm being inflicted on refugees or the ban on community legal centres from advocating law reform be framed as free speech issues, too?

GT Indeed. Of course they can. And this is where you get people who will use the language of human rights occasionally like “freedom of speech, liberty of movement” but very quickly find that they are trapped because they’ve promoted laws which are precisely against those freedoms. The attempt to stop people speaking about conditions was simply ham-fisted and completely unnecessary. Probably they are protected by the whistleblower’s law anyway, and in any event any self-respecting medico will always abide by the Hippocratic oath long before they are going to worry about some detailed bit of legislation passed in Canberra.

RK Thinking of the response to your report, how do you manage disappointment?

GT It’s hard because we’ve worked so hard on this. Our report met social science standards of credibility, we took senior members of the medical profession with us – paediatricians, psychiatrists who lent a huge level of credibility to our report. Our language is moderate, balanced and applied to both governments equally. It’s very disappointing to have such a careful report damaged in the way that this government set out to do. What I have learned is that politics in Australia is absolutely brutal.

RK When the new prime minister took up his office last year there were reports that he had invited you over for a cuppa, even poured the tea. This seemed to be the beginning of a more constructive relationship between the president of the AHRC and the government. You said that you were very optimistic indeed. Has there been a lot of tea since then?

GT No. I haven’t shared a cup of tea but I remain optimistic. I have written many times to the PM. His staff are terrific to work with. I deeply believe the first words he said to me, which were that on his watch we are returning to the rule of law, to the Westminster system and to respect for the AHRC. I believe that he believes that, and were he to win the next election I believe he will be good to his word.

RK I see that you have not let the 2015 experience cower you. You have made many comments on matters that you have proper concerns in – from marriage equality and Safe Schools programs to calling for monitoring of conditions for asylum seekers and refugees in offshore detention centres to concerns about counterterrorism laws. It looks like, if the government thought they could bully you into submission, they made rather the wrong call.

GT I’ve just turned 70 and I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m so confident about the law and about the evidence for the law not being respected that I feel very sure-footed in going forward on these other issues. My resilience and determination and experience for a long time in the law give me the determination to get through the remaining 15 months to continue to speak out. When you see that you are being bullied by people who you know are not coming from a good place, you know you don’t have to give in to them. They are cowards and the moment you stand up to them they crumble, and they did crumble. And several now have been seen off long before me. They’re not used to a woman aged 70 standing up to them. They can’t quite believe it. If I were 40 looking for a career opportunity, I probably wouldn’t do what I’ve done because it would have queered the pitch for me professionally. But why do I care now? I can do what I’m trained to do and they almost can’t touch me. And I’ll continue to do that work when I’ve finished with this position.

World Economic Forum - Australia worst for web access

Millions of Australians live in households without internet access, according to the World Economic Forum, who have awarded Australia the lowest scoring country in the category of affordability for internet access.

As more and more people rely on emails and other electronic forms of communication to pay their bills and receive official statements, many companies have begun to charge fees to people who want documents sent to them in hard copy.

Today a campaign will be launched by Keep Me Posted in Parliament to ask corporations in Australia to reconsider charging Australians for document hardcopies.

Kelli Northwood, who heads the group Keep Me Posted, said it was far from ideal for the mostly poor and elderly who make up the large percentage of Australians who do not have access to the internet.

Ms Northwood said 57 per cent of Australian households with an income less than $40,000 do not have internet in their homes.

"From an affordability perspective, we have the World Economic Forum scoring Australia ICT (information and communication technology) capabilities the lowest scoring country in the category of affordability for internet access," she said.

Ms Northwood said the fees for hardcopy documents target vulnerable societies and she said they are just not fair.

"It's just irresponsible, so we need to call on companies, the big end of town, to put consumers first in this regard," she said.

Ms Northwood said those with the lowest rates of internet access are the poor, the elderly and Indigenous people.

These people need hard copies of bills and other official statements to keep track of their business and they are increasingly being forced to pay for them.

"We've seen some companies come out with $1.25, $1.75, $2.50, $3.20 - it's getting up into the top end," Ms Northwood said.

Keep Me Posted Campaign was set up to get rid of these fees, Ms Northwood said.

The Keep Me Posted Campaign has the backing of aged care groups, unions and politicians, including the independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

"I mean the fact that there are 4 million Australians who live in households without internet access is a big issue," Senator Xenophon said.

"Why should these people, particularly senior citizens, be impacted in this way? 

"It really does seem to be quite discriminatory and counterproductive."

The Keep Me Posted campaign says similar efforts in countries including Canada, Germany and France have resulted in law changes to protect consumers from charges for billing or statement information.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


By the Working Life Team

Tuesday, 19 April 2016
DID you know many of the routine products used in your home, office, or even during your dental or medical checkups are made through the use of child labour or exploited workers ?

Now, a one-day symposium aims to help us change that.

Workers’ Rights throughout Supply Chains will take a practical look at what can be done to protect human rights in the massive multi-billion dollar supply chain industry.

It’s an industry with a grim track record.

At least 21 million people work in forced labour, and every 15 seconds somebody dies from a job-related accident or illness. Many are killed or persecuted for joining a trade union, and over two billion people have to exist on less than US $2 a day.

But the free symposium tomorrow in Sydney hopes to turn around the sad statistics.

Key speakers include ACTU President, Ged Kearney,  who will be launching a major Healthy Supply Chains Initiative to tackle the plight of thousands of workers who make medical goods.

Ged Kearney

Even though medical equipment is a multi billion dollar industry with complex and geographically dispersed supply chains, the problem is not insurmountable, says symposium organiser and speaker, Ms Katherine Moloney.

For example, in England, a British Medical Association-led campaign is making major inroads towards improving the plight of supply chain workers who produce medical products.

This means medical equipment and material — from gloves to surgical instruments — are ethically sourced.

“Australia can learn from what is being done in Europe and build upon these successful models using home-grown strategies” says Ms Moloney.

“It is immensely doable to incorporate human rights due diligence in medical goods supply chains in Australia”.

The symposium will help dispel key myths including the use of ethical labour means hiking up costs.

Supply chains — from factory to field — by their very nature are complex.

And the illegal and often abusive treatment of migrant workers is emerging as one of the most pressing public relations risk for global corporations.

Although it is rare for multinationals to employ illegal migrants directly, claiming ignorance about abusive practices in their supply chains is no longer a defence, says leading human rights experts.

A recent stinging report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) earlier this year estimated the world’s 50 largest companies indirectly employ 116 million “hidden” undocumented workers – equivalent to 94 per cent of all the workers connected to their business.

However, under United Nations guidelines companies are expected to undertake due diligence on their supply chains, says ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow.

But many don’t.

“The evidence of increasing insecure work informality and forced labour is mounting. There is no moral compass for business that makes profit from exploitation. This must change,” says Ms Burrow.

With their cash reserves alone, the world’s 25 largest companies could pay informal workers in their supply chain $5,000 extra per year, ITUC calculates.

But on the positive side, a number of leading companies say they want to help make change.

For example, the British Medical Association and furniture giant IKEA are committed to abolishing child labour.

“We will strengthen our efforts and learn from the good examples, with the aim to create lasting and sustainable change on a large-scale. Always with the best interests of children in mind,” says Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer, IKEA Group

Register here for the 1-day Symposium at Mitchell Theatre, 9-5pm, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney

Friday, April 22, 2016


The CFMEU today welcomed the defeat of the ABCC bill in the Senate as a win for workers’ and basic human rights and freedoms.

“The Turnbull Government has lied to the Australian people in their attempts to pass this bill. These laws take away important rights such as the right to silence and the right to a lawyer of your choice,” CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan commented.

“On top of that, all the evidence they have presented regarding productivity and days lost to industrial action has been demolished by independent commentators and the Government’s own Productivity Commission.

“Meanwhile, they have turned a blind eye to the real problems in our industry including the high rate of insolvencies, underpayment and non-payment of wages, sham contracting and breaches of safety laws which lead to workers’ deaths and injuries.

“We congratulate those cross bench Senators who have taken a principled stance in rejecting this bill which discriminates against one million Australians whose sweat and skill built this nation. They, like the majority of the Australian public, know and understand that workers and their unions are the target of a Government that increasingly appears to be the dancing bear of big business.

“There are also serious problems with the misconduct of banks and the finance sector, misconduct that has affected hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who have lost life savings, businesses and homes through fraudulent schemes promoted by the banks.

“The union is also bitterly disappointed by Minister Cash’s refusal to meet with grieving parents of young men who have died on construction sites.

“Attempting to give property developers and big corporations even more power shows that it’s only an exciting time to be an Australian if you are a part of Turnbull’s club,” Mr Noonan concluded.

Climate change in Tasmanian seas

Ocean temperatures off the coast of Tasmania have risen to 4.5C above average – twice the temperature rise that led to the mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef – in a marine heatwave that has lasted more than 130 days.

The above-average temperatures were first recorded in December and have continued into April, affecting the oyster, salmon and abalone industries, as well as stressing already declining kelp forests.

Dr Alistair Hobday, a senior principal research scientist with the CSIRO in Tasmania, said the heatwave could be attributed to El Niño, which extends the southern tip of the East Australian Current down to Tasmania, bringing warmer waters with it, and the effects of climate change.

“Part of the warming we just can’t explain as being down to something other than global warming,” Hobday told Guardian Australia. “In about four months – we are doing that work now – we will be able to say that 60% of it is due to climate change and 40% is due to El Niño.”

IndustriALL: Italian metalworkers hold a successful national strike

On 20 April, Italian metalworkers held a massive successful mobilization during a four-hour national strike across the country.

According to IndustriALL affiliates Fim, Fiom and Uilm the national average participation exceeded 75 per cent. In many factories and offices all activities remained completely blocked. Rallies and meetings were organized at almost 100 central squares all over Italy.

One the most successful mobilizations took place at Comer Industries (Reggio Emilia province) at the home company of current president of Federmeccanica (Italian Employers' Federation of Metalworking Industries). Some 90 per cent of 430 employees went on strike, and at GE Oil & Gas in Florence, the company where the current general director of the metalworking industry organization of employers comes from, 70 per cent went on strike.

The strike was a clear signal of support to the negotiations over renewal of the national contract for metalworkers. The unions believe it is now up to management to answer workers’ demands.

Marco Bentivoglio, general secretary of Fim, finishing the union rally in Naples said, "The number of participants in the strike disprove the predictions of President Federmeccanica, Fabio Storchi. The workers have realized that we need a change, we need a breakthrough agreement that does not leave anybody on the street. Federmeccanica had thrown us a challenge: today’s response is the strongest we could give. What the employers in metal industry should do is to to reopen the negotiations already tonight and to make a contract."

Maurizio Landini, general secretary of Fiom from the stage in Milan in front of Assolombarda (Industrial association of province of Milan) said, "This is the time for the country to restart the economy. The success of the strike shows how metalworkers want the renewal of the national contract, to which they have their right. Federmeccanica tomorrow must reopen the negotiations, I do not want to take responsibility for a conflict which now the country does not need."

Rocco Palombella, ending the rally in front of Reggio Emilia Industrial Union said, "Federmeccanica, change your contractual offer, start from wages, and call us as soon as possible to the negotiating table. It is unacceptable that the leaders of metalworkers employers propose to divide one million six hundred thousand workers in the industry with different offer and equally different payroll increases."

In his letter of support to the Italian metalworkers’ strike Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said,

“IndustriALL Global Union fully supports your demands, which call on the employers’ associations Federmeccanica and Assistal, to reconsider a proposal that would deny to 95 percent of metalworkers a possible increase that is stipulated in the new agreement, it would limit bargaining only to the company or local level, and it would curtail the rights of temporary and subcontract workers.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

US: Harriet Tubman Ousts President Jackson on $20 Note

The U.S. Treasury has announced plans to replace the seventh president on the $20 bill with the runaway slave who became one of the most fearless leaders of the Underground Railroad. Hard to argue with that decision.

Not that people won’t. But Jackson is one of those figures in American history who just look worse and worse with the passage of time. If he had only been a slaveholder, he might have fared better. After all, if you start removing the portraits of slaveholders from paper currency, you’ll wind up with an embarrassing amount of vacant space.

But Jackson was also an intemperate, polarising, trigger-happy populist (a sort of 19th-century Trump, if you will, who at his inauguration enraged polite Washington society by inviting his supporters to party in the executive mansion, which they then proceeded to trash). 

But the tipping point with Old Hickory was his deep-dyed racism: among American politicians, he has become the unofficial poster boy for systematic genocide against Native Americans.

Union Members : Nurses Buck Unions' Downwards Trend

Nurses buck unions’ demise
Friday 8th April, 2016
by Australian Financial Review

As union leaders despair over their shrinking membership, one organisation, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, is defying the shift of workers away from organised labour.

Over the past two years, the federation's membership has grown by 12 per cent to 249,000, making it the nation's largest union.

There are some obvious reasons for its growth.

  • Employment in the health and aged-care sector has been strong, giving the union a large recruiting pool.
  • Nursing is the country's most trusted profession, with the union attracting significant public support when pursuing community campaigns around health and aged-care funding.
  • The federation has also made conscious political and industrial decisions that officials believe have been factors in its success.

The union is not affiliated to the Labor Party and its public brand has not been eroded by the pursuit of mergers with other unions.

"One of the issues that we point to that we think has something to do with our success is that during the 80s and 90s, when there were amalgamations of unions, we stayed true to our membership,"  the union's federal secretary Lee Thomas said.

"We have remained, in the old terms, almost a craft union in many respects.

"I think what we have done with our name points to our membership so we are visible.

"If people want to join our union and they are a nurse or a midwife or an assistant in nursing, then we are the union to join. I don't know if sometimes with amalgamations, it is so easy to identify that."

The Australian Council of Trades Unions has been having discussions about the need for new membership models, including incentives for potential new members, especially young workers.

But the federation already has an advanced strategy to attract members. Union organisers are active at universities and TAFE institutes, offering free or heavily discounted membership to student nurses.

  • Once they start employment, nurses are asked to commit to paying full fees. The average fee is $650 a year.
  • As well as industrial representation, the federation pays the professional indemnity insurance required by nurses as part of their registration.
  • It funds low-cost professional education courses, provides legal advice and, like many unions, access to discounted consumer goods.

"We say there are a number of reasons why we have grown,"  Ms Thomas said.

"The foundation of membership is about how hard we work with our members in the areas in which they work to promote the delivery of health care and aged care, and to make their working lives better.

"There is no silver bullet to this. It is hard work and our branches work really, really diligently with members to campaign for health care and their working lives but also the promotion of the mainstream industrial and professional agendas that we run."

The union has connected with its membership through strong campaigning on issues that are of significant concern to the broader community, including aged care, Medicare and patient welfare.

It has a database of 50,000 supporters, most of whom are consumers of health services. They receive regular electronic bulletins from the union.

"Nurses are the most trusted and respected profession," Ms Thomas said. "They have a good reputation with the community."

Macquarie Poll – Gonski Still A Winner !

The election result in Macquarie is on a knife-edge, according to a new poll commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation.

The poll conducted by ReachTel on April 19 found both the Labor and Liberal Parties with a two-party preferred vote of 50 per cent.

The Liberal Party’s primary vote is sitting at 36 per with Labor behind on 24.6 per cent. The Greens primary vote is 15.1 per cent in Macquarie, according to the poll.

Undecided voters are leaning towards the Liberal Party (52 per cent), compared to Labor (21.3 per cent). However, Greens and independent voters are far more likely to give their preferences to Labor (75.4 per cent) over the Liberals (24.6 per cent).

The NSW Teachers Federation commissioned the polling in six NSW federal electorates to gauge opinions on the Gonski funding issue.

In Macquarie, 36 per cent of voters said they would be less likely to vote for the Coalition if it didn’t continue the Gonski funding. Fifty-eight per cent of Macquarie voters said education was “very important” to them in the federal election.

“Parents and teachers are very clear about the positive impact they see from Gonski needs-based funding and they want it to continue,” said NSW Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron.

He said voters now clearly understood they were misled by the Coalition during the last election campaign when Tony Abbott promised to fund the Gonski program but backed away from doing so once he became prime minister.

“There is now a very clear difference between Labor, which has said it backs extra Gonski funding and the Coalition, which has failed to honour its previous commitment,” Mr Mulheron said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BP: Evidence of Corporate Power

The EU abandoned or weakened key proposals for new environmental protections after receiving a letter from a top BP executive which warned of an exodus of the oil industry from Europe if the proposals went ahead.

In the 10-page letter, the company predicted in 2013 that a mass industry flight would result if laws to regulate tar sands, cut power plant pollution and accelerate the uptake of renewable energy were passed, because of the extra costs and red tape they allegedly entailed.

The measures “threaten to drive energy-intensive industries, such as refining and petrochemicals, to relocate outside the EU with a correspondingly detrimental impact on security of supply, jobs [and] growth,” said the letter, which was obtained by the Guardian under access to documents laws.

The missive to the EU’s energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, was dated 9 August 2013, partly hand-written, and signed by a senior BP representative whose name has been redacted.

It references a series of “interactions” between the two men – and between BP and an unnamed third party in Washington DC – and welcomes opportunities to further discuss energy issues in an “informal manner”.

BP’s warning of a fossil fuel pull-out from Europe was repeated three times in the letter, most stridently over plans to mandate new pollution cuts and clean technologies, under the industrial emissions directive.

This reform “has the potential to have a massively adverse economic impact on the costs and competitiveness of European refining and petrochemical industries, and trigger a further exodus outside the EU,” the letter said.

The plant regulations eventually advanced by the commission would leave Europe under a weaker pollution regime than China’s, according to research by Greenpeace

BP said any clampdown would cost industry many billions of euros and so pollution curbs “should also be carefully accessed with close co-operation with the industrial sectors”.