Saturday, September 23, 2017

The new nuclear race: Why North Korea isn’t the real story

New Scientist 20 September 2017

Nuclear missile artwork – Javier Muñoz
The sabre-rattling between Pyongyang and Washington is masking a dangerous destabilisation in deterrence – making nuclear war by accident a real possibility

By Debora MacKenzie

AS YOU read this, about a dozen submarines are lurking in the world’s oceans, equipped to launch nuclear missiles. Four are American; the rest might be British, French, Russian, Chinese, Indian or perhaps Israeli. Some of them are packing massive heat, equivalent to thousands of times the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima. All are being very, very quiet.

Why? In a word, deterrence. In the event of a nuclear strike or massive conventional attack on the sub’s owner or its allies, that nation can unleash horrendous retaliation – so no one dares attack in the first place.

Deterrence is credited with preventing nuclear conflict since the beginning of the cold war, but it is under increasing stress. Most obviously, North Korea has entered the game. It says it is developing nuclear weapons precisely to deter a US nuclear strike, but with the rhetoric getting out of hand, nuclear conflict could become more likely rather than less.

The new nuclear race:

Is there a nuclear war in our future? We round-up the latest news and opinion on the world’s nuclear superpowers, and look at how we can prevent disaster

But beyond that headline news lies a less well-known, but potentially more disturbing, story. A series of seemingly minor technological upgrades have been destabilising the foundations of deterrence, sparking a new nuclear arms race with unforeseeable consequences. “The danger of an accident leading to nuclear war is as high now as it was during periods of peak crisis during the cold war,” says Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

Friday, September 22, 2017

ACTU – ChAFTA: Secret Government Trade Deals Exposed

ChAFTA: Secret government trade deals see migrant workers exploited and leave Australians behind

21 September 2017

An ACTU submission to a review of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) being conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) shows that secretive agreements have opened the door to more exploitation of migrant workers.

The submission outlines issues with the agreement ranging from the deeply flawed negotiation process to legalised underpayment of workers and the threat of law suits from multinationals against our government.

Australian unions believe that free trade agreements should raise living standards for all parties, not encourage worker exploitation to line the pockets of big businesses. The ACTU advocates for the removal of labour mobility clauses from trade deals and a well-developed permanent migration system to stamp out exploitation and rising inequality.

 Chinese investment and temporary migration rose dramatically between 2014- 2016. While the ACTU is pro trade, there is no information available about how much of this is covered by these secret arrangements, or how many workers are being brought in under these conditions.

ChAFTA undermines local jobs by removing requirements for labour market testing and making it easy for corporations to bring exploited, underpaid workers into Australia under secret deals where workers have no right to bargain for wages and can be paid as little as $10 an hour.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “The exploitation which ChAFTA allows shows absolute contempt for working people and demonstrates why trade agreements should be exposed to open and democratic scrutiny.”
  • “This trade deal has effectively legalised underpayment for migrant workers. Apparently the Turnbull Government does not believe that migrant workers deserve the pay and rights which all workers in this country should be able to rely on.”
  • “ChAFTA allows for secret deals between the Department of Immigration and Chinese firms, under which workers have no right to bargain for wages and can be paid as little as $10 an hour.”
  • “We have seen stories of migrant workers being paid well below the minimum wage and being pushed through vital safety briefings which they had no way of understanding. The Turnbull Government is endorsing the exploitation of migrant labour that ultimately means Australians needing work cannot get jobs.”
  • “In order for workers to benefit from the increased investment that free trade agreements bring, it is essential that all workers in Australia be paid the industry wage and have all the protections and rights that Australian unions have fought for and won.”
  • “The Turnbull Government is allowing this agreement to place massive downward pressure on wages and trading away jobs at a time when unemployment, and especially youth unemployment, is at crisis levels.”

"Australians expect its government to make deals that raise the living standards of all Australians, creating local jobs for local workers, and to ensure migrant workers are not traded like pawns on a chess board."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

ACTU launches Change the Rules campaign in Western Australia

21 September 2017

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Sally McManus will be in Perth tonight for the first state-based meeting for the Change the Rules Campaign to address inequality and give power back to working people.

Ms McManus will brief almost 200 working people who will be charged with taking the message out to union members, to bring together the entire Australian union movement to change the rules for working people.

The Change the Rules campaign, which Ms McManus will outline in meetings across Australia over the coming months, will bring back fairness to Australian workplaces and ensure working people are not held to ransom by unfair laws.

In Western Australia (WA), wage growth is at a record low. Youth unemployment is at 13.9% and household incomes are falling.

At the same time, 40 per cent of all Australians face insecure work.

The end of the mining boom has seen a handful of elites become super wealthy; while working people have seen their wages fall and have to contend with both above average unemployment and rampant youth unemployment.

Workers across WA have had their pay and conditions stripped by unfair laws that allow corporations to terminate enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA), keep wages low, cut penalty rates, and support mass casualisation and wage theft.

Maintenance workers at Griffith Coal had their EBA axed in 2016 and had their pay slashed by more than 40%, while staff at Murdoch University will have their pay cut next week after the university spent almost $3 million on legal fees so it could reduce their wages.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:
  • “The pendulum had swung too far toward big business and Australia needs a pay rise.”
  • “We need to change the rules at work so working people can’t be held to ransom by bad employers who will use loopholes to cancel agreements, cut pay and slash conditions.”
  • “The West has suffered under Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash. She has made a career out of cutting workers’ wages and making work less secure. Her legacy will be Australia’s lowest wage growth and the highest number of people in insecure work.”
  • “The campaign starts here. We will brief union members on how they can help stop working peoples’ pay and conditions being destroyed by unfair laws and bad employers.”
  • “While Gina Rinehart and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest have become some of the world’s richest people, jobs have dried up, housing has lost value, and people are struggling to keep up.”
  • “Our campaign is going to reverse the unfair workplace rules and help working people regain the power they have lost through years of neo-liberal policies that have only helped big business.”
  • “It’s not right that hundreds of workers in Collie had their EBA terminated and were forced to work for radically reduced wages and conditions. The Fair Work Commission decision threatened the entire community and prompted hundreds of submissions from workers and their families to a Senate inquiry into Corporate Avoidance of the Fair Work Act.”
“And it’s not fair that Murdoch University will be free to cut 3,000 staff members wages by as much as 39% next week, after it asked for its workforce’s EBA to be terminated. This alarming decision comes after years of bargaining where the university has spent millions in order to cuts its staffs’ wages.”

“Union members will be meeting across the country — in town hall meetings and workplaces — so they can change the rules and make their work fair and decent. We can only do this if working people get involved. We are inviting any worker who wants to be a part of this campaign to join us.”

Parenting Payment Scheme a Human Rights Abuse

A Melbourne single mother has lodged a complaint with the United Nations, labelling changes to Australia’s parenting payment scheme discrimination and a human rights abuse.

Mother-of-three Juanita McLaren and the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children have lodged a complaint, officially known as a communication, with the UN over cuts and changes to the parenting payment.

The complaint asks the UN to determine whether Australia has violated its international human rights obligations. Supporters hope the complaint will hold the government accountable for its cuts.

The decision to complain to the UN was not made lightly, McLaren said. But she said she could no longer be silent and allow what she called blatant discrimination against single parents, most likely to be women, to go unnoticed.

“It is outrageous the way in which my personal agency and financial security was effectively controlled by the government as some sort of punitive measure because I was a single mum,” she said. “I am seen as an unemployed worker before I am seen as a mother and, because my parenting doesn’t have a dollar value, it is seen as completely some sort of lark.”

McLaren’s life changed when she was left to raise three children alone. It changed again when changes to the welfare system in 2006 by the Coalition government moved people off the parenting payment when their youngest child turned eight, forcing them on to Newstart.

That was compounded by the Labor government decision in 2012 to scrap the grandfather provisions, which saw a further 100,000 people forcibly moved on to Newstart.

The differences are stark – McLaren’s payment went from $748.10 per fortnight to $579.30. Where previously she could earn an additional $237.80 during the payments period before her supplement was affected, she could now earn only $104.

The gross income threshold was also slashed, from $2,088.85 to $1,576, while she lost the concession card. The cuts were exacerbated by other changes to the welfare scheme, including the scrapping of the schoolkids bonus, freezing the family tax benefit and forcing parents to wait a week between paid work and applying for benefits, which affects those able to obtain only contract work.

McLaren was forced to abandon the studies she had almost completed to better secure her long-term future employment and the work she was able to do was hampered by a lack of childcare options.

  • “Why on earth is it eight years old?” McLaren asked, referring to the cutoff point for the parenting payment. “Why not wait until they are in high school? In year 7, when they are a bit more independent? The cutoff date for my youngest turning eight – that was it.
  • “There was no negotiation. They turn eight, you get moved to Newstart, which you have to apply for yourself and then you get $100 less a fortnight. Just because that child was born on that date.”

Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the single mothers lobby group, said the move “condemned women who head up a single-parent family to a life of hardship as they contend with housing stress, deprivation, skip meals and forgo medical treatment”.

“Denying access to a parenting payment when a single parent’s youngest child turns eight years old is a violation of human rights, as defined by the core United Nations treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” she said.

Edwards said the group – which has found 40% of sole-parent households are living below the poverty line in Australia – had been inundated by distressed mothers who slide into greater financial hardship when they are forced from a modest parenting payment to an unemployment benefit.

We know of women who return ... to the hands of the abuser because of the lack of assistance
Terese Edwards, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children

“This includes women who have escaped domestic violence,” she said. “We know of women who return to place of abuse and to the hands of the abuser because of the lack of assistance.”

Australia signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women optional protocol in 2008.

Beth Goldblatt, an associate professor at the University Of Technology Sydney’s faculty of law, said lodging a complaint with the UN was an option available to Australian women “if they think their rights under the international convention have been violated”.

  • “This becomes necessary when a person has tried every other means within the country to have their complaint considered,” Goldblatt said. “Juanita argues that single parents, most of whom are women, have consistently had their social security cut by consecutive governments in this country, leaving them and their children to face poverty in a country with the means to support people who are struggling.
  • “She argues that this violates her rights to social security, family benefits and non-discrimination. She can show that the organisations supporting her cause have made representations to parliament and raised the issue on all available platforms without success.”

Goldblatt said that because Australia does not have a bill of rights it is not an option to approach the courts over the issue.

McLaren said she did not expect a sudden turnaround in attitude from the government – or even a solution.

“The government is not going to look at this and say ‘wow you are telling us something we didn’t know’ they know this stuff already,” she said. “If anything, I am hoping it will get [to] women who are so downtrodden or have belief that they do deserve to be treated like this because somehow they are not good enough, or they asked for their circumstances – because you do start to believe that.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Climate – It’s always hot in Bidyadanga

It’s always hot in Bidyadanga but a few degrees can make a big difference in the remote Aboriginal community, about 190km south of Broome in Western Australia.

“It’s always hot – it’s the desert – but the difference between 33C and 36C can be quite oppressive,” said Shaun Burgess, a teacher in the community.

This winter, it mattered more than most – 2017 was Australia’s warmest on record for average maximum temperatures, which reached nearly 2C above the winter average and beat the previous record set in 2009 by 0.3C, according to a report released by the Climate Council on Tuesday.

In July alone 72 records were broken for the highest maximum temperature, including in Sydney, which set a record high of 26.5C.

Bidyadanga was one of those 72; on July 27 it reached 36.3C, the hottest day in Australia’s warmest July. It also broke its previous July record of 35.7C, set in 2016.

“It’s made it really difficult to do things like go camping or fishing with the students, which is something we’ve done a lot of in previous years,” Burgess said. “There’s been less of an opportunity to clear the mind, less of a reprieve, I guess.”

And the reprieves may be becoming rarer. Australia has set new seasonal highs for maximum temperatures 10 times so far this century and the Climate Council report found that more than 260 heat and low rainfall records were broken between June and August this year.

It was the fifth warmest winter on record for average temperatures, and the driest since 2002. Daytime temperature averages were above average for almost the entire country; more than 90% of Australia was in the highest 10% of historical observations. And as summer approaches, a third of the country is at above average risk from bushfire damage as a result of the hot, dry weather.

“Winter warm spells are lasting longer, occurring more often and becoming more intense,” the report said. “The likelihood of such warm winters occurring will continue to increase as global temperatures rise.”

The report used research by Andrew King, a climate extremes research fellow at the University of Melbourne, to argue that the “exceptionally” warm and dry winter was caused by climate change.

King used computer climate models to compare today’s human-impacted climate with simulations representing an alternative world that excluded human influences.

He found the record winter temperatures were 60 times more likely to have been caused by human-included climate change.

“Another way of putting that is if we hadn’t had climate change at all the chance of getting a winter like this would be much smaller,” he said. “It would be a very, very unlikely event.”

The Climate Council report warns that the increased incidence of runs of hot weather affects the agriculture and energy sectors. As summer approaches, large parts of the country are in increased bushfire danger.

Last week firefighters across Australia’s east coast were tested by record September temperatures as a total fire ban was issued in parts of New South Wales.

  • “In the south these areas broadly include the Australian Capital Territory, south and east Victoria, eastern NSW, south and central Queensland, and southern and northern regions of South Australia,” it warns.
  • “Further, the warm and dry winter conditions mean the southern fire season is likely to begin earlier than usual.”

The warmer-than-average temperatures were predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology in its winter outlook published in May.

It stated that, in addition to “natural drivers” such as the El Niño weather pattern, Australia’s climate was “being influenced by the long-term increasing trend in global air and ocean temperatures”.

PSA – NSW Government massive increase in consultants

PSA media release
Tuesday 19 September 2017

Govt spends tens of millions on consultants, tries to block pay rise for disability workers
The Public Service Association (PSA) has slammed the $10 million rise in the budget for consultants in one public sector agency alone while the Government cuts jobs and argues against a 2.5% pay rise for disability care workers.

Figures tabled in Parliament around the State Budget revealed the Department of Planning and Environment's 2017-18 budget for consultants is $11 million, a massive increase from $1.1 million in 2016-17.

Consultancy costs for the Department of Premier and Cabinet will leap to $10.8 million, from $3.5 million while TAFE has earmarked $5.9 million for consultants up from $1.4 million the previous year.

“The Treasurer can defend the expenditure on the basis the Government is undertaking “unprecedented and complicated reforms” but what he doesn’t say is that process involves the wholesale sell off of public services in NSW such as the Land Titles Registry, disability and Out of Home Care,” said Acting PSA General Secretary, Troy Wright.
  • “The savage irony is that many of these Departments are spending money on consultants to manage the after-effects of employees being replaced with consultants.
  • “Rather than properly equipping the NSW public sector to be the best it can be and utilizing the skills, experience and institutional knowledge it contains, the Berejiklian Government is simply hiring an additional parallel workforce and then complaining about the cost and cutting jobs and services.
  • “This is a Government that forced this union into court to face an army of barristers in an attempt to block a 2.5% pay rise for people who tend to the daily needs of some of the most disadvantaged in our society.
  • “This is a Government that cuts critical firefighting roles in the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the lead up to what the experts say will be horror fire season.
  • “This is a Government that sells off the Land Titles Registry, the model for the world that has an enormous bearing on the state’s economy, to private overseas interests.

Doctors – Health implications of coal-fired power

The health implications of coal-fired power should be a main concern in Australia’s debate over energy generation, doctors have argued.

Speaking on the ABC’s Q&A program, the chair of Doctors for the Environment New South Wales, Dr John Van Der Kallen, asked panellists why health was not a primary consideration in the discussion over the closure of coal-fired power stations such as the Liddell plant in the Hunter Valley “when we know that the pollution from these coal-fired power stations contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular illness, as well as premature death?”

Doctors for the Environment also oppose the proposed Adani coalmine in Queensland, which if built, will be the largest in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.

Enough tiptoeing around. Let’s make this clear: coal kills people

“It will significantly increase Australia’s contribution to international carbon emissions and threaten the health of millions of people in Australia and around the world.”
Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, said health concerns over coal-fired power were driving movement to renewables in other parts of the world.

“You only have to look at China which is grappling with some really substantial and quite dangerous health impacts on the community in terms of not having heavily regulated the coal-fired power industry and not managing the health implications of coal-fired generation.”

Herd said governments and business needed to take into account the physical and environmental effects of different types of energy generation.

“Interestingly enough, it is this very driver of managing environmental pollution which is actually now the basis of so much of China’s actions in terms of being a world leader in investing in renewable energy, taking it to more than 50% of global investment in renewable energy in the last few years.”

Unions NSW – Stop Perrotet Fat Cat Consultant Plans

Posted on September 18, 2017

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet should immediately stop feeding fat cat consultants and redirect $11 million towards quality jobs in regional NSW.

That’s despite the fact regional centres are still suffering recession-like levels of unemployment.

According to the latest regional unemployment figures, Coffs Harbour has an unemployment rate of eight per cent, New England and North West 6.9 per cent, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven 6.6 per cent and the Central Coast, six per cent.

That compares with 2.3 per cent on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and 2.6 per cent in the leafy Eastern Suburbs.

  • “Regional NSW desperately needs more quality well paid jobs, yet Dominic Perrottet is more interested in featherbedding his consultant mates on the Northern Beaches and in the Eastern Suburbs," said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.
  • “If the Treasurer is seriously arguing that there is no expertise in the public sector it reflects very poorly on him and the NSW Government as economic managers.”
  • “Here’s a novel idea: why not develop talent and expertise within the public sector. Even better, do it in regional NSW.
  • “We should be proud of our regions and invest in them accordingly. Yet the Liberals treat them like an after thought.
  • “Sydney’s big professional services firms don’t need $11 million. But the public sector does, especially in the regions. The NSW Government needs to put regional NSW first for a change."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Banks plans to rule and ruin superannuation

Proposed changes to Australia’s $2 trillion superannuation sector could see Australia’s largest banks come to dominate the industry, reducing consumer protections and affecting people’s retirement outcomes. The banks are putting pressure on the government to make changes to superannuation laws which could benefit the banks at the expense of ordinary people.

The crux of the issue concerns default superannuation funds – the funds employers choose for their employees if they don’t nominate one themselves. Eight in ten Australians go with the default super fund their employer chooses for them, making it hugely important that businesses are picking super funds based on their employees’ interests.

At the moment, the Fair Work Commission gives businesses a list of vetted super funds to choose from, ensuring only high-quality funds gain access to this slice of the super market and ensuring people are protected from less dependable dealers. The proposed changes would take the FWC out of the equation altogether, opening the default super fund market up entirely and leaving it at the mercy of the biggest, wealthiest players – the major banks.

If the owner of a cafe already banks with Big Bank #1, for example, they might be incentivised with offers of lower insurance premiums or free financial advice in exchange for picking a Big Bank #1-owned super fund as the default option for their staff. The problem is whilst directly offering incentives to change superannuation arrangements is illegal, bundling services and cost structures in such a manner is not.

Despite practices like these being illegal under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act, enforcing the law and punishing institutions who break it has proven extremely difficult. Studies have shown a steep rise in bundling and cross-selling of bank-owned default super funds in the last six years. A 2015 survey found that more than 25% of businesses surveyed have been approached by one of the Big Four banks to change their default funds, and nearly half of all small to medium-sized business had. Almost half the time, businesses reported they had been offered “benefits” as an inducement.

For workers, the danger is obvious. If their workplace moves to a bank-owned super fund because the owner has been lured by the promise of some free VIP tickets to the footy, workers might end up saddled with a super fund that is used to help generate corporate profits, which are returned as dividends to shareholders, not superannuation members.

Retail super funds like those owned by the Big Four have markedly underperformed over the last decade, providing returns nearly 2%, on average, lower than their industry fund counterparts. For a worker earning $50,000 a year with $50,000 in super savings, over ten years, that adds up to a loss of more than $13,000, on average.

Then there’s the uncomfortable matter of the scandals. It’s no secret that the major banks have been caught out in recent years for everything from denying dying people their life insurance payouts to losing thousands of customers’ life savings. A Senate inquiry into the Big Four last year found that “the culture of these institutions is often not one that has consumers at its centre”, and that “the sector collected up to $178 million from consumers that it was not entitled to” between mid-2008 and mid-2015.

Proposed changes could see workers losing out in the long run.

That mindset – treating customers as financial resources to be profited from rather than people with lives, families and needs – has historically been unable to gain much of a foothold in the superannuation sector, which enjoys market protections as a workplace entitlement. By introducing legislation that could see Australians’ retirement savings exposed to the profit-fuelled interests of banks, it’s the Australian people who stand to lose in the long run.

Underpinning all this uncertainty is the fact that the government has provided no compelling reason why the system needs to be changed at all. Australia’s super sector is regarded as one of the best in the world, and consumers highly regard the not-for-profit nature of much of the industry. It’s difficult to think of a better way to undermine that confidence than by reducing protections that could see the widely distrusted banking companies gain a greater foothold in an industry that has served the Australian people so well in it’s current iteration.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

NSWTF – Stay strong, AEU presidents tell education ministers

Stay strong, AEU presidents tell education ministers

Submitted by nswtf on 15 September 2017

Federation President Maurie Mulheron has joined with other teacher union leaders to call on state education ministers to stand strong in voicing their concerns about the plan, as the Education Ministerial Council meets in Adelaide today to discuss the new schools funding plan that was legislated earlier this year.

“Under Minister Birmingham’s new funding model, NSW Public Schools will be $1.5 billion worse off over the next four years,” Mr Mulheron said. “Combined with the government’s refusal to fund the additional loadings for students with disabilities, this new plan utterly fails to address the educational disadvantage identified in the original Gonski review.”

“The original Gonski review defined a Schooling Resource Standard [SRS] that identified a per-student amount of funding needed to address educational disadvantage in Australia. This was meant to be funded by 2019. Under Birmingham’s new plan, 87 per cent of NSW Public Schools will not reach the SRS by 2023,” Mr Mulheron said.

Gathered outside the Adelaide meeting venue, AEU Federal and branch presidents met with the arriving education ministers, many of whom expressed their commitment to the original funding model.

“The commonwealth has ripped up the deal,” said South Australian minister Susan Close, while Victorian minister James Merlino described the new funding model as ‘unacceptable’.

Queensland minister Kate Jones made her intentions clear, saying “We’re not going to sign up”.

This meeting occurs in the wake of a recent OECD report that showed Australian education funding was actually in decline as a proportion of GDP, and is also below the OECD average.

“The OECD has recently reported a downward trend in Australia’s commitment to education spending as a proportion of GDP and compared to total spending on government services. It reports on these facts because it recognises that low resources hurt student outcomes,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

Within that trend of declining investment, Ms Haythorpe said, disadvantage was heightened for public schools, many of which would remain below the school resourcing standard even after ten years of the Turnbull plan, while many schools in the wealthy private system would remain well above it.

  • “We expect that States and Territories will come under strong pressure from the Federal education minister to sign a multilateral agreement or lose Federal funding in 2018.”
  • “This is nothing short of funding blackmail, where consultation to identify what is actually best for the thousands of children in our public schools is replaced by coercion to ram through a deal in no-one’s interests except those of the Federal Government.”

The meeting follows the announcement this week of a rushed four-week timeline for submissions to the latest Gonski review process that will reduce transparency and scrutiny.

“States and territories know the impacts of this plan – putting the brakes on Federal investment in public schools puts the brakes on the future of children in schools open to everyone, schools that cater to families already facing the challenges of broader inequality,” Haythorpe concluded.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ACTU – Hand-picked Nigel Hadgkiss Resigns

Turnbull and Cash’s hand-picked, ideological cop, Nigel Hadgkiss, resigns
13 September 2017

Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) boss Nigel Hadgkiss has resigned after he admitted to spending two years breaking the law in pursuit of the anti-worker ideological agenda his political masters paid him over $420,000 a year to enact.

The ABCC boss has admitted breaching section 503 of the Fair Work Act over a two year period by recklessly misrepresenting the rights of union officials. 

Mr Hadgkiss’s resignation is a win for workers.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:
  • “Mr Hadgkiss obeyed the dictates of his political masters, Prime Minister Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, through ongoing attacks against working people and in the end he not only stepped over the line he set up camp there for two years.”
  • “As head of the ABCC, he oversaw a draconian and authoritarian body that breached Australia’s international obligations, persecuted workers and stripped away the right of silence from ordinary hard working Australians. “
  • “Mr Hadgkiss was an important part of the Turnbull Government’s anti-worker agenda. He was the Turnbull Government’s hand-picked, ideological cop who was given enormous licence to go after working people.”
  • “Working people will rightly enjoy the professional demise of a person who has made no secret of his agenda to reduce their working conditions.”
  • “Mr Hadgkiss was Minister Cash’s champion in her fight against working people.   That the Minister today, of all days, praised Mr Hadgkiss for “restoring the rule of law”, while systematically acting unlawfully for two years, demonstrates that the minister not only has a radical anti-worker agenda but that this resignation is entirely about limiting further damage to a government in chaos.”
  • “The Turnbull Government should take this opportunity to disband the ABCC and restore Australia to being a “one law for all” nation.

The CFMEU has welcomed the resignation of the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Nigel Hadgkiss.
  • The union yesterday called for his resignation after it succeeded in the Federal Court in having the head of the Turnbull Government’s ABCC admit to a reckless breach of the laws he oversees.
  • Hadgkiss admitted to a contravention of section 503 of the Fair Work Act in relation to the ABCC’s publication of incorrect information about right of entry rules.
  • “Nigel Hadgkiss is anti-workers and his departure will be welcomed by our members.
  • “However, the real villain here is the Turnbull Government’s ABCC laws, which remain in place.
  • “These laws strip away basic protections from construction workers and are only there for the benefit of big builders and property developers. Since the laws were in place, safety on construction sites has worsened.”

MEAA – Media diversity and jobs to be lost under ‘reforms’

Legislation expected to be passed today to remove the two-out-of-three ownership rule will mean an inevitable loss of diversity in the Australian media, says the union for Australian journalists and media workers.

Throughout this long debate, mergers and acquisitions have been talked about as the inevitable consequence of removing ownership rules. That means fewer owners and it also means fewer journalists after the job losses that follow mergers.

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance chief executive officer Paul Murphy commended the Nick Xenophon Team for attempting to get the Turnbull Government to adopt positive initiatives and policy changes to genuinely foster increased diversity in our media landscape.

“Any initiative to support new investment in journalism is welcome, but it should not come at the price of existing safeguards being removed,” Mr Murphy said.

MEAA will be looking closely at the details of the jobs and innovation package, in particular to ensure that the wages and working conditions of any trainees in the program are appropriately safeguarded.

“This is a poor day for media diversity,” Mr Murphy said. “The last important protection – the two-out-of-three rule – has been abandoned and there is nothing in its place.

“Australia, which already has one of the highest concentrations of media ownership in the world, is now saying that a plurality of media voices doesn’t matter.  And history shows that once diversity is lost, you cannot get it back.

“The structural challenges faced by the Australian media sector will only be slightly stalled by these reforms. As companies amalgamate, more media jobs will be lost and with their loss, public scrutiny will be further reduced.

“Meanwhile the Government’s grubby deal with One Nation is beneath contempt. Facilitating baseless attacks on our public broadcasters is disgraceful and we will be lobbying Senators to reject any legislation when it is presented.”

Through the Senate Inquiry into the Future of Public Interest Journalism, MEAA will continue to press for meaningful reform to genuinely encourage and promote a diverse and robust media landscape.

UK – 320,000 demand Theresa May ditch plans to bypass parliament

Last night, we struck a blow to Theresa May’s plan to give herself the power to rewrite UK laws behind closed doors after Brexit.

A staggering 320,000 of us signed the petition to demand Theresa May ditch her plans to bypass parliament. Thousands more of us emailed our MPs and called on them to speak up in the debate. And MPs listened - politicians from all parties stood up to criticise the plan to sidestep parliament. [2]

The plan has moved to the next stage. But there’s a huge catch for Theresa May. Lots of her own MPs have publicly stated they’ll only give final approval if big changes are made.

That means MPs voting down Theresa May's plan at a later stage, unless there are solid guarantees for important laws to be debated and voted on properly in parliament. [4] This morning, Theresa May will be looking at the number of MPs she needs to get her plan voted through - and it doesn’t look good.

This doesn't mean we've won just yet. There’s going to be a big fight ahead to force Theresa May to ditch her plan. It’s going to take all of us to make sure we don’t swap murky backroom deals in Brussels for more of the same in Westminster. But for today, let’s congratulate ourselves for getting this far.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ACTU – Michaelia Cash must sack ABCC boss Nigel Hadgkiss

 12 September 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to sack the law breaking Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) boss Nigel Hadgkiss.

Mr Hadgkiss has admitted to breaking the very laws he is employed to enforce and uphold.

The ABCC boss admitted breaching section 503 of the Fair Work Act by recklessly misrepresenting the rights of union officials during entry to premises to meet with workers.

Minister Cash is unrelenting in her attacks on working people and their unions, but now the chief enforcer of these laws has admitted to breaking them.

This comes on the top of daily revelations of employers breaking the law by stealing from their employees.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:
  • “The Turnbull Government has a chance to demonstrate they do not have double standards — one set of laws for themselves and another for the rest of us.”
  • “Surely the person who has the highest responsibility, a greater responsibility, to abide by industrial laws is the person in charge of upholding them.”
  • “If a police chief recklessly broke the law, which Nigel Hadgkiss has admitted to, their position would in untenable and there would be consequences.”
  • “If a worker fails to follow workplace laws they can be sacked. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is calling for the sacking of union leaders — what standard will she apply to her own employee who is in charge of upholding her laws?”
  • “We are used to Minister Cash’s disinterest in the rampant lawlessness that now occurs across the country where many employers are getting away with stealing money from their workers.”
  • “We are also used to Minister Cash allowing the severe exploitation of temporary visa workers as she focuses resources on union-bashing.”
  • “Australian’s are sick of one set of laws for them and another for us.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

ACTU – Response to Barnaby Joyce interview

11 September 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's claims on radio this morning regarding the Secretary of the ACTU Sally McManus are a fabrication.

The attack reveals a desperate man, in a chaotic government, forced to make things up and blame other people for his own failure to address the challenges facing regional Australia.

The number one issue in regional Australia is jobs.

The National Party have sat on its hands while entry level jobs for young people have been taken by temporary visa holders, issued by their government.

Deputy Prime Minister Joyce has championed the live beef export industry, which has cost Australian workers jobs processing meat.

The Government has replaced real jobs with $4 per hour wages, cut penalty rates, forced people into compulsory work for the dole programs, and cut taxes for big business. 

These policies take money out of regional communities and put it in the pockets of big businesses, headquartered in Melbourne and Sydney, and their offshore shareholders.

Mr Joyce has supported privatisation and stood for the interests of big power companies who are making eye-watering profits off the back of regional Australians who are paying inflated power bills.

At the last election, Mr Joyce proudly turned the sod and heralded the benefits of a new wind farm in his electorate, which created local jobs. This morning, he was denying other communities the opportunity, backing comments that attack renewable energy.

It is desperate stuff from a man desperate to distract from his own failures.

It’s no wonder that wages are at record low, big business’ profits are booming, and regional communities are finding it hard to get a secure job or a pay rise, when people like Mr Joyce continue to advocate the interests of big power companies and multinational business at the expense of his constituents.

Unions are fighting for jobs and jobs security for Australian workers every day, too bad Barnaby Joyce doesn’t do the same.”

AMWU – Win on Personal Protective Equipment in WA

A win over payment of a tool allowance turned out to be the catalyst for another win on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for UGL boilermaker/welders at Alcoa alumina refineries in Western Australia.

UGL is the maintenance contractor at Alcoa’s three Western Australian alumina refineries at Kwinana, Pinjarra and Wagerup.

The members are entitled to a tool allowance under their EBA – but they realised it hadn’t been paid. Working with the branch, they managed to convince their employer that they were being shortchanged.

“In some ways it’s a small thing, but it was an entitlement these workers had a right to but weren’t getting.  By standing together they reminded the company that it wasn’t being paid, and got it fixed,” said AMWU State Secretary Steve McCartney.

Shortly after they’d secured the tool allowance win, one of the members saw an AMWU Facebook post, reminding workers of the dangers of diesel fumes.

The post formed part of the union’s ongoing work to ensure that workers know their rights around crucial OHS issues across a range of industries.

“From seeing the Facebook post, the members realised that they probably didn’t have the right safety equipment,” said Organiser Simon Rushworth.

“With the tool allowance win under their belts, they were empowered to get better helmets for working in Confined Space Entry conditions.”

The members had always thought that the onus was on them to supply their own ventilated helmets, but some digging from the Union found that obligation was actually on the employer.

Organiser Simon Rushworth said UGL was now supplying boilermakers/welders with new, state-of-the art welding helmets with Adflo PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) systems.

“Welding in tight spaces comes with serious health and safety risks,” Simon said.

“In particular, boilermaker/welders at Alcoa were concerned about the potential to breath in carcinogenic fumes, as UGL was only providing them with P2 dust masks.

“When AMWU Health and Safety Representatives looked into it, they discovered that our members were being exposed to dangerous gases, and the PPE gear they were being provided with was inadequate.

“In fact, UGL was failing to meet Alcoa’s own site requirements by not providing respirator helmets.”

AMWU members at the three Alcoa refineries then kicked into action, demanding that UGL meet its workplace health and safety obligations for CSE conditions.

“The members were determined to keep UGL accountable and to protect their own health and safety,” Simon said.

“In the end we achieved a great result, with workers now having access to both a better tool allowance and better PPE gear on the job.”

Stephen Cleary – Genesis of award winning Sweet Counryl

Stephen Cleary's account of the genesis of Sweet Country

Let me tell you a story.

Tonight, SWEET COUNTRY, directed by Warwick Thornton and written by Steven McGregor and David Tranter, won the Jury prize at the Venice International Film Festival.

In 2012 Penny Macdonald fought tooth and nail against indifference from the Northern Territory government to get a tiny bit of funding for a writer's initiative in Alice Springs. She and I had worked it out, we called it IGNITE. The NT government at the time saw little value in the concept, but Penny stuck at it. So we got some money. And Screen Australia joined in with a small but critical contribution.

We found some writers and started.

One writer was David Tranter. But he didn't write. He drew. And every day he would come into the NT Film office in Alice with an A3 pad and drawings of an event in the past of his family. And I would ask questions, and he would explain, and each picture was one scene in his mind. And when we had talked enough, I wrote it into the laptop and read it back to him, and we'd talk again, and I'd change it until he was happy with it. That way we got about twenty scenes written. Then we looked at them, and saw what other scenes we would need to join these twenty scenes. And we did that, too.

And David would go away and come back with more drawings. I drank a lot of tea. David smoked a lot of cigarettes outside. And eventually there was a story, start to finish. And I went home to France and other projects, and David went off to work, because neither of us was making enough to live off from what we were doing.

Months later we met in Alice again. And did the whole thing again, And again. And again. And finally David had a script he was happy to show. And Steven McGregor and Warwick Thornton and David Jowsey took it, with David, from there and from that birth they made the story into what it is today.The credit is theirs.

I'm writing this because the way Sweet Country was born is important. David Tranter did not physically write, but he was the writer. How many people who cannot, or don't want to, write in the way "the industry" expects, get to tell their stories? Get to have their stories even considered? How often does "the industry" take the risk of going out on a limb in out of the way places to find startling stories that break open the world in a new way for audiences? And I'm not talking about Australia, I'm talking about everywhere.

A big organization, with lots of calls on its time and lots of balls in the air at once cannot do this kind of work. It's unconventional, it's superficially hard to justify and it requires real trust in the practitioners you ask to do it, and if you micro manage it, it will collapse. You cannot design an application process that will bring projects like these to you. And these are exactly the kinds of projects the world wants to see, far more than the ones that tick boxes.

So I take no credit for the film Sweet Country, but I do take credit for the process that helped to birth it, and I demand credit for Penny MacDonald, whose continual faith that the Territory had and has stories and storytellers worth going to bat for, repeatedly, should be saluted.

Oh and what happened to the IGNITE programme? It was discontinued, because people didn't see the point of it, a year or so before the production spend of Sweet Country brought investment into the Territory that paid for the cost of it over fifty times.

Bittersweet country, you might say.

Much Angst About Liddell

The chairman of federal parliament’s environment and energy committee says a fresh approach is needed on energy policy, including a new federal loan mechanism to upgrade the coal fleet and a “lock in” mechanism for the clean energy target.

Ahead of a much telegraphed meeting in Canberra on Monday between the Turnbull government and the head of AGL, Andy Vesey, about extending the operating life of the Liddell power station, the Nationals MP Andrew Broad told Guardian Australia he believed the ageing New South Wales plant was “about stuffed”.

Broad is the chairman of parliament’s multi-partisan standing committee on environment and energy, and that committee has been pursuing an extensive inquiry into modernising Australia’s electricity grid, which will report soon.

Broad said rather than pursuing a piecemeal approach, the key development required to lower power prices for consumers was certainty and that could be achieved by implementing a consistent energy policy that could survive multiple parliaments.

“If you are going to attract investment, then you have to create certainty,” he said.

Broad said the government would be wise to consider a policy which included:

Restricting gas exports for two to three years to bring prices down;

A “lock in mechanism” for the clean energy target recommended by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, where power provision arrangements would be contracted out for eight years at a time, effectively preventing governments from changing the parameters of the scheme;

A new federal loan mechanism that power generators could access to reconfigure the coal fleet in order to increase efficiency and lower greenhouse emissions;
And active federal investments in new transmission infrastructure to bolt renewables more effectively into the grid.

AGL wants to shut down the Liddell plant in 2022 but has its own plans for the site, which include investigating a switch to gas peaking capacity in New South Wales, supplemented with renewables.

The Turnbull government wants to extend the life of the coal plant for an additional five years. The government says Vesey has signalled privately he is prepared to sell Liddell to a “responsible” owner.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, said “the solution to the energy crisis we’re facing right now isn’t talking about extending a coal-fired power plant in five years’ time.

“We need more generation in the system now. That means more gas, more renewables and more storage.”

Labor is yet to say whether it would support an extension of AGL’s operating life in the event the company sold the plant to another operator, or agreed to the government’s demands.

Monday’s talks come as the thinktank the Grattan Institute has called for preparatory work on what it calls a “capacity mechanism” to encourage new investment in generation.

The energy program director at the Grattan Institute, Tony Wood, says that option should only be adopted “if all other market reforms have been exhausted and supply is still under threat”.

Under a capacity mechanism, generators would be paid not only for the electricity they produce to meet current demand but for committing to provide power for years into the future.

The energy market operator or retailers could contract for sufficient electricity to meet future demand, to ensure new generation and storage is built in time.

“Australians have endured a decade of toxic political debates about climate change policy, South Australians suffered a state-wide blackout last year, consumers across the country are screaming about skyrocketing electricity bills and energy companies are shutting down big coal-fired power stations,” Wood said.

“It is understandable that governments feel the need to do something. But the danger is they will rush in and make things worse. What Australia needs now is perspective, not panic.”

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Greenpeace – Queensland on the path to ending plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is choking and entangling our turtles, marine mammals and bird life. It fills up their stomachs, reducing the space for food, which often results in starvation.

This new law has the potential to reduce Queensland's plastic litter by half, if implemented with proper education and support.

  • When individuals give up plastic and tell their friends why.
  • When ocean lovers like you email our state and territory governments and tell them to step up.
  • When we come together to watch and share wake-up calls like BLUE the Film.
  • These are the moments that build to become a tidal wave of change. 

Thanks to you, Queensland has taken the next step on the path to ending plastic pollution. And with you, we will keep fighting for New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia to do the same.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

NSWTF – History of Women Teachers' Rights – 1937-2017

ACTU exploiting migrant workers on 400 visas – Turnbull Government fails to protect Australian jobs

Big corporations exploiting migrant workers on 400 visas – Turnbull Government fails to protect Australian jobs

4 September 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has today slammed the Turnbull Government for allowing big corporations to exploit migrant workers under the 400 visa program.

Media reports today that migrant workers have been brought in to work via the subclass visa, with some applications approved in as little as 24 hours, are deeply concerning.

It appears the Turnbull Government has turned a blind-eye to the fact that companies are bringing vulnerable workers into Australia on short-stay visas.  Malcolm Turnbull has failed to protect Australian jobs, and failed to protect migrant workers from exploitation.

The reports highlight extreme examples of worker exploitation, with Chinese laborers flown in to dismantle the former Mitsubishi car plant in the Adelaide Hills paid $1.90 an hour and Filipino metal fabricators paid $4.90an hour in NSW.

There are 50,000 400 sub-class visas granted every year.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney

  • “Temporary migrant workers on 400 sub class visas risk serious exploitation.  This category is supposed to be for skilled-workers, specialists with expertise that cannot be sourced in Australia.
  • “Reports today suggest a concerning lack of scrutiny or oversight by the Turnbull Government, which allows unscrupulous employers to undermine local pay and conditions.
  • “The Turnbull government should be ensuring that all our temporary migrant workers have access to the same pay and conditions that local works get.
  • “The Turnbull government should be making life better for Australian workers by creating good steady jobs with solid pay and conditions, rather than undermining the Australian labour market by allowing exploitation of the visa system
  • “We have skilled, experienced Australian workers who are overlooked by employers who are able to underpay migrant workers being brought in through this program.
  • “What Malcolm Turnbull didn’t tell us when he abolished the 457 visa, was that he would continue to allow migrant workers to be exploited under the 400 program.
  • “The rules are broken when employers are making big profits from the exploitation of migrant workers."

ACTU and MUA launch new campaign to save Australian Shipping

5 September 2017

The ACTU and MUA will today launch a new campaign on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra to save Australian shipping.

Under the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s watch, we now have zero Australian–crewed tankers and the number of Aussie-flagged vessels has continued to decline.

The only “reform” bill presented to the Parliament by this Government was for total deregulation of coastal shipping, with the Government’s own Regulatory Impact Statement showing 93 per cent of jobs in the sector would be lost.

MUA rank and file seafarers from The CSL Thevenard, The CSL Melbourne and MV Portland will be joined by 4 miners from the Oaky Creek Glencore Dispute and supportive MPs and Senators at today’s event.

A new website Save Australian Shipping – Take Back Our Coast, the name chosen by MUA members, will also be launched.

This site will be used as an information point to keep members updated and assist the union with grass roots activism throughout shipping, all the way until the next federal election.

The new website can be found at:; Facebook page:  and Twitter:

When: Tuesday September 5 at 11am

Where: Lawn out the front of Parliament House

Who: ACTU President Ged Kearney, ALP Transport spokesman Anthony Albanese, Katter Australia Party’s Bob Katter, MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray, CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor, ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks.

ACTU – Senate bill to protect right to silence for 11 million workers

The Australian Council of Trade Unions welcomes the Senate’s support for an ALP amendment to the Vulnerable Workers' bill that removes coercive powers that could have denied the right to silence for 11 million Australian workers.

Had the original Bill passed, it would have seen all working Australians lose the right to silence if government investigation into unprotected industrial action was initiated.

The measure could have adversely affected workers like those at Fairfax, who took unprotected industrial action when their employer announced widespread redundancies.

The coercive powers knocked back by the Senate were found in the fine print of the Vulnerable Workers Bill, a piece of legislation that was supposed to protect workers. This included a provision that if workers refused to give evidence against their work mates or their union, they could have been fined $126,000.

The Bill which was supposedly to form the government’s response to shocking revelations of wage theft from workers at 7/11, was watered down considerably after intense lobbying by former Turnbull Government Minister Bruce Billson, working as representative of the Franchise Council of Australia.

Quotes attributable to Ged Kearney, ACTU President:

  • “We warmly welcome the decision by the Australian Labor Party and members of the cross bench Nick Xenaphon Team, the Greens, Jacqui Lambie and Derryn Hinch who have ensured that workers' civil liberties outside the construction and maritime industries are protected.
  • “This was a desperate play by a government in crisis. We know when the Liberals are in trouble they do whatever they can to attack working people and their unions.
  • “It’s a disgrace that the Turnbull Government would even attempt this trick by hiding these coercive powers inside a Bill that was supposed to protect workers.
  • “Thankfully, the ALP and enough Senate cross bench stood up and defended the interests of working people.It is very disappointing that One Nation, the South Australian independent, Lucy Gichuhi and David Leyonhjelm refused to support the amendment protecting working people.

“Attacking unions makes inequality worse. We are campaigning to change the rules so workers have more secure jobs and higher pay.

“Right now there’s a crisis of inequality in Australia. People need more secure work and higher wages. It would be simply delightful for the government to try and address this issue rather than finding new and innovative ways to attack the rights of working people in order to give corporations more power." 

Sunday, September 03, 2017

CFMEU – Sunshine Sugar Management Failures re Asbestos

The NSW Government’s workplace safety regulator has ordered Sunshine Sugar, which operates three sugar mills in northern NSW, to isolate asbestos contaminated areas of the company’s Broadwater mill and remove damaged asbestos products along with asbestos contaminated soil.

The inspection by SafeWork NSW followed specialist asbestos testing at the mill that revealed 80 per cent of the samples taken — including swabs of damaged walls, dust, and soil — contained asbestos fibres.

The company has been ordered to implement the recommendations of the specialist asbestos consultant that examined the workplace (see link below for full report), including: the immediate isolation of the workshop and store areas; the application of a PVA solution to damaged asbestos sheeting; the engagement of a specialist asbestos removal contractor to decontaminate the workshop and stores area; the removal of asbestos wall sheeting and guttering from the north and east sides of the mill; and the removal of contaminated soil on the north side of the mill.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Dave McKinley said the findings of the safety regulator and asbestos specialist vindicated union safety concerns and revealed that the company had been misleading with its public statements.

  • “Sunshine Sugar management attacked the union and claimed there was no substance to our safety concerns, yet we’ve now got documentary proof that 80 per cent of the samples taken by their own asbestos specialist tested positive for a range of potentially-deadly asbestos fibres,” Mr McKinley said.
  • “Not only were these asbestos fibres found on walls and among dust within the workplace, but soil directly across the road from residential properties was also found to be contaminated with asbestos.
  • “The specialist hired by the company confirmed that the asbestos risks in the workshop and store areas were at the highest end, setting out a series of urgent safety measures that need to be undertaken by Sunshine Sugar.”

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union secretary Brian Parker said it was significant that the NSW Government safety regulator had demanded immediate safety training for workers.

  •  “It is clear that workers at Sunshine Sugar had not been made appropriately aware of the asbestos risks or how they were to be safely managed, putting their health and safety at risk,” Mr Parker said.
  • “Our members, who raised these concerns, have also been vindicated, with SafeWork NSW and the company’s own asbestos specialist revealing serious shortcomings in how this deadly fibre was being managed.”

TWU – Slams Moves to Abolish Sugar Industry Code of Conduct

The Transport workers’ Union has criticised a move to abolish a sugar industry code of conduct saying it will allow working families and small businesses to be exploited by wealthy companies.
The TWU said owner drivers and transport operators will be affected if the code is scrapped, which involves mandatory arbitration in disputes between farmers and wealthy mills.

“The knock-on effect of abolishing this code will be devastating for communities whose livelihoods depend on the sugar industry. This will not just affect sugar farmers but also their employees, their transport contractors, owner drivers and other small businesses linked to this industry. The code allows fairness and equity in an industry dominated by wealthy mills at the top of the supply chain. Removing it allows their dominance to prevail entirely over the community. This is about sustainability for family businesses and rural communities,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

“The transport industry is all too aware of what happens when regulation is removed and the wealthy end of the market it allowed to dictate. Last year the Federal Government abolished an independent tribunal which was investigating the effect of low rates on safety in transport. Since then we have seen an increase in deaths among transport workers and other road users from truck crashes. Wealthy retailers and manufacturers are financially squeezing the industry and more people are dying as a result. I would appeal against any rash move to abolish this code which keeps clients in the sugar industry in check,” Sheldon added.

A disallowance motion to abolish the code, which just came into effect in April, is expected to go before the Senate for a vote next week.

Since the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was torn down last year, fatal crashes involving articulated trucks have increased by over 7%, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe work Australia data shows that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers. This is up from one in three transport workers last year and one in four in 2015.

AMWU – Ian Drake: A lifetime of unionism

Tasmanian Branch President Ian “Edna” Drake has dedicated his life to the cause of the worker. This week the AMWU has celebrated Ian’s service at a special dinner and ceremony for him at his home in the north of Tasmania.

“Edna” as he is affectionately known by all AMWU members in Tasmania joined the union as a 4th year apprentice boilermaker and continues to this day.

He has 50 years of continuous membership and service.

He is stepping down out of his role as President of the Tasmanian Branch and the State Council held a dinner in his honour.

Ian joined in 1 April 1968 (an April Fool!), and the union at the time was the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths’ Society, prior to amalgamation into the AMWU.

While working as a boilermaker, Ian served as a shop steward (delegate) for many years, as a State Councillor, National Conference Delegate, State Admin Committee Member and finally as State President.

National Secretary Paul Bastian and State Secretary John Short were delighted to toast Ian and present him with his Award of Merit.
  • “Ian represents the best of unionism – a lifetime dedicated to a fair go for workers and serving his community,” said John Short. “We wish him well as he retires from serving the branch.”
As to how he got the name Edna, Ian says it was so long ago that no one remembers the story anymore, but had to do with how close he was to his Aunt Edna, who used to bring him and his siblings food and cakes as a child.

“I was so close to my Aunty Edna that I got the nickname,” he jokes. “Many people in Tassie don’t even know my real name is Ian – I’ve always just been Edna.”

National Secretary Paul Bastian, retiring Tasmania Secretary Ian "Edna" Drake and
Tasmanian Secretary John Short

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Australia and Timor-Leste strike deal to end maritime boundary dispute

Australia and Timor-Leste have resolved their long-running dispute over maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea, in what is being described as a "landmark day" in the relationship between the two nations.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague today announced the parties reached an agreement on Wednesday over the disputed territory, which contains large oil and gas deposits worth an estimated $40 billion.

Timor-Leste  initiated the compulsory conciliation process last year in a bid to force Australia to negotiate a permanent maritime boundary.

A history of treaties in the Timor Sea

In 1989 Australia and Indonesia signed the Timor Gap Treaty when East Timor was still under Indonesian occupation.

East Timor was left with no permanent maritime border and Indonesia and Australia got to share the wealth in what was known as the Timor Gap.

In 2002 East Timor gained independence and the Timor Sea Treaty was signed, but no permanent maritime border was negotiated.

East Timor has long argued the border should sit halfway between it and Australia, placing most of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field in their territory.

In 2004 East Timor started negotiating with Australia again about the border.

In 2006 the CMATS treaty was signed, but no permanent border was set, and instead it ruled that revenue from the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field would be split evenly between the two countries.

Former Timor Leste president Xanana Gusmao said the "long and at times difficult" process had helped the country achieve its dream of "full sovereignty and to finally settle our maritime boundaries with Australia".

"This is an historic agreement and marks the beginning of a new era in Timor-Leste's friendship with Australia," he said.

While the details remain confidential, the court said the agreement "addresses the legal status of the Greater Sunrise gas field…and the sharing of the resulting revenue".

In January, Timor-Leste terminated its 2006 treaty with Australia, which split revenue from the Greater Sunrise field 50/50 and delayed negotiations over a permanent maritime boundary for 50 years.

The country claimed the treaty was invalid because of allegations that Australia spied on cabinet ministers during negotiations to divide the oil and gas fields.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong welcomed the breakthrough, saying the court's ruling brings to an end "more than 40 years of uncertainty over this maritime border".

"The maritime boundary dispute with Timor-Leste has strained our bilateral relations and has gone on too long," she said.

The deal will be finalised in October. Until then, the details will remain confidential.

MUA – Fair Work Commission Clears Path For Merger Ballot

MUA members have been given the go ahead to conduct a ballot to approve their historic merger with the CFMEU and TCFUA.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will conduct the ballot that will open on September 28 and close on November 23.

Fair Work Commission Deputy President Val Gostencnik approved the application of the MUA, CFMEU and TCFUA under the Fair Work Registered Organisations Act to submit the proposal to a ballot.

Gostencnik rejected AMOU and AIMPE objections that the proposed name of the merged union – the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) – would cause confusion.

He also accepted that technical objections raised by AMMA and the MBA had been addressed by each of the unions putting a corrected amalgamation scheme to their committees of management.

The proposed merger clearly and unambiguously preserves the financial, political and industrial identity of the MUA as a separate division while promoting and encouraging more effective use of resources in campaigns and organising.

Gostencnik exempted the CFMEU from balloting its members because they are not required to vote when the number of members that would be admitted is lower than the 25 per cent trigger.

The combined membership of the MUA and TCFU amounts to 16,022, or about 12.5% of the CFMEU's complement, the union's barrister, Tony Slevin, told a hearing on August 4.

Gostencnik said the law would not allow him to reject the CFMEU's exemption bid as there were no special circumstances.

This prompted predictable grandstanding from Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash who somehow came to the conclusion that this showed the law on union mergers was inadequate.

"The current law is clearly deficient as it does not enable the public interest, the interests of affected employees or even the interests of members to be properly taken into account," Cash told The Australian Financial Review.

Cash will press ahead with the Government’s Registered Organisations (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017, which will likely be voted on in October.The bill says the Fair Work Commission must not only have regard to the compliance record of unions but the impact a merger would be likely to have on employers.

It allows Senator Cash, employers and conservative state government ministers — all opposed to the MUA-CFMEU merger — to make submissions opposing the merger.

The Government’s Bill  goes even further than the far-reaching recommendations of the extreme political bias of the Heydon Royal Commission against the trade union and labour movement.

The Bill potentially contravenes Article 3 of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention 1948 (No. 87) (ILO Convention 87), one of the eight ‘fundamental’ ILO conventions.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

ANMF – Nurses say aged care staffing levels ‘inadequate’

Tuesday 29th August, 2017

More than 92% of nurses and aged workers responding to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s (ANMF) national workforce survey say they are being asked to care for the same number of nursing home residents with less staff or less rostered care hours.

The online survey was launched in order for the ANMF to determine the true extent of cuts to care hours in residential facilities across the country.

The survey asks aged care nurses and care staff to identify cuts to care hours at the facilities where they work and how it’s impacting vulnerable residents. After being launched in early August, over 744 aged care nurses and carers have responded to the survey. The largest number of respondents (274) have been from Queensland, where 11 nurses have been sacked and over 2000 care hours have been slashed by providers.

Initial findings show:

  • 92% of respondents are being asked to care for the same number of residents with less staff, less hours;
  • 90% say current staffing levels aren’t adequate;
  • 71% don’t think the ratio of registered nurses to other care staff is adequate;
  • 89% don’t think the ratio of AIN’s/carers/PCW’s to residents is adequate
  • “Aged care nurses and carers are telling us what’s really going on inside nursing homes across Australia, as a result of registered and enrolled nurses being sacked and thousands of care hours being cut,” ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said today.
  • “They’re telling us how it is effecting daily care they can provide for elderly residents. There’s inadequate numbers of registered and enrolled nurses and personal care staff, which means that bathing and feeding along with pain and dementia management are all being compromised. As nurses, that’s a great concern to us, as it would be for residents’ and their families.
  • “The survey shows that some providers are again, citing financial sustainability as the rationale for nursing cuts, as a result of reduced federal funding, but the Government is putting the blame squarely back on the providers – and it’s the residents who are caught in the middle.
  • “The real problem is that without any mandated staffing levels or care hours in aged care, the Federal Government is allowing providers to determine ‘adequate’ levels of care to meet the basic needs of their residents and as we’ve recently seen, some providers simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
  • “Nurses are being sacked and care hours dramatically reduced and with less nurses, fewer carers and reduced hours, workloads for staff are increasing to dangerous levels and ultimately, it means care is being compromised and residents are suffering.”

To take part in the ANMF survey, go to

The ANMF, with over 259,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.  ANMF media inquiries: 0411 254 390.

NSWTF – Making of Teachers Make a Difference


AUG 28, 2017

CPSU signs up to the First Nations Workers Alliance (FNWA)

Last week the CPSU signed up to become a union member supporting the First Nations Worker Alliance (FNWA). The FNWA was set up by Australian Unions to give a voice to workers in the Community Development Program (CDP).

People receiving welfare in remote areas can be forced to participate in the Community Development Program (CDP).  This can be for a local council, a not for profit organisation or any other employer. There are 35,000 CDP workers with 84% of them being indigenous.

CDP workers are not actually classified as workers. They get paid well below the minimum wage (the dole pays $11.60/hour or $290/week) for compulsorily working for 25 hours a week for non-profit and now for-profit businesses. 

They are not covered by the Fair Work Act, they don’t have Federal OHS protections or workers compensation and they can’t take annual leave, sick leave or carer’s leave.

Those under the CDP are forced to work up to three times longer than city-based jobseekers to receive welfare payments. Since July 2015, less than 3,500 Indigenous participants found full-time or part-time work lasting six months or more.

Forcing people to work for less than minimum wage with no rights is just plain wrong



The CFMEU congratulates the Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni and the Palaszczuk State Government for introducing powerful new legislation that will ensure all building products used in Queensland are safe and fit for their intended use.

CFMEU Divisional Branch Secretary Michael Ravbar said, “These laws are a huge step in the right direction in ensuring unscrupulous builders and developers who cut corners and import unsafe and potentially deadly building products in order to save a few dollars, are held responsible and accountable.

  • “With the recent tragedy of the Grenfell Tower Fire in London fresh in everyone’s minds, the community is rightly worried about the safety of their homes and buildings here in Australia.
  • “Queenslanders want assurances that their homes and buildings are safe and that their Government, at both a State and Federal level, are doing everything they can to ensure this terrible incident doesn’t occur in their own backyard.
  • “It is great to see that the State Government has addressed these concerns and those of the unions, and delivered strong new powers to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission.
  • “These laws allow QBCC inspectors to not only investigate new construction but also any existing building to ensure they are safe and comply with Australian Standards which means that Queenslanders can be confident that buildings in this state will be safe and free of any inferior building products.
  • “Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the LNP Federal Government who have continued to sit on their hands and allow these dangerous and deadly products to enter our country putting the lives of innocent people at risk.
  • “Back in May 2015, the CFMEU raised serious concerns about the lack of Federal Government regulation over the flood of imported and unsafe building products, which did not meet Australian Standards.
  • “Here we are 2 years later and we are still waiting for the Federal Government to act.
  • “The CFMEU congratulates the Queensland Labor State Government for going the extra mile and doing the job of the lazy, arrogant and incompetent LNP Federal Government.”

Michael Ravbar said, “It’s time for the Turnbull Government to take note and follow in the Queensland Government’s footsteps to ensure the community is kept safe and their minds put at ease.

“We need strong Federal building and construction legislation implemented immediately to make sure all Australians are kept safe from deadly imported building products.”


The CFMEU is also congratulating the Palaszczuk State Government for giving new powers to the QBCC, which allows inspectors to refuse and cancel licences to builders who have a history of poor safety and also requires licensees to notify the regulator (Work Health and Safety Queensland) of activities on a building site that might present a work health and safety issue.

Michael Ravbar said, “This is another major win for workers in the construction industry and gives greater control to the regulator to ensure safety is the top priority.

  • “We have seen too many cases of rogue employers who have no regard for the health and safety of its workers. “This legislation will mean less fatalities and greater accountability, which in this industry can only be a great thing.”

These important legislative changes in Queensland would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the CFMEU and of course, Michael Garrels and the affected families who have put in countless hours in ensuring these laws come to fruition.

We have been lobbying and campaigning the Government to implement these important and much needed changes and are happy to see that all our hard work has finally paid off.

Every worker deserves to go to work and return home safe at the end of the day. Stand up. Speak out. Come home.

MUA – Queensland Industrial Manslaughter Laws Should be Adopted Australia-wide

August 25, 2017

The Maritime Union of Australia is calling on safety regulators around the country to follow suit with Queensland and adopt strict industrial manslaughter laws.
The new laws, which were tabled in parliament this week, will impose multi-million-dollar fines and explore jail sentences of up to 20 years for individuals found guilty of reckless conduct.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith believes bosses found to be culpable for fatalities on their watch should face the most severe of punishments.

  • “The maritime industry is incredibly dangerous,” Smith said.
  • “We need strong safety laws that protect workers’ lives first and foremost but that should include implementation of a suite of measures that ensure culpable bosses can't walk away from killing workers.”

MUA National Safety Officer Mick Cross said harsher penalties could act as a deterrent from skipping on safety.

“Once these Queensland laws pass the Parliament we can hopefully get them rolled out across the country and we’ll start to see all businesses forced to doing the right thing to avoid tragedies happening,” Cross said.

  •  “It’s unfortunate that custodial sentences and big dollar fines are the only ways to stop willful negligence becoming standard business practice, but something serious needs to be done to stop our workers dying in preventable accidents.
  • “Safety lip service from companies is unacceptable and we need to see changes around Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) accountability as a matter of urgency across all industries.
  • "The Trade Union movement’s relentlessness should be congratulated for taking this important step towards creating safer workplaces for all."

MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Bob Carnegie said many people had worked incredibly hard to get this legislation into the Parliament.

  • “The MUA Queensland Branch but in particular Ros McLennan and the Queensland Council of Unions CU worked day and night to achieve this outcome,” Carnegie said.
  • “The branch also wishes to congratulate Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace, who spoke at the 2016 MUA Quadrennial Conference, for driving this legislation through cabinet.
  • “Grace comes from a wonderful background in the trade union movement and she has stayed to true to her core beliefs'
  • “It is one of those times where it's good to be a workers representative and industrial action is not the only option we are left with.”

ACTU – Employee representation on boards would help end Government and corporate greed

30 August 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is supportive of workers having more power at work and believes the concept of co-determination, where workers have a place on company boards, would be a positive move for the corporate governance of Australian companies.

Corporate power now looms so large in Australia that the foundation our rights at work were built on is disappearing, an important new essay from Australian academic Dr Nick Dyrenfurth says.

Dr Dyrenfurth’s essay, Make Australia Fair Again: the Case for Employee Representation on Company Boards, says working people could retain better pay and conditions if they were given a seat at the corporate table.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “The concept of co-determination is a successful model in Germany and the ACTU supports Dr Dyrenfurth’s argument that affording working people more power in their own workplaces will have universal benefits for the economy and their lives.”
  • “As Australian workers languish amidst record low wage growth, mass casualisation, rising inequality and a work structure that gives all power to the bosses and little to the worker, it’s time for the rules to change.
  • “Unless we listen to the big ideas from academics like Dr Dyrenfurth, the neoliberal era will continue to hurt working people. It’s time to change the rules.”