Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Traditional Owners are ‘Proud and Independent’

Tony McAvoy says traditional owners are ‘proud and independent’ and are not being used by anti-mining activists to block the $16bn mine

One of Australia’s leading native title lawyers has spoken publicly for the first time as a traditional owner fighting to stop the Adani mine, a campaign he said was driven by “proud and independent people” who were among the best-informed Indigenous litigants in the country.

Tony McAvoy SC, who became Australia’s first Indigenous silk in 2015, said the Wangan and Jagalingou people were keenly aware of how their priorities differed from environmentalist allies in a battle to preserve their Queensland country from one of the world’s largest proposed coalmines.

McAvoy dismissed claims by the prominent Indigenous academic Marcia Langton that Indigenous people had become “collateral damage” as the “environmental industry” hijacked the Adani issue.

He said the rhetoric of Langton and Warren Mundine, who likened anti-Adani campaigners to colonial oppressors running roughshod over Indigenous self-determination, “serves a purpose for them but is just so inaccurate”.

The barrister said to suggest that “the greens are puppet masters pulling the strings and we’re somehow puppets” was wildly off the mark and disrespectful to the many families opposing the mine, including his.

The W&J are the only Indigenous group in Australia to have, in McAvoy, a senior counsel with expertise in native title law within their ranks.

“We are likely to be one of the best informed claimant groups in the country, we have many people who are experienced in native title, including my own input, and representation by an extraordinary team of lawyers,” he said.

McAvoy is part of a contingent within W&J who have mounted legal challenges to an Indigenous land use agreement (Ilua) with Adani, contesting the right of pro-Adani representatives to approve a deal previously spurned by their claim group. The miner resurrected an Ilua last year with majority support in the W&J native title applicant, then sought to register it with the native title tribunal.

But the W&J opponents challenged the deal in the federal court, on grounds including that the pro-Adani applicant members were voted out in a claim group meeting, and that a rival meeting that endorsed the Adani deal was not legitimate.

Then Adani’s hopes suffered a blow with the McGlade native title case, which found that an Ilua was invalid because not all Indigenous representatives had signed it.

The shock precedent prompted the government to put up a bill changing native title legislation to safeguard what it argued were hundreds of Iluas thrown into doubt because they had a majority but not all the signatures of claimants.

The bill also contains amendments that would pave the way for Adani’s unregistered, contested Ilua.

Langton lashed out at Greens and environmentalists on Wednesday for delaying the government’s bill “in order to bolster their campaign against the Adani project”.

In an Australian mining industry lecture, Langton said: “Let me be clear for those who are not aware of the problems we face: cashed-up green groups, some funded by wealthy overseas interests, oppose mining projects with often-flimsy evidence and misrepresent the evidence to the public.”

“They deliberately thwart the aspirations and native title achievements of the majority of Indigenous people by deception, by persuading the media and the public that a small handful of Indigenous campaigners who oppose the legitimate interests of the majority of their own people, are the truth-tellers and heroes.”

Until now, the public faces of the anti-Adani group in the W&J have been Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson. Their advocacy has been portrayed by Adani supporters as a minority protest, propped up by furtive green support.

But the cracks appear in that portrayal when McAvoy’s role in the group is taken into account. Where Burragubba (“my father’s youngest brother – and we’re very close”) has a background as an activist, McAvoy’s advocacy has been in the context of the most distinguished legal career of any Indigenous Australian.

His role as senior counsel assisting the royal commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory is the latest chapter.

He and a swathe of the W&J argue there should be no rush to pass law changes dealing with critical issues around Indigenous property rights through future land access deals.

McAvoy argues for “splitting the bill” to validate Iluas already registered with the National Native Title Tribunal, but not those unregistered, such as Adani’s. McAvoy said he hoped this proposal would find favour with Labor and crossbench senators, with the bill due for voting as early as next week.

The W&J objectors were open about the fact that “we have an alliance between our objectives [and those of environmentalists] so that we can make use of each other and we do that”, he said.

But the group raises its own funds for its legal challenges.

“And more than that, we are very, very aware that our interests of preserving our country are not entirely aligned with the green interests,” he said.

“The green interests are about the world stage and keeping greenhouse gases in the ground, and there’s concern about preserving that particular bit of country, but it’s of a lower order [for them].

McAvoy said the “real test” of the independence of Adani’s W&J opponents was “what our approach and our understanding is – and we are independent and proud people”.

A land access deal is crucial to Adani gaining finance for the mine, initially needing $3.3bn.

The miner last week cited the end of this year as its deadline for finance. But the federal court this week signalled a trial to decide the fate of Adani’s deal with the W&J would take place in March 2018.

McAvoy said that even if the Senate “amends the Native Title Act in the way proposed [by the government], that proceeding is still to run its course”.

Massive boost for regional rail after Victoria secures extra $600m from Turnbull

Victoria's regional rail system will get a $1.57 billion overhaul after the Turnbull government agreed to contribute an additional $600 million to fund the network's upgrade.

Earlier this year the Andrews government announced a major rail upgrade by banking on a federal funding bonus it claimed it was owed for leasing the Port of Melbourne. But the Commonwealth derided that promise as a "Santa wish list", and Victoria and the Federal Government have been locked in a bitter dispute over the money for the last two months.

The additional $600 million is being claimed by the Andrews government as a victory in a drawn-out dispute over federal funding for Victoria.

But the Turnbull Government is likely to frame the cash injection as an investment in regional infrastructure, a centrepiece of the most recent federal budget.

A letter from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, seen by Fairfax Media, confirmed the Commonwealth would provide $1.42 billion for the regional rail package.

Read More in the Age

Most Australians want renewables to be primary energy source, survey finds

The vast majority of Australians want to see the country dramatically increase the use of renewable energy, a new survey has found, despite attempts by the federal government to characterise renewables as unreliable and expensive.

The Climate Institute’s national Climate of the Nation survey, published on Tuesday, pointed to frustration with the government’s inaction and lack of leadership on clean energy.

Of 2,660 respondents from across Australia, 71% agreed that climate change was occurring, continuing a trend established in the survey through 2014 and 2015. Two-thirds said they were highly concerned by its impacts, while 57% accepted that human activity was the main cause.

Ninety-six percent of respondents said they wanted the country’s primary energy source to be renewable, with support from either storage technologies (58%) or fossil fuels (38%). The phaseout of coal and replacement with clean energy received support from 59%, with 72% of those in favour calling on the government to drive the transition.

Olivia Kember, the acting chief executive of the Climate Institute, said support for renewable energy had been steadfast across 11 years of the survey and was widely seen as “economically smart” and future-focused. This remained true, she said, “even as the public discussion of energy mix has got a lot more complicated”, with the federal government labelling renewables unreliable and costly.

“It’s really striking that people have come out the other side of that discussion with really strong support for renewable energy and a strong sense that we need to go towards a cleaner energy system,” Kember said.

The finding that one-third of respondents believed the seriousness of climate change to have been exaggerated – and that 13% did not believe it to be happening at all – aligned very strongly with political affiliation, in particular One Nation and Coalition voters.

But enthusiasm for a greater dependency on renewable energy seemed nonpartisan, said Kember, with support for solar in particular consistent across just about every demographic breakdown.

People linked high electricity prices to the privatisation of electricity generation and supply (55%) and poor policy-making (44%), echoing the findings of Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, in his recent review of the sector.

Kember said the market was not seen to be functioning effectively: “What they see are higher prices, worse service and companies that seem to be profiteering.”

More than 40% of respondents said the federal government was “doing a fairly poor to terrible job” on climate change and energy, up from 33% last year. Only 18% said their efforts were “fairly good to excellent”.

The discussions of eight focus groups, convened in Adelaide, Brisbane, Parramatta and Townsville, highlighted that the Australian public felt “fatigued, discouraged and disempowered” by the politically motivated arguments around climate change.

This was coupled with what researchers characterised as a “wilful disregard” for scientists, notably the government agency CSIRO. One respondent, in a focus group in Parramatta, said climate change had been used as a “political football”.

“For a long time now – because we’ve been having this fight for such a long time – they get that climate change is a problem that needs to be solved, and they see that there’s a lot Australia can do about it,” said Kember.

“Then they look at what the government is delivering and they’re beyond unimpressed. They’re really frustrated and annoyed at the way it keeps being treated as an opportunity for partisanship, political attacks and bickering.

“While the pollies are fighting about it, they’re not getting on with solving it.”

This was despite widespread support (63%) for Australia to be an international leader on action against climate change, particularly in pioneering the development and implementation of renewable energies. Nearly three-quarters of respondents were motivated by the opportunities for the economy through jobs and investment (73%) and by protecting the environment (70%).

Relatedly, the report found that people were generally in favour of the Paris agreement to curb global warming to 1.5-2C, and could not understand why the Australian government was not making stronger attempts to deliver on it.

Nine out of 10 people opposed walking away from the Paris deal as the US did on 1 June, while almost two-thirds (61%) said Australia should “work harder” to ensure it met its overall goals.

The Guardian Read More

In just six years the Liberals and Nationals have gutted TAFE right across NSW.

In just six years the Liberals and Nationals have gutted TAFE right across NSW.

Since their election more than 5,700 staff have been sacked and right now there are 63,000 less students in the TAFE system then in 2012.

$1.7 billion has been cut from education and training, course fees have gone through the roof and TAFE colleges from all corners of NSW are facing closure.

Enough is enough. We need your help to save TAFE in NSW.

TAFE must continue to be there for working families right across the state, not just today, but into the future.

That’s why Labor is promising to rebuild one of the greatest education institutions that we have.

A Labor government will guarantee at least 70% of vocational education and training funding for TAFE, and weed out the dodgy private training providers that are ripping off young students.

We’re launching our petition to save TAFE, and need you on our side.

If you believe that TAFE should be well funded, accessible to working families, and protected into the future, sign our petition now.

Thanks for your support,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn and the "Thin Gruel" of the Queen's Speech

Jeremy Corbyn has demanded emergency funding for sprinklers in all tower blocks to prevent a repeat of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mocking the “thin gruel” of the Queen’s Speech, the Labour leader also focused on the tragedy in West London, calling on ministers to give local authorities the cash to act.

Remembering the “terrifying” scenes, Mr Corbyn noted that Labour-run Croydon Council had pledged to install sprinklers in all its tower blocks of 10 storeys or above, but other town halls have been silent.

“Such minimal fire safety standards cannot be left to a postcode lottery,” he told the Prime Minister, sitting opposite.

“Will the Government make available emergency funds for councils, to both check cladding and to install sprinklers?”

Mr Corbyn also tore into Kensington and Chelsea Council’s failure to protect people living in Grenfell Tower, saying: “When they were raising their desperate concerns they were ignored by a Conservative local authority.”

And he repeated his campaign demand for the Government to end the punishing one per cent public sector pay cap, which is due to run until the end of the decade.

“It’s not good enough to be grateful to our public service workers only at a moment of disaster,” he told the Prime Minister. “They deserve dignity.”

Turning to the Queen’s Speech, Mr Corbyn ridiculed the severely weakened Prime Minister for dumping most of her election manifesto after losing her Commons majority

He pointed to six promised measures which had bitten the dust, including the means-testing of winter fuel payments and ending the “triple lock” on pension increases – to the relief of pensioners.

New grammar schools and the pledge to end universal school meals in infant schools, replacing them with cut-price breakfasts, were also missing, Mr Corbyn noted.

“A threadbare legislative programme from a Government that has lost its majority and apparently run out of ideas altogether, “ he said.

“This would be a thin legislative programme even if it was for one year but for two years it is woefully inadequate.”

Noting that the Prime Minister was also backing away from bringing back “the barbaric practice of fox hunting”, Mr Corbyn added: “The good news may even extend to our furry friends.”

Mr Corbyn also mocked the Prime Minister’s warning, at the beginning of the election campaign, that “if I lose just six seats I will lose this election”.

“When it came to it, she lost more than four times that many seats to Labour,” he pointed out.

“From Cardiff to Canterbury, from Stockton to Kensington, people chose hope over fear. And they sent an unequivocal message: that austerity must be brought to an end.”

Mr Corbyn added: “We are a government in waiting with a policy programme that enthused and engaged millions of people.”

Jeremy Corbyn – What Was Done

UK Election – the Queen's Speech

Polly Toynbee

No gold carriage, no content worth the vellum it’s written on, nothing much to see here: move on. But where to? The Black Rod absurdity of the Queen’s speech flummery does nothing to disguise a rudderless country in the depth of crises unseen since the second word war, as two Conservative-made disasters flap home to roost – Brexit and the great austerity.

This government staggers on, still trying to strike a costly and disreputable DUP deal, blackmailed by a party of Christian fundamentalists whose laws enforce childbirth on raped underage girls. How humiliating is that to the reputation of this country that pretends to civilised values?

Controversial parts of the Tory manifesto, including foxhunting and new grammar schools, have been dropped. But that’s a sideshow. The non-ruling Tory party is riven so deeply within itself on Brexit that it is ungovernable as well as unfit to govern. The meat of this parliament is contained in eight Brexit bills, covering everything from customs, trade, immigration and agriculture to fisheries and nuclear safety. The “great repeal bill” has lost its “great”. The genuinely great question is whether any contentious Brexit legislation can ever pass through this parliament and these Conservative MPs. This is the impasse parliament.

Battle lines are drawn within the party of chaos: 30 soft Tories who would back Philip Hammond’s desire to minimise the damage done are aligned as a group opposed to Theresa May’s “No deal is better than a bad deal”. On the other side, the MP Suella Fernandes is chosen as a new face to lead the European Research Group of 60 hardened old faces who brought us to this Brexit crunch – the Redwood, IDS, Paterson, Villiers, Jenkin school of no pasarĂ¡n fanatics. No wonder No 10 today lost its head of policy.

Can May survive? All that props up the prime minister is the ferocity of that mortal split within her own ranks. Like El Cid, sent dead into battle with his body strapped to his horse, she is in the saddle with no grip on the reins. But as each side fears she might be replaced by the rival side’s leader, they stumble on behind her. Besides, no other leader would fare any better in trying to get either a hard or soft Brexit deal through their divided ranks: the fear is that might mean no deal. For a less macabre image, the Tories are following Hilaire Belloc’s dictum, keeping “ahold of nurse / For fear of finding something worse”. But what kind of nurse is Theresa May?

Can this parliament last for two years until the Brexit deal is done? The other great crisis pressing in is the deluge from seven years of austerity. Wherever MPs look, the vision is frightful. The Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, says she can’t manage with these cuts: how can she be denied?

The healthcare “capped expenditure process” forces the government to admit to the inevitable rationing of care from its harshest spending squeeze in the life of the NHS.

Canvassing at school gates, Tory MPs returned to Westminster white-faced from the wrath of parents over the widespread cuts to teachers.

What of money for fire protection of tower blocks at risk, or preserving the fire brigade?

Hammond may be soft on Brexit, but he’s hard as nails on spending, on keeping low taxes, as the Queen intoned: if that’s the priority, austerity is never-ending. But it means this government may come to its end sooner rather than later.

Sweeteners were few: the energy bill cap, foxhunting and grammar schools are gone – but 100% religious intakes for faith schools with no legislation slunk through. How does that sit with countering extremism and helping diverse communities cohabit?

On anything else there is no capacity for new policies – with 750 Whitehall policy officials taken from other departments to service the technical nightmare of Brexit. This from a civil service already bereft of a third of its ranks, so cavalierly dismissed as “bureaucrats”.

Was ever a government in such chaos? Was ever a party less fit to govern? Was ever the country brought to such a state, by the wanton fanaticism of Tory ideologues, with their toxic combination of state-shrinkers and Europhobes?

Read More


The Australian Border Force has made 40 detections of products laced with deadly asbestos so far this year, a threefold increase on 2015-2016 figures.

However, the construction firm Yuanda, who last year imported asbestos tainted building products from China including roof panels discovered by workers in the Perth Children’s Hospital, has still not faced charges despite admitting responsibility. 

The information was revealed at a Senate Estimates hearing last week.

“Border Force can’t inspect every shipment which comes into the country and that’s why offenders should have the book thrown at them in order to send a message and change behaviour,” said Dave Noonan, CFMEU Construction & General National Secretary.

“If this soft touch approach to prosecutions continues we’ll have no choice but to consider banning certain building products from certain countries on health and safety grounds until Minister Dutton is willing to take decisive action.”

Despite the increased detections, Border Force (since establishment in 2015) has, according to the latest information available, only ever applied three financial penalties for importing asbestos, there have been no court imposed fines or costs and no revocations or suspensions of licenses.

Border Force commissioned an independent report on its management of asbestos at the border last year but the terms of reference did not include an examination of Australia’s regulatory framework.

Despite this, the report found that there have been a limited number of full investigations and subsequent prosecutions of asbestos related offences, ‘as it is difficult to prosecute against a ‘mistake of fact defence.’ The report recommended Borderforce ‘prioritise the investigation to improve prosecution of offences related to asbestos importation’

“When it comes to Yuanda, this should be an open and shut case,” Dave Noonan said.

Earlier this year the CFMEU recommended in its submission to the economics committee’s non-conforming building products inquiry that the offences in the Customs Act 1901 be reformed to allow for a greater number of successful prosecutions.  The inquiry’s interim report is due 31 August 2017 and the final report on 31 October 2017.

Monday, June 19, 2017

ANMF – Poor staffing in aged care resulting in abuse of elderly

Thursday 15th June, 2017

ANMF Says It’s Time For Government to Act on Damning New Report

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says it’s time for the Government to fix the crisis in aged care, in the wake of a new damning report which contains disturbing evidence showing how the lack of minimum staffing regulations and appropriate skills mix has resulted in the abuse of elderly, vulnerable nursing home patients.

Launched today on World Elder Abuse Day 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response, found that the proportion of registered and enrolled nurses has decreased and the proportion of Assistants in Nursing/Personal Care Workers (AIN/PCW) has increased. The report outlines that 70% of direct care workers in residential care are AIN/PCW, some of whom have no minimum training qualifications.

The ANMF says this must be fixed by the Federal Government and is calling for the introduction of a skills mix of Registered Nurses (RN) 30%, Enrolled Nurses (EN) 20% and AIN/PCW 50% as the minimum skills mix to ensure safe staffing in aged care. Hours of care per day must also be addressed as a priority.

  • “Residents should receive an average of 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day – compared to the current 2.84 hours being received,” said Annie Butler, the ANMF’s Acting Federal Secretary.
  • “Clearly, there are simply not enough staff in aged care, with one witness reporting that there was ‘one qualified nurse caring for 85 people in a nursing home on a public holiday’. The report’s evidence and recommendations are a wake-up call for the Government, regulators and industry stakeholders to act on the crisis in aged care.
  • “One witness said ‘[w]e tolerate a level of staffing and staff mix in aged care that would close wards in the acute system. Despite years of discussion and criticism it is still possible to work with extremely vulnerable older people while having no relevant qualification. This should be an outrage’.“One registered nurse reported, ‘where I work NEGLECT would be without a doubt the main form of elder abuse in residential aged care’. ANMF members provided evidence that the lack of staffing can lead to instances of inadvertent abuse of elders.”

Ms Butler said the ANMF welcomed the recommendation for a comprehensive review of staffing levels against legislative standards.

“It re-affirms our ongoing calls for the Federal Government to legislate for a minimum number of registered and enrolled nurses and AIN/PCW to residents and ensure that vulnerable nursing home residents are cared for and importantly, protected from abuse.”

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

ANMF media inquiries: 0411 254 390.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

NSWTF – The Mother Country Delivers

Maurie Mulheron

What is the relevance of the recent UK election for Australian teachers and our public education system?
Quite a bit, I would argue.

For almost 40 years, Australia has blindly followed the UK into its education wars. So many of the damaging education policy settings pushed by Australian politicians and many senior advisers have had their origins in the UK.

The 10 June edition of the Sydney Morning Herald carried a NSW Department of Education job advertisement for an “Executive Director Delivery”, with an annual salary of $287,580.

Delivery? This is not an accidental word. It has no local origins. It comes directly from the UK, where Tony Blair championed the notion of “deliverology” so that a government “reform” agenda could be delivered.

His adviser was a Sir Michael Barber who even co-authored a book called Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders. After leaving government, he worked for giant edu-businesses such as Pearson and other corporations like the Boston Consulting Group.

Barber is also a champion of for-profit schooling, chairing the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund which establishes costly fee-paying school chains run on a profit basis in some of the poorest countries in the world such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. These schools, often no more than tin sheds, employ unqualified “teachers” who read from a standardised curriculum script.

But for the first time in decades, we are now hearing the language of fairness and equality rather than competition and choice returning to the main political discourse.

At first, it was Bernie Sanders in the US presidential campaign last year and now Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in the UK. And people, particularly young people, are excited by it.

In the 2017 UK election, we witnessed the first serious push-back against neoliberal economic orthodoxy that has sought to divide the world into “wealth producers” and “wealth consumers”.

The first effective politician to turn these concepts into policy was the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Her political manifesto was founded on an uncompromising belief in the right-wing ideology of an unfettered market, the privatisation of state enterprises, the deregulation of financial institutions and opposition to labour rights and organised trade unionism. A former Tory education minister, she lost no time as PM in training her gunsights on the British education system.

With the appointment of the extreme monetarist, Keith Joseph, as her education secretary, the battle-lines were drawn. His view of public education was that it was a wealth taker: a leaner, not a lifter.

In 1986, Thatcher appointed Kenneth Baker as secretary of state for education. Thatcher commanded Baker to change the system and gave him a month or two to devise the policies and the strategies.

Baker set about the task of changing the school system with some enthusiasm unburdened by any knowledge but very aware of how the politics should be played.

The void created by an absence of any serious theoretical basis for the changes was filled by political ideology, motivated by hostility towards teachers and an enduring hatred of comprehensive schooling which continues to this day.

The Conservative Party in this recent election called for academically selective schools for everyone. Think about it.

Academically selective schools for everyone. No comedian could improve on that oxymoron.

But this is the same party that said that all schools had to ensure every student was above average in test scores.

Any hope that British Labour upon returning to government in May 1997 might reverse the damage was short-lived. New Labour’s education policies were driven by the same old ideology of “choice and diversity”. Selective and specialist schools continued to be established to undermine comprehensive education.

Blair reflected the same antipathy towards comprehensive schools as had the Conservatives. Labour began to complete the destructive agenda established by Thatcher. Tony Blair’s belief in market forces was as strident as Thatcher’s.

When asked what her greatest achievement was, Thatcher is said to have replied: “New Labour”.

Under Blair, the Tory education agenda continued, with Mr Deliverology by his side for much of it.

League tables were published. Schools were named, shamed and closed. More academically selective schools were announced. Privatisation was encouraged. Business became more involved and previous local authority roles were handed to private companies. “Public/private” partnerships were created. An expanded role for churches and charities in education provision was encouraged.

Under Blair, England’s education system became even more of a marketplace with the opening of a plethora of competing religious schools, private schools, grammar schools, specialist schools, beacon schools, church schools, foundation schools, academies and so on.

Yet, what ultimately has been delivered? The UK continues to slide in international rankings, teacher morale is low, schools are seriously under-funded, the curriculum has narrowed and children endure a battery of meaningless, high-stakes tests throughout their school life.

The lessons from the UK for Australian teachers are there. We have to learn from the history of the last 40 years. We have to understand that ideas are not neutral. In short, the globalisation of destructive education policies is not accidental.
Above all, we must continue to disrupt the agenda, just as we are doing with our TAFE anti-privatisation and schools funding campaigns.

CFMEU – Detection Of Illegal Asbestos Imports Triple, But Still No Prosecutions

The Australian Border Force has made 40 detections of products laced with deadly asbestos so far this year, a threefold increase on 2015-2016 figures.

However, the construction firm Yuanda, who last year imported asbestos tainted building products from China including roof panels discovered by workers in the Perth Children’s Hospital, has still not faced charges despite admitting responsibility.

The information was revealed at a Senate Estimates hearing last week.

“Border Force can’t inspect every shipment which comes into the country and that’s why offenders should have the book thrown at them in order to send a message and change behaviour,” said Dave Noonan, CFMEU Construction & General National Secretary.

“If this soft touch approach to prosecutions continues we’ll have no choice but to consider banning certain building products from certain countries on health and safety grounds until Minister Dutton is willing to take decisive action.”

Despite the increased detections, Border Force (since establishment in 2015) has, according to the latest information available, only ever applied three financial penalties for importing asbestos, there have been no court imposed fines or costs and no revocations or suspensions of licenses.

Border Force commissioned an independent report on its management of asbestos at the border last year but the terms of reference did not include an examination of Australia’s regulatory framework.

Despite this, the report found that there have been a limited number of full investigations and subsequent prosecutions of asbestos related offences, ‘as it is difficult to prosecute against a ‘mistake of fact defence.’ The report recommended Borderforce ‘prioritise the investigation to improve prosecution of offences related to asbestos importation’

“When it comes to Yuanda, this should be an open and shut case,” Dave Noonan said.

Earlier this year the CFMEU recommended in its submission to the economics committee’s non-conforming building products inquiry that the offences in the Customs Act 1901 be reformed to allow for a greater number of successful prosecutions.  The inquiry’s interim report is due 31 August 2017 and the final report on 31 October 2017.

Supper with Sally at Winter Magic

Keep the Winter Magic going after the stalls and parade by joining us and Sally McManus in the warmth of the Alex Hotel for a light supper in an informal atmosphere, meeting with people who share your concerns and are working on solutions for the growing gap between rich and poor and the battle to stop penalty rates from being cut.
In the late afternoon Sally McManus, Secretary of the ACTU, is coming to Katoomba to meet visitors to the Blue Mountains Unions and Community stall at Winter Magic Festival. She will then join us for supper at the Alexandra Hotel from 5pm.

Book here: Supper with Sally

Tickets can be booked via the Eventbrite website for $20 plus a small booking fee via the link below and include entry and a light supper. Drinks can be purchased at the bar.

Book here:Supper with Sally
Don't delay! Tickets are limited and are going fast!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

ACTU – Government must seize chance to save Arrium, and Whyalla Jobs

16 June 2017

The Turnbull Government must act to ensure it provides the required support see a successful resolution of the negotiations for Arrium involving the Korean Consortium which has been named as the preferred bidder.

A stable future for Arrium and Whyalla is easily within reach and the Turnbull Government must act now in the interest of preserving Australian jobs.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “This is a great deal for workers at Arrium and for the community in Whyalla. It ensures a future for steel production in Australia, but it needs the support of the Federal Government.”
  • “This is an easy deal to support; It protects Australian jobs, protects Australian industry and ensures a future for a struggling community, which has pulled together and come so close to a positive outcome.”
  • “Arrium has a vital role to play in Australian construction projects, and a commitment from the Government here will not only ensure the jobs at Arrium but all the jobs that flow on from a strong steel production sector in Australia, providing Australian materials for Australian projects, which in turn will create further employment.”
  • “Thousands of jobs are hanging in the balance, and a solution is within reach. Now is the time to act”
  • “The Turnbull Government must take action now to ensure South Australia’s steel industry does not die due to government inaction in the same way car manufacturing did”

UK – May was too scared to meet the Grenfell survivors

Friday 16 June 2017

Polly Toynbee

That tomb in the sky will be forever Theresa May’s monument. Grenfell marks the spot and her visit marks the moment the last vestiges of her career were finally rubbed out. She made it her own yesterday by that fateful “visit” to a handful of senior fire officers, guarding her from any contaminating contact with the bereaved and newly homeless. Dead to emotion or empathy, she sealed her fate.

Precise blame comes later in the public inquiry: we are all overnight experts in cladding and sprinklers now. But political blame spreads right through the Conservative party, with no escape on offer. This goes far beyond the precise shockers – the Tory MPs who mockingly rejected housing regulation; the cuts to funding to councils responsible for retro-fitting fire suppressants; the disregard of coroner’s instructions after the 2009 Lakanal House tragedy; and even the plan to opt out of EU safety regulations. Conservative Kensington and Chelsea council allegedly blocking its ears to tenants’ well-founded anxiety is just the immediate scandal. But this event reaches far deeper, to the very sinews of its party’s policy.

That tower is austerity in ruins. Symbolism is everything in politics and nothing better signifies the May-Cameron-Osborne era that stripped bare the state and its social and physical protection of citizens. The horror of poor people burned alive within feet of the country’s grandest mansions, many of them empty, moth-balled investments, perfectly captures the politics of the last seven years. The Cameron, Osborne, Gove Notting Hill set live just up the road.

From the 40% cuts to local councils, to the bedroom tax and the housing benefit cap banishing people hundreds of miles from family and schools, the people spilling out on to the street, sheltered by churches and mosques, are the unwilling emblems of deliberate Conservative attacks. Just remember how personally people have been abused by George Osborne – those idlers with the blinds down while hard workers set off at dawn. Or Iain Duncan Smith’s: “This is not an easy life any more, chum.” Together with their poisonous press, they hardened public hearts against those struggling and working hard on low incomes: how else could they make this April’s £12bn benefit cuts politically palatable? Here’s the moment public hearts soften and the idea of social security regains its meaning.

George W Bush was similarly exposed by his clueless reaction to Hurricane Katrina, leaving the poor vulnerable to the state’s refusal to invest in flood defences. This government can’t redeem itself, but it can limit the damage by quickly obeying its promise to rehouse every family nearby, one that was only dragged out of ministers reluctantly under fierce questioning by Labour MPs.

The government needs to pay the private rents to rehouse all these families locally. I know of at least one block of luxury flats in Kensington with the lights out permanently in most of them: the council should requisition the housing it needs, with plenty available. What of rehousing all the other tower block residents now horrified to find their homes too are potential fire-traps?

The danger is that once this drama is over and news moves on, people get forgotten. Not this time. What a contrast was Jeremy Corbyn’s visit, hugging and embracing victims, promising to guarantee that never happens. No one could have devised a better parable to convey the difference between the two parties than those two leaders’ visits. No doubt Grenfell residents would have shouted at the prime minister – but after her hermetically sealed election campaign, this confirms that a leader who dare never meet her people is truly done for.

Read More

Thursday, June 15, 2017

UK: Grenfell Tower – Calls for 'corporate manslaughter' charges and full-scale investigation

At least 17 people have died in the Grenfell Tower fire, although the death toll is still expected to rise, emergency services have said.

Specialist urban search and rescue teams are being brought in to make the 24-storey tower block safe in north Kensington to allow firefighters and the police to carry out investigations, following the devastating blaze that started in the early hours of Wednesday.

Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "Sadly I can confirm that the number of people who have died is now 17. "We do believe that that number will sadly increase."

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: "This will be a detailed fingertip search. Obviously this will be a very slow and painstaking process."

More than £1 million has been raised to help those affected as fire tore through the 24-storey building while volunteers and charities helped feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes overnight.

Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene earlier to speak with emergency services. She was whisked away by car shortly after 10am without speaking to reporters.

Jeremy Corbyn said "the truth has got to come out" as he visited those affected by the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Residents' groups have claimed they voiced concerns about the safety of the building, which had been recently refurbished, while those who escaped complained their fire alarms had not been set off by the blaze.

One focus for the investigation will be the building's cladding, which TV architect George Clarke said may have accelerated the blaze.

Kensington and Chelsea Council admitted it had received complaints over the works, after a residents' action group said its warnings about safety had fallen on "deaf ears". The Council's lawyers threatened to  sue the residents for their blog.

A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said "only a catastrophic event" would expose the concerns residents had. The group said there was one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works and it had issues with evacuation procedures. Concerns had also been raised about exposed gas pipes weeks before the devastating blaze.

72 Tory MP's had previously voted down Labour proposals to insist on proper fire and safety regulations for high rise buildings.

ACTU – Bundaberg workers to lose millions if Turnbull cuts penalty rates

15 June 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says workers in Bundaberg would lose millions every year intake home pay every year if the Turnbull Government slashes penalty rates. Sally McManus, Secretary
of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is visiting Bundaberg today and says the consequences of
cutting penalty rates in regional communities would be devastating.

Workers in the Hinkler electorate are set to lose more than $6 million in disposable income each year
if Malcolm Turnbull slashes penalty rates according to a McKell Institute report.

Australians are increasingly being pushed into insecure work, while the cost of living is on the rise, and
the Turnbull Government is undoing laws that protect workers rights.

The Turnbull Government have failed to deliver a real jobs policy for Australians, instead launching an
attack on weekend penalty rates, as many regional QLD communities face stubbornly high rates of

Sally McManus is in Bundaberg today to meet with community members to hear their concerns about
the cuts to penalty rates, the rising cost of living and inequality. She is available for media interviews.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus:
  • “The Turnbull Government is tightening the screws on hardworking Australians at the same time as attacking the laws that protect working people and giving a free pass to big business in the form of company tax cut hand-outs.
  • “The Turnbull Government can stop these cuts to penalty rates and we urge them to act to do this before they are due to come in on 1 July. When the Bill to protect penalty rates comes before Parliament each politician will have to choose – do they put the take home pay of locals first? 
  • “Slashing penalty rates is a cut to workers’ take home pay that they can’t afford and don’t deserve. It will mean many people who do work Sundays will be forced to work harder for less.
  • “Wage growth is the lowest it has ever been while company profits soar. It is time our Government stopped sacrificing the conditions and take home pay of working Australians.
  • “Forty percent of the workforce is now in insecure work. Job are being cut and casualised, off shored and outsourced. Two out of every five working people in Australia have no security in their job. A whole generation does not know what it is like to have a paid sick day or a paid holiday.
  • “Malcolm Turnbull has no answer to our jobs crisis. He is making things worse for working Australians, taking every chance to give special treatment to the big end of town – entrenching inequality and reducing the quality of people’s lives.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ACTU – Let the Parliament vote to Protect Penalty Rates

14 June 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling on the Lower House of the Australian Parliament to be given every opportunity to get the one majority vote needed to save penalty rates.
The bill, which has already passed the Senate, is being blocked by the Government in the Lower House by the LNP and Independent Cathy McGowan.

Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary, said that there is now a bill before the Parliament that would stop 700,000 Australians wages being cut on July 1.

Comment attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary:

  • “If this bill passes, 700,000 Australians will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief, but if this bill fails, people living pay day to pay day will have their weekly budgets thrown into chaos.
  • “The Parliament must be given the chance to vote on this. Our political representatives owe it to the people whose lives will be made so much poorer as a result.
  • “Working people across Australia, from Townsville to Wollongong and Fremantle, are doing it tough. We’ve heard stories of widowed grandmothers, who have no choice but to work on Sundays to survive, rationing their petrol so they can visit their grandchildren.
  • “Make no mistake, these cuts are cruel. The Parliament must bring this to a vote. No more excuses, no more delays, the Parliament must do its job and have a vote.
  • “The workers affected by these cuts do not work weekends by choice, they work weekends and give up time with family and friends because penalty rates keep them afloat. Cutting penalty rates is a cut to wages when Australian workers desperately need a pay rise.

ACTU – PACER-Plus Agreement fails Pacific economies

14 June 2017

The refusal of Vanuatu, Fiji and Papua New Guinea to attend the signing of the PACER-Plus trade deal shows that this agreement will disadvantage Pacific island economies and leave them exposed to exploitation.

Serious concerns about the agreement - which includes Australia, New Zealand and 11 other Pacific Island nations – have been raised by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) and supported in a petition circulated by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) of which the ACTU is a signatory.

Please see full AFTNIET Petition attached.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “We have serious concerns about the impact of the agreement on Pacific Island nations, including its impact on local industries and local cultures.”
  • “The fact that three of the largest Pacific island economies have refused to sign today is a serious embarrassment for the Australian Government, who have long championed this deal.”
  • “This is the latest entry on the list of Turnbull Government unfair trade negotiations which serve the interests of corporations rather than working people.”
  • “We have seen in Australia that globalisation often works for a select few and can devastate communities if corporate power is allowed to run rampant.”
  • “The ACTU supports fair trade and deals which prioritise the interests of working people, wherever they are.”
  • “The kind of power imbalance between local workers and multi-national corporations which Australian unions are trying to rectify in Australia is exactly that this agreement would thrust onto our neighbours and we cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Acoss – Let’s reframe the debate on Social Security

We need paid work. Let’s reframe the debate on Social Security

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says under the government’s proposed demerit system, 80 thousand people are expected to lose between one to four week’s payment.
  • “How is making people destitute helping them to get paid work?” asks Dr Goldie.
  • “Our big problem is the lack of employment opportunities and serious concerns that people are giving up and losing hope, including young people.”
  • “Long term unemployment has nearly tripled since the Global Financial Crisis.
  • “For every job available there are ten applicants.
  • “The number of young people receiving income support payments remains high, particularly in regional areas where youth unemployment is a huge concern.
  • “The real issue for government is the availability of paid work and adequate supports including vocational education and training.
  • “The government must provide jobs and supports that work like the highly successful Youth Connections program, abolished in 2014.
  • “The government keeps trying to blame the victims in this debate when the rest of the country has moved on.
  • “This is lazy politics, lazy policy, and mean-spirited headline grabbing.
  • “Communities and business leaders need government to work with them and get behind local efforts to drive economic and social development.
  • “Front page headline grabbing further negates the extraordinary efforts communities make to give their young people a real chance.”
Please review ACOSS’ Social Security Snapshot showing current facts and trends in social security spending and policy in Australia.

MUA – Inaugural ITF Cabotage Conference Held In Cape Town

June 09, 2017

The ITF has held its first ever cabotage conference in Cape Town, South Africa with ITF President Paddy Crumlin saying many countries face similar battles against multinational businesses and conservative governments.

An initiative of the ITF Cabotage Taskforce, the conference has heard reports from affiliates all around the world. 

Crumlin, who is also MUA National Secretary, said the current experience fighting temporary licenses in Australia is similar to the circumstances faced by domestic unions around the world.

  • “Australia is not alone in copping the blunt end of a conservative government stick,” Crumlin said. 
  • “Many nations have the same problems with seafarers being unable to find work in their own country due to the increased use of Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels. 
  • “These FOC vessels are allowed to get around cabotage laws by governments issuing waivers and in Australia’s case, temporary licences.
  • “All of the unions present need to find new ways of staving off attacks. 
  • “The FOC campaign of the ITF brings vessels with agreements up to a minimum standard which helps to close the gap and without this campaign there would be no minimum standard and national flag ships would never be able to compete.” 

MUA Assistant National Secretary and ITF Cabotage Taskforce member Ian Bray said unions needed to band together to share their experience and chart the best way forward.

  • “Fighting the attacks on global cabotage must be done in a collaborative manner,” Bray said. 
  • “We need to ensure that we are making the links between other countries and uniting in the fight,” Bray said. 
  • “We are working closely with our Canadian comrades where we have a common link with CSL, and working with the ITF on other global giants like BP and Rio Tinto.” 

It is important to note that ITF agreements for foreign seafarers on FOC ships does not mean opposition to Australian crews. In fact, it is the opposite.

Raising the cost of and standards on FOC ships is fundamentally required and this gap is a huge barrier to increasing Australian coastal content in shipping.

ITF agreements also contain provisions to prevent FOC seafarers performing wharfies’ work.

The shipping industry will not flourish on the basis of workers being forced into a race to the bottom competing with the most exploited workers in the world.

136 countries around the globe have cabotage provisions and most of them are under some kind of attack.

From ideological reasons to openly undermine provisions and policy inertia that allows the undermining of provisions by shipowners, all the way to the constant monitoring and lobbying to ensure the United States’ Jones Act remains, everyone is in a fight.

On top of that, you have free trade agreements that mean cabotage stands in the way of multinational corporations and their business interests.

In Australia, 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 recently.  
  • “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. 

  • “The global trend among governments is to be more introspective and geared towards protecting local industries and jobs,” Crumlin said.
  • “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

Jeremy Corbyn​ wins first battle in war​ against the ruling elite

From Paul Mason in the Guardian

Monday 12 June 2017

To stop Jeremy Corbyn, the British elite is prepared to abandon Brexit – first in its hard form and, if necessary, in its entirety. That is the logic behind all the manoeuvres, all the cant and all the mea culpas you will see mainstream politicians and journalists perform this week.

And the logic is sound. The Brexit referendum result was supposed to unleash Thatcherism 2.0 – corporate tax rates on a par with Ireland, human rights law weakened, and perpetual verbal equivalent of the Falklands war, only this time with Brussels as the enemy; all opponents of hard Brexit would be labelled the enemy within.

But you can’t have any kind of Thatcherism if Corbyn is prime minister. Hence the frantic search for a fallback line. Those revolted by the stench of May’s rancid nationalism will now find it liberally splashed with the cologne of compromise.

Antonio Gramsci
Labour has, quite rightly, tried to keep Karl Marx out of the election. But there is one Marxist whose work provides the key to understanding what just happened. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian communist leader who died in a fascist jail in 1937, would have had no trouble understanding Corbyn’s rise, Labour’s poll surge, or predicting what happens next. For Gramsci understood what kind of war the left is fighting in a mature democracy, and how it can be won.

Consider the events of the past six weeks a series of unexpected plot twists. Labour starts out polling 25% but then scores 40%. Its manifesto is leaked, raising major questions of competence, but it immediately boosts Corbyn’s popularity. Britain is attacked by terrorists but it is the Tories whose popularity dips. Diane Abbott goes sick – yet her majority rises to 30,000. Sitting Labour candidates campaign on the premise “Corbyn cannot win” yet his presence delivers a 10% boost to their own majorities.

None of it was supposed to happen. It defies political “common sense”. Gramsci was the first to understand that, for the working class and the left, almost the entire battle is to disrupt and defy this common sense. He understood that it is this accepted common sense – not MI5, special branch and the army generals – that really keeps the elite in power.

Once you accept that, you begin to understand the scale of Corbyn’s achievement. Even if he hasn’t won, he has publicly destroyed the logic of neoliberalism – and forced the ideology of xenophobic nationalist economics into retreat.

Brexit was an unwanted gift to British business. Even in its softest form it means 10 years of disruption, inflation, higher interest rates and an incalculable drain on the public purse. It disrupts the supply of cheap labour; it threatens to leave the UK as an economy without a market.

But the British ruling elite and the business class are not the same entity. They have different interests. The British elite are in fact quite detached from the interests of people who do business here. They have become middle men for a global elite of hedge fund managers, property speculators, kleptocrats, oil sheikhs and crooks. It was in the interests of the latter that Theresa May turned the Conservatives from liberal globalists to die-hard Brexiteers.

The hard Brexit path creates a permanent crisis, permanent austerity and a permanent set of enemies – namely Brussels and social democracy. It is the perfect petri dish for the fungus of financial speculation to grow. But the British people saw through it. Corbyn’s advance was not simply a result of energising the Labour vote. It was delivered by an alliance of ex-Ukip voters, Greens, first-time voters and tactical voting by the liberal centrist salariat.

The alliance was created in two stages. First, in a carefully costed manifesto Corbyn illustrated, for the first time in 20 years, how brilliant it would be for most people if austerity ended and government ceased to do the work of the privatisers and the speculators. Then, in the final week, he followed a tactic known in Spanish as la remontada – the comeback. He stopped representing the party and started representing the nation; he acted against stereotype – owning the foreign policy and security issues that were supposed to harm him. Day by day he created an epic sense of possibility.

The ideological results of this are more important than the parliamentary arithmetic. Gramsci taught us that the ruling class does not govern through the state. The state, Gramsci said, is just the final strongpoint. To overthrow the power of the elite, you have to take trench after trench laid down in their defence.

Last summer, during the second leadership contest, it became clear that the forward trench of elite power runs through the middle of the Labour party. The Labour right, trained during the cold war for such trench warfare, fought bitterly to retain control, arguing that the elite would never allow the party to rule with a radical left leadership and programme.

The moment the Labour manifesto was leaked, and support for it took off, was the moment the Labour right’s trench was overrun. They retreated to a second trench – not winning, with another leadership election to follow – but that did not exactly go well either.

As to the third trench line – the tabloid press and its broadcasting echo chamber – this too proved ineffectual. More than 12 million people voted for a party stigmatised as “backing Britain’s enemies”, soft on terror, with “blood on its hands”.

And Gramsci would have understood the reasons here, too. When most socialists treated the working class as a kind of bee colony – pre-programmed to perform its historical role – Gramsci said: everyone is an intellectual. Even if a man is treated as “trained gorilla” at work, outside work “he is a philosopher, an artist, a man of taste ... has a conscious line of moral conduct”. [Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks]

On this premise, Gramsci told the socialists of the 1930s to stop obsessing about the state – and to conduct a long, patient trench warfare against the ideology of the ruling elite.

Eighty years on, the terms of the battle have changed. Today, you do not need to come up from the mine, take a shower, walk home to a slum and read the Daily Worker before you can start thinking. As I argued in Postcapitalism, the 20th-century working class is being replaced as the main actor – in both the economy and oppositional politics – by the networked individual. People with weak ties to each other, and to institutions, but possessing a strong footprint of individuality and rationalism and capacity to act.

What we learned on Friday morning was how easily such networked, educated people can see through bullshit. How easily they organise themselves through tactical voting websites; how quickly they are prepared to unite around a new set of basic values once someone enunciates them with cheerfulness and goodwill, as Corbyn did.

The high Conservative vote, and some signal defeats for Labour in the areas where working class xenophobia is entrenched, indicate this will be a long, cultural war. A war of position, as Gramsci called it, not one of manoeuvre.

But in that war, a battle has been won. The Tories decided to use Brexit to smash up what’s left of the welfare state, and to recast Britain as the global Singapore. They lost. They are retreating behind a human shield of Orange bigots from Belfast.

The left’s next move must eschew hubris; it must reject the illusion that with one lightning breakthrough we can envelop the defences of the British ruling class and install a government of the radical left.

The first achievable goal is to force the Tories back to a position of single-market engagement, under the jurisdiction of the European court of justice, and cross-party institutions to guide the Brexit talks. But the real prize is to force them to abandon austerity.

A Tory party forced to fight the next election on a programme of higher taxes and increased spending, high wages and high public investment would signal how rapidly Corbyn has changed the game. If it doesn’t happen; if the Conservatives tie themselves to the global kleptocrats instead of the interests of British business and the British people, then Corbyn is in Downing Street.

Either way, the accepted common sense of 30 years is over.

Read More

Sunday, June 11, 2017

UK Election – It was Jeremy Corbyn's Victory

As Britain took stock on Friday of the stunning results of a snap election that wiped out the parliamentary majority of Prime Minister Theresa May and her governing Conservative Party, one narrative bubbled up to the surface: The youth had spoken.

The election results were fueled partly by a higher turnout rate among young British voters who had long been angry at the results of the referendum last year to leave the European Union, known as Brexit. That vote, overwhelmingly supported by older Britons, was seen by many younger people as a threat to their jobs, their ability to study abroad and their desire to travel freely across the bloc’s borders.

In other words, the vote by young Britons on Thursday had a whiff of payback.

“I was so angry about Brexit that I buried my head in a pillow and screamed,” said Louise Traynor, 24, a waitress in the southwestern district of Battersea in London, who had never voted before Thursday.

Shaking her head in frustration, Ms. Traynor said she had been angry at herself because she hadn’t bothered to vote the first time around. “I was stupid enough to think that the country had some sense,” she said.

The Brexit referendum, Ms. Traynor said, could lead to closed borders, which threatened to tear her long-term Spanish boyfriend away from her, and her away from the group of European friends she had made while working at a tapas restaurant.

On Friday morning, she said, much of the anxiety she had felt about her future was replaced with excitement when she realized that her vote for the opposition Labour Party had denied the prime minister a mandate.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour gained 31 seats, while Mrs. May’s party lost 12 seats and its overall majority — leaving a hung Parliament, one in which neither side has enough lawmakers for control. In a statement on Friday, Mrs. May grimly announced that she would form a minority government with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

Ms. Traynor said that Mr. Corbyn’s campaign had “injected energy” into what otherwise seemed like a stale election that would bring more “doom.”

“Does Theresa May care that I’ve been on minimum wage for three years and I’m still paying my student debt?” she asked. “No, she doesn’t. All she cares about is Brexit and getting her deal.”

Mr. Corbyn posed for selfies at a campaign event in Leeds on May 10. He went out of his way to attract the youth vote.
Owen Jones, an author and Labour campaigner, wrote in The Guardian on Friday that young voters had been “ignored, ridiculed and demonized, even. They just don’t care about politics, it’s said, or they’re just too lazy.”

He added, “Our young have suffered disproportionately these past few years: student debt, a housing crisis, a lack of secure jobs, falling wages, cuts to social security.”

Many young Britons felt compelled to vote after the Brexit decision, because of austerity budgets and what they saw as the establishment’s tendency to serve the interests of the rich. This year saw a spike in young people registering to vote — more than one million people under 25 applied.

On the day in May the election was called, 57,987 people under 25 registered to vote — more than any other age group, according to the BBC. About 246,480 young people registered to vote on the last day in May that they were eligible, a significant increase from the 137,400 who did so on the cutoff date in 2015, The Telegraph reported.

The turnout in constituencies with younger voters rose significantly, appearing to benefit Labour. The turnout for 18- to 24-year-olds was 66.4 percent, according to Sky News data. Other reports put it as high as 72 percent. In the 2015 general election, the rate for voters of the same age range was 43 percent, according to Ipsod, a marketing and opinion research company.

Shona Macdonald, 52, a poll clerk in Nottingham, north of London, told The Times that “It was incredible to see so many students voting. The youth vote galvanized by Jeremy Corbyn was real.”

There were doubts that younger voters would cast their ballots for Mr. Corbyn, who had toured the country, attracting crowds of all ages. His campaign was even compared to Bernie Sanders’s American presidential race. In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Sanders congratulated Mr. Corbyn for “running a very effective campaign.”

The payoff was evident in Battersea, where Labour seized the Conservative seat.

“Representatives from the Labour Party knocked on our doors and gathered us in groups, asking us about our problems and talking to us about solutions,” said Jessie Cox, a 21-year-old student. “They gave us a reason to vote.”

Jennifer Hudson, a senior lecturer in politics at University College London, said the effectiveness of Mr. Corbyn’s campaign could be seen in a picture of him with young supporters, cheek to cheek.

“I thought: ‘We will never see Theresa May like that with her supporters,’” Ms. Hudson said. “He has managed to create a human connection with his voters.”

Read More from New York Times

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Murdoch's Fox-Sky deal at greater risk after U.K. election shock

Labour Party opposes the merger

The shock U.K. election result has increased the risk that 21st Century Fox's planned takeover of broadcaster Sky could be scuppered by political opposition.

On hearing the election results Rupert Murdoch stormed out in dismay

Shares in Sky fell as much as 4% on Friday as investors worried that the strong performance by the left-wing Labour Party could slow -- or even block -- the £18.5 billion ($23 billion) deal championed by Rupert Murdoch.

Labour, which has opposed the massive media takeover, gained seats in parliament following Thursday's election. Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party saw its majority wiped out.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom is currently reviewing whether or not to approve Fox's purchase of Sky, in which it already holds a 39% stake. It is due to complete its review by June 20.

"Had the Conservatives won a large majority, we think it would have been more straightforward to approve the deal relatively quickly," said Polo Tang, head of European telecom research at UBS. "We still see scope for the deal to be approved but the risks around an extended review have increased," he added.

Sky shares later regained some poise -- closing down just 0.7%, but that fall came against gains for the broader U.K. stock market in the aftermath of the election.

At £9.80 per share, the stock is trading about 10% below 21st Century Fox's offer price, suggesting investors still see considerable risk that the deal won't close.

Ofcom could kill the deal if it decides that 21st Century Fox -- controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James -- would not be a "fit and proper" owner. The regulator will consider "any relevant misconduct" in making its decision.

Accusations of sexual harassment against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes and former star host Bill O'Reilly have turned the spotlight on the Murdochs' planned acquisition.

Both Ailes and O'Reilly left the network in recent months after receiving hefty payouts. Both denied all the allegations against them. Then Ailes passed away last month.

Additionally, Ofcom must ensure this acquisition doesn't give Murdoch too much power over the U.K. media. Murdoch already owns three of Britain's biggest newspapers: The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.

Analysts still expect the deal will eventually be signed off by Ofcom regulators, though they may ask for some concessions to ensure the Murdochs don't have editorial sway over Sky News.

But the takeover could then face another review by the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority. Referring the deal to the CMA would be a decision for the government's media minister -- and it's unclear at this stage whether May will want to replace this official.

A CMA review would be another six month process, said Alice Enders, director of research at the media research firm Enders Analysis.

"People see this [election result] as the cause of more delays and unknowns," she said.

Sky has 22 million customers in five European markets: Italy, Germany, Austria, the U.K. and Ireland. It is the largest pay TV provider in Britain.

BBC – People voted for hope

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reflects on the election result, telling reporters: "Incredible result for the Labour party because people voted for hope. Young people and old people all came together yesterday.

UK – Tory Campaign will bring chaos

From the Economist

Theresa May’s failed gamble

Her political career has been defined by caution. So it is cruel for Theresa May, and delicious for her enemies, that it may have been ended by one big, disastrous gamble. Eight weeks ago she called a snap election, risking her government for the chance to bank a bigger majority against an apparently shambolic Labour opposition. With the Conservatives 20 points ahead in the opinion polls, it looked like a one-way bet to a landslide and a renewed five-year term for her party. But there followed one of the most dramatic collapses in British political history. As we went to press in the early hours of June 9th, the Tories were on course to lose seats, and perhaps their majority.

The balance of forces in Parliament means that any number of outcomes is possible (see Britain section). But none of them will be the “strong and stable” government that Mrs May said the country needed when she called the vote. The talk back then was of a Conservative majority of over 100 MPs. The best case for the Tories today is a wafer-thin majority under a prime minister whose authority may never recover. Labour’s only hope of forming a government would be through a gravity-defying deal with other parties. Another election—Britain’s fourth national poll in little more than two years—may be on the way.

Whoever becomes prime minister will very soon have to grapple with three crises. First is the chronic instability that has taken hold of Britain’s politics, and which will be hard to suppress. This week’s poll reveals a divided country—between outward- and inward-looking voters, young and old, the cosmopolitan cities and the rest, nationalists and unionists.

The parties are in flux. Mrs May has led the Tories in a more statist, illiberal direction, with heavier regulations on firms and strict limits on immigration. Thatcherites, who stifled their criticism out of a sense of duty or ambition, will be sharpening their knives. Labour, which under Tony Blair found an accommodation with the market, has morphed back into a hard-left socialist party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn—who, in contrast to Mrs May, is now unassailable. South of the Scottish border, two-party politics is back, after the collapse of the UK Independence Party and a disappointing campaign by the Liberal Democrats. North of the border, the Scottish Nationalists, while still in charge, lost enough seats to cast doubt over a second independence referendum.

Second, the economy is heading for the rocks in a way that few have yet registered. Whereas in 2016 the economy defied the Brexit referendum to grow at the fastest pace in the G7, in the first quarter of this year it was the slowest. Unemployment is at its lowest in decades, but with inflation at a three-year high and rising, real wages are falling. Tax revenues and growth will suffer as inward investment falls and net migration of skilled Europeans tails off. Voters are blissfully unaware of the coming crunch. Just when they have signalled at the ballot box that they have had enough of austerity, they are about to face even harder times.

And third is the beginning, in just 11 days, of the most important negotiation Britain has attempted in peacetime. Brexit involves dismantling an economic and political arrangement that has been put together over half a century, linking Britain to the bloc to which it sends half its goods exports, from which come half its migrants, and which has helped to keep the peace in Europe and beyond.

Brexit’s complexity is on a scale that Britain’s political class has wilfully ignored. Quite apart from failing to spell out how to negotiate history’s trickiest-ever divorce, no politician has seriously answered the question of how the economic pain of Brexit will be shared. Less trade, lower growth and fewer migrants will mean higher taxes and lower public spending. Voters seem resigned to the fact that they were duped by promises of a Brexit dividend of more cash for the National Health Service. No one has prepared them for the scale of the hardship they will endure in its name.

Mrs May said that her reason for calling the election was to get a mandate to negotiate Brexit along the lines she set out in January: to leave the single market and to press ahead with cuts to immigration that no one considers feasible. During the campaign, she added nothing to her thin Brexit strategy beyond resurrecting the fatuous slogan that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Climate – ACOSS calls on governments to finally get Australia on track

Climate change is affecting us now and the future is here: ACOSS calls on governments to finally get Australia on track

June 10, 2017

ACOSS is calling on governments to use the Finkel Report to now design an energy system that will both reduce shocking energy prices and confidently deliver on our international obligation to reduce carbon pollution and transition to clean energy.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says we need an energy supply which is both affordable and secure for everyone and as clean as it can possibly be:

  • “Energy prices must be turned around. Thousands are being disconnected while others are wrapping themselves in blankets to limit their energy consumption. People on low incomes cannot cope, young children and older people are being badly effected.
  • “In the last ten years prices have skyrocketed by more than 80 per cent, disconnections have increased by nearly 50 per cent, and the number of households on hardship measures offered by energy companies has risen. Energy price rises of up to 30% are being slated for many states in coming weeks.”

The biggest driver of rising energy prices has been years of uncertainty on effective climate change policy to meet our obligations.

  • “It’s high time Australia got ahead of the game and created a climate and energy strategy we can all be proud of and which provides affordable energy security and reliability to people in their daily lives.
  • “The Finkel Report provides us with an opportunity to make the change we need: agreement about the way to reform energy policy to reduce prices, deliver security and tackle carbon emissions, fixing the detail so that we get the emission reduction we need.
  • “We’re pleased the Finkel Report has looked at a range of options. We now need to work through the detail to design what is needed to both deliver affordable secure energy supply for everyone, and to reduce our emissions to meet our Paris Commitments. We will closely scrutinise the impact these schemes would have on low income and disadvantaged households, as evidence already shows people on low incomes are the worst affected both by energy prices and climate change. Tackling both is vital.”

Governments must now work closely with civil society, businesses and consumer representatives to get this detail right.

  • “We are pleased to see some specific measures targeted at low income earners. We will look at these and the overall package to ensure issues for vulnerable households are adequately addressed.
  • “However, we are disappointed that the Report does not include modelling and recommendations of emission reduction targets consistent with achieving the Paris goals. Climate change is affecting us now and the future is here. We can no longer afford to play politics.
  • “Some immediate actions to reduce impacts of energy prices on low and modest income earners are also needed. The Federal Government must stop trying to abolish the Energy Supplement for people surviving on social security. State and Territory Energy Concessions must also be adequate.
  • “Governments must also deliver household energy efficiency upgrades, including minimum energy standards of rental properties. They must also develop ways for low income people and households to access power generation like solar and batteries and put in place protections against price effects for those who cannot.
  • “An inclusive and equitable transition to clean energy is up to us. In the interests of people on low incomes, we cannot afford to blow this opportunity to tackle energy prices and climate change, together.”

Media Contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155

Friday, June 09, 2017

Climate – ACTU response to Finkel Review findings

9 June 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has today urged the Turnbull Government to be open minded in its response to the findings of the Finkel Review into the Future of Security of Australia’s Energy Market.
The Government must get on with making energy more affordable, reduce pollution and provide a just transition for workers and communities affected by the energy sector’s transformation. 

The key findings of the report are:

  • Establishment of a Clean Energy Target
  • Generators required to provide three years’ notice of their intention to close
  • Better system planning through a NEM-wide integrated grid plan
  • A new Energy Security Board

 Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “The ACTU is calling on the Turnbull Government to be ambitious, act in a timely fashion, and be open-minded in its response to the Finkel Review findings. “
  • “We need clarity and certainty on what the best solution is to lower power prices, provide energy security and support job creation in, and for, communities affected by industry changes.”
  • “Australia’s energy system, as is the case the world over, is being transformed by a move to renewable energy and battery storage, as it is cleaner, cheaper and more reliable.”
  • “For workers, it is critical that a plan is formulated and adopted to assist people in this transition.”
  • “We will be considering the details of the review closely over the coming days, but it is immediately clear that the report states the need for an orderly transition that includes workforce preparedness.”
  • “The Finkel Review recommends an orderly transition for the energy sector. The ACTU has previously recommended the establishment of the Energy Transition Authority to navigate the transition to a clean energy economy.”
  • “The report also recommends a three year notice period before generator withdrawal, which would provide some notice for workers and communities.”

Thursday, June 08, 2017

ACTU – Penalty rate cuts and inflation will cause double digit wage reduction

8 June 2017

Ongoing inflation and the penalty rate cuts will wipe out minimum wage increases and significantly reduce real wages for Sunday workers, according to new data from the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.                                                                                                

Despite the phased-in transition of lower penalty rates announced by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) the research demonstrates Sunday workers will face pay cuts.

The research reveals that the FWC’s intention to soften the blow of the penalty rate cuts with a small increase in the minimum wage has failed, and reveals the pain the cuts will cause many workers.

The new research shows wages for Sunday workers will decline by almost as much as if the penalty cuts were implemented immediately.

According to the Centre for Future Work, retail workers will see their minimum award Sunday rate falling from $38.88 at present to below $33 by 2020 – even on the assumption of further annual increases in the minimum wage over the next three years. In terms of real purchasing power, wages for Sunday retail work will fall even further – by almost 25 per cent by the end of the transition period.

The researchers also said that in every affected sector (retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy), by the end of the relevant transition, the future wage for Sunday work will be significantly lower than at present, with the decline in real wages even larger.

  • Real wages for Sunday fast food work (full-time/part-time) will fall by an estimated 15 per cent over the phase-in period.
  • Real wages for Sunday hospitality work (full-time/part-time) will fall by an estimated 12 per cent.
  • Real wages for Sunday work by pharmacists (full-time/part-time) will fall by a similar amount as in retail (nearly 25 per cent). 

Read the full report here: http://www.futurework.org.au/penalty_rate_transition_update

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  1. “Working people need better and stronger rights at work. Working people are going to see double digit wage decline because of the penalty rate cuts, rising inflation and a substandard minimum wage.”
  2. “Business groups, commentators and the Government have said that minimum wage rises would offset the large Sunday penalty rate cuts, but we now know this is a lie — workers are going to see their wages fall dramatically.”
  3. “Our workplace laws are meant to protect and increase wages and conditions to keep up with the cost of living and community expectations – not cut them.”
  4. “Working people across Australia, from Townsville to Wollongong and Fremantle, are doing it tough. 

We’ve heard stories of widowed grandmothers, who have no choice but to work on Sundays to survive, rationing their petrol so they can visit their grandchildren. How did it come to this in the land of the fair go?”

“One of the starkest examples of our broken work rules is the penalty rates decision.”

“Working people can defend their pay and campaign for better rights by joining their union. We are determined to change the rules so working people get a fair go again, the pendulum has swung too far towards employers.”

Sunday, June 04, 2017

UK Election – Let’s make June the end of May!

In an attempt to show that she is still on course to win large numbers of seats from Labour in the north of England, Theresa May arrived in her Tory battlebus at an industrial park in South Kirkby, near Pontefract, last Thursday afternoon. This part of West Yorkshire is regarded as rock-solid Labour territory. A few miles down the road is Frickley and South Elmsall colliery, closed under a Conservative government in 1992. The bitterness lingers.

At the 2015 general election Labour won the Hemsworth constituency by a country mile. The message from May’s visit was supposed to encapsulate a sense of confidence and ambition that, from now on, the Tories represent the best future for these parts.

As the prime minister emerged from the bus which bears her name in giant letters, and was greeted by staff from a kitchen furniture factory called Ultima, a crowd outside its gates struck up an angry chorus just a few yards away. “Let’s make June the end of May!” they shouted. Labour banners were held aloft. It was not exactly the picture opportunity that the dozen or so Tory staff and spin doctors who had travelled north with the prime minister had wanted to create. Journalists and TV cameramen were ushered quickly inside.

But then nothing much has gone according to plan for Team May in the past fortnight. A campaign that started back in April with huge confidence – focused on the need for May’s strong leadership as the country approached Brexit negotiations – looked like it could turn into a coronation. The main questions were how big the Tory landslide, and the resulting humiliation for the hapless Jeremy Corbyn, would be. Then a policy U-turn on social care set in train a shift in the polls in favour of Labour, which has outperformed expectations, and the whole story has changed.

The May sheen has dulled as Corbyn has advanced in public esteem. The impression of competence and clarity of purpose that clung to the Tory leader has faded. The polls have tightened. One analysis by YouGov last week even predicted a hung parliament. If that is the outcome on 9 June, then May’s decision to hold a snap election will result in her going down in history as the shortest serving prime minister since Andrew Bonar Law in the early 1920s.

One of those outside Ultima’s gates was 33-year-old local truck driver Andrew Wilson, who voted Remain in the Brexit referendum. Across the constituency of Hemsworth there was a big majority for Leave, so Wilson is not one who simply follows the crowd. “The only reason people round here would have looked at May,” he said, “was because she was banging the Brexit drum. But despite that she won’t win round here. No chance. This is a place with roots.”

He declared himself “gobsmacked” that she came to Hemsworth at all, and said the parties’ manifestos showed where their respective priorities lie and who they care about. “If 50% of the Labour manifesto were implemented, it would be better than 100% of the Tory one. They offer nothing, nothing to working people. And then there was that dementia tax, all about people losing their homes to pay for care. That was terrible.”

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