Saturday, April 29, 2017

CFMEU – Turnbull's Abolition of 457 Visa Scheme Will Not End Rorting

Malcolm Turnbull's announcement of the abolition of the 457 Visa scheme will not end the rorting of temporary work visas according to the CFMEU.

CFMEU National Assistant Secretary Dave Noonan called the announcement a dodgy rebrand of a visa system that’s letting our country down.

“The announcement is a fizzer. Just like the Prime Minister himself.” He said

"When the CFMEU campaigned against temporary work visa rip offs two years ago, the Liberal Party attacked our union as racist and claimed there were no problems with the temporary visa system. Now, Malcolm Turnbull has been forced to take action as public outrage has grown over widespread abuse and as polls show his unpopularity.”

Turnbull’s rebranded 457 Visa stunt:

  • Ignores rampant abuses of other temporary visa classes, including working holiday and student categories,
  • Leaves labour market testing up to employers against the advice of the government’s own inquiry,
  • Means that many trades including carpenters, bricklayers, painters, plasterers, electricians, plumbers and fitters are still open for are still open for temporary overseas workers,
  • Does nothing to address the inadequate monitoring and enforcement of temporary migrant visas.- Does not abolish measures in the government’s building code, which ban apprentice ratios and preference clauses for Australian residents and citizens.

“The more you examine this announcement, the more it looks like Turnbull is applying a thin coat of paint to a derelict house with a rotten structure.”

WestCon – Euston Road 7 Lane Widening Disaster

Thursday, April 27, 2017

CPSU – 4500 Public Service Jobs Threatened By Budget

APR 26, 2017

Federal budget could see up to 4500 more public service jobs cut, union warns

As many as 4500 more public service jobs could be cut if the Turnbull government continues its efficiency dividend push in next month's federal budget, the peak public service union has warned.

After 15,000 job cuts since the Coalition was elected to government in 2013, the Community and Public Sector Union has used its pre-budget submission to Treasurer Scott Morrison to warn continuing $1.924 billion in planned efficiency savings announced in 2016 would see between 3000 and 4500 additional jobs go.

The figures are based on government data showing about 55 per cent of previous efficiency cuts have come from cuts reductions to the federal workforce, suggesting that planned savings by 2020 would result in $972 million more in jobs lost.

The union said the full impact on staffing levels would depend on how $500 million in savings from government transformation efforts is spent.

  • "After years of governments cutting public sector funding, the public service is struggling to provide the level of services that the Australian community deserves," the submission said.
  • "The government's decisions have led to the debacles of the 2016 Census and the Centrelink automated debt recovery scheme. There is now increasing community awareness and dissatisfaction with the impact of public sector cuts and the governments who deliver those cuts."

The government receives hundreds of submissions to the budget process - with business groups, unions, community organisations and non-profits laying out their wish lists for the year ahead. Some proposals are adopted, while others are ignored.

The Young Liberal Movement used its submission to call for another Abbott government-style audit commission and more public service job cuts.

The CPSU called for the May 9 budget package to "begin to repair substantial and unsustainable damage done to the public service" through reversing the efficiency dividend, arguing public sector wages remained just 6.1 per cent of government spending in 2016-17.

Last week the government announced National Party-led plans for further forced moves of public servants to rural and regional Australia.

Staff numbers in the Australian Public Service grew last year for the first time since 2012, up by 3518 to 155,771 positions.

The growth was probably caused by the end of the Abbott government's hiring freeze imposed on departments and agencies, preventing them from recruiting staff unless there were exceptional circumstances.

The Coalition has cut about 15,000 public service jobs since 2013. Redundancies were about triple the usual rate in that period as the government retrenched more than 9100 staff to help reach its target.

The federal bureaucracy employed fewer people in June 2015 than in the last months of the Howard government in 2007. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows a 15.8 per cent rise in the population since June 2007, while public service job numbers have fallen by 0.2 per cent in the same period.

Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann accused the government of showing contempt for public servants.

  • "You can tell a lot about a government by how it treats its workers – the Coalition government must be judged by what it does for workers, and how it treats its own workforce."
  • "My concern is for the smaller agencies, particularly our national institutions.
  • "We're not cutting into fat - we're not cutting into bone, we're cutting into vital organs," she said.

UK Elections – Corbyn v May

Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of being “strong against the weak and weak against the strong” in a passionate pre-election Commons clash with PM Theresa May yesterday.

The Labour leader condemned ministers for worsening homelessness, underfunding the NHS, state pension swindles, reduction of education funding and stagnating wages.

During the last Prime Minister’s Questions before the general election on June 8, Mr Corbyn quoted letters that had been sent to him by the public about their personal experiences of growing inequality.

Mr Corbyn lambasted Ms May over having no housing strategy to deal with the growing crisis, quoting father-of-three Andy who wrote to the Labour leader to say his children — in their mid-twenties — couldn’t afford to leave home, despite working since leaving school.

He dismissed Ms May’s claim that the Tories had built more than double the council housing constructed by the last Labour government.

Mr Corbyn said that actually Labour had built more homes while also upgrading the condition of every council property while under the Decent Homes scheme.

The Tories have seen the lowest amount of homes built since the 1920s, rough-sleeping has more than doubled, social housing waiting lists continue to get longer and record numbers of tenants in the private sector cannot afford to pay their rent, he said.

Mr Corbyn went on to attack the Tories’ devastating cuts to education, quoting primary school teacher Laura who wrote to say the cash situation was so desperate, headteachers were forced to “beg” parents for money and raise funds themselves.

And when Mr Corbyn tackled the PM over the dire underfunding of the NHS, Ms May avoided the questions and hit out at Mr Corbyn’s character instead, repeating previous slurs.

The Labour leader also criticised her for refusing to take part in television election debates, opting instead to campaign in front of “hand-picked audiences who can’t ask questions.”

When Westminster leader of the SNP Angus Robertson asked about the government’s plans to scrap the triple-lock guarantee on state pensions — which Labour will protect — Ms May once again refused to directly answer.

Mr Robertson said: “Isn’t the message to pensioners that you cannot trust the Tories on your pensions?”

One in six pensioners live in poverty and more than six million retirees have a yearly income of less than £11,500, according to the National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt.

She added: “The Conservatives clearly have no intention of keeping the triple lock on the state pension.

“Even with the triple lock, the increase in the state pension this month was just £3 a week — and even less for millions of older women.

“Our pensions are widely regarded as one of the lowest among the 34 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and we still haven’t made up for the losses we suffered when the Thatcher government took away the link with earnings in 1980.

“It’s vital the triple lock stays or the gap between pensioners and the rest of society will once again widen.”

Another Failed Budget

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MUA – Outrage Over Turnbull’s Pledge to “Fix” Native Title Issue for Indian Mining Giant

Posted by Mua communications on April 18, 2017

The Maritime Union of Australia says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is trying to rob traditional land owners of their voice, after he assured Adani mine’s Indian bosses the Federal Government would resolve a native title issue over their site.

During his India visit last week, Turnbull met privately with company founder and chairman Gautam Adani, who requested an early resolution of native title issues surrounding the Queensland site for his $21 billion Carmichael mine project.

MUA Indigenous spokesperson Terry O’Shane said it’s outrageous that Turnbull promised to fix native title issues raised by Mr Adani, before he makes a final investment decision on the mine project.

  • “How dare the prime minister put the interests of a foreign billionaire ahead of Australia’s own indigenous people,” said Mr O’Shane, who is also a board member of the North Queensland Land Council.
  • “This is a new level of arrogance from Malcolm Turnbull thinking he can speak on behalf of Australia’s traditional land owners on native title issues.”
  • “The headlong rush to support Adani’s development of the Carmichael Mine project at the expense of recognition of the Human Rights of Australia’s most vulnerable people borders on the insane.
  • “This coal has been in the ground for millions of years, so a bit more time spent reaching agreement with the final members of the Traditional Owners will be time well spent.”

The vast coal mining project was hit by a Federal Court ruling that has invalidated deals with traditional owners across Australia.

The Federal Government is trying to pass legislation when parliament resumes in May that would reverse that court ruling.

Turnbull told reporters in New Delhi last week: “It’s a decision that can’t be allowed in practical terms to let stand.”

“The Australian Parliament shouldn’t even have to consider, let alone vote on this disgraceful piece of legislation,” Mr O’Shane said.

“It’s time for the prime minister to stand up and show some leadership for all Australians and abandon this silly idea.”

The Wangan Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council claims the project impinges on their rights.

  • “Every time there is conflict between Westminster Law and Native Title, people like Malcolm Turnbull come out on the side of development using the jobs, jobs, jobs mantra as an excuse to develop at all costs,” Mr O’Shane said. 
  • “They all need to follow the developments in the United Nations where international trends require the free, prior and informed consent of people before decisions are made that will impact on their lives.
  • “It appears the land of the “Fair Go” is only for those who can afford it.”

ACOSS and National Shelter release 6 point National Housing Affordability Plan

With Federal budget speculation growing, ACOSS and National Shelter today urged the Federal Government not to shirk its lead responsibility to address the housing affordability crisis affecting millions across the country and increasing financial risk to the national economy.

‘The Federal Government must grasp the housing affordability crisis with both hands and put in place the right policies for the future.” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.

Recent speculation of a Government retreat, and various proposals that lack broad support – including widely criticised ideas such as using super to fund housing deposits – suggest some within the Government view this task as beyond them. It is not. There is broad expert consensus about what needs to done.

Releasing today its 6 point “Housing Australia’s People: A Serious Plan'”, ACOSS and National Shelter set out a comprehensive package of reforms that would deliver growth in social and affordability housing for people on low and modest incomes and take the heat out of the open housing market for all.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS said today: “Australia’s housing affordability crisis is serious and we need a serious plan to tackle it.

“We have become a nation of housing haves and have-nots: The housing ‘haves’ bought their first home years ago and many have investment properties as well. They have secure housing but worry about their children and grand-children, who will struggle to pay a mortgage or save for a deposit. The housing ‘have-nots’ are the 800,000 low-income people paying more than 30% of their income in rent, who know they could lose their home at the end of the 6-12 month lease. Their children live in a constant state of uncertainty and fear of losing their homes. More than 100,000 people are homeless.

“A growing number of people on social security payments or modest wages are being pushed out of our cities – where most of the jobs are – by a creeping crisis in housing affordability.” Adrian Pisarski, CEO of National Shelter said. “We estimate that half a million more affordable homes are needed.”

“Governments are spending billions of dollars in tax subsidies for people who are already comfortably housed or investing, pushing up housing prices and debt to unprecedented levels. At the same time, the programs to make housing affordable for people on low incomes – social housing, Commonwealth Rent Assistance, and homeless services – are collapsing under the weight of escalating home prices and rents and slashed income supports and low wages.” Dr Goldie said.

“The Budget must give priority to strengthening these programs, beginning with public investment in social housing for people with low incomes and homelessness services through the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA). Social housing for people with low incomes must be substantially increased. Expansion of affordable housing for middle income-earners is also a priority, but not at the expense of programs for low income-earners and homeless people.”

“State Governments are making multi-million losses on public housing – NSW alone is ‘losing’ over $900 million,” Mr Pisarski said. “The reason is simple: to keep rents affordable they are held at 25% of income, and social security payments are too low: $270 a week for a single adult on Newstart Allowance. It’s not surprising that the share of social (public and community) housing dwellings has fallen from 5.5% to 4.5% over the last 15 years and waiting lists stand at 180,000 people nationally.”

“Most tenants with modest incomes rent privately. For a low-income single parent with one child renting privately, the maximum Commonwealth Rent Assistance payment is $78 a week, less than one fifth of the median rent of $420pw for a two bedroom flat in outer suburbs of Sydney and less than one quarter of the $315pw they would have to pay in Melbourne.” Dr Goldie said.

“Community housing (social housing run by non-government agencies) has potential to expand to provide secure and affordable housing for people on low incomes. The Government aims to achieve this using private funding and low-cost credit. Tenants receive Rent Assistance and their rents are held at 25% of income. The challenge here is the same as for public housing: even with Rent Assistance, theirincomes are far too low so this sector can’t thrive on private finance alone.” Mr Pisarski said.

“Too many domestic violence survivors and other homeless people are stuck on a homeless shelter merry-go-round which they can’t get off due to a lack of places in social housing. A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found over one in ten social housing tenants were previously homeless. Homeless shelters themselves are stuck in an annual funding merry-go-round.”

“We can finance the reforms we need by curtailing housing tax concessions which are a part of the problem, and help to stimulate housing construction and supply of the right kind.” Dr Goldie said.

ACOSS and National Shelter had welcomed the Government’s commitment to make affordable housing a centrepiece of the Budget and it’s vital that they follow this through. We also welcome Labor’s commitments to reform housing tax breaks, and curbing borrowing by self managed super funds and to restore a national Housing Ministry.

“It will take more than a decade to repair the damage done by the last decade of unrestrained housing price speculation. A long-term housing affordability plan led by a Commonwealth Housing Minister and backed by the States is vital,” Mr Pisarski said.

The ACOSS-National Shelter plan has six parts:

  • Slow the growth in home prices and rents by reforming tax breaks like Capital Gains Tax and negative gearing that encourage speculation in property prices. Policies that add to home prices, such as allowing people to use superannuation to buy or invest in housing, should be avoided.
  • Re-invest in social housing through the NAHA, with clear accountability for States to expand and properly maintain social housing (public and community) for people with low incomes.
  • Improve the incomes of people relying on social security payments, especially the $38 a day Newstart Allowance and Rent Assistance. Consider higher Rent Assistance payments in the most expensive areas.
  • Encourage private investment in social housing through a social housing finance corporation (bond aggregator) to provide low cost credit, and a new rental housing investment incentive for affordable housing for low and modest income-earners to replace ‘negative gearing’.
  • We welcome the Government’s and Labor’s support for a bond aggregator but this alone will not make social housing sustainable: direct public investment and Rent Assistance must be increased.
  • Funding for homelessness services must be secured for at least five years, and innovations like ‘housing first’ strategies and better links with social housing should be promoted.
  • States should work with the Commonwealth and Local Government to release land for affordable housing through ‘inclusionary zoning’ and progressively replace housing Stamp Duties (which make it harder to buy a first home or move house) with a Land Tax extending to owner-occupied properties.

UTS – Billions in Revenue Government Missing Out On

Chevron is just the start: modelling shows how many billions in revenue the government is missing out on

April 26, 2017 5.55am AEST

Roman Lanis
Associate Professor, Accounting, University of Technology Sydney
Brett Govendir
Lecturer, University of Technology Sydney
Ross McClure
PhD Candidate, casual academic, University of Technology Sydney

Disclosure statement

Roman Lanis consults for Get Up Australia and is a co-author of the report discussed in the article.
Brett Govendir consults for Get Up Australia and is a co-author of the report discussed in the article.
Ross McClure consults for Get Up Australia and is a co-author of the report discussed in the article.

University of Technology Sydney

The federal government could collect billions more in royalties and tax revenue if it changed the rules on debt loading and adopted alternative royalty schemes in dealing with oil and gas giants, new modelling shows.

Our modelling, funded by lobby group GetUp, found that over the four-year period from 2012 to 2015, Chevron’s average effective interest rate was 6.4%. However, it has been steadily reducing from 7.8% in 2012 to 5.7% in 2015.

We estimated that if Australia adopted a similar approach to Hong Kong to eliminate debt loading abuse, United States oil and gas giant Chevron would have been denied A$6.27 billion in interest deductions, potentially increasing tax revenues by A$1.89 billion over the four-year period (2012-2015).

The issue of debt loading abuse was highlighted last week when the full bench of the Federal Court dismissed unanimously Chevron’s appeal against the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), ordering the company to pay more than A$300 million.

Chevron Australia was using debt loading, where, compared its equity, it borrowed a large amount of debt at a high interest rate from its US subsidiary (which borrows at much lower rates). It did this in order to shift profits from high to low tax jurisdictions.

Based on Australia’s existing “thin capitalisation” rules, there is a maximum allowable debt that interest deductions can be claimed on, in a company’s tax return. Companies can exceed this debt but the interest charges must be at “arm’s length” - at commercial rates.

Chevron’s size and financial strength allow it to negotiate very competitive (low) rates on its external borrowings and this was the main issue in the Federal Court case. As the court has now ruled on what constitutes a reasonable interest rate for inter-company loans, this benchmark will likely be adopted by the ATO.

It can now approach and enforce this benchmark in similar disputes with confidence that companies engaged in debt loading will want to settle rather than engage in a costly court battle.

What the government could save from addressing debt loading

Chevron’s tax avoidance measures meant the interest rate, adjusted for maximum allowable debt, varied only slightly from their effective rate. Our modelling showed that if the ATO had applied the thin capitalisation rules to Chevron’s accounts each year over the four-year period, it would’ve reduced Chevron’s interest deduction by A$461 million and potentially generate an additional tax liability of A$138 million.

We modelled a scenario where Chevron Australia’s interest deductions were limited to the group’s external interest rate, applied to its level of debt. This would have reduced in the interest deduction by A$4.8 billion over the four year period, potentially generating A$1.4 billion in additional tax revenue.

We also worked out what would happen if Australia applied the debt loading rules Hong Kong does currently. Hong Kong disallows all deductions for related-party interest payments, making abuse of the system difficult. According to the latest ATO submission to the Senate tax inquiry, investment in the extraction of Australian oil and gas is almost entirely in the form of related-party loans.

Chevron Australia’s debt is entirely made up of related-party loans. If the Hong Kong solution was operating in Australia, we found that Chevron would have been denied A$6.275 billion in interest deductions, potentially increasing tax revenues by A$1.89 billion over the four-year period.

We also looked at ExxonMobil Australia, which also has high amounts of related-party debt (98.5%), and the Hong Kong solution would have denied ExxonMobil A$2.7 billion in interest deductions, potentially increasing tax revenue by more than A$800 million for the same period.

US oil and gas company Chevron lost a Federal Court appeal against the ATO. Toru Hanai/ Reuters
Changing the PRRT for more revenue

Our report also includes an analysis of the potential for additional revenue from replacing the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) with resource rent systems used in the US and Canada. Oil and gas sales have increased from an average of A$5.96 billion per year between 1988 and 1991, to an annual average of A$33.3 billion between 2012 and 2015, indicating the huge growth in this sector.

We modelled what would happen if the US and the Alberta, Canada, royalty schemes were applied to Australian production volumes and realised prices, to compare returns to those achieved by the PRRT.

The US royalty scheme charges a flat percentage royalty on production volumes, priced at the well-head. The royalty rate was progressively increased in the US from 12.5% to 18.75% between 2006 and 2008.

Based on the data from Australian production volumes and realised sales prices, the US royalty scheme could have potentially raised an additional A$5.9 billion in revenue for Australia since 1988, or A$212 million per year.

However, over the period from 2010 to 2015, the additional revenues would have been almost A$2.5 billion per year. This is because of both the decline in the PRRT revenues, relative to price and volumes, and the increase in the royalty rate in the US.

However, while the US scheme would raise more than the PRRT, the Alberta royalty scheme would raise substantially more revenue than both of these schemes. The Alberta scheme is progressive in nature, meaning the royalty rate increases with the realised price, similar to income levels and personal income tax rates.

The Alberta scheme has been amended many times and the current scheme only started in January 2017, so the full effects of this scheme will not be evident for some time. However, based on the data from Australian production volumes and realised sales prices, we calculate the Alberta royalty scheme would have raised an additional A$103 billion in revenue since 1988, or an additional A$3.7 billion per year.

As the scheme was only implemented this year, these results may be unrealistic, but are indicative of the level of revenue that could be raised. Over the period from 2010 to 2015, the additional revenue would have been A$11.3 billion per year.

The modelling done for our report considers just two multinational corporations, their use of debt loading and the PRRT. Now we can can hope for more revenue collection from many of the multinationals operating in Australia, as a result of the recent Federal Court ruling.

Critically, too often corporations are able to work within Australia’s tax rules to avoid paying for operating here, by constantly arguing they can’t develop business in Australia unless there are tax breaks. Our modelling demonstrates governments need to ensure corporations benefiting from the use of Australia’s resources are contributing the same as they do in other jurisdictions.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

International Women's Day: The Militant History of a Global Celebration

When Russian women took to the streets to mark International Women's Day in 1917, they sparked the start of the revolution that would change the course of history.

Political and social unrest had been brewing as a result of economic inequality, food shortages and anger over Russia's disastrous involvement in World War I.

But when female textile workers left their factories in the then-capital Petrograd — on February 23 in the Julian calendar, March 8 in the Gregorian — to march for "Bread and Peace", their action prompted food riots and a mass strike.

The army backed the demonstrators, the tsar was toppled and women were granted the right to vote.

PHOTO: The 1917 Russian revolution was triggered by a textile workers strike on IWD. (Creative Commons)
Early rallies demanded better working conditions

Australian National University emeritus professor Marian Sawer said most people were probably unaware that IWD had its origins in the international socialist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century.

"It was of course largely owned by the Communist Party and by socialist women up until the arrival of the second wave of the women's movement, in Australia, for example, at the end of the '60s," Professor Sawer said.

PHOTO: Clara Zetkin
German socialist and women's rights activist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) campaigned for an international day to support women's rights.

The first women's national day was organised by the Socialist Party of America in 1909 to commemorate the New York garment workers strike the previous year, when thousands of women had demonstrated in support of better conditions.

At this time, European socialists were wary of the British women's suffrage movement, fearing that enfranchised women would vote conservative.

But at an international socialist conference in Copenhagen in 1910, German socialist Clara Zetkin won support from delegates from 17 countries for an international working women's day to campaign for suffrage and equal rights.

"There were still many men in the German Social Democratic Party and other socialist parties who didn't think this was a good idea," Professor Sawer said.

"But nonetheless Clara Zetkin was a very strong personality and she persevered."

IWD was marked for the first time on March 19, 1911 by more than one million women (and men) in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland.

At a meeting of the Communist International — or Comintern — in 1921, Bulgarian delegates successfully argued that IWD be permanently celebrated on March 8 to honour the women who had triggered the Russian revolution.

First Australian IWD organised by Communist Party

The first IWD in Australia was celebrated in 1928, with a rally in Sydney's Domain, organised by the Militant Women's Group of the Communist Party.

Among those in attendance, demanding equal pay, was activist Edna Ryan (1904-97), later a founding member of the Women's Electoral Lobby.

"In the decades following that, Edna Ryan continued her campaigning for women's rights and in 1974 was ... largely responsible for the full minimum wage finally being extended to women," Professor Sawer said.

The United Nations began celebrating IWD during International Women's Year in 1975.

"It's a time that women can identify with the collective, ongoing struggle for gender equality, for closing the wages gap ... eliminating gender-based violence and so on," Professor Sawer said.

"And a time to say this is not just a celebration of what women have achieved but also a time to take stock of what still has to be done."

PHOTO: Marching though Sydney streets on IWD, 2011. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Peter Doherty: Why Australia Needs to March for Science

April 21, 2017 9.32am AEST

Peter C. Doherty
Laureate Professor, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Peter C. Doherty is a founding board member of The Conversation, and is funded by an NHMRC Program Grant investigating immunity to the influenza A viruses. He will soon step down as Board Chair for the ending ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science, and serves in that capacity on the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology. His most recent book (2015) is 'The Knowledge Wars'.

The following article is adapted from a speech to be delivered at the Melbourne March for Science on Saturday 22 April, 2017.

The mission posted on the March for Science international website states:

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest. The March for Science is a celebration of science.
To me, it seems the reason concerned people across the planet are marching today is that, at least for the major players in the English-speaking world, there are major threats to the global culture of science.

Why? A clear understanding of what is happening with, for example, the atmosphere, oceans and climate creates irreconcilable problems for powerful vested interests, particularly in the fossil fuel and coastal real estate sectors.

Contrary to the data-free “neocon/trickle down” belief system, the observed dissonance implies that we need robust, enforceable national and international tax and regulatory structures to drive the necessary innovation and renewal that will ensure global sustainability and a decent future for humanity and other, complex life forms.

Here in Australia, the March for Science joins a global movement initiated by a perceived anti-science stance in Donald Trump’s administration.

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal

In the USA, President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 incorporates massive cuts to the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

And, though it in no sense reflects political hostility and deliberate ignorance, British scientists are fearful that Brexit will have a terrible impact on their funding and collaborative arrangements.

How does this affect us in Australia? Why should we care? The science culture is international and everyone benefits from progress made anywhere. NOAA records, analyses and curates much of the world’s climate science data. A degraded EPA provides a disastrous model for all corrupt and regressive regimes.

Science depends on a “churn”, both of information and people. After completing their PhD “ticket”, many of our best young researchers will spend 3-5 years employed as postdoctoral fellows in the USA, Europe and (increasingly) the Asian countries to our north, while young American, Asian and European/British scientists come to work for a time with our leading scientists.

The proposed 2018 US President’s budget would, for example, abolish the NIH Fogarty International Centre that has enabled many young scientists from across the planet to work in North America. In turn, we recruited “keepers” like Harvard-educated Brian Schmidt, our first, resident Nobel Prize winner for physics and current Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU).

We might also recall that – supported strongly by Prime Ministers JJ Curtin and RG Menzies – the ANU (with 3 Nobel Prizes to its credit) was founded as a research university to position us in science and international affairs.

Not a done deal, yet

What looks to be happening in the US is not a done deal.

The US political system is very different from our own. The Division of Powers in the US Constitution means that the President is in many respects less powerful than our PM.

Unable to introduce legislation, a President can only pass (or veto) bills that come from the Congress. Through to September, we will be watching a vigorous negotiation process where separate budgets from the House and the Senate (which may well ignore most, if not all, of the President’s ambit claims) will develop a “reconciled” budget that will be presented for President Trump’s signature.

How March for Science might help

The hope is that this international celebration of science will cause US legislators, particularly the more thoughtful on the right of politics, to reflect a little and understand what they risk if they choose to erode their global scientific leadership.

There are massive problems to be solved, along with great economic opportunities stemming from the development of novel therapies and new, smart “clean and green” technologies in, particularly, the energy generation and conservation sector.

Ignoring, or denying, problems does not make them go away. Whether or not the message is welcome, the enormous power of science and technology means we can only go forward if future generations are to experience the levels of human well-being and benign environmental conditions we enjoy today.

There is no going back. The past is a largely imagined, and irretrievable country.

“Deeply Flawed” Visa Program – ACTU Resigns from Skilled Migration Council

ACTU resigns from skilled migration council after “deeply flawed” visa program announced
21 April 2017

President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Ged Kearney has resigned her position on the Government’s Ministerial Advisory Council for Skilled Migration (MASCM).  

MACSM is an important committee set up to advise the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton on Australia’s temporary and skilled migration programs. 

Ms Kearney made the decision to quit the council following the Turnbull Government’s decision to create two new classes of skilled migration visas to replace 457 visas and cut 216 professions from the skilled migration list with no consultation with MACSM.  

Reasons for resignation:

  • The Government’s replacement of the 457 visa system was not discussed with MACSM.
  • The new visa policy was announced with very little detail indicating policy making on the run and political point scoring rather than a considered effective approach 
  • The Government has done nothing to change the flawed visa labour market testing system nor has it protected jobs for many Australians worried about job security.
  • The Minister’s announcements in no way address the union movement‘s concerns regarding the rampant exploitation by employers of temporary migrant workers. 
  • The reforms do nothing to address employers rorting the use of visas for many occupations which remain on the list. 

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney: 

  •  “Had the Minister brought his ideas to the MACSM, the ACTU would have advised a different approach; that he ignored the committee renders it completely irrelevant”.  
  •  “I would have made it clear that the occupations that remain on the list, which include roof tilers, carpenters, joiners, chefs, cooks midwives, nurses and real estate agents, do not accurately reflect the genuine labour shortages in Australia.” 
  •  “The changes to the skilled migration visa system are only relevant to one in 10 visa holders so actually do not protect jobs for local workers.” 

The Minister would have been far better off, starting from scratch building a new skills list and vastly increasing the barriers for employers to hire migrant workers as well as raising the penalties for their abuse. 

“The visa system is being rorted and workers are being exploited every day but the Government only cares about its political survival.” 

“Australian’s want to see a government that stands up for workers through stopping penalty rates cut, supporting a decent increase to the minimum wage, stopping casualisation of work and creating jobs.”

Friday, April 21, 2017

Guarding the Galilee Documentary (2017) - Trailer

Billy Bragg stands in solidarity with MUA

"There is power in a factory, power in the land, power in the hands of a worker. But it all amounts to nothing if together we don't stand, there is power in a union" - Billy Bragg -

Billy Bragg stands in solidarity with MUA members at Patrick, Port Botany. He is against Patrick opening a new non-union depot at Port Botany and will not let the company undermine the working conditions and wages of Australian wharfies, which have been won by union struggle. Billy joins the Australian trade union movement, as well as the international working class to #defendpatrickdockers - See more at:

Climate and Health Alliance

Sydney May Day March – 7 May 2017

When – 7 May 2017 12 pm
Where – Hyde Park North Sydney

UK – Jeremy Corbyn targets "Cosy Cartel" of the Establishment

Jeremy Corbyn said on Thursday he would defeat a "cosy cartel" at the heart of British politics, casting himself as the anti-establishment challenger in a snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The pledge, to be delivered via higher taxes on the wealthy and a crackdown on powerful corporations, set the tone for a campaign in which the veteran left-winger will try to defy opinion polls that point to a heavy defeat.
  • "It is the establishment versus the people and it is our historic duty to make sure that the people prevail," Corbyn told party supporters in central London.
  • "We don’t accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax-dodgers."
Corbyn is looking to harness a powerful anti-establishment mood revealed by last year's EU referendum.
  • "How dare they crash the economy with their recklessness and greed, and then punish those who had nothing to do with it?" he said, referring to the 2007-9 financial crisis.
  • "The British people know that they are the true wealth creators, held back by a system rigged for the wealth extractors."
"May will try to downplay the issues that affect people's lives every day and instead turn the election into an ego trip about her own failing leadership and the machinations of the coming negotiations in Brussels," he said.

In light of growing public anger about stagnant wages and businesses that pay low taxes, Corbyn said he would scrap planned cuts to corporation tax and reverse tax breaks for wealthy individuals.
  • "We will not longer allow those at the top to leech off those who bust their guts on zero-hours contracts, or those forced to make sacrifices to pay their mortgage or pay their rent," he said.
  • "Instead of the country's wealth being hidden in tax havens, we will put it in the hand of the people."
The political system was biased in favour of large companies, he said. "It is these rules that have allowed a cosy cartel to rig the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

UK Elections – Kick out MAY in JUNE !!!

At Prime Minister May’s Questions before the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told her that she could not be trusted after she made a U-turn on her numerous claims that she would not hold an early election.

This was later echoed by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who said: “Isn’t the truth that we cannot believe a single word the PM says?”

Mr Corbyn repeatedly challenged the Prime Minister to face him in live television debates which she brushed off — and now broadcaster ITV has pledged to “empty chair” her if she continues to refuse.

The Prime Minister claimed that she would rather be campaigning out on the streets, adding: “Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger.”

Mr Corbyn replied: “She says it’s about leadership, yet is refusing to defend her record in television debates and it’s not hard to see why.

“The Prime Minister says we have a stronger economy, yet she can’t explain why people’s wages are lower today than they were 10 years ago or why more households are in debt, six million people earning less than the minimum wage, child poverty is up, pensioner poverty is up.
“Why are so many people getting poorer?”

Mr Corbyn said: “If she’s so proud of her record, why won’t she debate it?”

The Labour leader suggested that the Prime Minister is reluctant to take to the stand because her party’s crippling austerity policies have failed.

He also pointed to the Tories’ record of broken manifesto pledges since coming to power in 2010.
“Over the last seven years the Tories have broken every promise on living standards, the deficit, debt, the National Health Service and schools funding. Why should anyone believe a word they say over the next seven weeks?” he said.

In his first speech of the campaign, Mr Corbyn explained that in this election and in government he won’t “play by the rules of the Tory game,” but stand up for the British people who “are the true wealth creators, held back by a system rigged for the wealth extractors.”

ANMF – New Report Exposes Exploitation in Medical Supply Chains

Thursday 20th April, 2017

A new report conducted by the country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), in conjunction with The Australia Institute has revealed high-levels of exploitation and human rights abuses suffered by low-wage workers involved in the overseas production of every-day medical goods used by Australians.

According to the report titled Do No Harm? Procurement of Medical Goods by Australian Companies and Government the production of surgical gloves and instruments, clothing, footwear and electronics, is “tainted by hazardous working conditions, labour exploitation, child labour and other abuses” and Australian firms and governments are failing to address it.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the damning findings showed the “hidden cost” of the unethical procurement and production of heath care products, with low-paid workers in parts of the Asia Pacific paying the price for the health and well-being of Australian consumers.

  • “The reality is workers in these developing countries continue to be exploited as they help produce healthcare goods for the benefit of the Australian market,” Ms Thomas said.
  • “In manufacturing commonly-used products such as rubber gloves, instruments and garments, the report reveals that their supply chains have high levels of child labour and a shocking lack of health and safety procedures in place, with no trade union representation for these exploited workers.”

While many ASX-listed healthcare companies have established policies addressing supply chain practices, the report found that only two out of 10 medical goods companies listed on the ASX have an ethical sourcing policy.

  • “It’s troubling that Australia lags behind other countries such as Sweden and Norway and the UK in protecting workers across medical supply chains. It seems Australian companies are turning a blind eye to the dreadful human rights abuses occurring in the manufacturing of their products overseas,” Ms Thomas explained.
  • “As a civilised nation, Australia has a moral obligation to be doing more. The ANMF is calling on the Australian Government to take more action and commit to a national action plan to implement the United Nations’ guiding principles on business and human rights and introduce reporting that require companies to demonstrate measures to mitigate exploitation and abuse.
  • “Currently none of the ASX listed companies have published policies on rights of migrant workers, the use of labour hire companies, recruitment fees, written pay slips and confiscation of passports. This should be a mandatory requirement by the Australian Government before companies are awarded lucrative contracts.”

To view the Do No Harm report, go to

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MUA – Any New Visa System Must Address Coastal Shipping

Maritime Union Says Any New Visa System Must Address Coastal Shipping
Posted by Mua communications on April 18, 2017

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says any changes to Australia’s visa system must address current deficiencies in Maritime Crew Visas and the issuing of temporary licenses for coastal shipping trade when there are Australian workers available and willing to do the work.

The Turnbull Government today announced new categories of foreign worker visas, a 2-year visa under which there will be no residency option and a 4-year visa for higher skilled jobs requiring mandatory criminal checks and better English in clear areas of need to replace the 457 visa.

Mr Turnbull said the government would no longer allow 457 visas “to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians”.

The announcement came on the same day aviation industry advocates said changes in cabotage laws would lead to reduced safety and job losses in Australia’s vast transport sector.

Qantas’ submission to the Senate red tape committee chaired by NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm warned overseas carriers should not be allowed to operate on domestic routes in Australia as any changes would have substantial economic, employment and operational risks.

"Put simply, this would be a disastrous trade negotiation strategy and deny Australian airlines a clear measure of certainty around which they can base long-term investment planning," it says.

Qantas also warns of safety risks flowing from airlines "operating in lower-cost safety regimes with different standards" and potential job losses.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the same arguments were true in shipping as made in the MUA submission to the Senate red tape committee and that future changes should tighten cabotage rules as opposed to any move towards deregulation.

Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester has released a discussion paper and aims to introduce new legislation covering coastal shipping later this year.

  • "Australia has a very strict cabotage regime for aviation where foreign companies can't just come here and operate on domestic routes but there has been a very liberal approach to cabotage for the maritime sector," Mr Crumlin said.
  • “Without strong rules, Australian companies have to compete with cheap, exploited foreign labour, without adequate criminal checks, on Flag-of-Convenience vessels, the owners of which pay no tax and often flout safety laws.
  • “The Minister’s response needs to address taxation changes and the regime covering the issuing of temporary licences, in addition to fixing deficiencies in Maritime Crew Visas for foreign seafarers.

Mr Crumlin cited Canadian Government’s settlement in February with the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada over breaches of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that will lead to hundreds of jobs for Canadian seafarers in their domestic trade.

Earlier this year, the UK Government said it was preparing to defend its maritime industry against the rise of cheap foreign shipping that threaten to price British seafarers out of the North Sea.

In addition, United States Customs and Border Protection officials are poised to revise dozens of rulings related to the Jones Act dating back 40 years that would restore over 3,200 American jobs and close loopholes that gave preference to foreign workers and foreign shipbuilding.

“The global trend among governments is to be more introspective and geared towards protecting local industries and jobs. Australian jobs in coastal shipping should be a no brainer – whether you look at it with respect to local jobs, national security, fuel security or protecting the environment.”

- See more at

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Poll – 70 per cent of Australians Believe Minimum Wage Too Low

Nearly 70 per cent of Australians believe the minimum wage is too low, including a strong majority of Coalition voters, a new poll has found.

Only one in five Australians believe the $17.70 an hour minimum wage is "about right" and just four per cent of people think it is too high, according to the polling commissioned by the peak union body, the ACTU.

Conducted last week, the Essential Research online poll of 1015 people found 69 per cent of Australians want a higher minimum wage, with 33 per cent of those respondents saying it should be "much higher". Nearly 60 per cent of Liberal National voters believe it should be higher, as do 77 per cent of Labor voters.

The ACTU has asked the workplace relations umpire to raise the minimum wage by $45 a week, triple the 2016 $15.80 increase. Such an increase would lift the minimum wage to $37,420 a year.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has released polling showing strong support for a rise in the minimum wage.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recommended a 1.2 per cent increase of $8.10 per week and the Australian Industry Group is arguing for a 1.5 per cent rise, in line with inflation, of $10.10 per week.

The Turnbull government has urged the Fair Work Commission to take a cautious approach, warning an "excessive" rise in the minimum wage rise could imperil job creation in a changing economy.

The government's submission to the commission's annual wage review - which will result in a decision on the minimum wage by the middle of the year - angered low-paid workers already hurt by cuts to Sunday penalty rates.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Employment Minister Senator Michaelia Cash have warned against an "excessive" rise.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the government should focus on low-paid workers rather than pushing through its business tax cut plan.

  • "Turnbull has been listening to his corporate friends in the business lounge for too long.  He won't support a real wage increase for low-paid workers, yet more people are working casual and part-time jobs and finding it harder to make ends meet," she said. 
  • Workers on the minimum wage get $17.70 an hour.
  • "The ACTU's submission that we should increase the minimum wage by $45 a week would not only boost family budgets, it would flow on to substantial growth across the whole economy," she said.

Essential says the margin of error on its polling is 3 per cent.​

Australia Institute Steps up Campaign against Adani

The progressive thinktank the Australia Institute is stepping up its campaign against the controversial Adani Carmichael mine proposal, publishing an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull questioning the project.

The questions being posed via a full-page advertisement in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday include whether the Adani mine, if it proceeds, will pay full coal royalties to the Queensland government, or whether the project has been granted a royalty holiday.

The group is also asking whether Adani will pay the full company tax rate in Australia, whether the project will actually generate 10,000 jobs, whether the company will pay for the billions of litres of water it will use and whether the production of “new subsidised coal” will reduce jobs and exports in other parts of Queensland.

The renewed activism against the project follows a commitment by the company on Tuesday to locate a new operational headquarters in Townsville.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the Indian multinational had made a commitment to the state government to employ local workers, not bring in employees on 457 visas.

Federal Nationals and the Queensland state Labor government want the project to be given a concessional loan from the $5bn Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund if that improves the viability of the development.

The government has confirmed this week it is considering lending $1bn towards a 388km railway line associated with the Carmichael mine. On Monday, the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, met the Adani Group chairman, Gautam Adani, in Melbourne to discuss the project.

But federal Labor said on Tuesday the project needed to proceed or not proceed on the basis of commercial merit, not subsidy.

“If the Adani coalmine stacks up commercially then we welcome the jobs that it will provide in Northern Queensland,” the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, said.

“In terms of accessing taxpayer money through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, we haven’t seen the case made out for that. The deal should stand up under its own commercial merits.”

The Adani Australia chief executive, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, told reporters on Tuesday the company would welcome a concessional loan.

Monday, April 17, 2017

GetUp! Targets Xenophon's Dud Deal

After Nick Xenophon broke his corporate tax election promise – blowing a $24 billion hole in our precious school and hospital funding – GetUp members sprang into action. 

Here's what our people-powered movement achieved: 
Phase one was a hard-hitting media campaign online, on the phones and on the streets of Adelaide, to make sure SA voters were aware of Nick Xenophon's dud deal. Check out our giant 'Nick, don't be a corporate doormat' billboard on Rundle Street! 

We backed in our media campaign by taking the message to Nick Xenophon's office in Adelaide. SA GetUp members (joined by some special four-legged guests) gave Xenophon a taste of his own medicine – imitating his flashy, media-grabbing style! 

Media coverage of our campaign made headlines across the country! We were even covered in a snarky beat-up piece in the Murdoch Press, and when they're on the attack, we know we're kicking goals. 

Our swift, strategic response to Xenophon's dodgy corporate tax deal is a reminder to politicians everywhere: no matter who you are, no matter what your political leanings, GetUp members will hold you to account. 

DEATHS AT WORK – Politics in the Pub 29 April 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

ANMF – Hidden Cost of your Healthcare

What is the Hidden Cost of your Healthcare?

New Report: Procurement of Medical Goods by Australian Companies and Government
There are hidden costs in the production and procurement of medical goods by Australian companies and the public sector: mounting evidence shows that there is a high occurrence of labour and human rights abuses in the production of goods such as gloves, surgical instruments, clothing, footwear and electronics.  The production of these healthcare goods is tained by hazardous working conditions, labour explitation, child labour and other abuses.
Exploitation in Medical Goods Supply Chains | View PDF
The existence of human rights abuses in medical goods supply chains has implications for Australian healthcare companies and public procurement, as the health and well-being of Australians should not come at the cost of the abuse and exploitation of workers in low-wage countries.  
Australian healthcare companies that produce or procure these items, as well as governement, healthcare organisations and end-users, have the power and the responsibility to protect workers in the medical goods supply chains.
What the Government should do | View PDF
Although the healthcare sector constitutes the fourth largest ASX industry and includes businesses that produce goods such as gloves and healthcare electronics, as well as procuring companies such as aged-care providers, specialised healthcare services, and companies that retail pharmaceuticals, the Australian healthcare industry is not doing enough to address the human rights risks in its operations and supply chains.
The Do No Harm Report as uncovered that while most healthcare manufacturers show that they are aware of their human rights impacts, their policies often do not address critical areas such freedom of association, sourcing of raw materials, vulnerability of migrant workers and access to remediation.
Who are the ASX-listed Healthcare Companies in Australia?
Among procuring healthcare companies, only two out of ten have established and disclosed a supply chain or sourcing policy, while other ASX-listed healthcare procurers neglect to publicly address the human rights impacts of their business activities.
The report examines Australian publicly listed manufacturers Ansell, Lochlear, Fisher and Paykel, Nanosonics and Resmed. None of the companies have published policies on rights of migrant workers, the use of labour hire companies, recruitment fees, written payslips and confiscation of passports.
The report also examines publicly listed companies that provide healthcare goods including; Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, Estia Health, Healthscope, Japara Healthcare, Primary Health Care, Ramsay Health Care, Regis Healthcare, Sigma Pharmaceuticals, Sonic Healthcare, Virtus Health.

NUW NSW fights hard for casual workers at DHL Ingleburn

The battle for workers rights is heating up at DHL Ingleburn where the NUW NSW Organiser Charlie Morgan has just lodged a log of claims on behalf of the sites 90 workers.

The workers comprise of 30 permanent staff and 60 causal workers employed by Action and Belway labour hire firms to load and unload shipping containers at the Ingleburn site.

The majority of the 25 claims relate to protections for the casual workers including job security, an inadequate wage offer, no guarantee of conditions for relocating staff and access to full time positions.

NUW Organiser Charlie Morgan said many of the casual workers were desperate for permanent positions and deeply concerned about the attempted undercutting of wages and stripping of conditions.

  • “Many casuals have worked for DHL for long periods of time, including some staff who’s been here for as long as 7 years.”
  • “Employees who’ve worked for DHL for several years deserve the opportunity to become permanent after such a long period of loyal service.”
  • “The casuals who work for DHL get no paid sick leave and no annual leave. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. They cannot afford not to work and finally they’ve said ‘enough is enough.”
  • “We’re also standing up against DHL’s attempt to undercut wages by creating a new entry level position that pays up to $5 less an hour than what the other employees receive. DHL have managed to get away with it at other sites, but we want to stop them here.”
  • “To make matters worse, DHL has offered no security of conditions to employees who may be required to relocate. If they move, they risk losing pay and conditions they’ve fought hard to win and that’s just not fair or acceptable.”

But NUW NSW is fighting back and has successfully won the right to hold a ‘ballot on taking industrial action’ from the Fair Work Commission. The Electoral Commission is now expected to hold that ballot on 3rd of May which will determine whether the union can take protected industrial action.

MEAA – Vote of no confidence in News Corp management


This resolution was carried unanimously by News Corp editorial staff in Brisbane at a meeting today:

“This meeting of editorial employees in Brisbane moves a Vote of No Confidence in senior national News Corp management.

Yesterday (April 11) staff were told there would be a restructure of the business, including photography and production, that would result in significant numbers of staff being made redundant.

Staff at Bowen Hills question senior national management’s ability to build an economically viable company.

Management’s continuing answer to economic pressures is to reduce staff numbers and jeopardise the quality of the product.

On a daily basis we see our masthead’s paywall breached by and other News Corp mastheads.

We are yet to see any business innovation that turns the online model into a paying model and believe senior management needs to identify to staff the business plan to increase revenue beyond staff cost cutting.

Our decision today is made on behalf of our communities. We are prepared to work differently, learn news skills and to be innovative but not at the cost of quality or our own health.

Our readers rely on the work of our photographers to tell the story in pictures that define the story. They rely on the work of our production staff, artists, subs, designers to ensure the story is delivered accurately and across a variety of mediums.

We are appalled that across Queensland we have worked to build our online presence and connect to our markets but we are still unable to maintain a paywall or deliver papers in some regional areas before 11am.

Senior News Corp management needs to be held accountable for its poor business decisions, lack of vision and inability to consult with their employees.

We call on management to engage in constructive consultation with staff that includes a full understanding of the business model and allows for real feedback on areas where the model is failing.

We call on management to commence this consultation before any decision to further downsize editorial staff numbers is enacted.

We call on management for a response by Wednesday, April 19  2017.”

Carried unanimously.

Evacuate Manus Island Refugees

Churches and refugee advocates are calling for asylum seekers on Manus Island to be evacuated to Australia after shots were fired when local men tried to storm the facility.

The Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department has confirmed one asylum seeker was hit by a rock and injured during the violence on Good Friday evening, which reportedly included personnel from the local naval base.

However, Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-born journalist and asylum seeker held on Manus Island, says three asylum seekers and some Australian officers were hurt.

The Human Rights Law Centre spokesman Daniel Webb on Saturday said “enough is enough” and that Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, should immediately bring the men to safety in Australia.

“Most of these men were found to be refugees years ago,” he said. “Last night’s attack has again left them terrified and – after four years of fear, violence and limbo - they are completely exhausted.”

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which represents several Christian church leaders, called on the government to “act with compassion” and evacuate the camp.

“The darkness of betrayal and abandonment that we are familiar with in the Jesus story is being felt keenly by those on Manus Island this weekend,” Very Reverend Peter Catt said in a statement. “By bringing people to Australia, the US (refugee) deal may continue.

“More importantly, the healing of those who have been damaged by our nation’s policy can begin”.

The immigration department confirmed an incident had occured at the detention centre, and that there were “reports PNG military personnel discharged a weapon into the air”.

Boochani said some of the 100 shots he heard had hit accommodation buildings in the compound.

“Last night proved that Australia cannot ensure safety not only for refugees but for its citizens too,” he said on Facebook on Saturday.

Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann has called for a full investigation at the Australian-funded offshore processing centre, adding that there were conflicting reports about what had happened.

“The culture of secrecy must change,” Neumann said on Saturday. “The Turnbull government must be upfront about what has happened overnight on Manus Island.”

Peter Dutton says refugee advocates 'can bleat all they want' after PM dodges questions

Amnesty International has also called for a prompt and independent investigation, with senior director for research Anna Neistat joining the calls for the asylum seekers to be moved.
“Friday’s shooting serves as just another example that the Manus island detention facility is not a safe place for asylum seekers,” Dr Neistat said. “More incidences like this are inevitable unless the refugees and asylum seekers are relocated to safety.”

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, says those refugees who aren’t taken under an agreement with the US will settle in PNG, while non-refugees will be sent back to their home country.

Refugees detained on Manus Island would not be coming to Australia, no matter how hard refugee advocates pushed, Dutton said last week.

Friday, April 14, 2017

PSA – Land Titles Registry sale a disaster for millions in NSW

Apr 12, 2017
PSA Media release:

The NSW Government decision to lease the 150 year old Land Titles Registry to Hastings Funds Management and First State Super is a recipe for disaster for millions of property owners across NSW said the Public Service Association (PSA).

  • “It is hands down, the most appalling fire sale decision yet by a Government with a strong track record in that area”, said PSA General Secretary, Stewart Little.
  • “The Government trumpets its efforts on ‘life-changing projects’ but what could be more life changing for millions of people across NSW than to lose the security on their own property?
  • “Just as the PSA feared all along, ultimately the personal property records of the people in NSW will be held offshore given a portion of the successful consortium is based in London.”

Currently, the Government provides insurance and security of property titles. But now the Registry has been sold to a private operator, individual land owners may be forced to take out insurance to guard against unscrupulous property developers or fraud.

  • “These super companies will be out to turn a profit for their members,” Mr Little said.
  • “In recent times, Registry costs to the consumer have increased by 300%, just to fatten the company for sale and it will only get worse.
  • “How on earth can the Premier call this a win win situation?
  • “Selling a critical Government function that has such an enormous bearing on the economy and the lives of every land and property owner in NSW is nothing short of ideology gone mad.
  • “Academics, former senior staff, community groups, major newspapers, property developers and even prominent members of the Liberal Party have all joined the PSA in condemning the idea.”

Unions push to limit scope of ideologically motivated building code

13 April 2017

A meeting of unions currently affected by the Turnbull Government’s sprawling building code have met today and determined that they will work to roll back the aspects of the code which exceed the bounds of the Fair Work Act, and ultimately will endeavour to have the code repealed.

The far reaching nature of the code means that representatives from the CPSU- SPSF, TCFUA, NUW, AMWU, AWU, CFMEU, ETU, MUA, ASU, TWU all attended.

The group discussed how the code has removed many rights including any right to bargain for minimum apprentice positions in agreements and for priority to be given to local unemployed workers in new roles over temporary migrant workers. The code also effectively increases the ability for employers to further casualise and outsource their workforce.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “Affiliated unions raised concerns that the far reaching nature of the code may mean pressure being applied to workers to change agreements in areas as peripheral to commercial construction as Zoos that employ in house builders and receive commonwealth money for capital improvements, electricity networks and social housing.”
  • “The ACTU will be asking the senate to disallow any aspect of the code that bans matters from agreements that are currently allowable under the Fair Work Act.”
  • “The code is a devious and underhanded way of restricting workers’ rights to genuinely reach agreements with employers and represents an attempt to further wind back workers’ rights, not just in commercial construction, but across whole sectors of the Australian economy and society which are not generally considered as being in “the building industry”.

Monday, April 10, 2017

ACOSS – Can Treasurer Chose Right Policy?

Treasurer clears path towards a national housing affordability policy: will it be the right one?
April 10, 2017

ACOSS today welcomed the breaking of a long silence on national housing affordability policy, and the Treasurer’s commitment to making affordability for people with low incomes and homeless people a priority. It’s vital that the Govenrment now chooses the right path to housing reform.

“Reforms to housing tax concessions are essential”
We agree absolutely that improving affordability for renters on low incomes is key.
The Federal Government has four vital roles to play to make housing more affordable:
  • Removing tax distortions that have contributed to excessive growth in housing costs;
  • Re-invigorating growth in social, affordable housing for people on the lowest incomes;
  • Sparking growth in affordable housing for middle income earners; and
  • Improving the incomes of people relying on the lowest social security payments (especially the Newstart Allowance and Rent Assistance) so that they can afford not only decent housing, but a decent life for themselves and their families.
Today, we welcome the Government’s commitment to expanding social housing, including the bond aggregator idea to make low cost finance available to community housing providers. The Government will need to put flesh on the bones of this policy both before and after the budget, starting with a bold but achievable goal for expanding social housing.

Closing the ‘financing gaps’ is vital to ensuring the sustainability of this new investment by State governments and community housing services. This requires an ongoing funding commitment to States from the Commonwealth, higher rent assistance payments, and a direct incentive for new private investment in social and affordable housing. Both the Commonwealth and States must be clearly accountable for the growth of social housing. If the financing gap is not addressed, it will be low income renters who face the greatest risks.

We share the Treasurer’s goal to bring community housing up to scale, but one of the biggest barriers to achieving this goal is our low levels of social security payments, especially Newstart and Rent Assistance, which is just one quarter of the value of the UK’s housing benefit. If we want to the increase the capacity and sustainability of community housing, we must raise the adequacy of incomes of their tenants.

For people on low incomes, the Government needs a major reversal. It has cut over $15b in social security, with single parents and their children hurt the most. People unemployed have been left behind, and targeted for even harsher treatment. Adequate incomes is half of the affordability equation, and, for people on low incomes, social security is an essential part of that picture. The relentless drive to find ‘savings’ from people on low incomes must stop, with basic incomes restored to levels of decency.

Broader economic policy settings, especially tax treatment of property investments, impact on housing affordability for both low and middle income earners. The reality is that the Government must confront vested interests that benefit from our stratospheric growth in housing costs. We must abandon tax and other policies that merely add fuel to the fire rather than cooling things down.

“Reforms to housing tax concessions are essential,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie. “Negative gearing and the tax break for capital gains don’t improve housing affordability; they make it worse by fuelling home price booms like the one in Sydney right now. Less than one tenth of negatively geared housing investments are for new properties; the other nine tenths bid up the price of existing housing.
  1. “These tax breaks also make it more difficult for the Reserve Bank to manage the economy. Over-heating in housing markets is making it harder for the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates when this is needed. The tax breaks are feeding a fire which the Reserve Bank and APRA are trying to put out.
  2. “It’s not your average ‘mum and dad investors’ on middle incomes who are benefitting from the generous tax concessions that have allowed two thirds of individual rental property investors, or 1.2 million people, to report tax-deductible ‘losses’ of $14 billion in 2011.
  3. “The reality is that over half of geared housing investors are in the top 10% of personal taxpayers and 30% earn more than $500,000.”
The Treasurer is right to say making housing affordable for all will take time. As well as laying these foundations for affordable housing in the Budget, the Government must avoid taking action that makes the problem worse. Allowing access to super specifically for housing is a bad idea. The benefit will flow directly to vendors.

Easing the pension assets test for people who sell their homes only entrenches the growing inequality between older people who already own their homes and those who struggle in the private rental market. It would be unconscionable to further support the present cohort of home owners without improving Rent Assistance for all who rely on social security payments.