Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Can Abbott loose safe seat ?

On paper Warringah is a very safe Liberal seat, but there are some indications that it has the potential to slip from the Coalition’s control. 

In 1999 54.5% of the electorate voted yes in the republic referendum – one of only 42 seats where this happened. 

The seat is also a relatively strong area for the Greens, although they have mostly chipped into the Labor vote.

There aren’t many precedents for a television celebrity running seriously as an independent. 

In New South Wales in 1988 the Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser was elected as the independent state member for Balmain, and in 2013 the rugby league star Glenn Lazarus was elected on the Palmer United ticket to the federal Senate. 

Lazarus’s former Canberra Raiders teammate Mal Meninga famously announced he would run as an independent for the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly in 2001, before quickly changing his mind.

Coles may have to renegotiate wages deal

A Coles worker has won a David and Goliath battle against his employer and one of Australia's most powerful unions, potentially forcing the supermarket giant to renegotiate wages and conditions of thousands of employees.

Key points:

  • The decision could affect 77,000 Coles employees
  • The commission ruled that Coles had overvalued some benefits in EBAs
  • Coles has been given 10 days to remedy the failings

Duncan Hart, a student who works part-time at a Coles supermarket in Brisbane, took action in the Fair Work Commission last year.

He claimed the enterprise bargaining agreement between Coles and his union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), left thousands of workers worse-off than they would be under the award, and was therefore invalid.

In a decision published on Tuesday morning, the Fair Work Commission sided with Mr Hart and ruled that the Coles EBA, which covers some 77,000 employees, failed what is known as the better off overall test (BOOT).

Mr Hart said the decision was a victory not just for Coles employees, but for retail workers more broadly.

"It shows that you can't just cut penalty rates, increase the overall base rate and actually still say that people are better off overall," Mr Hart said.

"There will be people who work those unsociable hours who will be worse-off and that's what we saw with the Coles agreement and it was tens of thousands of Coles workers that were worse-off."

The commission gave Coles 10 days to remedy the failings in the EBA before it quashed its original approval.

The decision could force Coles to renegotiate wages and conditions for its workforce of 77,000 employees.

The Coles agreement in question, which was approved by the Fair Work Commission in July last year, mandated a higher hourly base rate for supermarket workers, but cut penalty rates for weekends and nights.

Mr Hart argued that this left a substantial proportion of the Coles workforce worse-off than if they were paid under the existing award.

For a workplace agreement to be legal, all employees must be made better off when an agreement is compared to the award.

France - CGT urged to negotiate

France's government, seeking to avert public transport paralysis when a European soccer tournament kicks off next week, urged the CGT trade union on Tuesday to negotiate a way out of a confrontation over planned labour law reforms.

The transport and labour ministers made the appeal following signals that the CGT, the second largest union by membership, may be ready to talk after months of street protests and rolling strikes, with another rail strike due to start later in the day.

The Socialist government meanwhile used its cheque book to settle sectoral disputes and prevent them coalescing into a national protest movement. It announced a pay rise for teachers, dropped planned cuts in research spending and pledged funds to end a dispute over performing artists' unemployment insurance.

The rail stoppage and calls for strikes in other transport sectors later this week have raised the spectre of chaos when France hosts the Euro 2016 soccer contest from June 10 to July 10, when some 2.5 million fans are expected in stadiums, including 1.5 million foreign visitors.

While President Francois Hollande reiterated his refusal to withdraw a labour reform that would make hiring and firing easier, the ministers said they hoped to defuse the conflict if CGT chief Philippe Martinez showed willing.

"We've been hearing in the last few hours that Mr Martinez is saying 'Let's talk'," Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri told RTL radio. "I am waiting for proposals from the CGT."

To date, the union had demanded that the government simply withdraw the reform plan. It has spearheaded waves of marches and stoppages in sectors such as transport and oil refining.

El Khomri insisted that if the union's position remained unchanged, there would be no deal.

On Monday evening, Martinez said in a debate on RTL radio: "Let's talk again". And he added there was "no pre-condition".

Hollande told Sud Ouest newspaper in an interview there was no turning back on the bill to loosen labour regulations, nor on the most contentious provision giving firms more scope to negotiate working conditions locally.


Transport Minister Alain Vidalies said he was seeking to settle a parallel dispute poisoning labour relations at the SNCF state railways, where employees are not only on the warpath over the reform but also about internal reorganisation.

"We need to accelerate things," he told France Inter radio. He urged management handling talks on the reorganisation to put final proposals to unions by next Monday to help clear the air.

Railway workers were being called out on strike from 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Tuesday for what the CGT and other smaller unions have warned will be a rolling stoppage. But the reformist CFDT union, the largest by membership, withdrew its strike call after the government signalled concessions.

The company said the stoppage was expected to halt 40 percent of high-speed TGV trains and two-thirds of standard intercity routes, with some disruption of Thalys services to Belgium and the Netherlands but not Eurostar trains to London.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Australian Unions – Join for a Better Life

ACOSS: Alliance of community groups launches petition to reform negative gearing

Monday 30 May, 2016

A national alliance of community housing and welfare groups says it’s time to get serious about reforming negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount and put housing affordability front and centre of this federal election campaign.

The alliance – made up of Homelessness Australia (HA), National Shelter, the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) – asks all Australians to sign a petition calling for tax reforms that put ordinary people ahead of the interests of investors.

“Australia is in the midst of a housing crisis and current tax policy has fuelled Australian housing prices to record and unaffordable levels,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Tax settings that encourage speculative investment and inflate house prices – like negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount – must be addressed in a new national strategy to address housing affordability.”

These unfair tax concessions cost the federal budget more than $7 billion every year.

Over half of these tax breaks go to investors in the top 10% of income earners. People who negatively gear claim an average loss of $8,722 per year.

This means funding for essential services such as education, health and dedicated housing for low income families are reduced.

Spending savings should be redirected to improve affordability, including a tax rebate for new affordable housing, and significantly increased investment in public and community housing.

“ACOSS stands with the community in insisting that governments do all that they can to ensure everyone pays their fair share of tax to enable us to fund our services properly into the future and to help end the housing crisis that is pushing people into financial hardship,” said Dr Goldie.

By signing the Vote Home petition, Australians can call on party leaders to change unfair tax concessions and unlock affordable housing for all.

To Vote Home, go to:  

GetUp – Remarkable Results of Enrolment Campaign

Since Malcolm Turnbull marched up to Government House to ask the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and issue the writs, GetUp members have been busy. 

Here's what we achieved together in just a few short weeks.

We took the government to court ...and lost

It's estimated that in NSW there are 100,000 more voters on the state electoral rolls than the federal ones. Why? Because NSW election law allows people to enrol to vote all the way up to – and including – election day. 

That's why we dreamt big, backing in a High Court challenge which would've made voting day enrolment the national standard.

An incredible 1172 GetUp members chipped in to fund this bold challenge. Although the High Court decided to leave the rules unchanged, our challenge received national media, bringing public attention to these outdated laws. 

Thank you to everyone who made this case possible. It isn't our first rodeo – and it certainly won't be our last.

Two million people reached

Straight out of court, GetUp members hit their phone books and their newsfeeds for an intensive two week enrolment campaign – to reach as many of the 950,000 eligible Australians missing from the electoral roll. 

One million GetUp members acting together touched a phenomenal two million Australians – on email, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Not to mention the tens of thousands more who saw our voter enrolment ad on ABC and Sky News.

It was a whirlwind of a campaign, replete with bawdy videos and "dank memes". But how do we know it worked...

9000 enrolments every hour

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has been effusive in praising this year's enrolment efforts – reporting a huge spike in numbers. And on the final day to enrol, the AEC was receiving over 9000 enrol-to-vote forms an hour.2 

Now, a whole week after the closure of the rolls, they are still counting how many people have been added to the electoral roll! But no matter where we end up, the tens of thousands of new voters on the electoral roll are more than enough to tip this year's electoral outcome...

Sky News: GetUp's campaign worked!

Finally, on Monday evening, National Director Paul Oosting appeared on national television where Sky News journalist Laura Jayes lauded the hard work of GetUp members in getting the word out on enrolment.

That almost one million Australians miss out on the chance to exercise their democratic rights every election day is a crying shame. To make matters worse, the statistics tell us that it's young people, migrants and Indigenous Australians who are most likely to miss out. 

GetUp members have fought hard throughout our ten year history to make our democracy as broad and as active as possible, and when it comes to the fundamental right of every citizen having a voice, this election has been no exception. And it's not over yet!

Thank you for whatever part you played, big or small.

But let's be clear – in a democracy we shouldn't have to go to such extreme lengths to make sure every citizen is able to have their say.

Keep up the good fight,
Nat, Daney and Ruby, for the GetUp team 

Ged Kearney – Keynote Speaker Politics in the Pub 31 May 2016

Oriental Hotel 112 Macquarie Rd
From 6 PM

Sunday, May 29, 2016

NSW Law Society Condemns Baird's 'Jack Boot' laws

Proposed laws that intend to increase tenfold the fines for coal seam gas and mining protesters in New South Wales have been strongly criticised by the Law Society of NSW and the NSW Bar Association, just as they are expected to be rushed through both houses of parliament.
The reaction came as hundreds of protesters gathered outside Parliament House in Sydney to express their opposition to the proposals. Some of their placards read: “You gotta fight for your right to fight for your right.”
The laws remove protections for political activities that have “properly been regarded as an essential part of the social, political and cultural life of any civilised society”, said the NSW Bar Association in a submission obtained by Guardian Australia, which recommended the laws not be supported.
And according to the Law Society of NSW, which also does not support the bill, the legislation “appears to encroach upon and limit fundamental rights to assemble and protest” and “would represent an erosion of long-standing democratic institutions and individual rights”.
The Baird government is expected to introduce to parliament on Tuesday legislation intended to limit protest action at mining and coal seam gas sites, which increases penalties for actions like locking-on to mining equipment from $550 to $5,500. The legislation also extends the powers of police and limits the protections peaceful protesters have under the law.
The two submissions raise a number of major concerns, but both use particularly strong language when criticising part of the bill that removes some limits to police powers.
Currently, the Law Enforcement Act allows police to order people to do things in public places, like removing obstructions to traffic or people. But section 200 of the act has important limits to that power, which says police cannot exercise that power in situations like industrial disputes, genuine protests or organised assemblies.
The proposed bill eliminates that section and replaces it with one that gives police discretion over whether they can issue orders at such events.
The NSW Bar Association said section 200 of the Law Enforcement Act functions as “an important check on police power to ensure some balance and as an acknowledgment of the high public interest in allowing concerned or interested citizens to participate in peaceful assembly, processions and genuine demonstrations and protests”.
“Events of that sort have for centuries properly been regarded as an essential part of the social, political and cultural life of any civilised society.”
The Law Society of NSW said the amendment to section 200 “appears to encroach upon and limit fundamental rights to assemble and protest”. It said that fundamental right has been recognised by the high court as implied by the constitution and section 200 recognises that.
In addition, the bill creates a new criminal offence, which is “aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands”. But the NSW Bar Association notes the types of action which falls under that could be anything that interferes with a business activity. And it notes “inclosed lands” include every building in NSW and any private or public area that is surrounded by a fence or wall, even by a natural feature.
The Law Society of NSW also said the laws expand police powers of search and seizure without a warrant, allowing them to seize items that are not inherently dangerous, such as rope. It said in light of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects against arbitrary interference with privacy, such interferences should be safeguarded by the requirement for a warrant.
“The Law Society is very concerned with the apparent trend of expanding police powers without corresponding judicial and other safeguards,” their submission read. “In our view, such a trend would represent an erosion of long-standing democratic institutions and individual rights. For the reasons set out above, the Law Society is not able to support the bill in its current form.”
At the rally outside parliament on Tuesday, both Greens and Labor politicians addressed the crowd. 
“The right to protest must be reserved for future generations,” Labor’s energy spokesman Adam Searle said.
“We will fight these laws because the community have a right to democracy,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

ACTU President Ged Kearney in Caboolture

ACTU President Ged Kearney is in Caboolture today to warn local workers they are under attack from a Federal Government which has failed to deliver a plan for jobs and continues to prioritise tax cuts for multinational corporations while slashing billions of dollars from schools, TAFE, health and hospitals.

Ms Kearney is visiting areas that have been effected by the lack of employment opportunities and will hear directly from community members about the issues that they’re worried about this election.

She said Queensland was facing a jobs crisis because the Turnbull Government had chosen to put the interests of multinational corporations first – delivering corporate tax cuts and endorsing trade deals that sell out local jobs or ship them overseas.

Young people in the electorate of Longman faced real challenges gaining ongoing employment, she said.

“After two years of cuts to skills and training funding, including a $1 billion cut to apprenticeship support it is not surprising that the electorate has double-digit youth unemployment.

“The Coalition have now axed a further $247 million from skills and training making it even harder for young people in Longman who want to get ahead.

“Many Queensland workers are doing it really tough at the moment, and at every turn this government is making it harder and harder to make ends meet.

“Despite a critical level of youth unemployment, they have ripped the heart out of our training system and announced a youth worker exploitation scheme with $4 an hour jobs – all while indigenous job seekers are forced to work for free just to retain their Newstart payment.

“Job security and cost of living pressures are getting worse every year for many people in this region, and we have a government that is turning its back on workers, focusing instead on delivering a business tax break that will be funded by cuts to health and school funding.

“The government is trying to dismantle and privatise Medicare, increasing how much people pay to visit a doctor or get basic tests like x-rays or pap smears.

“This is the last thing Queenslanders need - it’s clear this Government is failing Australian workers, and that’s why we’re urging people to put the Liberals last on July second.”

Sydney: Indian Consulate o pay $10,620 to former driver

Fair Work commission has ordered Indian Consulate in Sydney to pay $10,620 to a former driver who claimed unfair dismissal last year.

Consulate chauffeur Hitender Kumar was dismissed in March last year and subsequently petitioned the Fair Work Commission on 30 March 2015.

Mr. Kumar had also told Fairfax media that he was underpaid by the Consulate. He had also said that he was dismissed after he raised concern about malpractices at the consulate, including issuing passports without conducting required police verification and misuse of e-tag issued for consular cars.

Ruling in favour of Mr. Kumar, Fair Work commission found the dismissal of the applicant was unjust and unreasonable.

 “It was unjust primarily because the applicant was denied procedural fairness, and it was unreasonable primarily because it was without sound and defensible reason,” the ruling reads.

The commission rejected the Indian Consulate’s plea of unsatisfactory performance for Mr. Kumar’s dismissal.

Indian consulate driver claims unfair dismissal

Former Chauffeur at the Indian Consulate, Sydney, Hitender Kumar has alleged he was paid $12 per hour in 2010.

The Indian Consulate in Sydney has been ordered to compensate Mr. Kumar for loss of wages for 12 weeks.

Transport Workers' Union NSW acting secretary Richard Olsen said the order sends a message that no employer is above the law.

“It takes guts to stand up to your boss – especially when that boss is a Foreign Consulate who sacks you for highlighting major issues in the workplace,” Mr Olsen said.

“It also send a message to employers that even if you have diplomatic immunity, you still have to play by Australian workplace laws.”

Mr Olsen said that there are systematic problems with the exploitation of foreign workers in Australia.

“From 7-Eleven, the transport industry and all the way up to foreign embassies, we have seen foreign migrants underpaid, exploited and sacked by their bosses if they speak up,” Mr Olsen said.

“I would encourage any workers who are victims of workplace harassment or underpayment to get in touch with a union to learn about their rights as Australian workers.

The consulate has been ordered to pay Mr. Kumar within 21 days of the date of the order.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Baby Boxes Cut Infant Mortality in Finland—U.S. Cities Give Them a Try

Marcus Harrison Green Yes! Magazine
May 23, 2016

In 1938, the Finnish government presented a gift to impoverished expectant mothers: a box. This gift would transform parenting in the Scandinavian nation. Measuring roughly 27.5 inches long, 17 inches wide, and 10.5 inches tall, each box contained a sturdy mattress and essentials for the first few months of infancy: blankets, clothing, pacifiers, and bibs. Today, the boxes are showing up all over the world, representing much more than a collection of baby items.

1. Boxes provide a safe sleep space

Baby boxes are more than cutesy cardboard containers: They contribute to safe sleep. The Finnish government extended the baby box program to all mothers in 1949. Prior to the box program, 65 out of 1,000 babies died within the first year of birth. Today, Finland’s infant mortality rate is 2.52 deaths per 1,000 births.

Of course, improved medical care accounted for much of that change. But studies suggest that the box has also played a critical role as it provides a safe sleep space for infants, a fact not lost on American doctors.

U.S. pediatricians and advocacy groups are pushing hospitals to give away the cardboard cribs to help reduce America’s infant death rate: 5.87 deaths per 1,000 births—the highest of any wealthy nation.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the safest sleep environment for babies is sleeping alone on a firm surface without blankets, pillows, or loose bedding. The baby box provides that, and officials in Texas recently decided to pursue using baby boxes to help curb an increase in cases of sudden infant death syndrome. According to data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, in 2015, 159 infants died in circumstances involving sharing a bed with a parent or sibling. University Hospital in San Antonio introduced the boxes in 2015 to address that problem.

Initially, the hospital provided boxes to 100 new mothers. The boxes proved popular, and the hospital ordered 500 more to fulfill the demand of parents-to-be.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, the King County Public Health Department has begun distributing baby boxes to needy families who don’t have a safe place for an infant to sleep. And several South Asian nonprofits have introduced a version of the box called the “Barakat Bundle.” This version contains additional items—including antiseptics, sterile razor blades, and other equipment to ensure a hygienic delivery—to address the fact that many women have limited access to maternity care. More than a third of the 5 million infant deaths worldwide occur in the region.

2. Boxes are eco-friendly

Once an infant outgrows the box (usually at 8 or 9 months), the box and its nontoxic foam mattress can be recycled or reused, instead of ending up in a landfill.

“The philosophy behind the boxes is saving lives, but it’s also about what kind of world we are leaving them,” says Jennifer Clary, co-founder of The Baby Box Co., believed to be the only baby box manufacturer in the United States.

Clary says that environmentalism factors heavily into her company’s decisions, down to the ink and glue used in producing the boxes. She says both are certified nontoxic and environmentally safe.

Babies are born “prepolluted” —exposed to some 200 chemicals in the womb.
Concerns about pollution are not just for the environment, but for the babies themselves. A report by the President’s Cancer Panel stated that babies are born “prepolluted”—exposed to some 200 chemicals in the womb.

Doctors suggest this increases the risk of developing diseases such as cancer later in life.

3. Boxes demonstrate support

Baby boxes send a powerful message to mothers, says Danielle Selassie, executive director of Babies Need Boxes, a Minnesota nonprofit.

“It says that all babies start at the same spot and that the community cares about you,” she says.

Selassie, who had her first child at 19, said she suffered firsthand the stigma that comes with being an unwed pregnant teen. The experience inspired her to establish her organization in 2015 after reading a BBC article about Finland’s program.

For Selassie, now 37, the boxes are as much about intangible benefits as about the items inside.

Teen moms often see the boxes as a desperately needed symbol of support. Whatever the circumstances of a woman’s pregnancy, Selassie said, she gets her box without judgment or contempt, a welcome contrast from what many experience while pregnant.

Her organization gave away 54 boxes in 2015. Some recipients had no one to help them during their transition to motherhood, says Selassie.

Baby boxes send a powerful message to mothers
“The mothers are so grateful to have such a show of community support for their children,” she says.

The nonprofit recently distributed boxes at a Minneapolis homeless shelter to pregnant teens, many of whom cried when they lifted the lid to discover the supplies.

Babies Need Boxes also connects teen mothers with service providers such as housing and employment agencies.

The organization plans to hand out 500 more boxes this year.

Baby box clothing by Kela / Annika Söderblom
Photo by Kela / Annika Söderblom

4. Boxes provide supplies to those in need

Baby boxes have long provided a head start in child-rearing for Finnish mothers: Supporting needy families was one of the original reasons behind Finland’s maternity box program.

It was a way to ensure Finnish babies an “equal start in life,” regardless of background, a goal established by the Finnish government in light of the high infant death rate among poor families.

At first, those receiving boxes were required to verify their need. In 1949, legislation stemming from public-health concerns made them available to all pregnant mothers.

The boxes have become so ingrained in Finnish culture that 95 percent of parents accept the box even though they can decline it for a cash payment of 140 euros.

“The boxes really take a lot of stress off of mothers,” says Joy Johnson of Simpson Housing Services, a Minneapolis nonprofit that distributes baby boxes to homeless women.

Johnson says the supplies alleviate the financial pressure many new mothers face when trying to provide items for a newborn.

Baby boxes have long provided a head start in child-rearing
The poorest are the ones who benefit the most, according to Johnson.

“Poor mothers have a hard time finding a safe place for their babies to sleep at times,” says Johnson.

Without baby boxes, Johnson says, many of Simpson Housing’s clientele would make makeshift cribs out of air mattresses or a pile of blankets on the floor.

“Rich or poor, they make the process of having a baby enjoyable,” she adds.

5. Boxes are democratic

True to the egalitarian principles associated with their Scandinavian heritage, baby boxes distributed in Finland cut across socio-economic lines.

Affluent and impoverished families alike receive the same box. To many Finns, this government gift accentuates the collective value placed on family and equality. The country has no private schools, was the first in the world to give women the right to vote, and has the lowest economic inequality of any European Union member.

Clary, of The Baby Box Co., estimates that 75 percent of her company’s business comes from hospitals, local governments, or nonprofits that give away the boxes, regardless of income.

“A baby box is for any parent, rich or poor,” she says.

They also send a symbolic message: In the eyes of a community, all babies matter.

Vote Compass: Most Australians want special Sunday penalty rates to stay

Vote Compass: Most Australians want special Sunday penalty rates to stay

New data from Vote Compass shows a majority of Australians support paying staff more on a Sunday than on a Saturday.

On Sundays, employers in some industries are required to pay their workers double the rate they'd be paid on a weekday, while on Saturday they may pay only 25 to 50 per cent more than a weekday.

Late last year, the Productivity Commission recommended the Fair Work Commission adjust penalty pay so that Sunday award rates were lowered to match Saturday rates in some industries like hospitality and retail.

CHART: Vote Compass: Sunday Wage
Lina Macgregor, 20, is trying to save money for travel and works a regular seven-hour shift on Sundays.

"In terms of saving, working on a Sunday is ideal for me," Ms Macgregor told the ABC.

"It's a very expensive world we're living in at the moment and I think Sunday's penalty rates are very helpful in that regard... I can see how it would take a toll on businesses in that way, like having to employ people for that amount of money, but I think you're working for it."

ACTU Welcomes Funding for Indigenous Ranger program

The ACTU welcomes the ALP's announcement today of extended funding for the Working on Country project which employs Indigenous Rangers.

The $200 million announced will double the size of a program that provides environmental biosecurity for Australia and sustainable employment in remote regions.

The Working on Country Indigenous Rangers demonstrates that employment in remote Australia need not be exploitative and that there are viable alternatives to the failed programs of the Abbott/Turnbull Government.

The Working on Country Program stands in stark contrast to the Community Development Program (CDP) that continues to force Indigenous workers in remote areas into work, for no wages, no superannuation and no cover from federal OHS & Workers ‘Compensation laws.

The Union movement, like all Australians, understands that dignity of employment comes from proper wages and conditions, and not from systems that exploit your labour and treat you as a second-class citizen.

The Working on Country program demonstrates that innovation and investment in remote Australia can provide national and local benefit.

The Turnbull/Abbott Government’s punitive labour programs targeted at Indigenous workers are an archaic policy model which has never produced positive results in the community.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney

  • "This is an excellent program that has provided employment at a decent wage for Indigenous Rangers."
  • "It is fitting, at the start of National Reconciliation Week, that we are seeing a real commitment to innovation and investment in Indigenous communities."
  • "The Turnbull budget was deafening in its silence on providing any innovative and positive investment in Indigenous communities which is demonstrative of their ongoing attitude to Indigenous Affairs which saw 500 million ripped out of the budget in 2014/2015.”
  • "It is unfortunate that so many other Abbott/Turnbull Government programs targeted at Indigenous Australians offer exploitation and disempowerment rather than positive investment and innovation."

CFMEU: Green Ban to halt Developer desecration of Bondi Pavilion

May 27, 2016 - 11:45PM

Jack Thompson: Hands off the Bondi Pavilion

Actor Jack Thompson, a long time resident of Bondi,
urges Waverley Council to pause on its redevelopment of the iconic Bondi Pavilion.
Construction workers have imposed a green ban on the $38 million renovation plan for Bondi Pavilion proposed by the mayor of Waverley Sally Betts, as residents plan more protests against what they say amounts to privatisation of public space.

As tensions over the mayor's plans escalated this week in raucous council meetings, the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU) executive decided to impose a ban on working on the site until there was community support for the project.

The ban will be formally announced on Sunday at an event outside the iconic art deco pavilion, with the former champion of green bans in Sydney, Jack Mundey, who is now in his 80s as the guest speaker.

Former BLF leader and green ban man Jack Mundey being carried from a protest at The Rocks in the early seventies.

The Builders Labourers Federation, led by Mr Mundey, made green bans a household word in the 1970s, when they first ordered union members not to destroy Kelly's bush in Hunters Hill and later ordered members not to work on the demolition of terraces in the Rocks. The move led to the preservation of the building heritage and also prompted the government to preserve much of the Rocks for public housing. This includes of course the Rocks housing that the Baird-faced NSW Premier is now selling off to destroy a vibrant elderly community.

CFMEU state president of the construction branch Brian Parker said his union had decided on the ban on working on the site because of the depth of community support.

"We will be standing side by side with the local residents to make sure that work isn't started on the project until there has been proper consultation and discussion and it's all been agreed with the stakeholders," he said.

Iconic Australian artist John Olsen.

"Similar to the Rocks, it's my understanding that this will take away public space, take away people from the arts. We think its ridiculous that the council and the mayor think they can railroad ratepayers, and that it will be privatised," he said.

Highlighting the importance of Bondi Pavilion as an arts and culture centre, well-known australian artist John Olsen and his son Tim Olsen, who runs a well-known gallery in Woollahra, will also join the rally on Sunday.

Bondi residents are up in arms about part of the plan to turn the first floor and balcony into space for restaurants and cafes.

Kilty O'Brien, convener of Save Bondi Pavilion, said there had been over 700 submissions on the council plan and only six in favour.

"The community's voice is clearly saying it does need to be restored but it needs to remain a community space. You cannot charge us $38 million and lock us out for the privilege," she said.

The CFMEU's Brian Parker, Kilty O'Brien, musician Dave Faulkner and Rita Mallia outside the Bondi Pavilion.

Dave Faulkner, a musician best known for his time with the Hoodoo Gurus, has lived in Bondi since 1984.

"It's a vital resource for families with children," he says. "A drink on the balcony is part of Bondi life."

Faulkner believes that the $38 million restoration will turn the Pavilion into a shopping centre.

"It's an expensive, radical change to a resource the community is perfectly content with. The whole thing is an act of cultural vandalism and a flagrant waste of ratepayers' money. Its a virtual theft of community property to benefit developers."

Read more:

Tsipras - Russia sanctions not productive.

Western sanctions against Russia are not productive, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday, weeks before the European Union is on track to renew them.

The EU slapped sanctions on Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. The 28-strong EU needs unanimity to keep the sanctions in place and the bloc's unity has been increasingly tested on that.

"We have repeatedly said that ... the vicious circle of militarization, of Cold War rhetoric and of sanctions is not productive," Tsipras told reporters during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Greece. "The solution is dialogue."

"Everyone recognises that there cannot exist a future for the European continent with the European Union and Russia at loggerheads," Tsipras said.

Friday, May 27, 2016

NBN -- Farmers Offered Inferior Product

Farmers are calling for the National Broadband Network to roll out more fixed wireless services in remote and regional areas, with many fearing they will be limited to satellite internet access.

Outside of fibre cable or access through a phone line, the NBN offers fixed wireless internet to those living within 14 kilometres of a tower and internet via a satellite for those living further away.

Poor internet coverage has plagued regional and remote communities for years, and the NBN has promised to give them access to fast and reliable connections.

"We call it a data drought because we can't access enough data to have the same sort of comparable service that people in urban areas can," Georgie Somerset, who runs a property at Kingaroy in south-east Queensland, said.

The technical and topographical limitations of the fixed wireless technology mean for some farmers and agribusinesses, satellite is the only option.

"The satellite should be there for people as a last resort, who are truly isolated," Ms Somerset said.

"There's about 3 per cent of the Australian population, who are truly isolated and have no other option."

These sentiments were echoed by Anna Shaw, whose family runs a farm west of Orange, in central-western New South Wales.

She can see a tower from her house but is 800 metres outside the NBN's boundary, so she does not qualify for fixed wireless.

"I was thinking, what about the people who live in remote communities?" Ms Shaw said.

"I'm being offered this inferior product

NSW : March Against Baird

March from Town Hall to NSW Parliament, Macquarie Street. Mike Baird's tax revenue paradise. His haven. Our hell. #bairdoutnow #MARCHAGAINSTMIKE 


  • The compulsory acquisition of homes and heritage buildings for unworkable highways. The destruction of 130 year old trees and thousands of Indigenous artefacts for Sydney's light rail project.
  • The destruction of livelihoods, small business, venues and our nightlife in the name of puritanical lock out laws that favour no-one but Bairds mates at the casino. 
  • The muzzling of the anti CSG movement via new anti-protest laws. 
  • The unwarranted harassment at our train stations by sniffer dogs. 
  • The further erosion of our civil liberties via the passing of the Serious Crime Prevention Bill, that can see YOU arrested without charge and kept for 14 days, based on the "hunch'' of a police officer. (Coinciding with the opening of a brand new PRIVATELY BUILT AND RUN prison in Sydney's south west.)
  • The privatisation of disability services.
  • The forced amalgamation of local councils.
  • The shocking new Biodiversity Bill.
The more we take lying down, the more HE takes from us. 

What else will he introduce in the next 3 YEARS??? Enough is Enough! Save NSW! 

WA: Carnarvon council should be sacked

The entire Carnarvon council should be sacked after refusing to fly the Aboriginal flag during Naidoc week, the local MP says.

The Western Australian council was equally divided in voting on the matter at a meeting this week, until the president, Karl Brandenburg, cast the deciding no.

The decision sparked peaceful protests in the town but also threats to Brandenburg, he says, leaving his wife and children fearing for their safety.

The furore has attracted not just the attention of the national media but criticism from Labor, Liberal and National MPs.

The premier, Colin Barnett; the shadow treasurer, Ben Wyatt; and local MP Vince Catania have offered to give the town an Aboriginal flag, but Brandenburg insists the Australian flag will fly alone outside the council chambers during National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee week.

“There’s a huge problem in Carnarvon and it’s fantastic that they [politicians] want to support flying the flag but I’d rather they support children who are starving in the streets.

“The kids are just left to their own devices. They’re like orphans – that’s how sad it is. So if I can seize on this opportunity to bring attention to that, I’ll leave the flag exactly where it is.”

Brandenburg said he remained of the view that flying the Aboriginal flag outside council chambers would be “divisive” but he was happy for it to be displayed anywhere else in town.

“Everybody is very keen to make out that I’m a racist and I’m doing the wrong thing, but I still stand by my statements that it is divisive and we’re all Australian, and we should fly under one flag.”

Vince Catania said Brandenburg and the rest of the council should be sacked.

“There’s a systemic cultural problem at that shire,” he said.

Catania said he was considering introducing a private member’s bill to parliament to force councils in the state to fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian and WA flags.

Obama Visit to Hiroshima

Barack Obama has become the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, 71 years after the Japanese city became the target of the world’s first atomic bombing and ushered in a nuclear age he has vowed to bring to an end.

In a scene many survivors of the US bombing believed they would never live to see, Obama laid flowers at a memorial to the dead before paying tribute to the people of Hiroshima and calling on humanity to learn the lessons of the past to make war less likely.

“On a bright cloudless morning death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” he said, adding that humankind had shown it had the means to destroy itself.

“Why did we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead,” he said.

“Their souls speak to us, they ask us to look inward, take stock of who we are,” he said.

Obama urged the world to “choose a future when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

He said: “Technological progress without equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.

“This is why we come to this place, we stand here, in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell.

“We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry.

“Someday the voices will no longer be with us to bear witness, but the memory must never fade. That memory fuels our imagination. It allows us to change.”

In the distance stood the burned-out shell of the atomic-bomb dome – the most potent physical symbol of Hiroshima’s recovery from the ashes of war.

As expected, Obama did not offer an apology for the decision by his predecessor, Harry Truman, to unleash an atomic bomb over the city. The attack at the end of the second world war on 6 August 1945 killed an estimated 80,000 people soon after the blast. By the end of the year, the death toll had reached 140,000.

After the ceremony, Obama talked to two survivors: Sunao Tsuboi, the 91-year-old head of a survivors group, and Shigeaki Mori, 79, a historian who was just 8 when the bomb detonated.

Obama spoke to Tsuboi first. They laughed at one point, the president throwing back his head and smiling broadly. Obama mostly listened, though, holding the elderly man’s hand in his own, an interpreter standing nearby. Tsuboi stamped his cane emphatically while speaking.

Obama then stepped to Mori and shook his hand. He bowed his head briefly and nodded as the man spoke. He patted Mori on the back and hugged him as the survivor shed a few tears.

He was accompanied by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, whose presence, Obama said ahead of the visit, would “highlight the extraordinary alliance” the US had created during the seven decades since the end of the war.

Obama had long held the desire to go to Hiroshima, despite the potential for the visit to cause controversy in the US. 

While many Japanese consider the attack a war crime – yet recognising the part their country’s militarist leaders played in bringing it about – the consensus in the US is that the attack hastened the end of the Pacific war, saving many more American and Japanese lives.

ACTU: Cutting Off The Oil to Apartheid

Turnbull Budget: No Jobs and No Growth

With an election based around jobs and growth and a budget largely dependent on that growth delivering revenue, the government would have been looking for some good news from the capital expenditure figures. 
Alas there is very little joy to behold with the sharp falls in investment continuing. 
For those wanting good news, the best you can say is that things don’t look to be getting any worse and that maybe the outlook for the next 12 months in the non-mining sector might even be better than expected.
Three months ago when viewing the capital expenditure figures – which measure essentially business investment either in buildings, structures, machinery and equipment – economist Stephen Koukoulas tried to find some positives by suggesting they were “sort of unhorrible”.
This time round, there was no sense of coating the figures with any sugar. Koukoulas tweeted that they were “a shocker”.

Sydney: Inner West Fights 'Quisling' Council

On the evening of 24 May 2016, residents from Sydney's former Leichhardt, Marrickville and Ashfield local councils – undemocratically terminated by the Baird Liberal Government – struck back, closing down the first meeting of the dictatorially-administered "Inner West Council".

This body is to be governed by Richard Pearson, a hand-picked former deputy-director of NSW's planning department at the time when the department was rubber-stamping the retrogressive WestConnex tollway proposal and plans for resumption and redevelopment of vast areas of Sydney for high-rise apartments.

In this video we see hundreds of residents rally outside of the Marrickville Admin Centre and then enter the chamber of the former, democratically-elected Marrickville Council, and close down the first meeting of the undemocratic state-government imposed administration.

This incident has generated a great deal of controversy in the mainstream media but this is the fullest video documentary coverage.

Australia scrubbed from UN climate change report

Every reference to Australia was scrubbed from the final version of a major UN report on climate change after the Australian government intervened, objecting that the information could harm tourism.

Guardian Australia can reveal the report “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”, which Unesco jointly published with the United Nations environment program and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Friday, initially had a key chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as small sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.
But when the Australian Department of Environment saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed by Unesco. Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the axed section on the reef, said Australia’s move was reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union”.
No sections about any other country were removed from the report. The removals left Australia as the only inhabited continent on the planet with no mentions.
Explaining the decision to object to the report, a spokesperson for the environment department told Guardian Australia: “Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism.”
As a result of climate change combined with weather phenomena, the Great Barrier Reef is in the midst of the worst crisis in recorded history. Unusually warm water has caused 93% of the reefs along the 2,300km site to experience bleaching. In the northern most pristine part, scientists think half the coral might have died.
The omission was “frankly astounding,” Steffen said.

NBN Raids – AFP Relies on Laws Enacted in First World War

The Australian Federal Police is relying on an old and flawed law to reach into some disturbing new places. From the NBN raids to investigating a doctor who spoke out about asylum seeker care, it's looking decidedly anti-democratic, writes Michael Bradley.

The AFP's powers are limited. It can only investigate crimes under Commonwealth laws, and there aren't that many of those. The vast majority of crime is a state law matter. For the NBN and Khazaei investigations, the AFP called upon section 70(1) of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, which has been on the statute books since 1914 and is extraordinarily wide.

When a law is on the books for a long time and is breached constantly but rarely prosecuted, we know one thing about it - it's a stupid law.

There have been many calls for the repeal of section 70, including from the Law Reform Commission, but neither major party has bothered dealing with it. Of course there's no practical problem with leaving an excessively wide law on the books for years, provided the cops don't one day start using it as a means of sticking their beaks into places we really shouldn't want them to go...

In the NBN and Khazaei cases, the AFP could only proceed if it reasonably suspected that a Commonwealth officer leaked the material that got into the media.

Seriously, what the hell? As I've said, neither case involves national security or anything remotely approaching a state secret. In the Khazaei case, what was leaked was the information which let us know what the Government was desperately keen we not know: that Khazaei's death was caused by us. The only person who might care about the privacy of his medical records was him, and he's dead.

As for the NBN case, you might be wondering how section 70 can even apply. Only a "Commonwealth officer" can breach section 70. But NBN Co is an ordinary trading company under the Corporations Act, and its own legislation specifically provides that it is not a public authority. So, how can an NBN employee be a Commonwealth officer?

Here's where the stupidity of section 70's existence goes into overdrive. The Crimes Act defines "Commonwealth officer" to include not just public servants but anyone who "performs services for or on behalf of the Commonwealth". That technically picks up every person who works for a business which provides any services to any Federal Government entity - even law firms, the horror. It comfortably brings NBN Co's employees within section 70's extended reach.

The significance of these stories is manifold. The political dimension is that the Government continues to demonstrate that it is anything but liberal in its attitude to the public's right to know; it is very focused on preventing the truth and punishing those who reveal it.

The governmental aspect is that the AFP now appears hopelessly politicised and compromised by its own actions; it is actively pursuing people who have done nothing other than possibly break a bullshit law which should have been repealed decades ago and which now appears to be being selectively exploited for entirely political ends.

It gives the impression that the AFP has become a willing tool of the government of the day, and we should not expect this to change if the ALP wins the election. It's just as bad.

The societal issue is profound. A properly functioning democracy is able to immediately identify when a long-redundant law is disinterred by authorities who wish to use it for anti-democratic ends. Our democracy is rapidly losing this ability. The consequence today is that a young man's death and the airing of a government's incompetence are resulting only in the shooting of the messengers. You don't need much imagination to see where this is heading.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

France: CGT Strike Continues

France's CGT union sought to choke off power and fuel supplies and hamper the public transport network on Thursday in a showdown with a government that flatly refused to withdraw a contested labour law reform.

As tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, workers responded to the union call by stopping work at oil refineries, nuclear power plants and the railways, as well as erecting road blocks and burning wooden pallets and tyres at key ports like Le Havre and near key distribution hubs.

After months of rolling protests sparked by a reform that aims to make hiring and firing easier, Thursday's stoppages and street marches were being watched closely as a test of whether the CGT-led opposition is solid or at risk of fizzling out.

The street marches were joined by scores of marchers from a youth protest movement called Nuit Debout (Up All Night). Police deployed to counter risks of the severe fringe violence in which 350 police and several protesters have been hurt and more than 1,300 arrested at similar rallies in recent weeks.

CGT chief Philippe Martinez, asked by Reuters if his union was willing to disrupt the Euro 2016 football contest, said: "The government will has the time to say 'let's stop the clock' and everything will be ok."


"There is no question of changing tack, even if adjustments are always possible," said Valls, who flatly rejected calls to scrap the part of the law that put the CGT on the warpath.

That section would let companies opt out of national obligations on labour protection if they adopt in-house deals on pay and conditions with the consent of a majority of employees.

The SNCF state train company said that upwards of two-thirds of national, regional and local rail connections were operating, suggesting stoppages by railworkers were hurting less than last week when a similar strike halved the number of trains running.

After police intervention in recent days to lift blockades at refineries and fuel distribution depots, Valls said 20-30 percent of fuel stations were dry or short of certain fuels.

Victoria to abolish on-the-spot penalties for fare evasion.

The Victorian government has announced it will abolish on-the-spot penalties for fare evasion after its public transport ombudsman found punishments were poorly targeted and disproportionate.
The ombudsman has been besieged by complaints since the Myki system replaced the Metcard system in 2012, prompting the state government to order an investigation. 
In the 2014-15 financial year, it received 1,214 complaints about infringement notices and penalty fares, an increase of 43% on the previous year.
“Without appropriate use of discretion, the drift net catches large numbers of unsuspecting tourists, students and numerous other ‘one-off’ evaders, many of whom are left baffled, distressed and almost invariably poorer,” the ombudsman, Deborah Glass, said on Thursday.
The most controversial aspect of the system was the on-the-spot fines for fare evasion. Passengers travelling without a valid Myki can pay an on-the-spot penalty of $75. If they fail to do so, they are issued with a $223 infringement notice.
Passengers have complained they feel compelled to pay the smaller fine because of a fear of receiving the larger one, even if they believed they had been wrongfully fined and might have otherwise contested the penalty. By paying the smaller fine, they lose their right to contest. 
Ticket inspectors have also been accused of bullying commuters and of being intimidating. Some people have alleged inspectors have used standover tactics to get people to pay.
Adding to the problem is that Myki card-readers on trams often fail to detect valid Myki cards, and the cards can be faulty. If the machine fails to read the card, a Myki inspector can issue a fine to a commuter for failing to “tap on”. 
The system prompted Victorians to establish a Facebook page to alert commuters to the presence of the inspectors, and to support people with concerns.
The high-profile human rights barrister Julian Burnside has offered his support to those who feel they have been unjustly fined or treated poorly by inspectors.

Greece's exit from the eurozone averted -- for now.

But at what cost to Greece's international reputation, the Greek people and the country's relations with its European partners?

17 hours of negotiations have left Greece facing the prospect, once again, of tough austerity measures.

Eurozone leaders made Greece surrender much of its sovereignty to outside supervision.

But in return, they have agreed to talks on an 86-billion-euro bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is now under pressure to get parliament to pass economic-reform laws in exchange for a new bailout package.

Unpopular reforms include pension cuts, budget cuts and the privatisation of industries such as electricity.

It comes just two weeks after the country voted no to further austerity in a landmark referendum, and some observers say it leaves Greece looking humiliated.

Mark Melatos is from the school of economics at the University of Sydney.

Dr Melatos says, beyond how Greece may be viewed around the world, scars will probably remain between eurozone countries.

"In the end, it wasn't even just Greece against all the other countries. I think there were divisions among many of the European countries, including, you know, France and Germany, and Italy and Germany, and so on. So, again, I think, while this is definitely a victory for Germany, really, I think it is a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, because, somehow, the eurozone after this experience is going to be more adversarial, I think, and members are going to just be looking over their shoulders."

As Europe's largest economy, and the biggest provider of loans to Greece under its two previous bailout programs, Germany has played a key role in the negotiations.

SBS German broadcaster Oliver Heuthesays Germany has taken a hardline approach on austerity measures for Greece for good reason.

"After the reunification (of Germany), which cost over a trillion euro -- which is an enormous sum that Germany had to bring up to recover East Germany's economy -- which resulted in a massive unemployment rate, Germany, the Social Democratic government, the new one after (Helmut) Kohl left, reacted with harsh measures -- austerity, sort of work-for-the-dole programs -- and it worked, it flourished. And now we've become one of the strongest economies within a space of 15 years, and we are lending money to other countries."

But the tough conditions imposed on Greece have been likened to the 1919 Versailles treaty, which left Germany struggling to pay war reparations.

Dr Melatos, from the University of Sydney, says, similarly, Greece will battle.

"Greece cannot repay this debt. I think the deal that has been agreed to here is, in some sense, the worst of all worlds, because Greece will be continuing depression (regarding) austerity, basically, for the foreseeable future. At the end of that, they still won't be able to repay their debt, so they'll still be effectively bankrupt. And, really, the only solution here was a Greek exit."

SBS Greek broadcaster Dina Gerolymou says the human cost of austerity to date has already been enormous.

She says the Greek people have been left questioning whether further austerity measures could genuinely help them.

"We have, in Greece, about two million people who live below the poverty line. Half a million children live in families where both parents are unemployed. We have a very high percentage of unemployment and the highest ever among the young people under the age of 30. At the same time, the last five years, austerity demanded that taxes were raised while incomes were being cut."

Turnbull Super Disadvantages Women

The Turnbull government’s superannuation changes will hit women aged over 50 more than any other group.
New analysis from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (Natsem) shows the government’s super reforms actually discourage some women from contributing more to their super before they retire.
It has found women over 50 – who are earning enough to be affected by the policy changes – will be forced to pay a higher tax on their super contributions, as a proportion of their income, than men.

Natsem’s Prof Robert Tanton says the women most affected by the policy changes are at a stage in their lives where they should be contributing more to super, and are earning enough to do so, and should be encouraged to do so.
But he says the government’s policy will have the opposite effect, and he discovered the unintended consequences after running detailed modelling by age and gender.
“It’s a policy change that is intended to affect certain [high-income] groups, and is it affecting those groups, and that’s probably a reasonable change,” Tanton said.
“But inadvertently it’s affecting a particular group who should be increasing the amount of money they’re putting into super, and that’s females aged 50 to 64.”