Wednesday, August 31, 2016

ANMF – Political Leaders Must Put Health and Aged Care First


Tuesday 30th August, 2016

The country’s biggest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has welcomed new Ministers, MPs and Senators to Australia’s 45th Parliament today and called on them to put health and aged care at the top of their policy agenda.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the voter backlash against the Turnbull Government at the July 2 election demonstrated that Australians regard their health as their number one priority, with Medicare the key ingredient to protecting their own health and the health of their families.

“The people of Australia sent a strong message to the Government at the polling booths about the importance of healthcare and just how much Medicare matters to them,” Ms Thomas said today.

“And polling done in preparation for the new Parliament shows that Australians’ concern for health continues, with more than 60% saying that healthcare must be the number one focus for the new Government.”

With that understanding, Ms Thomas said the ANMF and its members will continue to campaign hard on:

  • Restoring billions axed from national health and aged care funding;
  • Protecting, maintaining and improving Medicare;
  • Ensuring safe staffing ratios (including 24/7 nurses) in aged care facilities;
  • Protecting the penalty rates of nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing (AIN).

“With the new Parliament sitting for the first time, the ANMF looks forward to working constructively with all MPs and Senators to ensure our health system remains one of the best in the world. We need to ensure the system is adequately funded, that Medicare is universally maintained to guarantee every Australian’s access to quality care when they need it, and to work on developing sustainable solutions to Australia’s growing health needs,” Ms Thomas explained. 

“And critically, we need politicians to also address the ANMF’s concerns regarding aged care. The new Parliament must ensure that our elderly citizens receive the care they deserve by funding the system properly with mechanisms that ensure funding is directed to care for elderly residents and safe staffing levels in nursing homes.    

“The election certainly proved that Australians have put the Government on notice – that’s why it should heed this call and work with the ANMF and our other key stakeholders to address growing inequality in Australia and find achievable solutions to increasing inequities in health and aged care.”

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

ACTU – Poll shows disturbing picture of youth employment

A new independent poll shows that many young Australians are struggling at work and urgently need support.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) commissioned market research firm QDOS Research to conduct the poll in the first half of 2016, with almost 500 young Australians, between 18 and 24 years of age, taking part.

Key results:

  • Half of respondents said they were being treated poorly by their managers.
  • 56% said they were receiving no training at work.
  • 51% think they are not being paid the right amount and are concerned about their working conditions.
  • 49% said they cannot rely on getting regular work.
  • A quarter are worried they are not being paid enough superannuation by their bosses.
  • 64% don’t have any kind of career progression.
  • 72% said they would like some external support with safety issues.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

“The results showed that many young working people have major concerns, including: being treated badly by management, no access to training or development, and issues with getting regular work and pay.”

“65% of young people have said they want to improve their skills and professional development, while 55% said they would like external support to improve job security and get regular shifts.”

“The Federal Government needs to invest in young people through education and training.”

“Employers also need to be held responsible for paying young people the right wages, their penalty rates, super and providing adequate on the job training.”

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash must turn their attention to young working people and address these serious problems.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Labor wins thumping victory in Northern Territory



CFMEU: Rio Tinto ordered to pay up for 'serious and persistent wrongdoing'

A Federal Court judge has handed down a $50,000 penalty against Rio Tinto for victimising and illegally standing down a Hail Creek coalminer.

The victim, Michael Haylett, injured his neck while driving a bulldozer in 2010; an injury that Rio Tinto admitted was caused by the company’s negligence.

After being declared fit for work, Mr Haylett continued at the mine for three years. It was not until the Queensland District Court awarded him $630,000 in November 2013, as compensation for his injuries, did Rio Tinto stand down Mr Haylett.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Steve Smyth welcomed the judgment, describing the penalty imposed onto Rio Tinto as a David and Goliath battle against a mining giant.

“Michael Haylett, Hall Payne Lawyers, and the union have been fighting this case for three years, and Michael is finally getting justice against one of the worlds biggest mining companies for his unfair sacking,” Mr Smyth said.

“Rio Tinto has been running a vendetta against Michael Haylett for years, and the way the company acted in this matter - beginning with the heavy-handed and illegal sacking of a worker, to ignoring a Supreme Court order - is appalling and the penalty of $50,000 against them is deserved.

“Mr Haylett has been through three years of legal proceedings to hold Rio Tinto to account for their improper actions, and today is his victory.”

The case highlighted the lengths that some employers go to target workers who stand up to improper treatment.

“The Federal Court found that Rio Tinto’s decision to stand down Mr Haylett was made in retaliation for him winning his damages claim, and was in breach of the Fair Work Act,” Mr Smyth said.

“Justice Reeves made clear in his judgment that he did not think Rio Tinto has any remorse for its treatment of Mr Haylett, and that it acted deliberately to break the law to sack a worker out of spite.”

Solicitors from Hall Payne Lawyers said that they had seldom seen worse treatment of an employee by a company, with Rio Tinto’s defiance of Supreme Court orders and arrogance nearly unprecedented.

The judgment also provided for Michael Haylett to be awarded compensation for his suffering, along with back pay for the time he spent stood down by Rio Tinto. This amount will be determined by the court next week.

Monday, August 29, 2016

CFMEU – EBA IS CODE COMPLIANT

The 2016 General Construction Enterprise Agreement is compliant with the existing (2013) Federal Government Building Code.

Contrary to a campaign of misinformation from both the Master Builders Association and the Herald Sun, the current EBA has been certified by Fair Work Australia and has been deemed Code Compliant by the FWBC.

At no point has the CFMEU suggested or maintained that the current 2016 Agreement would be compliant with the proposed draft 2014 Code. However, it is also important to note that the draft 2014 Code is exactly that: a draft code. It was not voted on by the past Senate and has yet to be put to the newly elected Senate.

Around 500 companies have now lodged and/or had the agreement certified. These include:

  • Brookfield Mulitplex
  • Probuild
  • Form 700
  • Caelli Constructions
  • I&D Constructions
  • Hacer Group
  • Hickory Group
  • Hutchinson Builders
  • LU Simons
  • Mirvac Construction

This represents almost 50 percent of the onsite membership.

It is clear that the Liberal Government, working in conjunction with the Master Builders Association is intent on sowing as much confusion and discord in the construction sector as possible to justify their ongoing ideological war against the CFMEU and construction workers. Regardless of the ongoing and antagonistic stance by these parties, the CFMEU continues to work collaboratively with the vast majority of the industry to roll out an Agreement that will deliver certainty, stability and increased productivity for the next three years and beyond.

John Setka

Seven for You – Eleven for Me

Demand for rethink on Newstart Benefits

A former Liberal leader, a prominent comedian and an award-winning novelist are among those who have signed an open letter calling on the federal government to abandon plans to cut unemployment payments.

Thirty-four notable Australians – also including economists, academics and religious leaders – have put their names to the letter urging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to change course on the Newstart benefit. They're also calling on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor to stand firm against the government's plans.

Former Liberal leader John Hewson, comedian Corinne Grant, Miles Franklin Prize-winner Anna Funder, businessman John Menadue and former politicians Carmen Lawrence and Cheryl Kernot have signed the letter.

Other signatories include economist David Morawetz, Uniting Church president Stuart McMillan and respected academics Barbara Pocock, Spencer Zifcak, Frank Stilwell, Marian Baird and John Buchanan.

The government plans to axe a supplement – introduced by Labor – for anyone who applies for Newstart after September 20.

But critics say cutting the supplement will create a two-tiered system in which the newly unemployed will be paid a record low of 32 per cent below the official poverty line.

The $1.4 billion cut was announced in this year's budget, going against the advice even of the Business Council of Australia which had previously argued Newstart "no longer meets a reasonable community standard of adequacy and may now be so low as to represent a barrier to employment".

The open letter – organised by the Australia Institute think tank – says cutting Newstart is bad economic and social policy.

"A government that plans to give more to the richest Australians while cutting support for people below the poverty line will only further entrench inequality in Australia," the letter says.

EU – US TTIP Hits a Wall ?

Free trade talks between the European Union and the United States have failed, Germany's economy minister said Sunday, citing a lack of progress on any of the major sections of the long-running negotiations.

Both Washington and Brussels have pushed for a deal by the end of the year, despite strong misgivings among some EU member states over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany's vice chancellor, compared the TTIP negotiations unfavorably with a free trade deal forged between the 28-nation EU and Canada, which he said was fairer for both sides.

"In my opinion, the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it," Gabriel said during a question-and-answer session with citizens in Berlin.

He noted that in 14 rounds of talks, the two sides haven't agreed on a single common item out of 27 chapters being discussed.

Gabriel accused Washington of being "angry" about the deal that the EU struck with Canada, known as CETA, because it contains elements the U.S. doesn't want to see in the TTIP.

"We mustn't submit to the American proposals," said Gabriel, who is also the head of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party.

In Washington, there was no immediate comment from the office of the U.S. trade representative.

Christian Wigand, a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU's executive arm and which is leading the TTIP negotiations, said Sunday that the institution had no comment or reaction at this time.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Massive Demonstrations Support Refugees

Thousands of people have rallied around Australia, calling for the government to immediately close its offshore immigration centres following the publication of the Nauru files.


Protests were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Newcastle, Hobart, Brisbane, Adelaide, Ballina, and at the Australian embassies in London and Tokyo on Saturday. Another rally is planned for Darwin on Sunday, the day after the Northern Territory election.



Chris Breen, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Collective and organiser of the Melbourne rally said about 2,000 people attended.


“The point was to keep the pressure up on the Turnbull government after the election. We think refugee policy is coming apart at the seams,” Breen told Guardian Australia.


A former teacher from Nauru addressed the Melbourne crowd and shared her experiences in the centre, including an incident when guards ran a mock serious response scenario, including ambulances and fake blood, but didn’t warn detainees. The exercise was held in front of the school, she said.

The publication of the Nauru files, which included more than 2,000 incident reports documenting the everyday trauma and distress of detainees on the Pacific island as well as widespread mental illness and frequent acts of violence, showed the ongoing urgency to close the camps and bring the asylum seekers and refugees to Australia, Breen said.


“The abuse isn’t a product of lack of oversight, it’s built into the detention system.”



CPSU: 24 HOUR STRIKE ANNOUNCED FOR 9 SEPTEMBER


STRIKE ACTION 9 SEPTEMBER

As part of our multi-pronged plan to resolve the Government’s long running Commonwealth bargaining mess, a 24 hour strike has been called for Friday 9th September starting at midnight Thursday and running until midnight on Friday.

YOUR SUPPORT IS CRUCIAL

As a member you can help make this action as effective as it can be by encouraging people in your agency to join the union and support the action.

SENDING A CLEAR MESSAGE

With the Government having just ruled out any changes to its deeply flawed bargaining policy - leaving agencies unable to improve bad offers - now is the time to send a loud and clear message. Strong support for this action will back in our other strategies to shift the Government. These are outlined below.

WHO IS GOING ON STRIKE?

Agencies involved in this round of strikes include: DHS, ATO, Defence, DAWR, PM&C, Environment, BoM, NLA, CDPP, AAT, DPS, IP Australia and others to be confirmed. More information will follow shortly.

BACKGROUND

Because of the Government’s harsh and unworkable bargaining policy around 75% of Commonwealth public servants still do not have a new agreement and haven’t had a pay rise in more than two years. It is worth noting that politicians and senior management have received pay rises during this time.

WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW

The week before last, Immigration and Border Force members took high profile 24 hour strike action.
Last week we launched Fair Work action against Employment Minister Michaelia Cash over her failure to bargain in good faith.

Right now, DHS members are holding one hour stop-work meetings and planning is underway in many agencies for a 24 hour strike on Friday 9 September.
And when parliament resumes, CPSU members will be out in force lobbying pollies.

KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON

Over the next few months we will be turning up the pressure to try and resolve outstanding issues which include protecting existing conditions and rights and securing a pay outcome that recognises members have endured a long pay freeze. We know members care deeply about rights like work and family conditions, protection of hours, Domestic Violence Leave and the right to representation.

OUR MULTI-PRONGED PLAN

Right now we are stepping up the pressure on the Government with a four-pronged approach:

  • Reaching out directly to the Prime Minister: We have asked him to work with us to sensibly resolve this dispute.
  • Member pressure: Members will be taking strategic, well-supported industrial action and voting NO to bad agreements. Agency updates are coming your way.
  • Political pressure and lobbying: Organising members and delegates to lobby Senators and MPs in marginal seats, many of which have just become marginal through your campaigning. We’ll be taking your concerns to the Parliament when they commence sitting at the end of August.
  • Fair Work disputes: Using action in the Fair Work Commission to hold Employment Minister Cash to account as a bargaining representative.

TIME TO LISTEN AND ACT

The strong swing against the Turnbull Government at the Federal Election and community concerns on issues such as outsourcing Medicare payments, CSIRO jobs and workplace rights means they should change their approach and start listening, including to their own staff on Commonwealth bargaining.

YOUR SUPPORT HAS DELIVERED RESULTS

While there is still a way to go, it is important to note that your strong support for the Safeguard campaign so far has helped secure some significant bargaining wins like getting many proposed conditions cuts taken off the table and positive moves on leave, hours, pay and superannuation. Every time we take action, the list of cuts gets shorter.

MORE INFORMATION

CPSU media statement - More public service strikes coming as dispute hits 1,000 days: The CPSU is continuing to ramp up its campaign to resolve enterprise bargaining for Commonwealth public sector workers, with tens of thousands of workers across multiple agencies to strike for 24 hours on Friday, September 9. 

Fairfax media report - Massive public service strike looms: Tens of thousands of federal public servants are set to walk off the job early next month with no end in sight to their three-year dispute over wages and conditions. Read more

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Your local organisers and delegates will be in touch in coming days to work through plans for supporting the action in your agency.

Friday, August 26, 2016

ACTU: No Australian should be forced to live below the poverty line.

Statement from ACTU President Ged Kearney: No Australian should be forced to live below the poverty line.

For most people being unemployed is something they neither seek nor like to endure. But for many Australians, young and old, it is a harsh reality.

Governments have a responsibility to help those people survive the trauma of losing their job and maximise their ability to find another.

The Newstart allowance does neither of those things. Even the Business Council of Australia has noted that it no longer meets the standard of what an affluent society should provide for its unemployed people, and may in fact be a barrier to re-entering the workforce.

For those on Newstart, living below the poverty line makes simple things like taking public transport or buying decent clothes, or even getting a haircut impossible.

The proposed cut to the allowance will cause further harm to the hundreds of thousands of Australians actively looking for a job, and shrink the safety-net for the millions more who are underemployed or who are in insecure work with fluctuating incomes.

The Turnbull Government should realise that unemployment benefits are not an indulgence, but a critical measure that allows people to get back on their feet and find a job.

If Newstart continues to fall in value, the already extremely difficult task of finding a job becomes exponentially harder.

We call on the Turnbull Government to show some basic human decency, as well as some economic sense, by not only guaranteeing that proposed cuts will not see the light of day, but committing to increasing Newstart to support the driving force of Mr Turnbull’s ‘Innovation Boom’ - Australian workers.

ACTU: Join CUB Free Grand Final Weekend


This Grand Final weekend join with thousands of Australians by holding a BBQ without any drinks made by Carlton & United Breweries (CUB).

Over 11 weeks ago the 55 maintenance workers that keep the CUB plant at Abbottsford running were sacked on the spot and then offered their jobs back - on 65% less pay.

These workers helped SAB Miller – the multinational owner of CUB – post a $4.4 billion profit last year. Despite these huge profits they pay no tax in Australia!

CUB and SAB hope that this will all just go away:  that if they wait long enough people will just give up. With your support we can make sure CUB and SAB realise that they can’t just make us go away.

For more than 11 weeks these workers have refused to back down. Union members and the community are with them as we saw on Thursday when production workers walked off the job in support, making beer production “grind to a halt”.

This AFL and NRL Grand Final weekend on the 1st and 2nd of October you can join with thousands of Australians to show your support by holding your very own CUB-free BBQ.

Register it here: http://www.australianunions.org.au/cubfreebbq

Invite your mates, family and co-workers, and post a photo of your CUB-free Esky to social media with the hashtags #BoycottCUB and #CUB55.

Registerhttp://www.australianunions.org.au/cubfreebbq and we’ll send you a CUB-free BBQ campaign kit closer to the day.

It doesn’t matter if your BBQ has 2 people or 200. Covering Australia with CUB-Free BBQs will send a huge message that no company can get away with trashing Aussie jobs.

Having a drink with mates while watching the big game has never been so important.

Game on,

Ged and Dave
Australian Unions Team
http://www.australianunions.org.au/ 

MUA – Tug Workers' Right to Bargain Cemented by Commission

Posted by Communications Team on August 25, 2016

The MUA has had a significant victory for tugboat workers in Gladstone after the Fair Work Commission dismissed tugboat operator Smit’s attempt to block bargaining for 12 months.


Smit towage exited most of the Australian market last year but it continued its contract in Gladstone. The company attempted to move its existing employees onto its national agreement despite there being a local agreement in place.

Had the company had been successful tugboat workers would have had to wait another year to negotiate their EBA despite the local agreement having expired. But the Commission blocked Smit in its attempt, finding it would have left workers worse off.

FWC Vice President Watson observed: “In my view there is a disadvantage to employees to effectively have their enterprise agreement extended by 12 months without any counterbalancing benefit … the loss of an opportunity to support claims with protected industrial action is in my view a real disadvantage.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said he welcomed the Commission’s findings and hoped it sent a message to other employers that business transfers and changes should not be used as an excuse to undermine worker’s right to bargain.

 Queensland Branch Secretary Bob Carnegie also welcomed the August 17 decision.

“Workers in the port of Gladstone are understandably relieved having fought hard for their right to negotiate a new agreement,” Carnegie said.

“After so much instability in the industry, this is a good sign that things are calming down and everyone can get back to work and back to the negotiating table.

“I would like to praise the work of Aaron Neal from the MUA legal team, MUA delegates, Paul Petersen and last but not least the exceptional work of Deputy Branch Secretary Jason Miners who played a pivotal role in our success.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

RTBU – Industrial Action Comes After Three Years of Stonewalling

Today’s industrial action at Adelaide Metro has come about due the Rail Commissioner’s stonewalling tactics over pay and conditions for public transport workers, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) said today.


Branch Secretary Darren Phillips said it was very disappointing that commuters would be left waiting for a train, but RTBU members had been left waiting for a new Enterprise Agreement for 900 days.

“Until now, the Rail Commissioner has tried every stonewalling tactic under the sun.

“We have been restricted to negotiating with ‘consultants’ who don’t have the power to make any decisions.  Meetings have been scheduled on ad-hoc basis, and even then the consultants could only stay for two hours at a time.

“After three years rail workers have resorted to the only tactic they left to get the Rail Commissioner’s attention - taking industrial action.”

Encouraging signs

Mr Phillips said while there were some encouraging signs in last-minute negotiations yesterday, workers would proceed with today’s action as planned.

“Workers will be attending a mass meeting today to hear a report back on the latest negotiations, and to decide on our next steps.”

Sydney – ACTION MEETING to help STOP WestCONnex




Next week the WestCONnex Action Group are following up after the very successful "WestCONnex-Driving Sydney to Destruction" with an ACTION MEETING to help STOP WestCONnex.

This is a crucial time in our fight against WestCONnex. If you have been unsure of what you can do to get involved in the campaign, now is the time to come along to this meeting and find out about our next steps.

Even if you can only spare a small amount of time we can help you find the best way to use your skills.

We need you especially if you are interested in:

  • Non-Violent Direct Action
  • Fundraising
  • Admin and volunteer co-ordination 
  • Being a Social Media Champion!

Where: Rainbow Room, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
When: Wednesday 31st August 2016
Time: 7pm to 9pm

Refreshments provided
Come along and bring ideas and friends!
Together we can STOP WestCONnex!


WestCONnex Action Group

Monday, August 22, 2016

UFU: Turnbull/Cash Plans To Intefere With Fair Work Act



Michaela Cash and Malcolm Turnbull are today unveiling legislative amendments to the Fair Work Act which will attempt to neutralise the proposed CFA EBA.

The “Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers Bill” will be revealed at a press conference at a press conference at Coldstream Fire Station today.

In response the UFU has put out a media statement calling on the Federal Government to stop trying to divide Volunteer and Career Firefighters.

If the Federal Government truly wanted to do something productive for the Victorian Fire Service they should begin by supporting firefighters who were poisoned at Fiskville.

The Fair Work Act is in place to make sure Australians have fair and safe workplaces. By meddling with this Act The Liberal party is clearly setting the stage to erode the rights and conditions of not only Firefighters but for all Australian workers.

It is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister can so recklessly push on with this divisive political agenda knowing full well that it increases the risk of this dispute spilling into another fire season for Victorians.

In the meanwhile the UFU is continuing to work with the State Government to get on with the job of finalising the EBA and achieving justice for Fiskville victims.

Members will be further updated on these matters at the Special General Members Meeting tomorrow.

AMWU: CUB protest grows while beer flow slows

The nationwide campaign to reinstate 55 sacked CUB unionists is continuing as carton production at the brewing giant has fallen from 1.2 million per week to just 385,000.

The reduction in beer production comes as managers from Programmed, the labour hire firm responsible for the employment of CUB maintenance workers, began discussions with representatives for the AMWU and ETU.




The news buoyed the confidence of sacked workers, who hours later handed out 10,000 stubby holders shaming CUB to peak-hour commuters at Melbourne’s Flinders St and Southern Cross stations.

AMWU Victorian State Secretary Steve Dargavel said: “We can defeat CUB and its global owner SABMiller from trying to de-unionise and slash conditions but it will take our AMWU members around the country to keep up their magnificent support.”

The public humiliation of Carlton and United Breweries has grown with AMWU members in Brisbane leafleting outside NRL Broncos and AFL Lions matches, UnionsNSW holding a mid-week fundraiser, our union’s WA branch and SA State Council also donating funds.

That added to a stellar fund raising effort last week, capped by a huge rally at our “tower of power” camp outside CUB’s Melbourne brewery and later concert night at the Victorian Trades Hall.

Leaders of the MUA and CFMEU each presented large donations, with generous support from independent Broo Brewing Company enough to keep our campaign going for the 55 workers.

This week AMWU Queensland Secretary Rohan Webb flew to Melbourne to assure the sacked workers their colleagues all over the Sunshine state including CUB’s Yatala brewery in Brisbane were digging deep.

Mr Dargavel said the approach from Programmed was a positive sign for the 55 workers seeking their reinstatement.

“Replacing our members with non-union tradesmen hasn’t worked” Mr Dargavel said.

 “The maintenance situation at  Abbbotsford brewery is unsustainable for CUB, packaged beer production is down from 1.2 million cartons a week when this started to now just 385,000 a week.”

Stubby mate: giving out stubby holders outside Flinders St Station helped AMWU organiser David Roach (right) and our members inform commuters about what CUB has done to workers.

Programmed managers came to the ETU’s office for Tuesday’s meeting with the unions. It included the AMWU’s Mr Dargavel, organiser David Roach with CUB delegates Sam Garro and Chris Brown.

The company stated it was seeking the unions’ assistance to reach an agreement, but then confirmed it still planned to cut wages and conditions in line with the demands of CUB.

The AMWU and ETU made it crystal clear to Programmed there will be no cuts to what our members had under the previous CUB contractor, Quant.

“It’s becoming apparent to Programmed and CUB that they have hit a raw nerve among working people, their own market. People are worried about job security and living standards – the entire labour movement must keep backing these 55 sacked workers,” Mr Dargavel said.

ACTU: Report hits out at Government’s trickle-down economics theory

A new report from the Inclusive Prosperity Commission exposes the inequality of the Turnbull’s Government’s obsession with trickle-down economics.

The expert authors of the report Inequality: The facts and figures have found that rising inequality in Australia is having a destabilising effect on the economy.

This report sits alongside global economic authorities, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Bank of England, warning that rising inequality is a serious threat to the future growth of advanced economies.

The report notes that as well as the negative relationship between inequality and growth, there are far reaching social consequences of high levels of income inequality.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Dave Oliver was a key contributor to the report, writing that the Federal Government can and must take steps to reduce inequality.

”The conservative plan for Australia would take us a long way down the wrong path. Global firms avoiding tax and domestic firms wanting to minimise tax in response, conservative advocates wrong-headedly chasing ‘competitiveness’ (and instead risking a revenue race to the bottom) and conservative politicians wanting to reward upper-income voters and (in some extreme cases) wanting to ‘starve the beast’ of the state, combine to put the long term public revenue at risk,” Mr Oliver wrote in the report.

The following quotes are attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

  • “The Government’s problem is its dogged pursuit of failed ‘trickle down’ policies based on the hope that handouts to corporations and the already wealthy will somehow benefit everyone else.
  • “Australia is a wealthy country where corporate profits have tripled in the past 25 years, but we are seeing youth unemployment at critical levels, wage growth stubbornly stagnant and the economy stalling.
  • “Cutting penalty rates, lowering the minimum wage and cutting critical services won’t just harm Australian families, it will harm the economy, and using these cuts to fund corporate tax cuts is definitely not in our national interest.
  • “Working people must be able to access good jobs and wages, affordable housing, health care and education, and secure incomes in retirement.
  • “At a time where we are facing one of the most significant changes to our labour market- the looming digital revolution – the Federal Government must take decisive, practical steps to reduce unemployment, which remains stubbornly high, especially in regional areas, and grasp the opportunities for all Australians.”


Michael Kirby – 'dangerous' political precedent of a gay marriage plebiscite

Former High Court justice Michael Kirby says a plebiscite on same-sex marriage will create a dangerous political precedent in Australia where MPs avoid making decisions on controversial issues, instead opting for unnecessary and expensive popular votes. 

The government is expected to try to pass enabling legislation for a nationwide plebiscite in coming weeks, ahead of a possible vote in February asking Australians if they agree people of the same sex should be allowed to marry.

Anytime a controversial decision needs to be made, the Government could hold a plebiscite if one on same sex marriage goes ahead, according to former High Court Justice Michael Kirby. Courtesy ABC.

But Justice Kirby, who served on the High Court from 1996 until 2009, said plebiscite votes were "alien" to Australia's system of representative democracy and the campaign would drive hatred and abuse towards gay and lesbian Australians. 

He said Australian voters had rarely supported referendum questions and there was no reason a plebiscite would be any different.

"It will mean anytime that there is something that is controversial, that's difficult for the parliamentarians to address or they don't want to address, they'll send it out to a plebiscite. 

"I think that's a very bad way. Our Parliament, our parliamentary institutions in Australia and elsewhere are really not working all that well at the moment and what we should be doing is strengthening parliament and ensuring it gets on with the job," Justice Kirby told ABC radio. 

"It's time Parliament did address itself to the issue of marriage equality and giving it out to a plebiscite is simply an endeavour to delay or defeat the measure.

"It hasn't been done by friends to equality."

The Western Australian government has warned the possible February timing would be a distraction one month before voters go to the polls in a state election, but the federal government says it is based on advice from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Justice Kirby, who has lived with his partner Johan van Vloten for 47 years, said Britain's Brexit vote had showed unexpected outcomes were possible.

"We didn't do this for the Aboriginal people when we moved to give equality in law to them, we didn't do it when we dismantled the White Australia policy ... we didn't do it in advances on womens' equality, we didn't do it most recently on disability equality. 

"Why are now picking out the LGBT, the gay community? It's simply an instance of hate and dislike, hostility to a small minority in our population. It's unAustralian." 

Acoss: Unemployed and pensioners collateral damage in budget fight



Monday 22 August 2016

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the budget fight looming at the start 45th Parliament threatens to hurt those on the lowest incomes.

“The Government has announced this week that the first order of business for the new Parliament will be to cut the Newstart Allowance, pensions and family payments through removal of the energy supplement,” said Dr Goldie.

ACOSS, Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Carers Australia, Jobs Australia, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, National Welfare Rights Network, People with Disability, and Welfare Rights Centre have jointly written to both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition calling on them to retain the energy supplement.

“The removal of the supplement is slated to be part of a $6.5 billion ‘savings’ bill when Parliament resumes in a fortnight. The Government has challenged Labor and the cross-bench to support these cuts.

“Whatever the original purpose of the energy supplement, neither Labor nor any other party with a commitment to a decent social safety net could support slashing payments to people living below the poverty line.

“The proposed cuts to social security payments come at the same time as Parliament debates $5 billion in company taxes and $4 billion in income tax cuts for people earning over $80,000, and the Government is baulking at capping tax breaks for people contributing over $500,000 to super.

“This continues the Government’s harsh and one-sided budget policy approach, which has been roundly rejected by the community and should now be rejected by the Parliament. Neither side of politics should underestimate the level of opposition to these cuts from community and social welfare organisations right across the board.

“People who are unemployed, living on $38 per day, face losing a minimum of $4.40 a week, while someone earning $200,000 would receive $6 a week in personal income tax cuts. For people on Newstart, $4.40 buys essentials like bread or milk. A $6 per week tax cut for someone on $200,000 is loose change.

“The 2016-17 Budget included $7 billion in cuts to social security and family payments affecting people on the lowest incomes. Cuts to family payments would see a sole parent with two teenage children lose $60 a week in income. This is how the Government plans to pay for the bulk of the proposed $4 billion in personal tax cuts and $5 billion in company tax cuts.

“This must stop. We cannot afford personal and company tax cuts, or extravagant super tax breaks, when the government claims to lack the revenue it needs to fund basic income support and essential services like Medicare and schools and legal aid. The Energy Supplement could be paid for many times over by withdrawing the tax cuts and cutting Capital Gains Tax and negative gearing concession,” Dr Goldie said.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

AWU: Britax workers take fight to major retailers

Thursday 18th August 2016

Britax workers will take their battle to keep their jobs in Australia and child car seats Australian-made with a series of rallies and meetings in shopping centres in the coming week.

Workers walked off the job on Monday and have been holding a vigil at the gates of the Sunshine factory ever since in protest at the company’s decision to offshore jobs to China. They are now in defiance of a Fair Work Commission order to return to work.

Australian Workers’ Union Acting Victorian Secretary Liam O’Brien said Britax had a highly profitable operation at Sunshine, but was seeking even larger returns by moving to China.

“These are very hard working, law abiding people who are proud of the jobs they do. Proud to produce the only totally Australian-made car safety seats for kids, and desperately worried about the future,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Britax is making money hand over fist at Sunshine because its products have an impeccable safety record and have been trusted by generations of Australian parents. The decision to sack these workers is putting profits before safety.”

Britax plans to make the first workers redundant in January 2017 and is about to start sending manufacturing components to China in anticipation of work starting there.

“It is not too late to keep a vital piece of manufacturing in Australia, to save these workers, and to ensure that Britax child car seats remain trusted to protect our children,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I don’t believe there would be a parent out there who is prepared to compromise when it comes to their children’s safety.”   

Friday, August 19, 2016

ACTU: ABS figures show workers suffer double blow

18 August 2016

ABS  Australian workers  Average Weekly Earnings  Labour Force  unemployment figure  underemployment  Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings (AWOTE)

Today’s dual ABS releases on Average Weekly Earnings and the snapshot Labour Force data show that Australian workers continue to be affected by a two-pronged dampener on their living standards.

Labour force data reveals:

While the headline unemployment figure fell 0.1% to 5.7% in July, this masks the continuing disturbing slide in full time employment - since January 2016, part time employment has increased by 101,200, while full time employment decreased 19,900.

Underemployment continues to be a significant problem, with more than one million Australians looking to pick up more work. It emerges from these figures that a large proportion of those exiting unemployment have not been able to find full time jobs. It is clear there are many Australians that want to work more hours and are in various casual and precarious work arrangements.

Average Weekly Earnings data shows:

Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings (AWOTE) continued to grow very slowly at 2.2% over the year to May 2016, to $1516 per week seasonally adjusted - a bare 1% real increase after inflation. This continues the long term trend that has begun to influence the RBA’s approach to interest rates.

Despite being the focus of increasing public attention, the wage gap between men and women continues to be stubbornly high – currently women’s AWOTE is 16.1% less than men. This equates to $260 a week.

AWOTE is lowest in the retail and food sectors (Retail is 26.5% less than the total AWOTE, Accommodation and Food Services 29.4% les), demonstrating yet again the critical importance of penalty rates for workers in these industries, many of whom are women.

Australian Unions, the Reserve Bank of Australia and business have identified that providing additional support for growth, through long-term investment in public infrastructure, will lead to an increase in growth and wages — it’s time for the Federal Government to start consulting with unions and business.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:
  • “The bottom line from today’s ABS data is that workers continue to do it tough, while penalty rates remain of critical importance to workers in the accommodation and food services sectors.”
  • “Not only are Australians being slowly shunted out of full time work into part-time, casual or contractual arrangements, they are seeing their standard of living being eaten away by anaemic wage growth.”
  • “Results like these, month after month, are creating a damming body of evidence that proves the Federal Government’s lack of plan for jobs is causing significant damage to many people’s way of life.”
  • “With Parliament set to return at the end of the month, it’s critical that the Prime Minister finally shows some leadership in dealing with the mounting pressure faced by so many Australians every day.”

NSW: New intercity trains to be built in South Korea

AUGUST 18

The NSW government has come under fire for awarding a multi-billion dollar contract to build its new intercity trains in South Korea. The 65 double-decker trains, which will come equipped with mobile phone charging stations, wider seats and tray tables, will link Sydney to the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Newcastle and the south coast.

The multinational RailConnect consortium - which includes Australia's UGL Rail, Mitsubishi Electric Australia and the Seoul-based Hyundai Rotem Corporation - won the $2.3 billion contract and will build the trains in South Korea.

The decision has sparked outrage from unions and Labor, who argue that the trains should be built in NSW.

But Transport Minister Andrew Constance says the winning tender offered a 25 per cent saving.
"If I didn't go with this winning bid you'd be criticising me the other way," he said while making the announcement on Thursday.

"Of course everyone is pro-Australian manufacturing and jobs but at the same time you've got to weigh it up, in terms of cost, you've got to weigh it up in terms of technology."

Maintenance for the 500-plus carriages will take place at a new facility in Kangy Angy, on the state's Central Coast, subject to planning approval.

The NSW secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Tim Ayres, says the government doesn't deserve any credit for those jobs.

"Maintenance of trains happens in Australia because you can't send a plane on a train to be maintained in China".

More than 1200 jobs would have been created in NSW if the lucrative tender had included a local content requirement, Mr Ayres said.

"All of the companies involved in the tendering process have significant Australian operations," he told AAP.

"There are two facilities ready to go now that can build 100 per cent of these trains".
The capacity for such companies to secure future local work has also been squandered, he said.
"It defies economic sense to wilfully send these offshore," Mr Ayres said.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley said the state government's decision is a "crushing blow" to communities in the Illawarra, Hunter and western Sydney, which depend on manufacturing jobs.
"We can have a balance here," he said.

"Government have to ensure an efficient price but we can also back local businesses, local workers and give kids apprenticeships in skilled trades. This is all possible with a government that is interested," Mr Foley said.

The first trains are expected to roll out by 2019.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bosses Threaten Loss of Tens of Thousands Jobs

Giving casual workers an "absolute right" to become permanent after six months will increase outsourcing and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs, employers have warned.

Union leaders have been pressing the Fair Work Commission to have new rights established in every industry that would give 2.2 million casuals the ability to convert after working "regularly" for six months with one employer.

There are over two million casual employees in Australia.
Final submissions are being heard before the tribunal's full bench this week.

It comes after a separate landmark ruling on casual employment was delivered on Monday, when the tribunal decided that workers who start as casuals before becoming permanent will have the full length of their service counted in redundancy payments.

One Fair Work commissioner, who disagreed with the verdict, has raised concerns this could open the door to claims for other entitlements, such as annual leave.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has argued its proposed new clauses to allow casuals to transfer to permanent positions would be "cost-neutral" for employers, because they were already required to pay higher loadings to compensate casuals for not receiving sick pay and annual leave.

"Casualisation does not just impact workers in service industries like hospitality ... many qualified teachers, nurses, scientists or engineers are in contract or casualised employment," ACTU president Ged Kearney said.

"Workers on rotating rosters, on short-term contracts or with fluctuating hours with no access to basic entitlements like sick leave, lose out in many modern workplaces."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vic: Royal District Nursing Service nurses and care aides to stop work for fair pay

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) nurses and community care aides are holding four two-hour stop work meetings this week as part of their protected industrial action to secure improved pay and stop the removal of benefits.The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has been negotiating a new enterprise agreement with RDNS management since May. The current agreement expired on 1 June 2016.

Talks reached a stalemate this month with RDNS management pushing through a formal employee ballot of its proposed agreement which included inadequate wage rises and the removal of financial benefits. RDNS nurses and community care aides voted to reject the agreement in the ballot which closed on Wednesday, 10 August.

The rejected offer was a two-year agreement with wage rises of between 1.71 and 2.3 per cent in 2016 and 2.5 per cent in 2017. RDNS claimed the increase was higher but neglected to clarify it included the roll in of an existing allowance.

ANMF (Vic Branch) is available to return to the negotiating table any day this week.

RDNS nurses started taking protected industrial action last Thursday which included wearing their red #ValueRecogniseReward campaign T-shirts at work and distributing campaign information to RDNS clients.

The first of four two-hour stop work meetings outside each of the RDNS regional hub offices was held on Monday 15 August. Administrative bans also started yesterday and will impact on RDNS’s ability to invoice its clients.

ANMF is seeking a four-year agreement with the roll in of the CPD allowance in the first year and then a three per cent wage increase on top, and yearly increases to match the public sector nurses’ and midwives’ including the 2019 significant uplift of up to 20 per cent.

ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: “Nurses are taking protected industrial action as a last resort to send a strong message to their employer that they cannot be taken for granted. RDNS clients may experience some temporary inconvenience, but their welfare and safety will not be compromised during this action.

“It’s really important that RDNS comes back to the negotiating table and offers wages comparable to the public sector nurses’ and midwives’ wages outcome which is also being matched in the private acute hospital sector. Management’s wage offer was disrespectful and would have made it difficult for this iconic district nursing service to recruit and attract experienced nurses to care for clients.

“While majority of RDNS funding comes from the state and federal governments, this dispute is about a private operator squeezing taxpayer money for profit at the expense of its dedicated nurses and ultimately its ability to remain competitive.”

Media are invited to attend the stop work meetings:

Monday 15 August 2016, 2-4pm RDNS Northern Office, 30 Janefield Drive, Bundoora
Tuesday 16 August 2016, 2-4pm RDNS Southern Office, 973 Nepean Hwy, Bentleigh Wednesday 17 August 2016, 2-4pm RDNS Western Office, 213-279 Robinsons Road, Ravenhall Thursday 18 August 2016, 2-4pm RDNS Eastern Office, 841 Mountain Highway, Bayswater

BMUC: Rod Brooks Memorial 3 September 2016

From 2.30 – 4.30 pm
Saturday 3rd September 2016
The Dining Room Family Hotel
15 Parke St, Katoomba

Want to do something more about this, sign and collect signatures on this petition :–


ACOSS: Super changes must deliver for 3.4 million people on low incomes

Wednesday August 17, 2016

ACOSS has today released a new proposal, building on the Government’s superannuation reforms, to deliver better retirement incomes for 3.4 million people on low and modest incomes while strengthening federal revenue.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie today argued the Government should hold the line on its proposed curbs on tax breaks for superannuation for people on the highest incomes.

“These are modest changes. After they are introduced, the average level of government support for retirement incomes (tax breaks and pensions) for the top 1 per cent of wage earners will only fall from $850,000 to $650,000 over their lifetime. Support for those in the lowest 10% is estimated by Treasury to be just over $300,000,” Dr Goldie said.

“We urge the Government to take a step further and improve support for saving by people with low incomes by doubling the proposed tax offset for people with low incomes (LISTO). This would bring a much better balance to the taxing of superannuation so that tax concessions for superannuation are better targeted to the core purpose of superannuation.

“Under the present system, a person earning $200,000 saves 34 cents per dollar contributed to super but a worker on $20,000 or less receives no tax break at all. Our proposal would go some way to fixing this inequity. 

“This would ensure scarce government resources are directed at achieving the core purpose of superannuation – delivering decent retirement incomes for people who will otherwise rely mainly on the Age Pension. It will improve equity and it will put the Federal Budget on a more sustainable footing for the future. This is hands down the best policy outcome for Australia.

“This should be paid for by not proceeding with three of the Government’s changes to super that would cost $1.5 million and create even more generous tax breaks for people with high incomes. Instead of further reducing tax for people with high incomes, the system should redirect support towards those on low incomes, 60% of whom are women.

“The Government should not proceed with the proposed new deduction for contributions (which mainly benefits people on the top tax rate), the proposed ‘catch up contributions’ concession (which mainly benefits men on high incomes), and extending the rebate for contributions for a spouse (which will mainly benefit men with high incomes).

“Doubling the LISTO instead would improve retirement living standards for people with low incomes and reduce future Age Pension costs. It would benefit over one million people earning less than $20,000, 60% of whom are women.

“In contrast, the Government’s three new tax breaks would disproportionately benefit high income-earners who are unlikely to receive a pension in the first place. For example, only 51,000 women earning less than $79,000 a year could benefit from the ‘catch up’ proposal compared to 153,000 men earning more than $79,000 a year.

'The Government's reform proposals go a long way to curb poorly targeted tax breaks for people with very high incomes. They should do more for people on low incomes who are very poorly served by the present superannuation system."

ACOSS has provided the briefing paper to the Government, Labor and the Greens.

Background

Government proposals

The five measures proposed by the Government to cap concessions for high income earners and wealthy people, which ACOSS strongly supports, are:

  • The $25,000 concessional contributions cap (down from $30-35,000)
  • The 15% increase in the 15% contributions tax for individuals earning over $250,000
  • The $1.6 million limit on superannuation assets attracting a zero tax rate on fund earnings in the ‘pension phase’
  • The lifetime cap of $500,000 for non-concessional contributions 
  •  The proposed 15% tax on fund earnings in ‘Transition to Retirement’ accounts.

The three changes the government is contemplating to the superannuation package announced in the 2016 Budget are:

  • a new tax deduction for employee contributions, which would mainly benefit people on the top tax rate
  • extension of tax breaks for ‘catch up contributions’, which would mainly benefit men with high incomes rather than women with low incomes, since few people can afford to contribute over the proposed annual ‘cap’ of $25,000
  • An increase in the rebate for ‘spouse contributions’ which again mainly benefits men on high incomes, who can afford to contribute for their partner.

ACOSS proposal

  • Replace the three measures above with a doubling of the proposed Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset (LISTO).
  • That LISTO be doubled from 15% to 30% (and the $500 cap increased) for individuals earning less than the tax free threshold. It would remain at 15% for those earning between $20,000-$37,000. 
  • This proposal would cost at most an extra $1.3 billion over the next four years, which is less than the Government’s three proposals that boost concessions for people with high incomes.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

ACTU: Our History, Our Future

Address by ACTU Indigenous Officer Kara Keys
To the ACTU Executive and Indigenous Leadership Conference
Tuesday, 16 August 2016

My name is Kara Keys, I am a decedent of the Yiman and Gangulu peoples of Central Qld.  I work at the ACTU as the National Indigenous Officer.

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet the mighty Larrakia Nation and pay my respects to the elders of this nation, past & present.

I acknowledge all of my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers in the room, our Conference Elder Jo Willmot and extend a warm welcome to our Maori cousins and pay my respects to their delegation Kuia (Elder) Georgina Kerr.

I’d also like to pay my respect to all of you – the leadership of the Australian trade union movement – who are committed to protecting and advancing the rights of all Australian workers.

One of the great things about being Australian is that the story of our country is truly remarkable.

We think of our nation today as a product of many layers – layers of traditions and cultures and institutions, like unions, that make us who we are.

And the founding layer – the bedrock and the thing that is most unique about Australia among the nations of the world – is the long story of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

This story stretches back through tens of thousands of years and hundreds of generations.

A history that is an impressive story of daring and courage, ingenuity, of resilience and resourcefulness.

This story is one of cultures that have not only managed to outlive many other ancient civilisations – the ancient Greeks and Romans – but also pre-dated them by thousands of years.

This story is one of people who have lived and survived in this land through the last ice age on this continent. Our presence here stretches back to a time when mega fauna roamed the land.

This is a story of the longest unbroken thread of human culture on the planet.

This layer of our nation’s story is not often recounted, until recently wasn’t taught in the Australian school’s curriculum and hasn’t generally been seen as an integral part of our nation’s history and identity.

Another layer of our story, the layer of the trade union movement and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ fight for wage justice and civil rights is also not a history that many people know.  But this history – our story - is so important and relevant to the work we do today as trade unionists.

And today, we are here on the lands of the Larrakia, and in the honourable presence of the descendants of Vincent Lingiari, to celebrate a significant part of that story: the story of the Wave Hill Walk Off.

We have heard parts of this story already this morning. We heard from Ged and the Gurindji delegation here today.

And like any good story, there is a moral: lessons that have been learned along the way. Indeed this story is an epic saga, one where the outcomes have rippled through generations and see us – Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander union members and the leadership of the trade union movement - sitting here today.

We are not just here today, in the sense that we gather to celebrate this epic saga. We are here because the Wave Hill Walk Off triggered a great evolution. An evolution in the industrial rights for Indigenous workers, and an evolution in the union movement. We are here because of the legacy of the women and men who both fought and supported this dispute.

I have learnt a number of hard lessons in researching this dispute. And in all honesty, it is from the tougher elements of this story, the uncomfortable truths, where I draw the conclusion of the great legacy that has been left to us.

In light of the environment at the time, a key reason for the NAWU to pursue a claim through the Arbitration Commission for the inclusion of Aboriginal stockmen in the Cattle Industry Award, was because the union felt that having a cheap Aboriginal labour force would undermine the wages, conditions and jobs of white workers.

At the October 1964 NAWU Central Council two significant things happened:

  • The union made a historic decision to appoint an Aboriginal organiser;
  • The union still saw Aboriginal workers as a threat. In a resolution named, “The Aboriginal Question” the union argued:

“The existence of a large non union force lends itself to a general depression of living standards for all and in the event of industrial conflict could conceivably place non union aborigines in the position of becoming potential scabs.”

The union at the time was also experiencing extreme pressure from the Aboriginal run and lead Northern Territory Council for Aboriginal Rights, whose key platform was equal wages for Aboriginal workers.

There was great tension between the union and NTCAR.  At the time the union refused NTCAR affiliation - citing paternalistically, “We believe in assimilation but not isolation” and that Aboriginal workers would be best served by joining the union and the Labor Party. Even though, on the wages they were earning, they couldn’t afford the full union rate and the NAWU refused to introduce a concession rate for those workers. Basically locking them out of union membership.

And these tensions had a direct impact on the Wave Hill strike. Dexter Daniels, who was an organiser for the NAWU was on leave at the time of the Wave Hill Strike, largely because he was intensely feeling the pressure of the tension between the union and the NTCAR - of which he was a member and his brother Davis Daniels was the Secretary.  He felt pulled in opposite directions and decided to take a break. But still, on his own time, organising Aboriginal workers.

Perhaps, if Dexter was working for the union at the time, things would have turned out differently.  Why? Because the NAWU Secretary expressly instructed Dexter and other supporters not to take the Wave Hill workers out on strike. And the union could not support them.

These may be some uncomfortable truths. It may not sound very much like a great legacy. But it is.

It is a great legacy because, once the Gurindji walked off Wave Hill, the NAWU gave them their 100% support.

It is a great legacy because the union movement nationwide galvanised around the workers and gave them great support.

It is a great legacy because it fundamentally shifted the NAWU and other unions in the country. It showed unions that Indigenous workers were willing to fight for wage equality and it shifted unions to the role of supporting and fighting for all workers.

And it is a great legacy because while the trigger for the Wave Hill Walk Off was equal wages, the gun powder was the systemic racism, poor living conditions, a legislative environment which allowed for the theft of children from their families and the theft of Aboriginal people having any agency over their own lives.

The Wave Hill Walk Off shifted the nation.

And For the Gurindji it was about their right to be Gurindji. And how wonderful it is to be joined here by the direct descendants of Vincent Lingiari who still live and thrive as Gurindji on their ancestral lands.

So here we are, the direct beneficiaries of that legacy. I can stand here and proudly say that I am a descendant of the Yiman and Gangulu peoples and I am a proud Aboriginal unionist. And every single union leader and Indigenous worker in this room can proudly inherit what has been won in this dispute.

Here we stand on the shoulders of those giants. We give them our Respect. We Honour their courage and determination in the face of adversity. And we resolve to continue to stand in Solidarity.  

Given the occasion, and the unique opportunity that is present to us here, a full meeting of the ACTU Executive and Indigenous Unionists, surely our question becomes:  what will our legacy be?

We, who are the next generation in this epic saga:  what chapters will we write?

Are we ready to evolve to the face our modern challenges and stand shoulder to shoulder with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers and their communities?

We should not be under any illusions: these challenges are great. Our communities are in crisis.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, workers and organisations are facing some of the worst attacks to community, civil and industrial rights in a generation.

Youth suicide has increased dramatically – they are at crisis levels. Health, education, employment and mortality outcomes for Indigenous Australians have in some cases worsened.

There is a broad systemic failure in our justice system recently evidenced by the circumstances which have led to the formation of the NT Royal Commission into Youth Detention.

The incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples and in particular youth are at their highest in decades, largely orchestrated by regressive legislation which criminalises Indigenous people for everyday behaviour.  Meanwhile, those who are there to care have been under resourced to a level  we have not seen in decades.

Here in the NT under the paperless arrest system an elderly Aboriginal artist of great esteem, who was simply gathering with others under a tree, died in custody. And he is one of too many Indigenous people who come into contact with the justice system for minor matters and end up dying in a prison cell.

While the federally mandated maximum wage that oppressed the workers at Wave Hill is gone, the Community Development Program remains. A program which indentures remote Indigenous workers into forced labour, offers no wage, no federal OHS and Workers’ compensation protection, no superannuation and no conditions of employment.

As Pat Dodson so succinctly said, back in 1999 at the Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture:

“Be warned, there is a serious move afoot in this country, by very powerful forces at the highest level of Government, business and society to return the position of Indigenous Australians to the situation that existed in Australia before the Wave Hill strike in 1966.”

Pat warned us, “the hard men of Vesteys still walk the corridors of power.”

Given the approach to remote Indigenous workers under the CDP and the fact that the broader crisis in our communities is being overseen by a Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister who is either incompetent or complicit, it is clear that the hard men of Vesteys have just been re-elected for another term of government.

Comrades, these are great challenges we face.  As Ged said in her speech, we must fight on every front. But do not be overwhelmed.

The Gurindji and the unions that supported them stood in the face of even greater challenges, they stood together and they won.

And so too will we.

As the descendants and beneficiaries of that great legacy, together we will stand on the shoulders of our union and community giants.

Together we will stand, together we will fight, and together we will win.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

ABC: Shit Happens Radio Documentary


Going to the toilet is an everyday event for most of us. But what happens to our bodily waste after we flush? Where does it go, and how does it get there? And why do we rarely discuss it?

After her family endures the unique horror of a broken loo at home, Cath Simpson decides to investigate.

This program takes us on a journey along Sydney sewerage pipes, from a broken toilet in Newtown into the bowels of the sandstone cliffs at the Bondi treatment plant.

Along the way we learn fascinating faecal facts about the formation of western cultural attitudes to human waste.
  • Researcher Dr Cath Simpson 
  • Writer Maree Delofski 
  • Producer Sharon Davis, Maree Delofski and Cath Simpson 
  • Sound Engineer Steven Tilley
Shit Happens

Part 1 Download (mp3)
Part 2 Download (mp3)


Friday, August 12, 2016

ACTU Executive and Wave Hill 50th Anniversary Celebration

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk Off will be attended by ACTU Officers and Affiliated Trade Union leaders and staff, and will run from 19 to 21 August.

Media Program for ACTU Executive:

Monday – Welcome to Country by Larrakia Elder and Opening by Dave Oliver, Secretary ACTU: 5pm - 7.35pm, Darwin Ski Club.

Tuesday – ACTU and Union Officers joint opening of Indigenous Forum and ACTU Executive:

Speeches by
  • ACTU President Ged Kearney, 
  • ACTU Indigenous Officer Kara Keys, 
  • Jack Phillips and members of the Gurindji community: 9am – 10.15am, 

Interview availability 8.00am – 10.30, Darwin Convention Centre.


Background:

Kalkarindji and Daguragu are on the traditional homelands of the Gurindji people, and these
communities are linked to the Malgnin, Mudpurra, Bilinara, Ngarinman and Warlpiri peoples
through the historic Walkoff from Wave Hill Station, which was initially established on Gurindji
traditional lands in 1883. At the time of the Walkoff, Wave Hill Station had been owned
by British Lord Vestey's family since 1914. The Gurindji Walkoff was initiated by Gurindji/
Malgnin leader, Vincent Lingiari, on 23 August 1966 and lasted till 1974, an event which lit
the fire that became the national land rights movement.

On 26 August, 1975, then Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam officially handed
back his peoples' traditional lands to Vincent Lingiari in the community of Daguragu. While
Vincent and many of his contemporaries have since passed away, elders who participated in
this monumental community-driven movement continue to stand strong in their country.
They and their descendants invite you to come and share this anniversary with us, listen to
our elders' stories and experiences over the almost four decades since that historic time in
the late 1960s, and support us in our aims for our current and future younger generations.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Turnbull Government – In the great census debacle of 2016, it's a case of denials all 'round.

Denial of Service or denial of common sense? Either way, it has led to a denial of public confidence and a denial of prime ministerial goodwill.It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this government has the Midas touch in reverse: everything it comes into contact with turns to manure.

Even its July 2 election victory felt like a defeat, right from the moment a shell-shocked Turnbull stepped up to complain about Labor lies and gullible voters.

Then came the bizarre Rudd/UN messaging and the needlessly rushed royal commission into NT youth detention abuses, which nearly collapsed within days of being announced.

The tech-literate Turnbull makes no secret of feeling let down, describing Tuesday's DOS attacks as "absolutely predictable". His message to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and IBM could not be clearer: you knew this would happen and failed to cater for it.

Yet numerous questions remain regarding the impact of past policy decisions, the quality of past political/ministerial oversight, and the diligence of the public service. Most pressing is a timely explanation of what happened. Who orchestrated these attacks - a state actor such as China or Russia - or was it some spotty internet geeks showing how clever they can be?

The fact that there have been three responsible ministers in the year leading up to this census is a recipe for weakness in program governance.

But many things do not compute. Turnbull told reporters on Thursday that the purpose-built census night system was designed (with IBM) to handle a maximum of 260 form returns per second, but that the number actually submitted on Tuesday never exceeded 150 per second.

Then he said that it was clear there was inadequate redundancy (excess capacity) built in. Which is it? He also stated that at no time did the DOS attacks themselves crash the system. So it was merely log-ons?

It seems pretty obvious that some systemic pressures could have been avoided. Why design the process so that nearly everyone would attempt to complete their online forms on the same day and the vast bulk of those, after dinner?

In all this digital dithering, there's a crying need for the government to pull its finger out to make this right.

Qld: Sakuraya cafe owners fined over underpayments to foreign staff

The owners of a Southside Brisbane restaurant have been fined nearly $200,000 for deliberately exploiting vulnerable overseas workers through underpayments.

Mother and son Sakuraya cafe owners A-Hsueh Lai and Chang Ming Liu have also been forced to pay more than $54,000 in back-pay to five former staff from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says foreign workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation.

The former visa-holders who worked at the Eight Mile Plains cafe were paid as little as $10 an hour, well below the legislated $18, and their underpayments ranged from $8300 to $18,000.

Comment has been sought from Ms Lai and Mr Liu, who were penalised $196,000 following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Judge Salvatore Vasta also instructed that costs of more than $12,000 be paid to the FWO towards the cost of flying witnesses from overseas to Brisbane for the court case.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the agency took action after the owners' refusal to rectify back payments and because Mr Liu had previously been apprised of his workplace obligations.

During the case, Ms Lai and Mr Liu said their employees never complained about being paid $10 an hour.

They also said they were "insulted" that, for the purposes of the award, their cafe was classified as a fast-food outlet rather than a restaurant.

Ms James said she was "increasingly concerned" about the number of visa-holders being underpaid by "culturally and linguistically diverse" business owners.

"While I understand there are cultural challenges and vastly different laws in other parts of the world, it is incumbent on all businesses operating in Australia to understand and apply Australian laws," she said.

"To that end, the Fair Work Ombudsman is here to help with free advice and resources in a range of languages.

"...Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia – including visa-holders – and they are not negotiable."


ACTU: CBA receives $4.4 billion profit from mum and dad mortgage holders

10 August 2016

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has today announced a record $9.45 billion full year profit, including a $4.4 billion profit from retail customers, in the same week that it refused to pass on the full interest rate cut to these same clients.

CBA’s profits from retail customers, mainly mum and dad mortgage holders, jumped to $4.4 billion from $3.9 billion last year, up 11%, but at the same time the bank passed on only 13 of the RBA’s 25 basis point cut just last week.

The following quotes are attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

  • 'The 11% rise in retail banking profits is staggering when you compare it to Australian wage growth, which was at 2.1% for the year to March 2016. This growth in retail banking profits also outstripped even the growth in average house prices, which was 6.8% for the year to March.
  • 'Working people put their trust in institutions like the Commonwealth Bank and are right to be angry when they see record profits of almost $10 billion one week while just days earlier the bank refused to pass on a full interest rate cut.
  • 'For a family with a $300,000, 25-year mortgage, the refusal to pass on the entire RBA rate cut will cost ordinary mums and dads around $21 per month, while for families managing a mortgage of $613,900, the nation’s median house price, it would be $43 a month.
  • 'Added to customers frustration must be the 3.5% lift in fees and charges the bank accrued, with households paying more than $4.1 billion in bank fees for the year.
  • 'CBA’s colossal profit shows that the economy, and especially the financial system, only favours the wealthy and powerful.
  • 'Australian banks are among the biggest and richest in the world. The fact that that the big four banks last week all refused to pass on the full rate cut to their retail customers is evidence of an oligopoly that needs to be broken.
  • 'Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is beholden to the banks. He chose to hold a committee meeting for banks rather than a Royal Commission. It’s time he stood up for working people and helped them prosper.'

Should Australia adopt a universal basic income?


One of the big policy discussions at the moment is whether countries should adopt a universal basic income in response the changing nature of work. This important seminar, run by and involving SEARCH members will be of great interest.

A universal basic income is income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis. The idea of a universal basic income is not new with proposals in the 1970s but has gained a renaissance due to projections that automation will render large segments of the population unemployed. A number of countries are commencing trials and even the Productivity Commission has suggested the idea warrants evaluation in light of digital disruption.

There are, however, concerns about the cost of such a scheme, whether it would be better to focus on the distribution of employment and the risk that it might be used to slash the welfare state or end up as some form of wage subsidy. The ideological diversity of its proponents and opponents also suggest there would not be agreement on its purpose or implementation. To some, it is a practical response to address polarisation in the labour market and inequality, to others it is the means to a post-work utopia.

Join us and an excellent line-up of speakers to discuss one of the big policy ideas currently being debated.

  • Ben Spies Butcher – Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University
  • Peter Whiteford – Professor, ANU Crawford School of Public Policy
  • Louise Tarrant - former National Secretary of United Voice 

When: 5:30 for 6pm start, Friday 9th September
Where: Level 7, 191-199 Thomas St, Haymarket

Entry by gold coin donation

RSVP at www.fabians.org.au/universal_basic_income

Refreshments will be available at the event

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Evatt Foundation – The Wealth of the Nation


27 June, 2016 - 15:48
Currrent data on the distribution of wealth in Australia

New report: The Wealth of the Nation

Evatt's new report, The Wealth of the Nation, shows that inequality continues to increase.

The share of Australia's household wealth owned by the richest 20% has increased by at least 1.3 per cent since 2012.

If 1.3 per cent sounds small; this rise represented more than the entire share of the nation's wealth owned by the poorest 20% of households.

Further up the scale, new figures reveal that the Top 10% now own at least 50 per cent of Australia's total household wealth, and by some estimates up to 53 per cent, or even more.

The Top 1% of households, the super-rich, own at least 15 per cent of the total wealth, and probably somewhere up to 20 per cent.

At the other end of the range, the poorest 40% of households have virtually no share in the nation's wealth. The bottom 20% effectively have negative net worth. For 40 per cent of households, inequality is increasing absolutely.

Another key feature of the current upward redistribution is that the concentration of wealth in the top decile is occurring in an inverse relationship with the next 50% of households. For Australia's middle class, wealth inequality is rapidly increasing relative to the Top 10%.

The Wealth of the Nation compares wealth inequality in 17 OECD countries and finds -- contrary to national mythology -- that Australia is no more egalitarian than the average rich country, and it could be more inegalitarian.

The report also finds that the quality of Australia's official statistics on wealth inequality have fallen behind international best practice and are in serious need of reform.

The Wealth of the Nation builds on and is the result of three years work on inequality by the Evatt Foundation.

Title: Sheil, C. and Stilwell, F. (2016), The Wealth of the Nation: Current Data on the Distribution of Wealth in Australia, Sydney: Evatt Foundation, June.

Read the Overview
Download a pdf copy of the report (24 pp)
For report queries: chris.s@unsw.edu.au