Friday, March 31, 2017

ABCC Code – Call Rebekha Sharkie

Waleed Aly – Fantasy that Coal has a Future

Symmetry isn't always beautiful. Take this week, when Victoria's coal-fired Hazelwood power plant ground to its inevitable halt just as President Trump signed his coal-fired executive order undoing the bulk of the Obama administration's climate change policies.

These are, of course, diametrically opposed developments in obvious ways: Trump's order is aimed at prolonging the lives of precisely the kinds of coal power extinguished at Hazelwood. But in truth they're telling the same story. It's a story of steady decline, artificial enemies and false hope. And it's a story that tends only to produce misery.

To grasp this, consider the state of Australian climate policy. We are a nation that chose to ditch a carbon price, opting instead for a policy that pays companies that want to abate some of their emissions, while leaving undisturbed those who don't. We did so on the promise of keeping power prices low and rescuing high-emissions jobs. And yet here we are with energy prices surging and coal power plants closing – nine of them in the past five years.

Hazelwood isn't the victim of a green revolution in Canberra. And it hasn't been saved by the Abbott-led brown one. If any green movement did this it comes to us from France, the home of Hazelwood's owner company, Engie. Engie is closing coal power plants all over the place – in Belgium and the UK before Australia – and not by accident. In fact, it's intending to ditch all its coal plants because it wants to focus on renewables. That's the business decision it has made.

18C: Proposed changes to Racial Discrimination Act defeated in Senate

A late-night debate in the Senate on proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act has been described as "filibustering" by the Opposition.

Labor, the Greens, some of the crossbench killed off amendments after seven hours of debate
The Government had extended the Senate's sitting hours so it could deal with two key pieces of legislation: changes to the act and the Government's cuts to company tax rates.

The Government had wanted to replace the words "insult", "offend" and "humiliate" in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act with the term "harass".

On Thursday evening it became apparent the Government did not have the numbers to pass the changes, but the debate continued.

After seven straight hours of discussion, Labor, the Greens and some of the crossbench killed off the amendments.

It means the wording of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act will not change.

The Senate then continued debating process changes to the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill, the majority of which were uncontentious.

After another hour of discussion, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari accused the Government of trying to kill time.

"Let's just be clear what's going on here," he told the Senate.

"The Government is filibustering on its own bill about watering down race hate laws so that it can cut a deal on giving big business tax cuts."

ANMF supporting petition against low staffing in nursing homes

Thursday 30th March, 2017

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is supporting a public campaign highlighting how dangerously inadequate staffing levels are resulting in a lack of care for nursing home residents.

As featured on The Project last night, Heather Mansell Brown has launched a petition after her husband Bill Brown suffered avoidable injuries whilst in a Queensland nursing home, which she says were due to staffing levels.

The petition has attracted more than 33,000 signatures to date.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the plight of Mr Brown once again reinforced how chronic understaffing in some nursing homes around the country failed to ensure that residents were receiving quality aged care.

  • “Sadly, stories like these are all-too frequent. Our members working in aged care are recounting how vulnerable residents, many with dementia and other high-care needs, are suffering,” Ms Thomas said today.
  • “Last year the ANMF released its National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project which showed that nursing home residents should receive an average of over 4 hours a day care, compared to the current 2.84 hours.
  • “A skills mix of Registered Nurses (RN) 30%, Enrolled Nurses (EN) 20% and Personal Care Worker (PCA) 50% is the minimum skills mix needed in nursing homes.
  • “The ANMF is supporting this petition which demands that a Registered Nurse (RN) is working on-site at a nursing home 24/7. There must also be regulation of all AINs/personal care workers who assist in the delivery nursing care and nursing services.”

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Speech by ACTU Secretary Sally McManus at the National Press Club

29 March 2017

Good afternoon, it’s a pleasure to be with you today.
I want to pay my respects to the Ngunnawal people and their elders past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge the members of the Australian Services Union who here today as well as some of my dear friends, and my dear comrades from other unions.

I am here because of you. And there are some things I need to say.

Australia’s workplace laws are broken.

Our minimum wage has fallen to a dangerously low level.

This is why today the ACTU will be making a claim to increase the minimum wage. Significantly.

Wage theft is a new business model for too many employers

Inequality in our country is the worst it has been for 70 years and 679 of our biggest corporations pay not one cent of tax.

Our strike laws are out of step with international law.

Our bargaining laws are inadequate and unable to deal with the new and ever changing business models being adopted by the big end of town.

Now, the Fair Work Commission makes decisions to cut the wages and conditions of some of our lowest paid workers. And the mechanisms we have had to improve our living standards are no longer working.

In short, the very wealthy have too much power in our country and ordinary Australians - working people - do not have enough.

*  *  *  *  *

So let me tell you a little bit about the person who will lead the movement to change that.

In 1988, I was just 17 and I don’t think I really knew what a union was. I was at school, studying for my year eleven exams, when my history teacher lost her job.

I and my fellow classmates were confused and then angry. But it wasn’t just my teacher. Across the state, thousands of teachers were sacked as a part of an aggressive cost cutting agenda by the new Liberal Government. Thousands of devoted teachers like mine, lost their jobs, in the middle of the school year.

When you are young, you hear things adults say. What we heard was that our teachers were losing their livelihoods.

It was wrong for us and it was so very wrong for them.

The teachers decided to take strike action. I decided to join them and so did many of my friends at Carlo, Carlingford High School, in Sydney’s northwest.

So we got on the train, I think it was one of the first times I’d been into the city, and we went with other teachers and students and parents from across the state to Sydney’s Domain.

I will never forget that day. Trains flooded in from all the suburbs of Sydney, filled with people with banners and streamers, signs students had made. We all got off at Central together and walked to the Domain.

There were tens of thousands of people who felt the same way I did.

What the state Liberal Government was doing to teachers and students was unjust. And at that moment, I recognised people power – union power.

That strike action was illegal.

The power of so many people coming together, taking a stand against injustice, demanding they be treated fairly at work, at school, in their communities resonated with me in a way that has shaped my beliefs and my actions ever since. And it always will.

That’s who I am. I’m a unionist. First, second and third.

There will be some who find this difficult to understand.

I told 7.30’s Leigh Sales two weeks ago that our current industrial laws are wrong. I told her that it should not be so hard for workers in our country to take industrial action.

I believe in the rule of law, but laws must be fair and just and right. When laws are unjust no, I don't think there's a problem with breaking them.

Some people responded in just the way you might think it would respond. Play the woman, not the ball.

Instead of arguing about the right to strike, their approach was to attack me as a person.

The right to strike is a human right. It’s our government that is out of step, not the Australian trade union movement.

The United Nations has declared strike action to be a right. The International Labour Organisation declares Australia to be at odds with international conventions. Professor Andrew Stewart, an Australian expert on labour law, says:

"The ILO for the past 20 to 30 years has told governments of both political persuasions that we are in breach of international labour standards."

In breach of international labour standards.

Yet our government and some major media institutions have a meltdown when workers stand up for themselves.

It’s sad really.

The question of what is a just or an unjust law and when it is ok to challenge unjust laws has been debated for a very long time. In our movement we take the examples of our heroes to heart.

For example, Martin Luther King Jr wrote a letter in 1963, defending the use of nonviolent resistance to racism when he sat in Birmingham jail. He wrote:

"One may well ask: How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust.”

Then he wrote:

“I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all.”

And he goes on to quote St Thomas Aquinas: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust."

There are plenty of examples of Australians standing up to unjust laws in our own history:

  • In 1938 wharfies refused to load pig iron that was to be sent to Japan.
  • People broke the law to oppose apartheid.
  • There was the resistance to conscription.
  • Indigenous workers walking off stations to demand equal pay.
  • The Green bans which saved the beauty of Sydney.
  • And then there were all the illegal strikes by generations of union members that lead to the very living standards we all enjoy.
  • Working people in their unions stood up to unjust laws and they changed them.

*  *  *  *  *

I have always had a job, from the moment I could legally work. At 14 years and nine months, I did Thursday nights and weekends refilling shelves and working behind the counter at the newsagency down the road.

When I left school, I had a series of casual jobs, including delivering pizzas where I joined my first union, the SDA.

That was really the moment when I first became an organiser, not that I would have used that word then. I was a pizza delivery driver from Seven Hills.

A few of us thought we weren’t getting enough to cover fuel costs as they skyrocketed with the first Gulf War. But we had no skills and no experience of what real organising meant. We knew we had to work together - we just didn’t know what to do.

We met at a fellow driver’s house with an organiser from the SDA and he taught us what we needed to do. Eventually the rates were changed but it took a while. I was lucky, I still lived at home with mum and dad and my two apprentice brothers. Some of the other drivers weren’t so lucky.

And while all that was going on, I made it into university.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do when I grew up, but an arts degree at Macquarie University seemed like a good idea to me.

My parents weren’t really convinced. No one else in my family had even finished their HSC, let alone gone to university and when I decided it was philosophy I wanted to study, it was pretty hard to explain to my parents what career opportunities this would lead to.

The wisdom in my household was to “get a trade behind you”. Good thing my brothers Wayne and Scott did exactly that.

I loved philosophy but university was not just about what went on in tutorials. There was an entire group of people who wanted to be involved in much more.

Here I had my first experience of making a tough decision I knew would make me unpopular.

By now, it was the early nineties and Australia was just beginning act on the negative health impacts of smoking.

I’d just been elected President of the University Union. We decided to ban smoking in the student bar because of the health and safety effects on our workers, we were one of the first bars in the country to voluntarily do this. It was well before laws that made it compulsory.

Now we ran a bar for students, so you can imagine it didn’t go down too well with many. It was unpopular, but we argued the case and it was also the right thing to do to protect workers.

Just as I was finishing university, Australia experienced its worst period of unemployment since the Great Depression. My entire graduating class – except for the accountants – were worried about getting jobs.

Me too.

One morning, I was listening to ABC radio and I heard someone from the ACTU talking about traineeships for union organisers the ACTU had set up under the leadership of Bill.

I thought, that’s it! There was nothing more, noting better I could do with my life than to be a union organiser.

So I started in March 1994 with the Australian Services Union in the first intake of trainees along with many other fresh faced young people like, Bill Shorten. We learned from union movement elders like Tom McDonald and Tas Bull.

Here’s the thing about being a union organiser, whether you are a workplace delegate or the Secretary of the ACTU: you don’t, and you can’t, live in a bubble.

You are out there in workplaces and in communities and you deal with tough situations every single day. Often you take home people’s troubles and their despair.

For me, and for all my sisters, brothers, comrades in the union movement, there is no boundary between work and life. You don’t stop caring about justice when you go home.

And here is the long list of things that I am constantly thinking about, as are union leaders across Australia. These issues are keeping workers awake because they are in fear of losing their jobs and losing the income they need to support their families.

  • There are now 745,000 people without a job in our country. It is particularly bad in regional areas and for young people.
  • There are more than one million people looking for more hours of work every week.
  • 40% of workers don’t have access to any paid leave.
  • The new jobs being created are almost entirely part-time or casual.
  • Underpayment of wages in the retail, farming, food processing, and hospitality sectors are costing people tens of thousands of dollars in what amounts to stolen wages. And every week we hear of further scandals where workers are underpaid.
  • Wage growth is the lowest it’s been since records have been kept. Even the Reserve Bank has expressed concern wages are not growing fast enough.
  • Our ability to have a dignified retirement is at significant risk, with an estimated $3.6 billion each year being taken from workers in unpaid super. At the same time, the Turnbull Government looking for any opportunity to hand over our super to the big banks
  • And our health, education and tax systems are under huge pressure as a result of tax dodging by companies and the very wealthy.
  • The notion of a “fair go” is under attack from the wealthy and powerful. We are now a country full of stressed people worried about our jobs and wondering why things have not turned out as we thought they should in Australia.

And of course the Turnbull Government has just presided over decisions that will ensure some families have much more to worry about.

Like Kylie from the Central Coast of NSW. She’s 22 and a single mum. She’s working in retail and she’s studying at TAFE. The penalty rates cut will cost her around $2000 a year on her already meagre income. She says will have no choice but to work more hours to make up the difference. This will be time away from her son and time away from studying for TAFE. Life for her will become even harder.

Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t want to meet workers like Kylie. Or like Margarita, a hotel cleaner from Melbourne who will also lose $40 a week because of the cuts to penalty rates.

He doesn’t want to meet them. And he doesn’t want to meet me.

His government could choose to stop the penalty rate pay cuts of Australians. It could choose to protect Kylie and Margarita. Instead he chooses to focus his time on bashing unions and union leaders, the very people who are standing up for Kylie.

Malcolm Turnbull should be stopping these cuts. He should be supporting a change to laws for the hundreds of thousands of people like Kylie who are already struggling and cannot afford and do not deserve this pay cut.

But he is not. Instead he wants to distract Australians.

He has drafted up laws to continue to demonise unions and at the same time he is ignoring corporate wrongdoing.

He talks about corrupting benefits, but these proposed laws ignore the main source of corrupting benefits in society: payments to politicians, payments between corporations, payments designed to influence lawmakers, tenders, contracts.

The union movement will happily support laws with strong powers to investigate and punish corruption - so long as they apply to everyone. Such laws should apply equally to all the members of the Liberal Party, their backers in corporate Australia and the big banks.

There is no place anywhere for exploitation, corruption or the strong abusing the weak. Not in any workplace, not in any institution, not in any organisation and not in any family - including the union family. Anyone who engages in that type of behaviour is not a unionist, they offend the very core of our values.

We have been demanding the Turnbull Government establish a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption that applies to every section of society. This is something that Bill Shorten has been working towards and we support him.

*  *  *  *  *

We cannot accept one rule for the rich, another for the rest of us.

The balance of power in Australia has changed - and the rules which are meant to protect ordinary Australians simply have not kept up.

We can change that. And we must.

Our minimum wage once led the world. Now it does not, it has been slipping rapidly down the rankings. It has barely moved in real terms while bills have soared.

It has lost touch with the average wage. It’s $17.70 an hour or just less than $35,000 a year for a full time worker. Imagine what it is like trying to live on $35,000.

In 1985 the minimum wage was nearly two-thirds of the average wage.  Today it is well under half.  This is dangerous for two reasons:

It creates a class of the working poor as exists in the US, and a low minimum wage provides a big incentive for employers to destroy good, steady fairly paid jobs by outsourcing them, cancelling agreements and using labour hire.

A low minimum wage affects every Australian. It affects all of our jobs. And it affects our economy, it affects our tax revenue.

In Australia in 1907 we made a decision not to go down the path of the US, and the union movement will not stand by and watch this happen.

Remember it was the Australian union movement who won the first living wage in the world.

So today we will submit a claim to lift the minimum wage by $45 a week.

This will bring the minimum wage to $37,420 a year. Much closer to what the OECD says is needed to avoid low paid work at 60% of the average wage.

And the minimum wage is just one example where working people are being left behind by a system of rules which have simply failed to keep pace.

So this is our agenda.

We will lead the fight to bring fairness back to Australia.

No matter where you work or what you do, your work is important.  You deserve fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, security in your job and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

There has been a lot of speculation about who I am, what I stand for. I stand for workers. I stand for fairness. I stand for justice.

Those are the values that will shape my term as ACTU Secretary and they are the same values I have always held.

As Secretary of the Australian Services Union here and in NSW, I was proud to lead my members in their campaign for equal pay for community and disability workers in an industry which is predominantly female.

In many cases these workers had been told not to ask for more, not to put their clients or services at risk, not to expect any better. They were told they should be lucky to be paid what they received as caring was women’s work and could be done for free. They were told this is just the way things are and the rules can’t be changed.

But these workers stuck together, they were determined and they fought for justice for many years.

We took action after action. Even though these actions were often supported by employers and by the people who use the services, under our laws they were also illegal.

What was our industrial action of choice? Dancing.

We held national days of action as mass dancing events, we danced in MPs offices when they would not meet with us and danced in parliaments when they opposed us.

I’ve never been so proud as when those workers achieved life-changing pay increases of between 16% and 40%.

They were told they would not win, but they did. They changed the rules.

And all the while, my union grew in membership by 20 per cent.

*  *  *  *  *

Like many people who strive to build a better future I’ve been involved in some of the key industrial battles of the past 20 years. I started early and I have had a lot of practice.

In 1998 I was the youth representative on the ACTU Executive during the Patricks Waterfront dispute. Myself and other young unionists organised the phone tree for the community pickets. We were prepared to be arrested. The whole trade union leadership was prepared to be arrested.

I learnt a lot from that dispute.

But I had my best training from, of all people: John Howard.

Soon after I became the leader of my union, the ASU, John Howard introduced WorkChoices.

We determined our tactics and as a movement campaigned with our membership and together we defeated WorkChoices and we defeat the Howard Government.

I also learnt a lot out from that campaign.

So what happened over 21 years at the ASU. Countless disputes, negotiations and campaigns big and small with multinationals, large Australian companies, Labor and Liberal governments and even small community organisations.

I am used to working with employers big and small and with people who did not see the world in the same was as I did, or in the same way my members did. We managed to do this respectfully and very often with positive outcomes.

But unfortunately the greed of some has been allowed to get out of control.

The Keating years created vast wealth for Australia, but it has not been shared with too much ending up in offshore bank accounts or in CEO’s back pockets.

Working people are now missing out and this is making them angry.

Big corporations and the wealthy accumulating power and influence. They have reinforced the advantages they enjoy and have tried to weaken those who might try and shift the balance back towards working people.

Particularly they have targeted unions.

This is what the Trade Union Royal Commission, the ABCC and the laws that the Federal Government has pursued and will try to pursue are all about.

But this is the reality: some industries are dangerous. Construction, truck driving, mining are difficult, dangerous jobs where people die. They leave their homes and they never return.

Families lose husbands, sons, wives, daughters, aunties and uncles. Communities lose their neighbours and friends. Parents lose their children.

And some companies cut corners to save money and to save time. If we do not have strong unions, the more corners they will cut. This puts people’s lives at risk.

This is why union officials don’t prioritise paperwork or wait 24 hours when they hear something is so dangerous a worker could be killed.

They go directly to that worksite and they do what they can to stop people being killed. They put saving lives first. The fact they have to break the law to do so is a national disgrace.

This is what the ABCC is designed to do: make doing the job of a union representative much harder by tipping more power to employers.

And while the government talks tough on unions, it refuses to take on what is euphemistically called tax minimisation which costs us billions of dollars each year.

Those billions are our childcare, our education, our hospitals and our pensions. All forsaken by this Government as it allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

The stories of profitable household-name companies paying zero dollars in tax seem to come out every week.  Yet under this government we cannot get a royal commission or a federal ICAC or even a properly funded and staffed Australian Tax Office to begin to look into the problem.

But it isn’t just large public corporations. Australia’s wealthiest individuals get in on the scheme too.

According to the ATO, one in five privately owned Australian companies with more than $100 million in revenue paid no tax in 2015 - not one cent.

And 40 millionaires paid more than a million dollars to minimise their tax bill. One million dollars each. And by the way, that million spend on dodging tax is also tax deductible.

These corporations and the extremely wealthy are deciding that we shouldn’t have as much money for schools, hospitals, community services and pensions.

This “find the loopholes, use the lawyers, squeeze the system or change the laws” approach has proven so successful that it is now being used by some big businesses to shirk what most people have long considered their responsibilities to their workers.

Like tax avoidance, underpayment of wages and avoidance of the Fair Work Act are no longer rare scandals.

It is now part of the business models of some Australian companies to underpay workers, or to force them to pretend to be contractors. And the consequences are absolutely no disincentive, especially when the exploited workforce is too afraid to speak out.

Workers in convenience stores are being exploited. Workers on farms are being exploited. Workers in restaurants, cafés and hotels are being exploited. Workers at our airports, at our construction sites and even in our charities are exploited.

How dare the Federal Government denounce me and do nothing to support Australians who are the victims of the rampant lawbreaking by some employers.

We have a problem of power imbalance in our country - some people have far too much of it and ordinary Australian, working Australians, don’t have enough of it.

All the while, Liberal and National Party MPs claim that it is actually our problem. Even though we are working longer, our jobs are insecure and our wages are lower, it is still our fault.

Their underfunding of our services is also our fault. We just need to be better teachers, better nurses, better workers. Stop whining and get on with the job. Do it for less. Do it with less. Do more of it. Do it quicker.

That’s the pressure that is placed on workers in our system by growing inequality and growing corporate power.

We didn’t get here by accident.

Neoliberalism, trickle down economics. These tired ideas have delivered inequality for working people and ordinary Australians have been the victims.

We need to act to reverse the damage caused by these imbalances. This is what happens when working people do not have enough power:

If you’re 50 years old with no savings, and stuck in a casual job that barely keeps the heat on, then you’re not going to take a day off when you’re sick.

If you’re a 23 year old struggling to pay your way through a course or just paying the rent by serving drinks in a bar, you’re not going to complain if your boss doesn’t pay your super.

And if you work for Aerocare, you are likely to share your floor with rat droppings, because you can’t afford to go home in between your split shifts.

It’s not right that a generation of workers have no idea what it’s like to be able to take a paid day off when their child is sick.

It’s not right that our tax system enriches real estate speculators at the expense of those who want to buy their first home.

It’s not right that people can be shuffled between labour hire providers and have their wages cut and conditions snacked away.

And it’s not right that the rules that should protect people haven’t kept up.

But here’s the good news: there is hope. Our system didn’t just fall out of the sky.

Australian unions were an essential part of making the rules which underpinned our once excellent living standards. Now Australian unions will lead a movement to rebuild them.

It is almost unimaginable that hundreds of thousands of workers are facing a penalty rate pay cut at a time when even Scott Morrison is saying we need to increase wages. But we are the Australian trade union movement and when wages are under attack, we stand up.

We fight back.

The only thing that will stop these cuts and actually raise wages, protect people’s rights and ensure we have good, steady jobs is workers ourselves banding together in our unions.

It’s that coming together in a union which gave us the weekend, public holidays, superannuation, Medicare and penalty rates in the first place. That list could go on and on.

It was the power of working people, standing shoulder to shoulder and saying “no more” to exploitation that ended the master servant act, indentured servitude, Workchoices and bans on married women in the public service.

Whether you’re behind a desk, on a building site, in a classroom, a factory, at a hospital, in a café or a shop.  Wherever you work, you are not alone.

There is a union you can join. Journalists in the room, you know how good steady jobs are being wiped out and the laws protecting you and your conditions aren’t strong enough.

Join your union.

Our union movement has achieved so much that our rights can sometimes seem inevitable or eternal.

They are not. They were won by generations of working people in their unions. Brave people, courageous people. Working people.

The Fair Work Commission decision is a timely reminder to all Australians that - what was won can also be lost.

The times compel the Australian union movement to make a decision.

We could meekly accept the taking away of rights that those before us fought for. We could say growing inequality and mass job insecurity are just inevitable and there is nothing much we can do. Or we could say, no more. Not on our watch. We will not be bystanders.

This is the decision we made. It’s just not in us to take the first option.

We are running onto the field and we are going to change the game. Our movement is united in saying we will fight to change the rules and to give power back to ordinary Australians.

So no wonder that the very people benefiting from the exploitation of ordinary Australians had a very public meltdown when I said we must resist exploitation, resist unjust laws and stand together.

Coalition politicians, business leaders, the usual suspects in the media.

Our very own Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations spent time last week berating me for standing up for workers just as we received the news that unemployment has gone up and underemployment has gone through the roof.

The truth is, changing the balance of power in this country requires some power to go from vested interests to working people who just want good steady jobs, the opportunity to buy their own home, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, a good education, the knowledge that if they get sick they can get help and when they are too old to work they won’t be forced to die in poverty.

But vested interests won’t let go of their nice things easily. They’re not just going to hand it over if we just ask, or if we send polite letters to our local MP.

It takes a struggle to change unjust laws.

My commitment since standing in that crowd at the domain in 1988 is to the movement that makes life better for working people.

Those who seek to demonise unions do so because they want to create a image meant to look scary and unappealing.

It is also a veiled threat.  Know your place, keep your head down, don’t ask for too much or we will come and get you too.

I will not keep my head down. I will demand more for working people and I am not afraid to take on the big challenges to build a better future.

We are here to fix the imbalance that has eroded people’s rights and wrongly empowered corporations, big business and the already wealthy.

We will campaign to tip the scales back towards everyday Australians.

We demand changes to the rules.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to develop and write new rules and we are willing to work with all those who show a commitment to our agenda.

We commit all our political, industrial and community campaigning capacity into making sure our governments are backing working people not just vested interests.

We can counter corporate power with a broad people’s movement, and I ask everyone who believes in what I have said to join us.

Join your union.

Ordinary Australians, coming together to demand a fairer deal.

Because that is what being union and the union movement is all about.

We stand up. We fight back.

Thank you

MEAA Win on Penalty Rates

MEAA members at Private Media, which publishes Crikey, Smart Company and The Mandarin, have won penalty payments for working unsociable hours. After the successful launch of The Worm, members realised that very early starts were becoming common-place for some staff and resolved to do something about it. Unlike many print media companies, most digital media companies do not pay shift penalties for late, early or weekend work.

That’s now changing, as MEAA advocates for decent work rights for digital media workers that their print colleagues enjoy.

Members at Private Media held a union meeting and resolved to lobby for fair remuneration for these unsociaable hours. The Private Media House committee, comprising Sally Whyte, David Donaldson and Emma Koehn, presented a petition to management and the company subsequently agreed to pay shift penalties. Private Media editorial staff will now be paid a 30% loading on all hours worked early in the morning and late at night.

  • “Just because you are filing online, or working in a start up, doesn’t mean you don’t have family commitments or a social life,” said Adam Portelli, the incoming MEAA Regional Director for Victoria and Tasmania.
  • “We want to ensure that all digital media workers are able to access the same rights as our members in legacy media, and this win is an important step down that road.”

MEAA members at Private Media wish to acknowledge the company for its acceptance of this claim and its identification of the strain placed on staff by unsociable hours.

This win is an important precedent for digital journalists and media workers across the landscape, and recognises that digital workers also deserve compensation for working early in the morning or late at night.

MEAA looks forward to working with members to extend this right to other digital media workplaces in the future.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and "unjust laws"

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New ACTU secretary Sally McManus has defended her support for unionists to break "unjust laws", arguing the ability to strike is a "human right" and that Australia is out of step with international labour conventions.

McManus has used her first major speech on the national stage to defy criticism and attempts to "demonise unions".
  • "I will not keep my head down. I will demand more for working people and I am not afraid to take on the big challenges to build a better future," she told the National Press Club in Canberra today.
  • "We are here to fix the imbalance that has eroded people’s rights and wrongly empowered corporations, big business and the already wealthy."
McManus said the Turnbull Government and some media outlets had a meltdown when she told the ABC's 7.30 Report a fortnight ago that it should not be so hard to strike.
  • "I believe in the rule of law, but laws must be fair and just and right. When laws are unjust, no, I don't think there's a problem with breaking them.
  • "Some people responded in just the way you might think (they) would respond. Play the woman, not the ball. Instead of arguing about the right to strike, their approach was to attack me as a person.
  • "The right to strike is a human right. It's our government that is out of step, not the Australian trade union movement.
  • "The United Nations has declared strike action to be a right. The International Labour Organisation declares Australia to be at odds with international conventions."
  • McManus gave more detail during a question and answer session at the end of the speech, when asked what laws were "unjust" apart from Australia's strike laws.
  • "When union officials are prevented from going onto a worksite because they need to give 24 hours' notice and they know that someone's life is at risk, I think that is an unjust law," she replied.
  • "And where unions are fined for breaking that law, I think it's wrong and I think it needs to change."
She said her comments were made about industrial laws and depended on the circumstances in each case. Such action was not taken lightly because individuals could be fined $10,200 and possibly lose their job for unprotected or "'so-called illegal industrial action" while penalties were far higher for unions.

McManus defended the militant CFMEU, saying they worked in tough and dangerous industries where employers cut corners.
  • "That industry deserves a strong union and the CFMEU is a strong union. They always put safety first, and in doing so, they get fined for it. They turn up at work sites and they deal [with] what's in front of them.
  • "If my brothers were on a building site, I would like it to be a CFMEU building site."
Investigate and punish all corruption

McManus said the union movement would work with a future ALP government, but sidestepped a question on whether she favoured an Accord-like agreement between the two arms of the labour movement.

The speech comes as the federal parliament will soon debate government legislation to outlaw corrupting payments by employers to union officials and unions, a recommendation of the Heydon Royal Commission.

She said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talked about corrupting benefits but ignored payments to politicians, payments between corporations, payments designed to influence lawmakers, tenders and contracts.
  • "The union movement will happily support laws with strong powers to investigate and punish corruption - so long as they apply to everyone. Such laws should apply equally to all the members of the Liberal Party, their backers in corporate Australia and the big banks.
  • "We have been demanding the Turnbull Government establish a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption that applies to every section of society. This is something that Bill Shorten has been working towards and we support him."
On the personal front, McManus recalled being angered by the sacking of her high school teacher in 1988 as part of broader job cuts by the NSW government in 1988 and attending a protest and strike rally by teachers.

She first joined the SDA while working as a pizza delivery driver and attended a course for young trade unionists in 1994 with other "fresh-faced young people" such as Bill Shorten.
But she received her "best training" from former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard while working as an ASU leader trying to overturn the Work Choices laws.

McManus said Australia's minimum wage had stagnated and some Australian companies had a business model of underpaying workers, or forcing them to pretend to be contractors.
  • "How dare the Federal Government denounce me and do nothing to support Australians who are the victims of the rampant law-breaking by some employers.
  • "We have a problem of power imbalance in our country - some people have far too much of it and ordinary Australian, working Australians, don’t have enough of it."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Poll shows 78 percent oppose 18C changes

An overwhelming majority of Australians oppose legalising speech that "offends, insults or humiliates" on the basis of race, according to a new Fairfax-Ipsos poll that underscores the political danger the Turnbull government faces in softening the nation's race-hate laws.

As the Senate prepares to vote on amendments to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act later this week, the poll of 1400 voters shows 78 per cent of Australians believe it should be unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

The government has proposed removing these words from the act and instead making it unlawful to intimidate or harass someone on the basis of race.

The poll shows support for amending section 18C has increased by 10 percentage points since 2014, suggesting the high-profile Queensland University of Technology and Bill Leak cases have undermined support for the law.

When the same question was asked in 2014 - just weeks after Attorney-General George Brandis said people have a "right to be bigots" - 88 per cent of respondents said it should be unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of race.

Monday, March 27, 2017

ACOSS supports ACCC investigation but longer term national energy policy needed

March 27, 2017

ACOSS welcomes the Federal government’s announcement of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation into retail electricity pricing but says a durable climate and energy policy is urgently needed to address rising energy prices.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says she welcomes the ACCC investigation as the current situation with sustained increases in electricity prices and the failure of retail and wholesale competition in the energy market has particularly affected low income and disadvantaged households.

“People are hurting because every small increase in energy price harshly impacts the budgets of vulnerable households,” says Dr Goldie.

“From 2007-2016 low income earners endured electricity price increases of a whopping 65% in real terms, which translates to a spend of up to five times more of disposable income on energy costs than high income earners.

“Retail market competition has failed to deliver on its promise of lower bills for all.

“For example, according to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, disconnections have increased fivefold in Victoria with the retail component almost doubling since 2008 and fixed charges higher than any other State.”

“We submit the ACCC investigation should also review unfair retail marketing practices including ‘limited benefit periods’ and ‘pay on time discounts’ which can unwittingly increase the cost of a person’s bill by hundreds of dollars.

“We welcome the government’s recognition that failure of competition is one reason for energy price rises. Competition needs to be fair and work for all households.

“Another reason for energy price rises is climate policy uncertainty which is currently adding 4-6c/kWh to wholesale costs, equivalent to a $50 tonne carbon price, as noted by the Australian Energy Council.

“We also call on government to go the next step towards a sustainable energy future.

“The Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market is a good first step in shaping the future of our electricity sector. But we need to do more.

“We need a national coordinated energy plan that is investable and durable, functioning markets and greater consumer protection. We need a market mechanism and regulation to facilitate replacement of aging coal-power with clean renewable energy. And we need Federal and State governments coordinating and implementing effective national policy.

“We’ve had the decade of finger pointing, policy change, and inaction, between the federal and state governments.

“Let’s make the next decade one of positive and affirmative action on energy for the benefit of everyone.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ACTU – Australian Unions welcome Senate Inquiry into racist CDP

Australian Unions welcome Senate Inquiry into racist CDP
23 March 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) welcomes the referral of an inquiry into the Turnbull Government’s punitive Community Development Program (CDP) to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee. This program imposes extremely onerous conditions on the overwhelmingly Indigenous population in remote communities just to receive basic support payments.

Participants in the program are required to participate in 25 hours of work per week – significantly more than the requirements for metropolitan work for the dole programs.

The program effectively provides free labour in remote communities where jobs are already scarce, replacing real, paying jobs with unpaid labour.

People who are unable to comply with the requirements of the scheme face extensive financial penalties and long periods of being cut off from support payments all together.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Indigenous Officer Kara Keys:

  • “We hope that this inquiry will shed light on this program, which is not only punitive and counter-productive but also clearly racially discriminatory.”
  • “The CDP is objectively a harsher program than anything which applies to welfare recipients in metropolitan areas, and it is no co-incidence that more than 80% of the people working under this program are Indigenous.”
  • “This program should not be tolerated but unfortunately the Government has been able to escape the condemnation it so richly deserves because this program affects some of the most marginalised people in our society.”
  • “The union movement stands with all workers and we have been campaigning against this program since its inception. We will not stop until it is replaced with a program that treats indigenous people in remote communities as equal to any other citizen of this country.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017


It should have been a routine job. 37-year-old Paul Walsh was  with a small drilling  team in Station Street , Katoomba working  on an NBN contract  when he was killed, after suffering what the Blue Mountains Gazette described as "head injuries".

According to the Construction Workers Union Paul's death on 1st April 2016 highlighted the dangers which the union believes are  inherent in the workforce model being used on the NBN contract. It's a pyramid system which the union says leads to those at the bottom exposed to the most risk.

Paul Walsh wasn't the only one to die at work last year. He was one 178, according to Safe Work Australia.

WORKERS INTERNATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY is held every year to remember the dead and fight for the living. In recognition of the day Blue Mountains Unions & Community  is holding a special meeting on Saturday April 29th at the Family Hotel in Katoomba 2.30-4.30

Guest Speakers:

  • RITA MALLIA, NSW President CFMEU General Division
  • EMMA MADDEN , assistant secretary, Unions NSW: " Workers are being killed and maimed at alarming rates. Yet the NSW Government has decimated the system that was meant to provide support for injured workers until they get back on their feet"
  • ROWAN KERNEBONE, Organiser, Injured Workers Network

"We can't bring back our loved ones, but we certainly can fight to ensure all workers are able to come home at night" - Workplace Tragedy Family Support Group.

Published by  BMUC

NSWTF – International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Submitted by nswtf on 21 March 2017

Today on this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Federation members are reminded of their responsibility as educators to organise, act and educate against racism in all its forms.

Federation’s Anti – Racism Policy applies to all Federation members and employees and through its decisions and policies, will heed the voices of its members and students who are subjected to racial abuse, discrimination or vilification.

On this very day, the Federal Coalition will be discussing its potential changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), in particular 18C. Section 18C of the RDA makes it unlawful to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ someone because of their race or ethnicity. Section 18C and 18D were introduced to the RDA in 1995 in response to recommendations of major inquiries including the National Inquiry into Racist Violence, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Multiculturalism and the Law report.

Any attempt to change Section 18C to allow offending, insulting, humiliating or intimidating of a person due to their race to be lawful, must be rejected in the strongest possible way. Apart from the huge impact on individuals, the signal to the broader community would impact on social cohesion and inclusion, values which public school teachers, students and their communities hold dear.

Members are urged to email their opposition to changes to 18C to their local coalition Members of Parliament or Barnaby Joyce who has said that this is not an issue that is important to Australians.

The Australian Human Rights Commission found in a survey of 2380 young people aged 13 – 17 that 87% had either experienced or witnessed racism. That racism was found to most commonly occur at school (43%) or online (33%).

For copies of Federation’s Anti – racism policy, charter, ccampaign resources such as posters, information about racism, good practice case studies as well as professional readings, go to Federation’s Anti – racism website or contact Amber Flohm, Federation’s Multicultural Officer/Organiser on

There are a number of other resources to assist members to address racism in their classrooms and workplaces, as well as in their wider community.

The Human Rights Commission’s campaign ‘Racism. It Stops with Me’, of which the Federation is a proud supporter.

‘What you say matters’ particularly targets a youth audience while the UN also provides a plethora of resources on racial discrimination.

Nurses see first tranche of Sunday penalty rate cuts

Nurses see first tranche of Sunday penalty rate cuts thanks to emboldened billion-dollar healthcare employer

22 March 2017

Nurses working for Sonic Health Plus could see their award-aligned Sunday penalty rates cut from 75% to 50%, in what is expected to be worrying trend for Australian workers.

Sonic Health Plus nurses are currently on a non-union approved EBA, in which they receive award Sunday penalty rates. The ANMF and other unions opposed the EBA when it was being certified in 2014.

In fresh EBA negotiations, Sonic Health Plus has this week proposed the nurses’ Sunday penalty rates are cut by at least a third. This is move seemingly inspired by the Fair Work Commission’s recent decision to cut Sunday penalty rates for 700,000 retail, hospitality and pharmacy workers.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “It’s no coincidence that Sonic Health Plus has proposed these wage claims just a few days after Prime Minister Turnbull said he supported the penalty rate cuts.”
  • “This is a sign of the times; the Fair Work Commission decision to cut penalty rates has emboldened employers and no Australian worker is safe unless the Government steps in now.”
  • “Just last month Sonic Healthcare, the parent company of Sonic Health Plus, announced a net profit of $197 million and revenue of $2.5 billion. Now it wants to cut the wages of its nursing staff.”
  • “The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), representing Sonic Health Plus nurses, has rejected the attempts to cut the Sunday penalty rates of any nurses during negotiations. Without the support of the ANMF, these nurses would absolutely receive further pay cuts.”
  • “Penalty rates and take home pay must be protected. Prime Minister Turnbull stop the cuts, stand up for working Australians and end any excuse for employers to cut wages.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ACTU – Aerocare Disgrace – Corporate Disregard for Australian Workers

21 March 2017

Australians are rightly horrified at the extreme working conditions being imposed on Aerocare workers, who play a crucial role at our major airports to ensure the journeys of thousands of travellers are comfortable and smooth every day.

The revelations aired on ABC’s 7.30 program last night are shocking, and come as a reminder of the struggle faced by too many Australian workers to maintain good wages and decent working conditions.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “We are seeing these flagrant abuses of workers’ rights with alarming regularity - it’s almost impossible now to avoid the conclusion that there are massive systematic failings with our workplace laws.”
  • “When Australian workers are forced to sleep rough on the job site because their roster is so onerous and pay so meagre, it’s clear that there is an urgent need for change.
  • “The air travel industry is booming – Aerocare itself reported a $13 million profit last year, while our four main airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth generated a staggering $1.8 billion in profit.”
  • “There’s no shortage of money to pay workers decent wages and treat them fairly - so if employers aren’t going to do the right thing, then it’s time we change the law to make sure worker’s rights are sacrosanct.”

Science and the Neo-liberal monopoly

We do not know what the tightening of funding for scientific research that has taken place over the past 40 years would have done, but this we can be sure of: utilitarian approaches to higher education are dominant now, to the point of monopoly.

The administrative burdens and stultifying oversight structures throttling today's scholars come not from Soviet-style central planning, but from the application of market principles—an irony that the sociologist Lawrence Busch explores exhaustively in his monograph Knowledge for Sale. 

Busch explains how the first neo-liberal thinkers sought to prevent the rise of totalitarian regimes by replacing governance with markets. Those thinkers believed that markets were safer than governments because they were cybernetic and so corrected themselves.

Busch provides ghastly disproofs of this neo-liberal vision from within the hall of academe, from bad habits such as a focus on counting citations and publication output, through fraud, to existential crises such as the shift in the ideal of education from a public to a private good. 

But if our ingenious, post-war market solution to the totalitarian nightmare of the 1940s has itself turned out to be a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity (as journalist Matt Taibbi once described investment bank Goldman Sachs), where have we left to go?  We have to remember that the point of study is not to power, enable, de-glitch or otherwise save civilisation. The point of study is to create a civilisation worth saving.

New Scientist 18 March 2017 p. 143.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ACOSS – Community Sector Urges Senate to Oppose Horror Omnibus Bill

21 March 2017

When:  10.00 am, Tuesday 21 March 2017

Where:  Senate Courtyard, Parliament House

Who:  Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS, joins -

  • Ara Cresswell, Carers Australia
  • Marie Coleman, National Foundation for Australian Women
  • Katie Acheson, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
  • Dr John Falzon, St Vincent de Paul Society
  • Jeremy Halcrow, Anglicare Australia 
  • Samantha Page, Early Childhood Australia
  • Camilla Rowland, ACT Council of Social Services
  • Craig Wallace, ACT Council of Social Services
  • Contact: ACOSS Media 0419 626 155

Leaders in the community sector are urging cross bench senators to not back down and continue to oppose $5.6 billion in social security cuts within the horror Omnibus Bill which the government is currently trying to push through the Senate. The community sector has consistently opposed the social security cuts in the Omnibus Bill, in some cases since the 2014 Federal Budget.

If it goes ahead, the Omnibus Bill will cut incomes of millions of people on low incomes. As Australia’s childcare peak bodies have stringently argued, better quality childcare cannot be funded on the backs of vulnerable low income families and individuals in Australia. The social security cuts in the Bill affect single parents, carers of all ages, people with disability, Age Pensioners, young people, and people who are unemployed.

MUA – ACTU To Address Energy Policy Vacuum

Posted by Mua communications on March 17, 2017

The ACTU will set up a national energy policy working group as the nation grapples with blackouts in some parts of Australia alongside a looming gas shortage with almost all of our available gas currently shipped off overseas.

ACTU Executive this week agreed to the formation of a national energy policy working group of senior union leaders to develop a labour movement position that can be fed into the debate.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said energy policy is central to unions, given the fact the resources sector, heavy manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries rely on union labour.

  • “The Turnbull Government has been asleep at the wheel on energy policy as evidenced by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s shirtfront on Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg this week,” Mr Crumlin said.
  • “There are multiple problems of the Government’s creation – we will soon be the world’s biggest exporter of LNG yet we can’t guarantee to keep the lights on at home."
  • "Add to this the potential job losses from energy-intensive industries such as aluminium smelters and it’s clear we need a domestic gas reservation policy now to protect local jobs.
  • “On top of that, research released by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) this week found that the Japanese government collects more direct tax on Australian gas than we do in Petroleum Rent Resource Tax (PRRT) so it’s clear the public is being dudded at every turn.
  • “All of this adds up to a monumental failure of leadership in this country by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and it’s up to unions and others to chart the way forward."

The resolution moved by Mich-Elle Myers and passed by ACTU Executive reads:

ACTU Executive agrees to the formation of a national energy policy working group of senior union leaders to develop an ACTU energy policy position to inject into the current energy policy debate.

Executive notes that energy policy is central to the trade union agenda for supporting the growth of viable and efficient manufacturing and services employment and output, for the transition to a lower carbon economy, and for the nation’s energy security, including fuel security for households, business, border protection and Defence.

Executive notes that energy policy is closely integrated with the future of the Australian resources sector and the role and power of multi-national energy and resource companies, the development of the renewable energy sector involving the need for a clear pathway for transition away from non-renewable energy sources over the long term and the transportation, storage and distribution of energy. 

Executive notes that the Prime Minister is meeting with the chief executives of major gas corporations in a bid to solve a looming energy crisis when it is the Liberal Party and big business that created this problem in the first place and that many oil and gas multinationals such as Chevron pay no tax in Australia whatsoever.

Executive notes that the Japanese government collects more direct tax on Australian gas than we do and that our five new offshore LNG projects are selling their gas overseas at a premium price when Australia is suffering from a domestic shortage with gas prices expected to skyrocket at home.

Executive notes that affiliate campaigns such as Reserve Our Gas and the campaign for the review of the PRRT should feature in the work of this working group and recognises the work done so far to bring these issues to the forefront of the national debate.

Executive notes that domestic gas reservation is very important to protect local manufacturing and avoid a domestic energy crisis while changes to the PRRT are also vital for the Budget in the medium to long term so the nation can properly invest in infrastructure, hospitals and schools.

Executive notes that given that energy policy overarches so many areas of trade union policy, particularly its impact on industry development, jobs and skills, and on household living costs, that it is important that focussed attention be given to an ACTU energy policy to guide trade union participation in the national debate on this issue.

- See more at

ACTU – Union Parmalat victory a warning for business and the government

20 March 2017

The ACTU welcomes the resolution of the Parmalat dispute in Echuca, with Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) and Electrical Trade Union (ETU) members voting to accept an agreement that includes wage rises, improved redundancy provisions, and mandated consultation if contractors are brought in.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  1. “This new agreement is a huge win for the Parmalat workers in Echuca who have been locked out of their workplace for more than two months.”
  2. “Following on from the win by CUB workers last year, there is a clear warning to big business that they should stop trying to undermine or attack workers and instead work with unions to ensure fair and mutually beneficial outcomes.”
  3. “No Australian should be locked out of their workplace and be threatened with pay cuts, just as no Australian should have their pay cut as we have seen with 700,000 penalty rate workers - we must fix the unfairness in our industrial relations laws.”
  4. “It’s time for the Federal Government to take action to stand up for working Australians, instead of always backing the top end of town and foreign multinationals.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brandis tries to trash Native Title Act

Last week Brandis sneakily tried to change the Native Title Act but he didn’t get away with it.
That’s because you were there to stop him (or at least slow him down)

But we need your help again to finish the job - call for a fresh enquiry into Native Title that actually listens to and engages our people. Click here to call on Labor and the crossbench to stop Brandis in his tracks.

If we can get enough people to call Labor and the crossbench we can stop Brandis from pushing these changes through and get them to extend the enquiry so our mob can have their say on these matters that affect us.

Today, the interim report from the committee will be tabled in Parliament, today is the time to push for an extension to this inquiry.

As someone who took action to stand up for land rights, I wanted to give you the down low on what’s happened so far:

Brandis gave people 1 week to make submissions (normally submissions are open for at least 3 months), and failed to let most Native Title groups know about it. Then he gave people 24 hours notice to get to the only public hearing in Brisbane.

Since then, over 25,000 people signed the land rights petition and over 10,000 people made a submission to the inquiry (that still haven’t been made public), and on very short notice we hosted an action in Brisbane:

Native Title is crucial to determining what happens on country, and protecting our culture from coal, gas and other mining companies who have a single minded focus of destroying our land.

Please take this 5 minutes action today, call Labor and the crossbench and tell them to support an extended inquiry into Native Title. We’ve put together some talking points for you to guide you through the conversation, call today.

We slowed Brandis in his tracks from his plans to strip land rights to benefit his mining mates, now we need to get a real enquiry for our people.

Let’s finish the job and make sure Brandis doesn’t trash Native Title forever.

Larissa, on behalf of the whole Seed team.

ACTU – Penalty rates cuts devastating for Coalition in WA: new poll shows

20 March 2017

Penalty rates were a key factor for voters in the recent Western Australian state election, a new exit poll commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) shows.
More than half (52.2%) of voters considered the penalty rates decision either somewhat important or very important to how they cast their vote.

The ACTU polled more than 1,400 WA voters on penalty rates two days after the election and found more than three quarters (75.9%) of people who voted for the ALP said that the decision was important to their vote.

Of all voters, 61.6% said that the federal government should legislate to protect penalty rates, including 86.7% of ALP voters and 74.4% of Greens voters.

A staggering 71% of all voters disagreed with One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s support for the penalty rate cuts.

Among the rusted on coalition supporters who stuck with the party through the disastrous election outcome, more than 30% said the federal government should protect penalty rates.

Also of serious concern to voters was the worry that the cuts would spread further than retail, pharmacy and hospitality, with 68.1% of voters saying penalty rate cuts will spread to other industries.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “The recent decision to cut penalty rates was a devastating blow to the former West Australian Liberal Government, which was slaughtered at the polls earlier this month.”
  • “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must act now and stop these harsh cuts for the 700,000 workers who will be impacted come July 1.”
  • “The ACTU is in Canberra this week with affected workers so they can tell their stories to our politicians. We urge the Prime Minister and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to support working people and step into to reverse this decision.”
  • “One can only imagine what a federal election would look like if the Turnbull Government refuses to protect penalty rates. Can the federal coalition really afford to go against the wishes of two thirds of the population who want them to act?”

Paul Keating: Only a reckless government would raid super for housing

Countries get one chance in history of putting into place a savings retirement scheme on the scale of the Australian superannuation system.

The right conditions had to be there: a government which saw the need, a policy-induced surge of productivity to pay for it and an organised workforce prepared to defer some current consumption to provide better living in retirement.

The system is the envy of the developed economies.
Only the most reckless and wilful government would abort the policy settings to put the system at risk.

The two key elements underpinning superannuation are preservation of contributions to age 55 and the compound earnings on those contributions.

If the preservation rule is breached and savings, especially those of young people, are allowed to drain away, the loss of the accumulation and its compounding would rob them of a large block of savings at the end of their working lives.

And to make matters worse, the proposed diversion of these savings into housing would simply push up the price of the current stock of properties. It would add to demand while doing nothing to supply.

So were the government to proceed with this irresponsible idea, it would potentially destroy superannuation for those, in the main, under 40 years of age, while at the same time, driving up the cost of the housing they are seeking to purchase.

As an economic idea, this is scandalous. But, of course, for the Liberal Party, this is an ideological proposal.

In the last 40 years, the Australian community has adopted two new community standards; universal health protection with Medicare and universal retirement coverage with superannuation.

The Liberal Party has done everything within its power to either thwart or destroy both of those standards.

With superannuation, former treasurer Joe Hockey succeeded in jamming the Superannuation Guarantee Charge at 9.5 per cent of wages from its legislative trajectory of 12 per cent. He also floated this same idea of busting preservation for housing deposits, but was warned off the course in adopting it.

I have said before, you don't expect conservative parties to believe in much but you do expect them to believe in thrift. And when a Labor government comes along and, in a co-operative way, encourages the workforce to save for their retirement, you would think any true conservative party would be eternally grateful.

Instead the Liberal Party, limited by its ideological snakiness, continues biting at superannuation, as it does, periodically, Medicare.

And all of this is going on at a time when the same government has committed itself to enshrining the David Murray proposition of "superannuation for retirement" in legislation.

So, one minute, the government is putting superannuation as a savings vehicle on a pedestal, the next minute, it is seeking to pull the backside out of it.

Is it any wonder people despair about the government's economic credentials?

The average superannuation balance of those aged between 25 and 40 hovers around $45,000. Were this to be taken from a saver's account to be employed as a housing deposit, it would effectively destroy that person's ability to compound any future sum into a meaningful retirement supplement.

More than that, once the preservation rule has been breached, the whole investment system would be compromised as superannuation trustees were required to make provision for short-term withdrawals from an otherwise, fully preserved system. This would be completely disruptive to professional funds management.

But almost as bad as the proposed measure itself is the policy bankruptcy.

How could a country which would wilfully do this to itself have any prospect of rational policy frameworks?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trump and King Canute

New Scientist Editorial 8 March 2017

"One Twitter account parodying Trump has medieval king Donaeld the Unready railing against a rival: “Canute. What a loser. Can’t even hold back the sea. It’s just water. We’re going to be so tough on the sea. Canute was too soft. Sad.”

The real Donald has cast himself as a latter-day King Canute, deluding himself that he is able to hold back the forces of nature with an executive order. Except, of course, that Canute was actually a wise ruler who wanted to show his followers that he didn’t have dominion over nature. The chances that Trump is doing the same? Zero. Sad indeed."

As the editorial points out:

A Chill wind of change is blowing through climate research. To nobody’s great surprise, given President Trump’s rhetoric to date, the White House is said to be ready to gut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to documents seen by The Washington Post, NOAA – the federal government’s leading climate science agency – faces an overall budget cut of 17 per cent. Its basic science arm, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, will lose more than a quarter of its funds. The money will be diverted to the military, on which the US already spends far more than any other country.

Some in the Trump camp claim they are not opposed to climate science, just to the “politicised” version of it now practised by NOAA and other agencies. This is nonsense. Climate science has been politicised only by those who deny its findings in the service of an antiquated model of US enterprise – one in which success depends on corporate freedom to trash the commons.

Most of the world recognises that cleaning up industry is not only morally responsible, but commercially sound too. Even ExxonMobil, from whose corner office Trump plucked Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state, has made the right noises about a carbon tax, despite its appalling track record on climate change. Such a tax would impose rigour on carbon-intensive industries – and Exxon thinks it would win out in the subsequent competition. But rather than putting pressure on it to act on its words, Trump has applauded its recidivist plans to expand its Gulf Coast operations.

Friday, March 17, 2017

ACTU – Statement from Secretary Sally McManus

Statement from Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus

Australia has been built by working people who have had the courage to stand up to unfair and unjust rules and demand something better.

Every single Australian benefits from superannuation, Medicare, the weekend and minimum wages —these were all won by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents taking non-violent so-called illegal industrial action.

Working people only take these measures when the issue is one of justice, like ensuring workers’ safety on worksites, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work or to uphold and improve rights for working people.

Without the Australian union movement our country would look like the US, where these types of rights are inadequate or don’t exist.

There is rampant lawlessness in the workplaces of Australia and this is occurring in the form of chronic underpayments of workers, exploitation of visa workers and workplace practices that put the safety and lives of people at risk. Unfortunately this is no longer on the fringes of our economy; it is now a business model for some corporations. This is what our Government should be focusing on.

Australian Unions are committed to changing the laws at work because they are no longer strong enough to guarantee and protect workers’ rights. We will do so through advocating changes to the laws and rules that govern the workplace.

ACTU – Michaelia Cash Obsessed With Sally Mcmanus

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has chosen to ignore rising unemployment and has instead spent the day obsessing over the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ new Secretary Sally McManus.

Data released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics today shows there are now 748,000 Australians without work and the unemployment rate is at a 13-month high.

 Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “Instead of finding a solution to the catastrophic worsening jobs figures, Employment Minister Cash today chose to spend tax-payers’ money sending out numerous statements about unions to media.”
  • “Total unemployment is rising, with around 750,000 people now without work, and more than one million employed people who want more hours of work. Also of grave concern is rising youth unemployment.”
  • “The Turnbull Government must be held responsible for doing nothing at all for overseeing to stem rising unemployment, underemployment and stagnant wage growth.”
  • “This government has backed in wage cuts for some of Australia’s lowest paid workers who stand to lose penalty rates and has absolutely no credible plan to create a single, steady job. This is its modus operandi.”

Rethink WestCONnex - Campaign Update

We all know that WestCONnex is just about handing your tax dollars to big corporate political donors. But what would WestCONnex look like if it was instead designed to serve our real transport needs? Masters students at UNSW have imagined Westconnex tunnels repurposed as an underground rail network, and we think it's pretty great!

The exhibition is open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm until April 5th in the Red Centre, west wing, ground floor gallery at the University of NSW.
We've had a busy couple of weeks campaigning to stop WestCONnex. Check out what's been happening below.

On the 4th of March about 40 Rozelle residents occupied the Victoria Rd footbridge while clad in white paper overalls and face masks, alongside a few white elephants and a packet of "westCONnex unfiltered" to send the message to the Berejiklian government that we won't tolerate their assault on our community's health and wellbeing. The action, organised by Rozelle Against WestCONnex (RAW), drew attention to the health impacts caused by this destructive motorway.

On Monday Newtown residents took action letting locals around King St know what's happening with WestConnex. The action was organised by the WestCONnex Action Group (WAG)

On Tuesday morning Camperdown residents took to the streets to oppose the new drill site proposed on the corner of Mallett St and Pyrmont Bridge Rd. The action, organised by Camperdown Residents Aware of Westconnex (CRAW), was to notify Camperdown residents of the government's proposed drill site. Should the plan go ahead Camperdown residents will have to contend with hundreds of trucks clogging up this already busy intersection every day for years to come.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stop Heritage Vandals – Save Our Sirius – SOS


Sydney has a history of destroying its heritage. We’ve seen a number of important and iconic buildings demolished to make way for newer, modern development.

Tales of the structures that once stood proudly along Sydney’s streets filled my childhood. More often than not, these stories included a struggle between government, developers and the Sydney community. They also featured passionate people who fought to preserve Sydney’s heritage against demolition and redevelopment.

Juanita Neilson was one of these people. Her campaign against the development of Victoria Street in Kings Cross became infamous after her disappearance and suspected murder in 1975. No one knows exactly what happened to Neilson, the suspects in the case are no longer living, but her anti-development campaign is widely considered to be the motive for her disappearance.

Her story has become a metaphor for the destruction of heritage and the redevelopment in Sydney.

A little more than a decade on, just months before I was born, the Regent Theatre was torn down. It was located on George Street and hosted frequent, popular performances. When the owners of the building announced they were going to sell, the site was slated to be demolished. There was a huge, public outcry.

In response, the Minister for Planning and Local Government at the time placed the theatre on the Register of the National Estate* in a bid to save the building. The construction unions also showed their support and blacklisted the site in an attempt to protect it.

In 1988, the building was demolished despite its heritage listing. A change of government opened the way for an approval for redevelopment and a court decision lifted the permanent conservation order on the site.

All that’s left to remind us of the Regent Theatre is the building next door, which is now home to fast food chain KFC.

Sydney is facing a similar dilemma today and this time the NSW Government isn’t playing the hero. In 2014, the Baird Government announced the Sirius building would be sold.

Everyone knows the Sirius building, or at least anyone who has crossed the Harbour Bridge in the last forty years. It sits on prime real estate in The Rocks and is a focal point on the Sydney Harbour skyline. No matter your opinion on whether it should be knocked down, the consensus is, it’s iconic.

Sirius was designed by architect Tao Gofers and completed in 1980. It’s a prime example of the brutalist architecture movement which emerged out of the modernist era in the 1950s and 1960s. The buildings constructed in this period are strong, bold and graphic, and sometimes imposing. Sirius is one of the few examples left in Sydney.

Del Kathryn Barton, former Archibald winner, told 702 ABC Sydney: “The demolition of the Sirius building would be a cultural tragedy.” She also explained people around the world are celebrating brutalist architecture, not knocking it down.

The Save Our Sirius Foundation (SOS) was born out of the decision to sell off and demolish the building.

SOS has seen heavy weight support, including the National Trust, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and the Australian Institute of Architects. Shaun Carter, who is the NSW Chapter President of the Australia Institute of Architects, also chairs the Foundation.

Unions NSW and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union have placed a Green Ban on the building. Jack Mundey who fought against the redevelopment of The Rocks in the 1970s, and was instrumental in the construction of Sirius, endorses this ban.

They also have strong community backing from the Millers Point Residents Action Group; Friends of Millers Point; and Millers Point Public Housing Tenants Group.

In 2016, the NSW Heritage Council unanimously recommended the building be put on the State Heritage Register. This was denied by former NSW Heritage Minister, Mark Speakman.

Next month, the SOS foundation will take the state Government to court in an attempt to overturn the decision to exclude Sirius from the State Heritage Register.

We’re seeing a major shift in government policy since the attempt to save the Regent Theatre in the 1980s. Rather than listen to the Sydney community, the Government has put its bank balance before the city’s heritage.

Mr Speakman said the estimated $70 million from the sale of Sirius would generate necessary income to reinvest in community housing. He also said this money is more important than the preservation of the building.

No one can argue against the necessity of investing more money into the community-housing sector, but there’s still a strong case for the preservation of a culturally significant building. Is it too much to ask for both?

SOS is working on alternative development designs to present to the NSW Government. These would allow for the preservation and refurbishment of the building and still deliver on the government’s financial aims. Earlier this month architects CplusC also proposed a redevelopment plan that would save the original building from destruction.

It’s important to remember we’re not just talking about a building. The decision made by the NSW government also had a resounding effect on the community. This is the same community Sirius was built to protect and rehouse after they were displaced by the redevelopment of The Rocks 40 years ago.

All but one tenant of the Sirius building has been relocated. Myra Demetrious, who is 90 and legally blind, remains in the building in protest.

Sirius architect, Tao Gofers has called for more inclusive social housing in response to the potential destruction of Sirius. He wants homes provided in the city rather than a policy of segregation, which pushes people like Ms Demetrious out into the suburbs.

Sirius is important. For architectural enthusiasts it’s a rare example of Sydney’s brutalist design. For many Sydney-siders it’s an iconic landmark. And for people like Ms Demetrious, it’s home. But in the eyes of the NSW Government, it’s an uncashed cheque.

If it’s too late to save Sydney’s heritage, and history, let this at least be a lesson in how we treat some of our most vulnerable people.

* The Register of the National Estate was closed in 2007 and replaced by the Australian National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TWU – Owner drivers got a boost today as the NSW Industrial Relations Commission

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 15 March 2017

Owner drivers got a boost today as the NSW Industrial Relations Commission backed and expanded a system which ensures them full cost recovery for their work. A decision on the General Carriers Contract Determination guarantees fair rates which allow drivers to maintain their vehicles, keep their businesses going and pay themselves a wage.

The Commission’s decision followed years of negotiations between drivers, industry and regulators and involves modernisation of a system which has provided stability for over three decades.

Improvements to the system include:

  • Expansion of the determination to include corridors from Sydney to Wollongong and Sydney to Newcastle
  • Inclusion of refrigerated trucks
  • A 2.5% increase in rates across the board
  • Ability to negotiate guaranteed number of hours with employers 

“This decision is an important backing by the entire industry for a system of fair rates and conditions for drivers. It will give owner drivers the certainty they need about their future. Drivers stood together during negotiations on this and won important improvements,” said Richard Olsen TWU NSW Branch Secretary.

The decision today demonstrated how a sustainable industry can be achieved by the industry coming together. Employer lobby group NatRoad was the only group which did not come on board, refusing to admit that drivers had a right to fair working conditions.

“NatRoad have been playing this game a long time: denying owner drivers dignity through fair conditions and trying to lower wages and allowances for employee drivers through the award review. Today the rest of the industry stood together and backed a fair system for owner drivers,” Olsen added.