Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NSWTF – Fair Work gives green light to TAFE EA

Submitted by nswtf on 30 January 2017

The Fair Work Commission has approved the TAFE Commission of NSW Teachers and Related Employees Enterprise Agreement 2016 that members voted to accept last November.

This means members will begin receiving the benefits of the new Enterprise Agreement – including a 2.5 per cent annual pay rise over three years with all current conditions locked in – from February 3, in accordance with Section 54 of the Fair Work Act. The nominal expiry date of the Agreement is February 3, 2020.

TAFE members overwhelmingly voted last November to accept the new agreement negotiated by Federation and TAFE management after members voted down a contentious TAFE offer last April that significantly attacked working conditions.

TAFE teachers had voted in a protected action ballot in October to consider industrial action if a negotiated settlement could not be reached.

Agreement between TAFE NSW and Federation on terms of settlement for a new Enterprise Agreement came almost simultaneously with the results of the protected action ballot.

This new agreement, approved today by Fair Work, includes:

  • a 2.5 percent annual pay rise from the first full pay period on or after 24 November 2016, 2017 and 2018
  • no change to current teaching hours
  • confirmation in writing from TAFE that existing administrative agreements would continue for the life of the agreement (this allows TAFE teachers to continue to work off-site for five hours)
  • implementation of Education Support Officers, Assessors and Head Teacher Band 3 as trialled in the previous Agreement
  • no change to related duties for part time casual teachers
  • the establishment of a joint working party to develop a comprehensive future workforce capability framework.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron said Federation would continue to campaign against the contestable funding model that has seen millions of dollars taken out of TAFE’s budget to fund private providers, leading to catastrophic consequences for thousands of students cheated by dodgy private colleges.

“There is now an urgency to ensure that the public TAFE system is promoted and protected and that the level of public money handed to private colleges be capped,” Mr Mulheron said.


Dave Oliver ACTU Secretary bids Farewell

Dear friends,

For thirty years I have had the privilege and honour to serve the great Australian union movement, including five of those as Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
I am extremely proud to have spent my working life improving and protecting living standards for workers and their families.

Now is the time for renewal at the ACTU, with a new generation of highly skilled, diverse and motivated leaders each of whom are capable of fulfilling a critical leadership role.

This has not been an easy decision for me. I have taken it because the time is right for both the movement and myself.

I have enjoyed enormously working with both political and industrial labour leaders in developing and implementing policies that promote the dignity and rights of working families.

The time has now come for me to spend more time with my family.

My family has always supported me and now it’s time for me to support my family.

The union movement has always been greater than any individual person.

It has been so for more than 150 years and will continue to be one of the most critical institutions that will fight against inequality and stop Australia going down the path of the United States.

In solidarity,

Dave

Monday, January 30, 2017

ANMF – Statement Regarding Pregnant Asylum Seeker

Friday 27th January, 2017

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is supporting other health professionals in calling for a heavily-pregnant asylum seeker suffering serious health complications to be flown from the Nauru detention centre for urgent medical treatment.

The woman is more than 35 weeks pregnant and has a large benign tumour on the wall of her uterus. Her unborn baby is in a breech position.

ANMF Acting Federal Secretary Annie Butler says the woman must be provided with specialist medical care on the Australian mainland for her sake and the sake of her unborn baby.

Ms Butler said the ANMF will not stand back and allow the woman's condition to deteriorate any further and will be stepping-up the pressure on the Turnbull Government to act immediately.

The ANMF, with over to 259,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ACTU – Turnbull Government must stop terrifying asbestos exposure

30 January 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the Turnbull Government must take immediate action to protect Australians from exposure to imported products containing life-threatening asbestos.

Although importation of products containing asbestos has been banned since 2004, significant amounts of this dangerous substance continue to be slip through border protections and more must be done to protect consumers.

Asbestos claims the life of more than 500 Australians every year and yet products containing asbestos are still being illegally imported. Earlier this year, 307,000 crayons contaminated with asbestos were stopped at Australia’s border sparking serious concerns about what could have slipped through customs and come into contact with Australians.

The ACTU said it was deeply alarming that there was no way of knowing how many contaminated products made it into the hands of Australian children in childcare centres, schools and homes. It also represents a scary and potentially life-threatening failure of regulation.  

In its submission to the Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into Non-Conforming Building Products (illegal Importation of products containing asbestos), the ACTU makes 11 recommendations that address the ineffectiveness of existing importation bans on asbestos.

Quotes attributable to Michael Borowick, ACTU Assistant Secretary:

  • “The Federal Government is dangerously negligent when it comes to controlling asbestos importation in Australia. We must have stronger penalties and better border protections to make sure Australians consumers are not unwitting exposed to this lethal product.
  • “This Inquiry was established after a serious breakdown in the regulation and oversight of importation of products containing asbestos. Asbestos was found on a significant number of construction sites around the country, including the Perth Children’s Hospital and the new Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania.
  • “It’s frightening, and it demands immediate attention by the Turnbull Government. Asbestos claims the lives of more than 500 Australians each year. Australian Border Force must be specifically resourced to properly monitor all imports and better protect people from this dangerous material.
  • “Given a single exposure to asbestos can lead to decades of uncertainty and illness and in many cases death, it should be treated with the same seriousness as any prohibited drug or substance.
  • “It’s terrifying to think that products like crayons, given to children could be contaminated with traces of asbestos. Asbestos kills – the Turnbull Government needs to do everything it can to address the current failings in regulation and enforcement of the import ban".


"Time for leadership": Bill Shorten slams "appalling" Donald Trump immigration ban

Bill Shorten has slammed US President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from seven predominantly-Muslim countries as "appalling", arguing Australia should not stay silent on the decision that has shocked the world.

After Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to condemn the immigration ban, which has seen visitors and visa-holders thrown off planes as they try to travel to the US, Mr Shorten said to remain silent could be "interpreted as agreement".

While other world leaders take a strong stand against Donald Trump's anti-immigration policy, our PM has tried to skirt the issue.

"Wherever possible, I want the United States to be able to go about its business without interference from Australia. And I would expect the reverse to be true," the Labor leader wrote on his official Facebook page.

"However, there are some issues where silence will be interpreted as agreement. For that reason, I need to say Mr Trump's ban on refugees based upon their religion or country is appalling and ought to be ended as soon as possible."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

ACTU – Australian Workers Need a Pay Rise, not a Pay Cut

25 January 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) today welcomes Labor Leader Bill Shorten’s firm commitment to protecting the wages of millions of workers who sacrifice their weekends for the benefit of our economy.

Employer groups have been on a relentless attack of weekend penalty rates, all in a bid to increase profits at the expense of workers’ take home pay.

Mr Shorten has today put people’s wages above corporate greed, recognising that many Australian families rely on weekend penalty rates to survive.

At a time when wages are stagnating, employers are trying everything to cut wages even further. Cutting penalty rates, the termination of enterprise agreements, insecure contracts, erosion of working conditions and increased job insecurity are all making life harder and harder for working Australians.

The announcement today that Labor will move to change the laws to protect workers’ pay is an important step in the right direction.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:
  • “The ACTU welcomes Labor’s recognition of the importance of weekend penalty rates through its commitment to protecting working people’s take home pay.”
  • “Australian workers need a pay rise, not a pay cut, and regardless of how employers or the Turnbull government might try to spin it, reducing penalty rates is a pay cut.”
  • “There are more than 800,000 people working across the retail and hospitality sector, most of whom rely on award wages and conditions. If Sunday penalty rates are cut, Australian workers already struggling will have their living standards further eroded.”
  • “The attack on Sunday penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sector will be the first domino to fall if the Fair Work Commission decides that Sunday rates can be cut. We expect similar attacks on all sectors would soon follow.”
  • “Mr Shorten’s commitment to changing the rules to stop the FWC commission from being able to decide to cut take home pay means that extra money from working weekends is protected.”
  • “The conversation needs to be changed; workers’ wages need to be grown and protected, not attacked and cut at any opportunity.”


ACTU – Unions Pre-budget Submission

Australian Unions’ pre-budget submission calls on the Federal Government to reverse its failed economic policies and instead work to ensure inclusive growth which will benefit all Australians, not just a wealthy few.

The submission argues our living standards have been under threat in recent years, with inequality between Australians now the highest level in 70 years, and unless we adapt and respond to the challenges and opportunities of our time, living standards will continue to fall.  

Unions are calling on the Government to change course from its failed ‘trickle down’ approach and produce a Budget that builds, not undermines, the key foundation blocks of equality and decent living standards. 

The Government must take a leading role in coordinating all the economic levers it has at its disposal to invest in the jobs, skills, innovation, infrastructure and services necessary to secure our future prosperity.

The ACTU’s submission contains 10 broad proposals — highlighted by the need to ensure inclusive growth, tackle inadequate revenue, transition the economy post mining boom, invest in infrastructure and plan for increased wage growth to protect Australian worker’s living standards.

The full ACTU Pre Budget Submission (January 2017) is available online at:

http://www.actu.org.au/media/1033062/actu-pre-budget-submission-2017-18.pdf

Monday, January 23, 2017

ACTU – All workers should be very afraid if sneaky Parmalat can tear up EBA

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has today condemned the actions of dairy manufacturer Parmalat, which is attempting to tear up its current enterprise agreement with employees, and has locked workers out of their factory indefinitely, because they refused to agree to a new deal that would have seen their wages and entitlements cut.

Parmalat has locked out 60 workers from its Echuca plant, after the employees refused to sign a new agreement that would see their wage rates halved and redundancy payments heavily reduced.

The ACTU said Parmalat’s treatment of its 60 employees is appalling and represents a disturbing trend of large corporate organisations trying to intimidate workers into accepting bad pay deals.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “The cancellation of enterprise agreements: locking workers out and then tearing up agreements: and/or using loopholes in the Fair Work Act to sack workers and then rehire them on lower wages and conditions is a devious trend large Australian corporate organisations are now using to intimidate workers into accepting bad pay deals.”
  • "We’ve seen it happen at CUB, Griffin Mining, AGL and now at Parmalat.”
  • “We will fight back against agreement-busting tactics that attack workers’ rights, an attack that will ultimately affect all workers if companies can simply tear up enterprise agreements with no consequences.“
  • “These workers — some of whom have been with the company for over 35 years — are entitled to their existing wages and conditions, they are entitled to some respect and dignity after years of loyalty to the company. Cutting their wages shows no respect, offers no dignity and is nothing less than an exhibition of pure greed on the employers’ part.”


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Donald Trump: Women's marches in Australia, New Zealand and Across the World

Protesters attend an Donald Trump Inauguration protest outside the State Library in Melbourne.
Post-inauguration women's marches in Australia and New Zealand have launched a global human rights event expected to attract over 2 million people worldwide.

Women's March Global, a movement sparked by a march in Washington timed to coincide with Donald Trump's first day in office as US President, said 673 sister walks were planned worldwide.

An estimated 2.2 million people were expected to take part in the events across seven continents, including Antarctica.

The aim of the headline march in Washington on Sunday (local time) is to send a "bold message" to the new government and the world that "women's rights are human rights".

The women, men and children at the rallies are uniting to protest against what they say is the threat Mr Trump's policies pose to the political vulnerable.

These groups include women, religious and racial minorities, LGBTI communities, people with disabilities and survivors of sexual assault.

Thousands marched towards the US consulate in Sydney
"Feminism is my Trump card" and "fight like a girl," were among the placards held by marchers.

"We're not marching as an anti-Trump movement per se, we're marching to protest the hate speech, the hateful rhetoric, the misogyny, the bigotry, the xenophobia and we want to present a united voice with women around the globe," organiser Mindy Freiband said.

US singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer, Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro and social commentator and writer Jane Caro are among the women who will appear at the Sydney march. Caro told the crowd: "I don't hate anyone, but I'm not fond of Donald Trump."

New Zealanders launch global women's event

New Zealand launched the first of the post-inauguration marches, hours after the world watched Mr Trump be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

About 2,000 women, men and children marched peacefully in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch and Invercargill.

Marchers carried signs reading "we shall overcomb", "girls just want to have fundamental rights" and "love trumps hate".

March in London


Women’s March London: Thousands Take To The Streets In Startling Show Of Strength
Massive March on Washington


Madrid


Italy



New York



France



New Delhi



Oslow



See More from New York Times 


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Data shows joining a union gets workers better pay

19 January 2017

Workers who are on enterprise agreements are paid 25% more than workers on awards or the minimum wage, according to new biennial Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

The latest data strongly confirms that unions are vital to ensuring working people get decent pay and conditions.

The number of Australian workers who are on either the minimum wage or awards has increased from 1.9 million at May 2014 to 2.3 million at May 2016, while there are 3.8 million workers on enterprise agreements.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “There’s a simple message here — join a union for better pay.”
  • “This data is truly appalling as it confirms that there is a reason why this Government and big corporations want to transfer workers onto the award – they are paid far less.”
  • “This Government’s campaign to stop unions helping workers get decent pay and to access their legal rights is morally bankrupt.”
  • “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government has done nothing to actively stop businesses tearing up enterprise agreements and putting workers back on award wages.”
  • “This week we have seen dairy company Parmalat threaten to tear up an enterprise agreement if workers didn’t take a pay cut, one of many unscrupulous examples of how corporate Australia is ripping workers off by attempting to use loopholes in the Fair Work Act.”
  • “Australian Unions are committed as ever to ensuring award wages are lifted and the number of workers on enterprise agreements increases.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

Echuka – Parmalat workers meet with management

Negotiation have been held between union representatives and members, and Parmalat management days after workers were locked out of the Echuca a dairy processing plant.

Workers at the Echuca yoghurt-making facility have been in negotiations with Parmalat for their new enterprise agreement since August last year.

But they took industrial action after the company applied to tear up the existing agreement to cut the workers’ wages in half, increase the length of their working week, and gut redundancy provisions.

Members and representatives of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union met on Thursday with Parmalat in Echuca for negotiations.

The negotiations will continue on Tuesday next week.

A statement from the AMWU said the workers remain locked out from their workplace by Parmalat and parent company Lactalis.

They will continue their community protest out the front of the Echuca plant.

A spokesperson for Parmalat confirmed the site remains closed and that AMWU members had a productive meeting with management.

“By close of business on Monday, January 23, it is anticipated that Parmalat and the unions will propose new wording for clauses within the new enterprise agreement,” the spokesperson said.

“Negotiations will continue at the Echuca site on Tuesday, January 24, at 3pm and, if an agreement is not reached, a further meeting will be held on Wednesday,  January 25, at 9am. 

“Parmalat remains committed to being fair and reasonable and our hope is that we can reach a resolution as soon as possible.”

Ancient Aboriginal site a step closer to UNESCO World Heritage status

Budj Bim Landscape: Ancient Aboriginal site a step closer to UNESCO World Heritage status
An ancient Aboriginal settlement and aquaculture site in south-west Victoria is a step closer to being named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Key points:

The site is 6,600 years old, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids

The Federal Government has submitted a nomination for the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape at Lake Condah to be included on Australia's World Heritage Tentative List.

If the nomination is successful, Budj Bim would be the Australia's 20th World Heritage site and the only place listed solely for its Indigenous cultural value.

It marks a significant turning point for the Gunditjmara traditional owners who have worked tirelessly for several years to see Budj Bim gain a tentative World Heritage nomination.

Denis Rose, project manager for Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, said there was a sigh of relief when the group was informed of the tentative nomination.
  • "We've worked on this process for quite a few years, we've had to get our evidence together and we're just really glad and excited that we've finally been accepted on Australia's World Heritage Tentative list," he said.
  • The Gunditjmara people used Lake Condah and surrounding wetlands to form channels to harvest eels in the area thousands of years ago.
Today the remains of intricate stone traps used to form the channels can be seen at the site, and it is one of the oldest aquaculture sites in the world.

Mr Rose said the site is a hidden treasure and traditional owners were confident a World Heritage nomination would boost tourism.

"We take quite a few tours out on country and the general consensus is 'Oh, I didn't realise this was here'."


UnionsNSW – New Premier should Reject Pro-corporate Agenda

Posted on January 19, 2017

The election of a new Premier represents an opportunity to put the public interest ahead of the concerns of the big end of town for the first time in six years.

“Mike Baird’s resignation is an opportunity to reject the pro-corporate agenda that has dominated NSW policy making for the past six years,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.

“We have witnessed a turbo-charged privatisation agenda that has focused on the short term needs of conservative politicians and the finance sector. Whoever becomes the next Premier needs to implement an agenda which benefits all of NSW rather than a two speed economy that elevates the lucky above the rest of NSW.

“The Coalition has slashed funding to essential services such as TAFE and women’s refuges. The current agenda has denied regional and outer-metropolitan communities much needed jobs and support, cutting community services, privatising hospitals and sending procurement dollars offshore.

“Fewer than one in five dollars from the State Government’s asset sales are being spent in regional NSW. In a two-speed economy, the NSW Government is putting its foot on the Sydney accelerator, while it yanks the handbrake on regional NSW.

“Under the conservatives, the only people getting a leg up are those who don’t need it - the wealthy and powerful.

“Unions will approach the new Premier with an open mind. But we will also hold the new Premier to account. We need real change in NSW, not a new Premier selling the same stale product."

PSA – Baird leaves “for sale” sign on NSW

Mike Baird turned NSW into the “For Sale State” and his decision to step down as Premier is akin to an auctioneer walking out during a failing auction said the Public Service Association (PSA).

“Mike Baird’s mass campaign of public service privatisation has been a hallmark of his reign yet he has stepped down in the middle of the deeply flawed process leaving the lives of millions hanging in the balance,” said PSA General Secretary, Stewart Little.

“The privatisation of the Land Titles Registry has been universally condemned and will impact dramatically upon the entire ecomony yet Mr Baird prided himself on his  Government’s alleged fiscal credentials.”

“The sell off of Disability Services has already thrown countless workers and clients into free fall. What will the future now hold for them?”

“Similarly, Housing, Prisons and Community Services”.

“Mike Baird will go down in history as the “Out of Touch Premier” who thought lock out laws were more important than quality services for people with disability, land owners in NSW and child protection,” said Stewart Little.

NSWTF – Call for Baird government's school funding legacy to continue

Submitted by NSW Teachers Federation, 19 January 2017

The finest way to recognise and acknowledge retiring NSW Premier Mike Baird will be for the successor leadership to continue the state Coalition government’s commitment and full, long-term funding support for Gonski, teacher organisations said in a joint statement today.

"Teachers and principals across NSW today acknowledge the fine work and legacy of Mr Baird and his Government in enabling opportunity and high standards for all school students and communities in the state stemming from their full policy commitment to Gonski funding," NSW Teachers Federation Acting President Denis Fitzgerald, NSW Secondary Principals' Council President Chris Presland and Primary Principals' Association President Phil Seymour said.

At a media conference today, Mr Baird said his government was proudly the first state to sign up to Gonski. "Why is that important? Needs-based funding — getting money to those disadvantaged students, those disadvantaged schools, to give them the same chance and opportunity as every other student in this state and nation."

The teacher organisations' statement says: "Mr Baird was right in manifesting pride in the extra resources that his government directed towards the neediest students in the state."

Federation is calling on members to contact their local Coalition MP, to encourage them to conserve the heritage and achievements of NSW Coalitions Government’s in their support of full, long term, funding for Gonski. Click here for more information.

ANMF – Note to new Minister: Listen to nurses and midwives

Wednesday 18th January, 2017

The country’s largest health union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says new Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt must listen to nurses and midwives if the Government has any chance of addressing the many issues impacting the health and aged care sectors and the delivery of quality care.

The ANMF says Minister Hunt’s first priorities must be:

  • Restoring the billions of dollars axed from public health budgets around the country;
  • Stopping the attacks on Medicare and Australia’s successful system of universal healthcare;
  • Creating efficiencies in the health system rather than outsourcing services to private, for-profit providers;
  • Creating more job opportunities for local nursing and midwifery graduates.
  • Acting Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the ANMF and its members were hopeful that Minister Hunt will work with frontline nurses and midwives - unlike the previous Health Minister.

“We welcome Minister Hunt to the crucial health portfolio, but he is on notice: he must enter this crucial portfolio by working with the ANMF, other healthcare stakeholders and economists in finding solutions to the mounting challenges the nation faces in the health sector,” Ms Butler said.
  • “The new Minister must listen to nurses and midwives when they say the Government must quickly restore the funding required for our public hospitals systems, so they can deliver a high standard of care for their patients.
  • “As we know, our rapidly-growing population continues to put pressure on the health system, but the ANMF maintains that these growth costs must be shared.
  • “The best way of ensuring that all Australians have fair and equal access to quality health and aged care is to create efficiencies within the health system – not to simply outsource care services to private, for profit providers, as part of a US-style privatisation.

“As trusted, frontline health professionals, nurses and midwives understand that healthcare has to be evidence based and also cost-effective, in order for them to achieve optimum care delivery. We are extremely concerned that higher out of pocket charges for everyday medical services, like GP visits and pharmaceuticals, will make it harder and harder for Australians to afford basic health checks.  There’s little doubt this will result in worsening health outcomes. Mr Hunt, as a former Environment Minister, should encourage the Government to tackle the detrimental health impacts of climate change in Australia.”

The ANMF congratulated Ken Wyatt on his appointment as Aged Care Minister and urged him to establish a long-awaited workforce strategy for the sector – at a time when 20,000 nurses are required to meet the needs of Australia’s ageing population.

Jobs – Victoria '100 times better than NSW'

New official statistics show that the nation as a whole had a net gain of 91,500 jobs, as the winding down of the mining boom continued to dampen the economy. But Victoria bucked the trend, creating 118,500 new jobs.

"Victoria's population is growing rapidly, so it's a virtuous cycle: its employment is going up because its population is going up and its population is going up because its employment is going up, and vice versa," said Deloitte Access Economics director Chris Richardson.NAB economist Tapas Strickland said Victoria was swinging the national numbers.

"Victoria's strong growth could be argued to be masking what's going on in the rest of the country," he said.

Acting Victorian Treasurer Robin Scott said the government's infrastructure pipeline and "sound financial management" had reaped rewards for the economy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

ACTU – Turnbull backs offshore manufacturing over Australian jobs

The Federal Government has proposed changes to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic) that would allow businesses that offshore their manufacturing and related services to be subsidised by taxpayer money.

The proposal would allow exporters to access government subsidised loans and insurance, even if none of the manufacturing of the exported product takes place in Australia and the goods are exported from a foreign country.

As such, businesses that will be able to access this funding will not necessarily support a single Australian job.

The ACTU has made a submission to the Turnbull Government stating the need to leave in place the incentives for businesses accessing Efic funding to employ local people on our own shores.

Quotes attributable to Ged Kearney, President, ACTU:

  • “The lack of support for Australian industry from the Turnbull Government is shocking.”
  • “Instead of providing assistance to small and medium Australian export businesses to maintain and create local jobs, the Turnbull Government wants to make taxpayers’ money available to companies that produce and export their product outside Australia.”
  •  “With two million Australians either out of or looking for more work, we should be doing everything we can to save every job we can.”
  • “Supporting local businesses that employ local people and manufacture on our shores should be the priority of this government, not encouraging offshoring.”
  • “This Government simply doesn’t have a plan for jobs in Australia”


Baird Resigns – "Wreck Sydney and Run"

The long expected resignation of NSW Premier Mike Baird has at last happened. He said there would be a Liberal partyroom meeting and a spill of leadership positions next week. He will resign from Parliament, effective immediately, following that meeting.

Though initially popular, there was soon a huge drop in his approval ratings following controversy over his Government's greyhound ban and then backflip, lockout laws and council amalgamations, the WestConnex debacle, interference with NSW ICAAC, his attack on women's refuges, selling of public housing in the Rocks, his reckless destruction of ancient fig trees planted by the WWI Anzacs, his attempt at increasing the GST following a suggestion from short term PM Tony Abbott, his wanton destruction of heritage housing in Haberfield to make room for temporary space for the heavy machinery for the harebrained Westconnex debacle... a seemingly endless list of  hubris that today encouraged the weary people of NSW to heave an audible sigh of relief at his exit.

The drop in his approval rating late last year was the biggest drop for any Premier in the history of Newspoll.


Baird cops a spray on New South Wales graffiti removal day
Satirised as ‘Casino Mike’ because Sydney’s Star Casino benefited from the CBD grog lockout, Mr Baird often used social media to show he is personable and can take a joke.

Mr Baird’s Liberal leadership running mate, the Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, 46, is expected to become the state’s first non-Labor female premier when Mr Baird formally resigns from State Parliament next week.

The NSW Liberal Party’s moderate and right factions appear to have agreed on a unity ticket to install Ms Berejiklian as premier and Dominic Perrottet, of the religious right, currently finance minister, as deputy leader and treasurer to remove any chance of a divisive challenge. If any others want to challenge for the leadership they have to put up their hands before 10am on Monday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ACTU – Turnbull Government climbs aboard sinking TPP

The Turnbull Government plans to attempt to pass the legislation to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), a deeply flawed agreement that could cost up to 40,000 Australian jobs.

This agreement has been fatally compromised by President-Elect Donald Trump announcing that dismantling it will be one of his first acts in office.

Despite this, and despite the fact that it will cost tens of thousands of Australian jobs and hand the power to over-ride our laws to multi-national corporations, the Turnbull Government says that ratifying this agreement is one of its legislative priorities for the new year.

Quotes attributable to Ged Kearney, President, ACTU:

  • “Prime Minister Turnbull is finding new and innovative ways to be out of touch – this time moving to ratify a trade agreement which would place the interests of corporations ahead of Australian workers and could see huge numbers of local workers  lose their jobs, their livelihoods and for younger workers a decent future.”
  • “Instead of working on a plan to put an end to rising underemployment and casualisation, or improving wage growth, or even simply trying to prevent Australia slipping into recession, the Turnbull Government is ratifying dead trade agreements.”
  • “This agreement would hand multi-national corporations significant power to challenge Australian laws through an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Clause, which circumvents normal legislative process.”
  • “The TPP would cost 39,000 Australian jobs by 2025 according to a study from Tufts University, why the so called ‘Jobs and Growth’ Turnbull Government would think this is a favorable agreement for Australian workers is baffling.”
  • “The TPP removes labour market testing and commits Australia to accepting unlimited numbers of temporary workers in all 651 occupations under the 457 visa system for six additional countries. We have seen temporary workers exploited on a regular basis and no assessment has been made of the potential negative effects on the Australian labour market.”


Centrelink – What's the Code of Conduct for Bullying ?

Centrelink management has warned staff they may be committing a criminal offence by leaking internal information, as the welfare agency struggles to manage a backlash from staff angered by the Federal Government's debt claw-back project.

7.30 has obtained an internal email from Centrelink's general manager of people services, Adrian Hudson, sent to all staff last night advising them to make disclosures "through the proper channel".

The email, headed "Public interest disclosures and 'leaking' are not the same", warns staff that "there are very limited circumstances where you can make a disclosure externally".

"You'll be protected if you make a disclosure through the proper channel — in the first instance to the department," it said.

"Outside of the [Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013], an employee who makes a disclosure externally will not be protected and may in fact be committing a criminal offence and be in breach of the APS Code of Conduct."

Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said the department had a responsibility to educate staff about their protections and responsibilities under Commonwealth legislation and the Australian Public Service code of conduct.

"We do this periodically across a range of important issues and will continue to do so to help staff navigate departmental processes and procedures," he told 7.30 in a statement.

Policies that mitigate the stress of poverty would be better than scaring individuals into paying back debts they're unlikely to have, writes Erin Stewart.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has begun holdings meetings with welfare groups as part of its investigation into the project.

On Monday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie wrote to the Ombudsman Colin Neave, offering to put investigators in touch with a former Department of Human Services staff member who has accused Centrelink of bungling the project.

Mr Wilkie said his office has been contacted by several whistleblowers, including some who had left Centrelink "due to the new debt program".

The Department of Human Services has rejected claims that staff dealing with debts have not been properly trained in the system.

Zinn Education – Reconstructing the South

In popular culture, the most memorable depiction of Reconstruction was D.W. Griffith's film, Birth of a Nation. Scalawags and carbetbaggers conspire with newly freed Blacks to ruin the South until the Ku Klux Klan arrives to save the day.

Missing from this racist portrait of Reconstruction ---- and from too many textbooks ----was the extraordinary experiment in grassroots multiracial democracy this period represented ---- land reform, public schools, expanded voting rights, greater equality.

Reconstruction was the key turning point in U.S. history ---- a period of democratic promise like no other. But a promise foreclosed by the terrorism of the defeated white elites seeking to hold on to "their" South.

The Zinn Education Project commemorates the Reconstruction period with new curriculum. We have just posted a new lesson, "Reconstructing the South: A Role Play," written by Zinn Education Project co-director Bill Bigelow. It is accompanied by a chapter on land reform in the post-Civil War South from the American Social History Project's important book, Freedom's Unfinished Revolution.

Download these teaching resources and share them with colleagues. Stay tuned. More to come. 

Greg Hunt upgrades to Health Portfolio

Turnbull government frontbencher Greg Hunt will take on the key cabinet portfolio of health in a limited reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday that will also bring about minor changes to the outer ministry.
Mr Hunt, who led the dismantling of the so-called carbon tax as environment minister in the Abbott government and was industry minister after the election, replaces Sussan Ley, who resigned last week following a travel expenses scandal.

Malcolm Turnbull reveals who will replace Sussan Ley after her resignation over the expenses saga.

The Prime Minister also announced NSW senator and cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos, who has served as the acting health minister since Ms Ley stepped aside from the role 10 days ago, will replace Mr Hunt in the industry portfolio.

US – Seventy Four Percent call for Trump Tax release

Seventy-four percent say Trump should release his tax returns, which the president-elect refused to do during his campaign. 52% state that Trump's proposed plan to have his sons manage his businesses is sufficient while 42% state that Trump should sell his businesses.

Experts say the returns could reveal conflicts of interest, how much money he gives to charity and his effective tax rate. In red states, 69 percent said he should release his returns as did 81 percent of those queried in blue states. In May, the number was at 64% and in September those in favor checked in at 63%.

Trump has justified withholding his tax returns by saying he is under audit and at his news conference last week rejected the notion he should release them, saying, "The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters".

Forty-one percent, overall, say "they care a lot" about Trump releasing the records - 47 percent in the blue states, 36 percent in the states Trump won, the poll finds. "I think it's hard sometimes for people who are liberals, who are Democrats, to hear Trump supporters saying that we should now govern ourselves in a way that Donald Trump did not".

Chelsea Manning – Sentence Commuted by Obama

President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.

Chelsea Manning Demonstration – 2015
The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

The act of clemency could be seen as a reversal, at least in part, of the Obama administration’s unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaking: The administration has brought charges in about nine cases, about twice as many as under all previous presidents combined.

At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also granted a pardon to Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the highest-ranking officials ensnared in the leak crackdown.

General Cartwright had pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters when questioned by F.B.I. agents in an investigation into leaks of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

In addition, Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar L√≥pez Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed. Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations — mostly of drug offenders.

Under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place to live after her release.

The commutation also relieved the Department of Defense of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery — that the military has no experience providing.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

MUA Veterans under attack during WestCon Protest

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) veterans bore the brunt of The Baird Government’s bulldozer approach to decision making today when they took a stand against its controversial WestConnex project.

MUA veterans, some aged in their 80s, were forcibly removed by police from Sydney Park in St Peters, where protestors are trying to stop the removal of more than 800 trees to make way for the motorway.

“If this is the way the Baird Government deals with peaceful protest – have a pensioner aged over 80 skull-dragged across the ground – then the people of NSW are in serious trouble,” Joe Deakin, MUA Sydney branch Assistant Secretary said.

“Officers were driving their knees into people’s faces, bending people’s wrists back and as a result of this, both of my wrists are extremely sore and swollen,” he said.

MUA Sydney Branch Deputy Secretary Paul Keating suffered bruising to his face when he was dragged from the site.


The MUA senior officials joined around a dozen MUA youth and veterans members, who went down to support the local community fighting to stop the destruction of vital public spaces.

“WestConnex is symptomatic of the Baird Government disregarding the interests of ordinary people to benefit large corporations and developers,” Mr Keating said.

“It was important that we go down to show our support because we know that real change comes when the community stands up and fights for what it believes in.

“All communities have the right to public space so they can flourish, yet we see again and again the rich and powerful don’t care about communities.”

Protestors, led by the WestConnex Action Group, set up camp in the park four months ago in a bid to save it from being turned into a road interchange.

“Our democracy protects our right to protest peacefully,” Mr Keating said.

“The Baird Government needs to be held accountable for today’s needless brutality, particularly against the elderly.”



- See more at: http://www.mua.org.au/elderly_mua_veterans_forcibly_removed_during_westconnex_protest#sthash.WhNMSzGg.dpuf

Saving Sydney Park Trees – 11 Jan 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Centrelink Chaos – Government knew about Discrepancies in Data-matching system

The Turnbull Government knew about discrepancies in data-matching system before reducing human oversight Department analysis showed 15% of discrepancies detected were not debts before Centrelink went to automated system

The government drastically reduced human oversight of Centrelink’s data-matching system despite holding internal analysis showing that 15% of detected discrepancies were not debts owed by people.

The Department of Human Services conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the effectiveness of its data-matching process with the Australian Taxation Office for 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The system detected 1,080,000 discrepancies from 866,000 welfare recipients, which, at that stage, were manually examined by Centrelink staff to weed out errors. The analysis found 85% of those discrepancies led to a debt of an average value of $1,440.

Centrelink debt notices based on 'idiotic' faith in big data, IT expert says

The analysis was referred to in 2015, in response to a question on notice from the Labor senator Doug Cameron to the Department of Human Services secretary, Kathryn Campbell, who, like the human services minister, Alan Tudge, has been on leave for much of the recent debt recovery controversy.

In mid-2016, as part of its attempt to ramp up the debt recovery program, manual oversight was largely removed. Now when a discrepancy is detected the system automatically sends out a letter; more than 169,000 have been delivered since July.

If no response is received or someone is unable to dispute the tax office’s figures, individuals are told to begin paying. Even when a person disputes the debt, they are told to start paying.

In many cases, welfare recipients are not receiving initial letters owing to changes of address, or are unable to track down years-old information about their income to prove they were entitled to benefits.

Labor’s Linda Burney said the analyisis showed the government knew “thousands of honest people were going to be targeted but he pushed ahead anyway”.

“That is an incredible failure of administration,” she said. “People deserve to see the full business case and methodology the government have used to inflict so much distress on the community.

“Minister Tudge says the system ‘is working’. Not for those calling my office day in and day out. How many people are paying false debt while they are waiting for review?”

Burney questioned whether the 85% figure included debts later found to be baseless, and called on the government to release the analysis and the business case in full.

The St Vincent de Paul Society has joined calls for the system to be suspended. The chief executive of its national council, Dr John Falzon, said on Tuesday that Centrelink needed to be properly resourced, and described the debt recovery scheme as “part of a broader assault on the social security system”.

“People should not be intimidated and hounded for money they do not owe,” he said. “Centrelink should not be used by the government as a blunt weapon to achieve a deficit reduction on the backs of people who already carry the greatest burden of inequality.”

The Australian Council for Social Service said on Wednesday that the government fundamentally failed in its duty of care to welfare recipients.

Its acting chief executive, Peter Davidson, said the system was treating them like second-class citizens. “Centrelink must properly investigate overpayments rather than shift the onus of proof on to Centrelink recipients,” he said.

“This would not be accepted from a private creditor and it should not be accepted from a government agency assisting financially vulnerable people.”

More Baird slash and burn – Privatising the 150-year-old Land registry

The Baird government is privatising the 150-year-old registry despite condemnation from peak bodies across the property and legal sectors, including the Real Estate Institute of NSW and the Law Council of Australia.

The plans are deeply unpopular with the groups which say the Land and Property Information (LPI) is a monopoly provider of an essential service and its privatisation could increase the cost of buying a home in an overheated property market.

Lawyer Margaret Hole, member of the Concerned Titles Group, says privatisation could degrade the land titles system, leading to the need for title insurance. Experts fear the profit motive will lead to the degradation of the LPI, which registers and secures title of more than $1.2 trillion worth of real estate, increasing the risk of errors and fraud which will potentially lead to the need for expensive title insurance.

The richness of the data and potential retail opportunities could explain why "powerhouse" consortiums involving banks, infrastructure giants and data companies were reported to have made bids as high as $2 billion.

The Land and Property Information unit keeps the official records of land ownership in NSW.
Acting Treasurer Dominic Perrottet dismissed the concerns, saying the concession holder will only be given access to the data required to operate the register and perform the authorised concession.

"The NSW government will retain full ownership of all land title data and data must be stored in Australia," he said.

NSW Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian are close to handing over the land titles registry to the private sector.  "The government will also have strong step-in powers to operate the business under the concession where it is in the public interest to do so."

It's understood that if LPI requires documents to prove, for example, a person's authority to make a transaction, the evidence is sighted and once the matter is completed, either returned (if an original) or destroyed (if a copy).

Land and Property Information at times requires sensitive data, such as a marriage certificate when changing a name on a title.
Out of reach

The CTG met ministers to express its concerns before the government passed the transaction legislation in September last year.

The group's members include former president of Law Society of NSW Margaret Hole, president-elect of Institution of Surveyors NSW Tony Proust, and former LPI staff with decades of experience who were made redundant last July when LPI was separated from its other functions ahead of the lease.

"The database is currently held in safe hands, protected by authorised public servants ... and many arms of government, committees of Parliament, the law, judiciary and ICAC may readily audit or investigate any suspicious behaviour or activity with or without recourse to the courts," it said.

"Under private ownership, the information will be subject to persons employed under indeterminate security classification and guidelines, working and residing at an unknown place, possibly beyond our legal reach."

The Law Society of NSW (LSNSW) has called for the private operator to be subject to the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act).

"We request that the bill and the concession agreement make clear that the private operator must comply with any requests received from the Registrar-General under the GIPA Act, even if it is not itself subject to the GIPA Act," it said in a submission.

During the successful fight to stop the Tory government from selling the land registry in the UK, the Law Society of England and Wales raised concerns about the potential blending of land title data with other data sets.

"Such blended data sets are a major area of business growth in many areas. Property information is a prime exponent of blended data sets," it said in a submission.

"Ownership of the registers should remain with government. The data in the registers is Crown copyright and must stay in public ownership. It is key data for government and the economy generally."

It's understood the concession holder must assist and co-operate with the Registrar-General in relation to any public disclosure obligations of the government, including obligations under the GIPA Act.

It must also gain the approval of the Registrar-General to create non-core services, including blending data sets

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ACOSS – Centrelink Debt Fiasco Must End Immediately

11 January 2017

ACOSS calls on the Australian Government to immediately suspend the automated Centrelink debt recovery program that is treating current and past Centrelink recipients like second-class citizens. ACOSS also calls for the program to be independently reviewed.

Acting ACOSS CEO Peter Davidson said: “Centrelink has demonstrably failed in its duty of care to ensure accurate information is provided to recipients of income support and this failure is causing undue stress, anxiety and harm to some of our most vulnerable people.

“In December, we wrote to the Minister calling for the immediate suspension of the debt recovery program because of the systemic problems with the data-matching system.

“ACOSS does not oppose debt recovery action where overpayments have occurred. However, Centrelink must properly investigate overpayments rather than shift the onus of proof onto Centrelink recipients. This would not be accepted from a private creditor and it should not be accepted from a government agency assisting financially vulnerable people.

“To reach an arbitrary target of $4 billion in savings, the government has opted for an error-prone system. For every million dollars raised, it’s likely that hundreds of people are told to repay debts they don’t have and hundreds more are needlessly subjected to stress and anxiety.

“The government has a duty of care towards people who call on it for support, especially those on low incomes. It has breached that duty of care with this debt recovery program, which is why the program must cease in its current form to prevent further harm.

“We are hugely concerned that people are paying back debts that they do not owe because it is too hard to prove that they do not owe it. Where people have issues with the online portal, many cannot get through to Centrelink on the phone and are not receiving the help they need at Centrelink offices.  

“To add insult to injury, a 10% recovery fee appears to be systematically applied to debts when it should only apply where people knowingly or recklessly give false information to Centrelink.

“Automated debt recovery action must be suspended, including against people who have already received letters. ACOSS repeats its call to Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge to meet with organisations representing and assisting Centrelink clients in the near future to redesign the program so that it is accurate, fair and humane.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Noam Chomsky – Universities and the Corporate Business Model

January 7, 2017

As universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is being imposed by force. That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Walmart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. 

It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line.

The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities.

The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.

This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health.

At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more.

That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.

That’s one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management — a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination.

And the same is true in universities. In the past thirty or forty years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up.

There’s a very good book on it by a well-known sociologist, Benjamin Ginsberg, called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, which describes in detail the business style of massive administration and levels of administration — and of course, very highly-paid administrators. 

This includes professional administrators like deans, for example, who used to be faculty members who took off for a couple of years to serve in an administrative capacity and then go back to the faculty; now they’re mostly professionals, who then have to hire sub-deans, and secretaries, and so on and so forth, a whole proliferation of structure that goes along with administrators. All of that is another aspect of the business model.

But using cheap and vulnerable labor is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education.

The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But it’s a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people. In fact, economists tacitly cooperate in this. So, for example, suppose you find a mistake in your checking account and you call the bank to try to fix it. Well, you know what happens. You call them up, and you get a recorded message saying “We love you, here’s a menu.” Maybe the menu has what you’re looking for, maybe it doesn’t. If you happen to find the right option, you listen to some music, and every once and a while a voice comes in and says “Please stand by, we really appreciate your business,” and so on.

Finally, after some period of time, you may get a human being, who you can ask a short question to. That’s what economists call “efficiency.” By economic measures, that system reduces labor costs to the bank; of course, it imposes costs on you, and those costs are multiplied by the number of users, which can be enormous — but that’s not counted as a cost in economic calculation. And if you look over the way the society works, you find this everywhere.

So the university imposes costs on students and on faculty who are not only untenured but are maintained on a path that guarantees that they will have no security. All of this is perfectly natural within corporate business models. It’s harmful to education, but education is not their goal.

In fact, if you look back farther, it goes even deeper than that. If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it’s commonly called “the time of troubles.” It was a “the time of troubles” because the country was getting civilized, and that’s dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called “special interests,” like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on. That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt.

At the liberal end of the spectrum, there’s a book called The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki, produced by the Trilateral Commission, an organization of liberal internationalists. The Carter administration was drawn almost entirely from their ranks. They were concerned with what they called “the crisis of democracy” — namely, that there’s too much democracy.

In the 1960s, there were pressures from the population, these “special interests,” to try to gain rights within the political arena, and that put too much pressure on the state. You can’t do that. There was one “special interest” that they left out, namely the corporate sector, because its interests are the “national interest”; the corporate sector is supposed to control the state, so we don’t talk about them. But the “special interests” were causing problems and they said “we have to have more moderation in democracy,” the public has to go back to being passive and apathetic.

And they were particularly concerned with schools and universities, which they said were not properly doing their job of “indoctrinating the young.” You can see from student activism (the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movements) that the young are just not being indoctrinated properly.

Well, how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways. One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It’s a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can’t get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default. That’s a disciplinary technique.

I don’t say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect. And it’s hard to argue that there’s any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let’s say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it’s free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it’s free.

In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 1950s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free.

Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today’s dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn’t cost you anything. Now it’s outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it’s almost impossible. For the students — that is a disciplinary technique.

And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security, you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control.

And it’s very similar to what you’d expect in a factory, where factory workers have to be disciplined, to be obedient; they’re not supposed to play a role in, say, organizing production or determining how the workplace functions — that’s the job of management. This is now carried over to the universities. And I think it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has any experience in private enterprise, in industry; that’s the way they work.

ON HOW HIGHER EDUCATION OUGHT TO BE

First of all, we should put aside any idea that there was once a “golden age.” Things were different and in some ways better in the past, but far from perfect. The traditional universities were, for example, extremely hierarchical, with very little democratic participation in decision-making. One part of the activism of the 1960s was to try to democratize the universities, to bring in, say, student representatives to faculty committees, to bring in staff to participate.

These efforts were carried forward under student initiatives, with some degree of success. Most universities now have some degree of student participation in faculty decisions. And I think those are the kinds of things we should be moving towards: a democratic institution, in which the people involved in the institution, whoever they may be (faculty, students, staff), participate in determining the nature of the institution and how it runs; and the same should go for a factory.

These are not radical ideas, I should say. They come straight out of classical liberalism. So if you read, for example, John Stuart Mill, a major figure in the classical liberal tradition, he took it for granted that workplaces ought to be managed and controlled by the people who work in them — that’s freedom and democracy. We see the same ideas in the United States. Let’s say you go back to the Knights of Labor; one of their stated aims was “To establish co-operative institutions such as will tend to supersede the wage-system, by the introduction of a co-operative industrial system.”

Or take someone like John Dewey, a mainstream twentieth-century social philosopher, who called not only for education directed at creative independence in schools, but also worker control in industry, what he called “industrial democracy.” He says that as long as the crucial institutions of the society (like production, commerce, transportation, media) are not under democratic control, then “politics [will be] the shadow cast on society by big business.”

This idea is almost elementary, it has deep roots in American history and in classical liberalism. It should be second nature to working people, and it should apply the same way to universities. There are some decisions in a university where you don’t want to have [democratic transparency because] you have to preserve student privacy, say, and there are various kinds of sensitive issues, but on much of the normal activity of the university, there is no reason why direct participation can’t be not only legitimate but helpful. In my department, for example, for forty years we’ve had student representatives helpfully participating in department meetings.

ON “SHARED GOVERNANCE” AND WORKER CONTROL

The university is probably the social institution in our society that comes closest to democratic worker control. Within a department, for example, it’s pretty normal for at least the tenured faculty to be able to determine a substantial amount of what their work is like: what they’re going to teach, when they’re going to teach, what the curriculum will be. And most of the decisions about the actual work that the faculty is doing are pretty much under tenured faculty control.

Now, of course, there is a higher level of administrators that you can’t overrule or control. The faculty can recommend somebody for tenure, let’s say, and be turned down by the deans, or the president, or even the trustees or legislators. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it can happen and it does. And that’s always a part of the background structure, which, although it always existed, was much less of a problem in the days when the administration was drawn from the faculty and in principle recallable.

Under representative systems, you have to have someone doing administrative work, but they should be recallable at some point under the authority of the people they administer. That’s less and less true. There are more and more professional administrators, layer after layer of them, with more and more positions being taken remote from the faculty controls. I mentioned before The Fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg, which goes into a lot of detail as to how this works in the several universities he looks at closely: Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and a couple of others.

Meanwhile, the faculty are increasingly reduced to a category of temporary workers who are assured a precarious existence with no path to the tenure track. I have personal acquaintances who are effectively permanent lecturers; they’re not given real faculty status; they have to apply every year so that they can get appointed again. These things shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

And in the case of adjuncts, it’s been institutionalized: they’re not permitted to be a part of the decision-making apparatus, and they’re excluded from job security, which merely amplifies the problem. I think staff ought to also be integrated into decision-making, since they’re also a part of the university.

So there’s plenty to do, but I think we can easily understand why these tendencies are developing. They are all part of imposing a business model on just about every aspect of life. That’s the neoliberal ideology that most of the world has been living under for forty years. It’s very harmful to people, and there has been resistance to it. And it’’s worth noticing that two parts of the world, at least, have pretty much escaped from it, namely East Asia, where they never really accepted it, and South America in the past fifteen years.

ON THE ALLEGED NEED FOR “FLEXIBILITY”

Flexibility is a term that’s very familiar to workers in industry. Part of what’s called “labor reform” is to make labor more “flexible,” make it easier to hire and fire people. That’s, again, a way to ensure maximization of profit and control. “Flexibility” is supposed to be a good thing, like “greater worker insecurity.” Putting aside industry where the same is true, in universities there’s no justification.

So take a case where there’s under-enrollment somewhere. That’s not a big problem. One of my daughters teaches at a university; she just called me the other night and told me that her teaching load is being shifted because one of the courses that was being offered was under-enrolled. Okay, the world didn’t come to an end, they just shifted around the teaching arrangements — you teach a different course, or an extra section, or something like that. People don’t have to be thrown out or be insecure because of the variation in the number of students enrolling in courses. There are all sorts of ways of adjusting for that variation.

The idea that labor should meet the conditions of “flexibility” is just another standard technique of control and domination. Why not say that administrators should be thrown out if there’s nothing for them to do that semester, or trustees — what do they have to be there for? The situation is the same with top management in industry: if labor has to be flexible, how about management? Most of them are pretty useless or even harmful anyway, so let’s get rid of them.

And you can go on like this. Just to take the news from the last couple of days, take, say, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase bank: he just got a pretty substantial raise, almost double his salary, out of gratitude because he had saved the bank from criminal charges that would have sent the management to jail; he got away with only $20 billion in fines for criminal activities. Well, I can imagine that getting rid of somebody like that might be helpful to the economy. But that’s not what people are talking about when they talk about “labor reform.” It’s the working people who have to suffer, and they have to suffer by insecurity, by not knowing where tomorrow’s piece of bread is going to come from, and therefore be disciplined and obedient and not raise questions or ask for their rights.

That’s the way that tyrannical systems operate. And the business world is a tyrannical system. When it’s imposed on the universities, you find it reflects the same ideas. This shouldn’t be any secret.

ON THE PURPOSE OF EDUCATION

These are debates that go back to the Enlightenment, when issues of higher education and mass education were really being raised, not just education for the clergy and aristocracy. And there were basically two models discussed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

They were discussed with pretty evocative imagery. One image of education was that it should be like a vessel that is filled with, say, water. That’s what we call these days “teaching to test”: you pour water into the vessel and then the vessel returns the water. But it’s a pretty leaky vessel, as all of us who went through school experienced, since you could memorize something for an exam that you had no interest in to pass an exam and a week later you forgot what the course was about. The vessel model these days is called “no child left behind,” “teaching to test,” “race to top,” whatever the name may be, and similar things in universities. Enlightenment thinkers opposed that model.

The other model was described as laying out a string along which the student progresses in his or her own way under his or her own initiative, maybe moving the string, maybe deciding to go somewhere else, maybe raising questions. Laying out the string means imposing some degree of structure. So an educational program, whatever it may be, a course on physics or something, isn’t going to be just anything goes; it has a certain structure.

But the goal of it is for the student to acquire the capacity to inquire, to create, to innovate, to challenge — that’s education. One world-famous physicist, in his freshman courses if he was asked “what are we going to cover this semester?” his answer was “it doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what you discover.” You have gain the capacity and the self-confidence for that matter to challenge and create and innovate, and that way you learn; that way you’ve internalized the material and you can go on. It’s not a matter of accumulating some fixed array of facts which then you can write down on a test and forget about tomorrow.

These are two quite distinct models of education. The Enlightenment ideal was the second one, and I think that’s the one that we ought to be striving towards. That’s what real education is, from kindergarten to graduate school. In fact there are programs of that kind for kindergarten, pretty good ones.

ON THE LOVE OF TEACHING

We certainly want people, both faculty and students, to be engaged in activity that’s satisfying, enjoyable, challenging, exciting — and I don’t really think that’s hard. Even young children are creative, inquisitive, they want to know things, they want to understand things, and unless that’s beaten out of your head it stays with you the rest of your life. If you have opportunities to pursue those commitments and concerns, it’s one of the most satisfying things in life.

That’s true if you’re a research physicist, it’s true if you’re a carpenter; you’re trying to create something of value and deal with a difficult problem and solve it. I think that’s what makes work the kind of thing you want to do; you do it even if you don’t have to do it. In a reasonably functioning university, you find people working all the time because they love it; that’s what they want to do; they’re given the opportunity, they have the resources, they’re encouraged to be free and independent and creative — what’s better? That’s what they love to do. And that, again, can be done at any level.

It’s worth thinking about some of the imaginative and creative educational programs that are being developed at different levels. So, for example, somebody just described to me the other day a program they’re using in high schools, a science program where the students are asked an interesting question: “How can a mosquito fly in the rain?”

That’s a hard question when you think about it. If something hit a human being with the force of a raindrop hitting a mosquito it would absolutely flatten them immediately. So how come the mosquito isn’t crushed instantly? And how can the mosquito keep flying? If you pursue that question — and it’s a pretty hard question — you get into questions of mathematics, physics, and biology, questions that are challenging enough that you want to find an answer to them.

That’s what education should be like at every level, all the way down to kindergarten, literally. There are kindergarten programs in which, say, each child is given a collection of little items: pebbles, shells, seeds, and things like that. Then the class is given the task of finding out which ones are the seeds. It begins with what they call a “scientific conference”: the kids talk to each other and they try to figure out which ones are seeds. And of course, there’s some teacher guidance, but the idea is to have the children think it through.

After a while, they try various experiments and they figure out which ones are the seeds. At that point, each child is given a magnifying glass and, with the teacher’s help, cracks a seed and looks inside and finds the embryo that makes the seed grow. These children learn something really, not only something about seeds and what makes things grow; but also about how to discover. They’re learning the joy of discovery and creation, and that’s what carries you on independently, outside the classroom, outside the course.

The same goes for all education up through graduate school. In a reasonable graduate seminar, you don’t expect students to copy it down and repeat whatever you say; you expect them to tell you when you’re wrong or to come up with new ideas, to challenge, to pursue some direction that hadn’t been thought of before. That’s what real education is at every level, and that’s what ought to be encouraged. That ought to be the purpose of education. It’s not to pour information into somebody’s head which will then leak out but to enable them to become creative, independent people who can find excitement in discovery and creation and creativity at whatever level or in whatever domain their interests carry them.

ADVICE FOR ADJUNCT FACULTY ORGANIZING UNIONS

You know better than I do what has to be done, the kind of problems you face. Just got ahead and do what has to be done. Don’t be intimidated, don’t be frightened, and recognize that the future can be in our hands if we’re willing to grasp it.

by Noam Chomsky