Thursday, November 30, 2017

ACTU – IPA Political think tank claims Desperate and Wrong

Political think tank claims desperate and wrong
Posted: Thursday 30 November, 2017

A think tank’s claims that millions of dollars are being disproportionately transferred to unions via industry super funds are wrong and politically motivated.

The Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) Rivers of Gold paper covered in The Australian today, purportedly utilising public disclosures in fund annual reports, claims unions are receiving disproportionate directors’ fees.

The analysis specifically excluded directors’ fees directly paid to member, employer and independent directors who are not office bearers of sponsoring organisations.

If it did it would reveal less than 25% of the total director fees are paid to unions, with the rest going to employer sponsors, non-affiliated member and employer directors, and independents.

Furthermore, a balanced analysis would reveal average six figure director fees paid to directors on super funds run by the banks are 67% higher than those paid to Industry Super fund directors.

Industry Super Australia public affairs director, Matt Linden, said the claims - perfectly timed with government attempts to see a bill through the Senate – suggests the sort of political prejudice that should not be mixed with public policy.

  • “It is deeply disturbing a debate about good governance in superannuation has been reduced down to the role of union representatives on super boards and grossly misleading analysis on directors’ fees”.
  • “The real question is why the government’s bills fail to address the bank-owned retail super funds’ chronic underperformance and the channeling of billions of dividends at the expense of retirement savings”.
  • “The success of industry funds and superior returns generated for members is a result of the representative trustee model where trustees know exactly whose money they are stewarding”.
  • “The diversity of representative trustees drawn from the real economy is a strength and ensures they consider different perspectives and are not captured by mainstream finance sector thinking,” said Linden.

In 2016, Superannuation Minister Kelly O’Dwyer pledged to: “lift superannuation funds to at least the same standard as other financial services organisations like banks and life insurance companies” (‘Super industry laughs at O’Dwyer’, Financial Review 23 Nov 2016).

In two years alone, Industry Super estimates that the ANZ, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Macquarie Bank and AMP have collectively paid over $545 million in compensation and refunds as a result of admitted or alleged misconduct – much of it in wealth management and super.


29 NOV 2017

The formation of a new super union has been turbocharged by a massive vote by members of the Maritime Union of Australia and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia in favour of amalgamating with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

Scrutineers for the unions report a massive yes vote in both ballots.

The number of members who participated in the ballot were at historically high levels and the level of the yes vote was unprecedented.

In the case of the MUA, the vote was 87 per cent “YES”, with one in every two members voting. This is higher thannpast internal MUA union elections of officers.

In the case of the TCFUA, the vote was 97 per cent “YES”, with over 64 per cent of members casting a vote.

TCFUA National Secretary Michele O’Neil said: “The overwhelming yes vote is a great, strong, clear outcome of this ballot. Our members come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, for many English is not their first language, and yet they turned out in numbers and left us in no doubt as to their views.

“This vote is clear and unequivocal and the Federal Government should now butt out of trying to overturn the democratic decision of our members about the future of our union. TCFUA members have voted to be part of a new, smart, strong, progressive force in the Australian trade union movement.”

Both unions conducted hundreds of workplace meetings across the eight week voting period. In many instances informational material relating to the ballot was provided in multiple languages.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said: “This is at the core of trade union and labour rights — individual member exercising their democratic decision making and democratic control of their union. Our members have spoken: they want a strong, independent and progressive union.

“This vote sets a new course for the amalgamated Union. It makes us more diverse and representative in so many ways. It increases the number of women in our union, it make us more culturally diverse, it expands the industries in which we work on a day to day basis and it opens us up to new challenges and new opportunities. It ensures that we will continue to reflect the great trade union and national heritage of building diversity along with economic, industrial, political, and social needs of working women and men in their Australian community.”

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said: “This vote sends a clear message to the Turnbull government to respect not undermine the democratic decisions of union members in the running of their unions. 

“It’s a total repudiation of suggestions by the government that this was not in those members’ interests. Those members have spoken unequivocally and with overwhelming determination on where their interests reside.”

Turnbull backflip on Royal Commission

Turnbull backflip on Royal Commission
30 November 2017

Statement from ACTU President Ged Kearney:

Today’s announcement of a banking Royal Commission reveals that Malcolm Turnbull takes direction from the big banks, not the Australian people.

The Prime Minister caved on demands for an inquiry into the big banks only after they gave him permission to do so.

This backflip shows that he is not in control of his government or his party.

The ACTU welcomes the inquiry, for which we have been campaigning for years. It is unfortunate that it has taken the high-farce of the banks giving the go-ahead to a Prime Minister for this to become a reality.

It is critical that the government abandons its attempt to give working people’s super over to the big banks.

The Royal Commission must focus on where the real power is, the bank executives who profited from ripping off Australians’ savings, life insurance and superannuation – not the frontline workers.

Customers must be properly compensated for the rips offs, and Executives must be accountable – with criminal charges if found to be warranted.

We will not, and nor will the Australian public, accept a mickey mouse, short term, underfunded Royal Commission. There are a lot of scandals to address before any confidence can be returned to this sector.

The big banks are out of control. Today’s announcement suggests they may be setting their own terms for this important inquiry.

The repeated scandals of the big banks shows that corporate Australia has too much power, and working people and consumers need to change the rules.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Queensland Election Latest 28 November 10.00pm

ACTU demands Turnbull back 10 days paid domestic violence leave

28 November 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is calling for the Turnbull Government to back growing calls for 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave under the National Employment Standards, to give women the support they need to escape when they are experiencing violence.

The Greens have today joined calls for the critical reform, announcing they would introduce a bill to federal Parliament to include 10 days paid domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards.

The announcement follows the Australian union movement’s long-running campaign for the inclusion of 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards.

Statement from ACTU National Campaign Coordinator Kara Keys:

  • “Malcolm Turnbull has constantly claimed to be a supporter of real action to help people suffering family and domestic violence, now he has a chance to do something.
  • “There’s now the Greens and the Opposition supporting changing the National Employment Standards to assist all workers experiencing domestic violence.
  • “Without paid leave, you can’t leave.
  • “We welcome the Greens support for working people who are experiencing violence, but the real test will be the Turnbull government, and whether they will support women seeking to rebuild their lives.
  • “The Turnbull Government is all talk and no action on domestic violence. All of the speeches and ribbon wearing don’t make up for the government’s lack of action.
  • “It’s completely unacceptable that women have been left to wait for so long in dangerous situations without the support they need to escape, often to protect their children.
  • “The Turnbull Government’s claims that it would cost too much to help women escape domestic violence with paid leave don’t stack up, both in terms of human decency and financially.
  • “Family and domestic violence costs our economy $12 billion per year. To fund 10 days paid leave it would cost 5 cents per worker per day, and most importantly, it will help save lives.
  • “Research shows that escaping an abusive relationship costs $18,000 and takes 141 hours, almost all during business hours.
  • “Without paid leave, women can’t leave.”

Monday, November 27, 2017

NSWTF – Something to get steamed up about

Something to get steamed up about – Maurie Mulheron President
I have a problem with STEM. There’s something missing. Now, let me be clear. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are vital areas of the curriculum. No argument. Students should be encouraged into these subjects.

But if there is one lesson I have learned as a teacher over the years, be wary, very wary, of buzzwords, Capitalised Concepts and acronyms. And in STEM you have all three.

Let us put to one side the controversies around STEM that have originated in the country that coined the term, the US; its political origins, myths about a shortage of science graduates, links to immigration policies there, the connections to the military/industrial complex. All these are on the public record.

Having experienced the negative influence of NAPLAN on teaching and learning, my concerns stem (my apologies, couldn’t resist) from the obvious further narrowing of the curriculum that may occur and, in particular, the potential adverse impact on the teaching of the arts.

I was quite encouraged when I attended the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council Conference in June this year. The conference theme was STEAM. The addition of that one letter to represent the value of arts education delivered a powerful message, but one I fear is largely being ignored by policy makers.
Far too often, the term “evidence-based decision making” is thrown around as a means of shutting down debate. Yet, with the teaching of the arts, the overwhelming evidence collected over decades on its effect in improving a child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual growth is largely, and too often wilfully, ignored.

One of the most famous studies is from the US called Champions of Change: The Impact of Arts on Learning, which should be required reading for anyone interested in education.

The report from 1998 is comprised of seven landmark research projects that studied a variety of arts programs including theatre studies, student performance, visual arts, music education, instrument tuition, the teaching of Shakespeare, arts education in disadvantaged communities, the impact on students “at risk”, and arts teaching across the curriculum.

The research findings were ground breaking.

They showed that the arts reached students who were not otherwise being reached. The arts connected students to themselves and to each other while transforming the environment for learning.
For students who need extending, the arts provided new challenges for those students already considered successful as the arts encouraged self-directed learning and allowed for the management of risk by the learners.

There was also a high correlation between quality music education and a significant lift in student achievement in mathematics. Other arts programs lifted reading proficiency significantly.

While the students involved in formal arts programs improved academically, they also showed higher levels of social empathy, tolerance and emotional resilience.

The academic gains by students in formal arts programs became even more pronounced over time. Importantly, these patterns of achievement remained true for students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

By way of contrast, the researchers found substantial poorer outcomes, academically and socially, for students from similar backgrounds but who had not been involved in quality arts education.

A recent article in The Guardian, “How to improve the school results: not extra maths but music, loads of it”, tells the story of a UK primary school in Bradford that is enjoying a significant lift in student achievement by mandating a minimum of six hours per week of formal music education. 

School attendance is now at an all-time high.

The head of the school reports “teachers have found that asking children to memorise passages of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, for example, improves reading and writing”.

This school serves a low SES community with 99 per cent of the student population coming from a language background other than English.

Professor Susan Hallam of the University College London published another powerful study, The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.

Among her findings she reports: “Speech and music have a number of shared processing systems. Musical experiences which enhance processing can therefore impact on the perception of language which in turn impacts on learning to read. Active engagement with music sharpens the brain’s early encoding of linguistic sound. Eight-year-old children with just eight weeks of musical training showed improvement in perceptual cognition compared with controls.”

Closer to home, we have our own champions of change such as conductor Richard Gill, renowned pianist Simon Tedeschi, and music educator Assistant Professor Anita Collins of the University of Canberra, who has researched the effect of music education on academic achievement and brain development in children.

According to an article by Deborah Jones, “How music wires your child’s brain for learning”, Collins’ research “shows that learning music is better than any other activity at improving cognitive capacity, particularly in numeracy and literacy".

Professor Collins argues: “Essentially, music is wiring the brain extremely well for any other kind of learning. It’s setting up all the neural pathways that are needed for quick transfer of information. It’s really good for delivering information, being able to think about information in a creative way, being able to pick up nuances in information, in speech and all sorts of other things.”

So let’s make sure we have space in our curriculum for all our subject disciplines rather than privilege some over others.

Imagine if we had policy makers who, instead of obsessing over NAPLAN data, used their energy to champion the role of arts education in the curriculum.


Now that is something a robot NAPLAN marker won’t ever be able to do, unlike a child engaged in the arts

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tim Costello on Manus and Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull is kidding himself if he thinks the Manus crisis is over

Manus Island is a sleepy, pretty Melanesian island in the Bismarck Sea off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. It has few claims to fame. Japanese war trials were held there. The anthropologist Margaret Mead lived there. But now, its name has been dragged through the international mud as a byword for Australia's shameful refugee detention policies

Over the past two days, PNG police have done the Australian government's dirty work, breaking up the former detention centre and forcibly removing more than 300 men who were refusing to go to new facilities, in no small part because it consigns them to further indefinite detention.

The situation on Manus Island is going from bad to worse as authorities use batons on detainees refusing to leave the Regional Processing Centre.

But if Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton think that's the end of the matter, they're kidding themselves. All they have done is move the old problem to a new location, a few kilometres away. Without hope, without a solution this problem goes on and it remains Australia's responsibility.

The language used by Peter Dutton, describing the refugees as "bad tenants", has been appalling. They are not bad tenants. They are refugees. They were the unlucky last who tried to reach Australia before the gates banged shut, who put their money into the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers and hoped the ocean would not kill them before they reached freedom.

No one wants to see men, women and children drowning in the ocean. But that does not mean we can wash our hands of these asylum seekers. The way we have treated them is a stain on our reputation as a country that loves a fair go. As Nai Jit Lam, UNHCR's deputy regional representative, said this week, "Australia has in effect created and then abandoned a humanitarian crisis at the doorstep of the international community."

The federal government has buried first principles under the blanket of border protection. Australia is obliged under the refugee convention to protect people who are fleeing persecution and violence. A fundamental principle of law is that detention should be for a clear and limited period. After more than four years in detention, refugees on Manus Island and Nauru should be brought to Australia.

We should also take up New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 of the refugees. We should press the United States to expedite its resettlement agreement, intended to resettle 1250 refugees, which will go some way to clearing the asylum seekers in PNG and Nauru. If necessary, a special envoy should be appointed to facilitate a swift resettlement program, while sending a clear message to people smugglers that their wretched boats will not land. This is not an impossible task. But it is a measure of competence and compassion.

Malcolm Turnbull should take personal responsibility for ending this tragic episode. The Prime Minister is not a cruel man, he is not inhumane, but what we have witnessed on Manus Island and Nauru is both cruel and inhumane and it should bother his conscience.

What we must not do is turn refugees into expendables, the human waste we are prepared to accept as casualties of our border protection policy. Mr Turnbull says he won't outsource Australia's migration policy to people smugglers. But he is prepared to outsource our refugee policy to PNG, our largest aid recipient. If in Malcolm Turnbull's universe these men have done something wrong by trying to seek asylum in Australia, how long does he think they deserve to be punished?

Over the past several days, I have been in PNG and Manus Island as part of a fact-finding mission under the auspices of the Australian Council for International Development, the peak body for Australia's aid and humanitarian sector.

As part of this fact-finding mission we have seen for ourselves the new facilities that Mr Dutton says are ready to go. They clearly are not. One of the facilities, West Haus, is a building site, with open drains. The new facilities are a mishmash of completion and recent excavation and a long way from Mr Dutton's assurances. It is certainly no place for people with severe medical and psychological problems.

But even when the accommodation is completed, some weeks from now, the real problem remains that no solution is in sight for the refugees who have been dumped here.

Over the past few days I have spoken to many of the Manus refugees, sat with them, listened to their stories, heard the longing they feel for their families, their heartache, and I have seen the hopelessness in their eyes. It is a soul-shattering experience to look into the face of a human being who has been denied not just liberty, but also hope, by our government, in our name.

ACTU – Turnbull fails on NEG at COAG

24 November 2017

Statement from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

The ACTU is extremely disappointed at the outcomes of today’s COAG Energy Council meeting,

The onus was on the Turnbull Government to provide significant further detail on its latest attempt at an energy policy and it has failed to meet our expectations

Despite Prime Minister Turnbull’s misunderstanding of the stakeholder letter from earlier in the week we have not and do not offer our unconditional support for the NEG.

We condemn the Turnbull Government’s refusal to benchmark the NEG’s effectiveness at providing lower power prices, improved use of renewable energy, lower carbon emissions and a Just Transition for workers and their communities against other policy options such as an Emissions Intensity  Scheme, which has been recommended by regulators and industry stakeholders, or a Clean Energy Target which was recommended by the Chief Scientist. This demonstrates that the entire policy development process has become a hostage to ideological over practical concerns.

Without being able to demonstrate real outcomes on these areas of key concern to working people the ACTU rejects Prime Minister Turnbull’s claim to our endorsement.

In the absence of detail from the government, modelling undertaken by independent organisations shows the policy has the potential to shut down the deployment of renewable energy, the good steady jobs of the new economy, and fail to have any real impact on lowering power prices or reducing emissions.

There has been no information provided on the impact of the NEG on employment in the sector or impacts on communities, nor has there been any commitment towards transitioning the sector in a just and equitable manner.

Prime Minister Turnbull’s premature and misguided claim to having our endorsement shows how threadbare this policy is and how desperate he is to find supporters.



In a major victory for our Union’s campaign against anti-worker labour hire practices, the Federal Court last week ruled out a “sham” enterprise agreement voted on by only three workers employed by One Key labour hire company.

That agreement then covered 1118 people working for One Key in the black coal industry in Queensland, who became locked into a deal that saw them lose casual employment protections and exchange for $1 a week above the award minimum.

In other words – a total ripoff. It’s a common tactic of labour hire firms like One Key wanting to erode the pay and conditions of miners.
In Court, we argued that One Key had not taken all reasonable steps to explain the agreement and the effect of its terms to all of its employees. The Judge agreed.

While One Key may appeal the decision, the CFMEU intends to pursue claims for back-pay of annual leave and personal leave for affected workers, and the decision may also flow through to One Key workers in NSW. 

This week, the Fair Work Commission quashed another 2 agreements, this time involving AWX Labour firm in the black coal industry, also in Queensland. 
Again, we argued that the company had not taken all reasonable steps to explain the agreement and the effect of its terms, to workers. The Full Bench agreed.

This is not the first time the union has had to stand up to AWX.

Last year, AWX tried to have a single enterprise agreement approved, but after our Union’s intervention AWX withdrew their application.

These decisions are a major victory in the campaign against unscrupulous labour hire practices, and they will have ramifications for all industries.

Last week following the One Key decision, ACTU secretary Sally McManus said "too many employers are exploiting loopholes in the current laws that let them get away with these sham agreements.

"Sadly though we know that these sham agreements are more and more prevalent across the economy and that's why we need to change the rules to protect working people."   

Labor Victory Predicted in Queensland Election

Pryor Cartoon - dispatching Turnbull
Queensland election: Labor to form majority government, Antony Green predicts:

Labor would have 46 seats and would win another two, clearing the 47 needed to govern with a majority.

The LNP is predicted to win 39 seats.

One Nation and the Greens are predicted to win one seat each, Katter's Australia Party two, and one independent.

Green said it looked like the Palaszczuk Government had been returned.

"I think it is the Labor majority government that we are currently projecting, but if they fall short of that by one seat they will still be the government," he said.

"There are enough independents in the party for them to still have a significant number more than the LNP.

"I think they have a certain 46, and they only need one more vote.

"At the moment we are giving them another two on prediction.

Green said the introduction of compulsory preferential voting had a lot to do with that outcome and had created odd results in some seats.

"It's one of the more complex elections I've worked on," he said.

Support for the LNP had fallen significantly, often due to One Nation, yet the LNP actually benefited from Labor preferences in some seats.

"It's the weird thing in this election, is that it's the bronze medallist who will determine who gets silver and gold," he said.

ABC political commentator Barrie Cassidy said it was a poor result for the LNP, after Mr Nicholls left open the prospect of dealing with One Nation to form government.

"The problem is this — One Nation got 12 per cent of the vote, but 88 per cent of people didn't vote for One Nation," he said.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

MEAA – Boochani arrest is an attack on press freedom

Image: courtesy of Amnesty International Australia
MEAA, the union for Australian media workers, stands in solidarity with Iranian-Kurdish journalist and regular contributor to Australian publications, Behrouz Boochani, who has reportedly been arrested today on Manus Island.

MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy said Boochani appeared to have been deliberately targeted by Papua New Guinea police in today’s crackdown because of his high-profile as a journalist reporting from inside the detention centre.

“Behrouz has been one of the main sources of factual information about conditions inside the Manus Island detention centre for the past few years, and his reporting has been published in Australia and internationally,” Mr Murphy said.

“His reporting in the finest traditions of journalism has been critical when the Australian and PNG governments have done everything they can to prevent media from having access to the asylum seekers on Manus Island.

“Without Behrouz’s courageous reporting at great personal risk, the world would be less informed about the crisis on Manus Island.

“If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that cannot be let stand.

“We call on the Australian and PNG governments to release him from custody, assure his safety, and not to hinder him from continuing to perform his role as a journalist.

“We will also be bringing this to the immediate attention of the International Federation of Journalists, the global body for journalists.”

Just three weeks ago, Boochani was awarded the Amnesty International Australian Media Award for his journalism from Manus Island.

Earlier this year, Boochani was shortlisted in the journalism category for the 2017 Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards, and MEAA co-ordinated an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull which called for him to be resettled in Australia, which was co-signed by dozens of journalists and writers.

His work has been published in the Guardian Australia, and The Saturday Paper, among other publications, while his film about life inside the Manus detention centre,

Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time was screened at the Sydney and London film festivals.

RBA’s concern for record low wage growth

22 November 2017

RBA Governor Phillip Lowe's comments at the Australian Business Economists event last night that employers are to blame for low wage growth show why the system needs to change to give workers more power.

The RBA Governor said hourly earnings are the lowest in more than half a century and changes to work and bargaining agreements mean workers feel they have less bargaining power.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Employers won't just give pay rises, that's not how it works, workers need the power to win them. Our system is broken and that is why we have record low wage growth.”
  • “We have a broken system that has allowed 700,000 people to have their penalty rates cut. 40% of Australians are in insecure work and one in ten workers is employed on a temporary working visa.”
  • “Australian workers are experiencing low wage growth, and widespread wage theft means that good employers are competing with those who are ripping off workers and getting away with it. It’s not fair that people who are obeying the law in a broken system are being punished.”
  • “Bargaining rules are too complicated, are in breach of international law, and fine workers severely for taking industrial action.”
  • “Working people need better, stronger rights at work to ensure jobs are secure and wages rise. Right now employers like Streets ice-cream can cancel EBAs, causing hard working Australians to experience massive wage cuts. We need to swing the pendulum back in favour of ordinary working people.”

ACTU – Big Win For Woolies Workers

23 November 2017

More than 1500 warehouse workers at Woolworths have won 4% annual pay increases, double the national average.

Workers have also improved redundancy conditions, more than doubling the maximum redundancy payments for workers. These improvements were won with no trade-offs. NUW members won by standing together and being prepared to take strike action for secure jobs and a fair pay rise.

The National Union of Workers ran an extremely strong campaign which has resulted in a great outcome for these workers.

In a parallel deal Woolworths have agreed to ensure that farm workers in its fresh food supply chain have their legal entitlements protected and their right to join their union respected. This breakthrough agreement comes after the NUW campaigned for two years to expose wage theft and human rights violations in the supply chains of major Australian supermarkets.

A major platform of this new supply-chain agreement is prequalifying labour hire companies. This will mean those who want to trade in labour on farms will need to prove that they are not breaking Australian workplace laws, and workers who join the union and speak up about violations will be protected.

Statement from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Across Australia, wages are flat-lining, except where there are unions like the NUW standing united to improve pay and conditions.
  • “This win will see farm workers in the supply chain benefit significantly. When workers pull together, take collective action, and stand up for better pay and conditions, they can win and change the way big businesses, like Woolworths, operate.”
  • “This was great work by the NUW members, who knew that exploitation along the supply chain needed to be addressed by those at the top of the supply chain. But we need to change the laws that currently prohibit workers from bargaining along supply chains. Workers need more power in bargaining.”
  • “Workers must be able to bargain where the power is, not simply with their direct employer.”
  • “If you want to increase your pay and conditions, you have to join your union." 
  • “We are working to change the rules for working people to make it easier to bargain for better outcomes, and to ensure workers’ have strong rights that are upheld.”
  • “But it shouldn’t have been as hard as it was for these workers. The rules which mean workers have to jump through endless hoops to win secure jobs and a pay rise need to change.
  • “We offer our congratulations to the bravery and solidarity of the workers who delivered this tremendous outcome.

“This week we have shown that collective action can result in workers overcoming the power of major corporations.” 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Acoss – COAG must deliver on all elements of energy trilemma without delay

21 November 2017

To reduce shocking energy prices and confidently deliver on our international obligation to reduce carbon pollution and transition to clean energy, ACOSS urges members of the COAG Energy Ministers meeting being held in Hobart on 24 November 2017 to come to an agreement.

“If the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) is indeed the only policy that is currently on offer at the political level, then we urge COAG to negotiate in good faith and in a timely manner, with our children’s future in mind," says ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.

“We welcome the NEGs focus on affordability and reliability, but are concerned that the third element of the trilemma could take a backseat to the detriment of vulnerable Australians impacted by climate change.

“Given the scale of the climate change challenge, the emissions reduction target set for the energy sector will need to be more ambitious than is currently being alluded to by the Federal Government.

“We literally can’t afford further delay, but nor can we afford to 'kick the can' down the line when it comes to cutting carbon pollution.

“On affordability and reliability the devil will be in the detail.

“We need to see the modelling and hear from investors, generators and retailers to feel confident the new plan can deliver the savings so far claimed and to the households who need it.  

“It will be important to ensure the obligations of retailers are not smeared across bills as it will be low-income and disadvantaged households who will end up paying disproportionately more.

“It’s also important that the reliability measure does not lead to a repeat of unnecessary gold plating, invests in the right technology for our changing system and weather, and that the obligations is not too onerous on retailers that it leads to greater market concentration.

"In addition to the NEG, COAG urgently needs to turn its attention to delivering a real affordability guarantee, particularly relieving energy stress on low-income and disadvantage households. Affordability is about the size of your energy bill and the income you have to pay it.

“Greater focus on improving household energy efficiency, including mandating energy efficiency standard for rental properties will go a long way to reducing bills and improving health and wellbeing.

“Reforms to improve household capacity to pay are urgently needed including increasing social security payments, in particular Newstart, and improving energy concessions.

“Significant work also must also be done about the role of household energy generation. People who are better off and own their own homes are taking up technologies to generate their own energy at a rate that is seriously leaving renters and low income homeowners behind, while they remain paying more for their energy supply, and using more energy because of poor energy efficiency in sub-standard housing." 

ACTU – Exploitation of Migrant Workers Systemic

Today’s release of the Wage Theft in Australia survey of temporary visa workers clearly demonstrates the systemic exploitation of migrant workers in many Australian industries.

The national survey of 4,322 temporary migrants from 107 countries confirms what the ACTU has been arguing. The visa system creates a pool of easily exploited labour, which allows employers to engage in wage theft and only makes local unemployment worse.

The survey shows:

Some 15 per cent of workers in the agriculture industry were paid as low as $5 per hour and another 31 per cent received $10 dollars an hour

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “Stealing workers’ wages is a crime, and its rife. Our broken laws are inadequate to deter employers. When workers’ wages are stolen, there’s very often no penalty, or a penalty so weak, employers just wear it as a cost of doing business.
  • “Our broken laws not only facilitate the theft of wages, they have facilitated big businesses importing what amounts to a slave labour class of workers on temporary visas.
  • “Employers are flaunting our laws with alarming regularity and exploiting migrant workers.
  • “It’s disgraceful that workers are being forced to pay thousands for their visas, having their passports taken away, being forced to pay back some of their wages and being paid cash in hand.
  • “Wage theft has to stop. Workers must have quick and easy access to justice and unions which can protect their rights.
  • “These workers know they are being underpaid but are either too scared to say anything, or are simply accepting that their legal rights will be denied. They need more power.
  • “We have to change the rules and end this pattern of wage theft and abuse of labour rights.
  • “Academics Laurie Berg and Bassina Farbenblum have illuminated the experiences of temporary visa workers and we hope that the Turnbull Government will act swiftly to address these alarming revelations.”

ACTU – Wage Theft – LNP have allowed the complete breakdown of law

Statement from ACTU President Ged Kearney:

The revelations of systemic wage theft published today by academics Laurie Berg and Bassina Farbenblum show that the Turnbull Government is unwilling to stop employers breaking the law to protect working people.

The Prime Minister and his Minister Michaelia Cash are more concerned with attacking working people than they are with ensuring that all Australians have their basic rights protected.

As a result, wage growth is the lowest on record, big businesses profits are booming, and a third of big businesses don’t pay any tax.

Minister Cash, who is more than happy to smear working people in the press and mislead the parliament, couldn’t even take the time to comment to the press this morning on a story which showed a quarter of international students and a third of backpackers are being paid half the legal wage.

Every worker in Australia is entitled to basic rights, but under this government that promise has been broken for thousands of workers.

Now, one in ten workers is on a temporary visa. When systematic underpayment and exploitation is the norm, it increases unemployment, and drags down wages across the economy.

Australian workers need a government who will defend basic rights and ensure that they are treated fairly, not cut their pay and attack unions.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Directors unpaid wage bill of $1.6bn over 10 years

Saturday 18 November 2017

The employment department is refusing to reveal the identities of the directors who contributed to a total unpaid wage bill of $1.6bn over 10 years, which was left to taxpayers to pick up.

New figures, produced under freedom of information laws, show that 1,322 people, who were each directors of two or more companies that failed, were responsible for a quarter of the unpaid wage bill, or $400m.

The employment department told Guardian Australia the heavily redacted document was “compiled for the purpose of investigating potential breaches of law” and could tip them off that they were subjects of current or pending investigations.

But in its decision, the department concedes that the document lists directors “without indicating whether or not any given director has been, is being or will be investigated, nor whether the department has yet established any wrongdoing on the part of any given director”.

The opposition employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said the Turnbull government had shown “the absolute height of hypocrisy” by “incessantly harping on about accountability and transparency for registered organisations, but not applying those principles to company directors who get away with not paying worker entitlements, leaving the bill to the taxpayer”.

The un-redacted parts of the document produced show that from July 2007 to March 2017 the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) and its predecessor paid out a gross total of $1.8bn, less $197m recovered through liquidation of the companies.

During that period, there were 22,574 directors of the 14,903 companies that accessed the scheme and underwent liquidation.

Of these, 1,322 – or less than 6% – were directors of two or more failed companies that accessed the scheme, responsible for 2,419 liquidations, or 16% of the total.

And these directors were responsible for a quarter of the unpaid wage bill: a gross total of $461m, less $57m recovered through liquidations. Just 12.5 cents in the dollar was recovered from these companies.

In its decision, the employment department concluded it would “unreasonably affect the business or professional affairs” to reveal the names of the 1,322 directors.

“This information is not publicly available, and its release would likely cause unfair public scrutiny of those directors, or negative inferences in respect of their behaviour, in circumstances where this would be unreasonable,” it said.

The decision cited directors of multiple companies within a collapsed corporate group as an example of those whom the list might “unfairly imply [engaged in] professional misconduct if made public”.

Company directors to be registered under Labor's 'phoenix' insolvency crackdown

A consultation paper released in May says one in seven of the 650 companies that accessed the scheme between 2013 and 2015 had engaged in “sharp practices” such as contrived company group structures and illegal phoenix activity to avoid liability.

Draft speaking points for the employment minister produced under FOI laws state that “in several recent cases such practices have been openly employed to shift the cost of unpaid employee entitlements to the FEG scheme”.

The average annual costs of the FEG scheme have tripled from $70.7m in the four years to June 2009 to $243.6m in the four years to June 2017.

In October, the Turnbull government announced it would crack down on misuse of the taxpayer funded safety net, including creating a new civil penalty for directors or managers who make a transaction that a reasonable person would have known would evade employee entitlements.

The standard for criminal offences will be lowered so that company officials who recklessly make a transaction that has the effect of avoiding employee entitlements are punished.

O’Connor labelled the Coalition’s changes “a pale imitation of Labor’s phoenixing package, which would crack down on dodgy company directors”.

Labor’s proposed changes would require company directors to register for an identification number, increase maximum penalties for phoenix activity such as breach of directors’ duties, and introduce an objective test for the company law that prohibits transactions that deprive employees of their entitlements.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions president, Ged Kearney, said the documents demonstrated that when companies did not pay their workers “taxpayers are being forced to cough up”.

  • “Given the report shows many directors are repeat offenders, the rules are clearly broken and inadequate,” she said.
  • “We need stronger laws that mean employers are caught, held to account and working people get the money they are owed quickly and easily.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

ACTU calls for shareholders to support resolutions to hold CBA executives to account

16 November 2017

The ACTU calls for shareholders of Commonwealth Bank (CBA) to support resolutions to hold CBA to account.

Despite years of scandals and misconduct, CBA will announce a $9.89 billion profit and are seeking to award their executives bonuses on top of their obscene salaries.

The CBA has a terrible track record and an executive culture which rewards bad behaviour. CBA stands accused of breaching anti-terror and money-laundering laws, defrauding customers, and stealing workers’ wages. It also been ordered to pay back more than $100 million to its superannuation customers after systemically overcharging them.

Despite this, the Turnbull Government is protecting the banks from a Royal Commission, and has plans to increase the big banks’ power and profits by giving them more control over workers’ superannuation.

The ACTU has written to crossbench senators urging they oppose the Government’s superannuation bills.

Quotes attributable to Scott Connolly, Assistant Secretary:

  • “The ACTU calls on shareholders of Commonwealth Bank of Australia to hold the bank to account for its egregious behaviour.”
  • “We call on shareholders to oppose the reappointment of Andrew Mohl as a non-executive director. Mr Mohl has been a director since 2008 and oversaw money laundering scandals, the denial of fair life insurance, and the theft of workers’ super.”
  • “We call on shareholders to consider joining First Super and Cbus to reject the Executive Remuneration Report. The executives of CBA need to be held to account for their actions in allowing rip-offs and misconduct against working people.”
  • “We support the Finance Sector Union (FSU) in their call for CBA to release exactly how much it owes to workers who were not paid super. CBA should disclose fully the amount and the interest owed to workers, and ensure protections for whistle-blowers.”
  • “It is a symptom of the arrogance of the banking elite that shareholders must force CBA executives to adhere to the norms of the rest of society. The executives of CBA need to be held accountable for their actions, and they must embrace full transparency and disclosure."

NSW – Bus Fire-Sale to Keolis-Downe plans – SAVE our Buses

Over 26,000 Inner-West residents and commuters have signed petitions that have been ignored by the NSW Government when debated in Parliament on October 12th and last week.

There has been a flood of letters in your paper over the planned fire-sale to Keolis-Downer of an essential public service that have been a people's asset for over 100 years in this State.

'Blind Freddy' can see the bus stop removals are not about speeding up the service but further inconveniencing the public for a 'streamlined', mainly peak hour only, service to suit the potential buyers.

Enough is enough!  The secret deals have been planned for the new year implementation by Transport Minister Constance and Premier Berejiklian.

The commuters and the general public must act now. The bus drivers are hampered by an industrial court order threatening them with individual $5,000 a day fines if they refuse to allow the use of Opal Cards or go on strike. 

Maybe the bus users have to retaliate and refuse to use their opal cards to deprive the shonky government of revenue and save the buses !

We are calling for local people to assemble outside all eleven government bus depots, in our case Leichhardt and Burwood,  on Monday December 4th between 8-9am with placards reading "Save OUR Buses!"

Once again thank you to the Inner-West Courier for being a rare voice of democracy on this issue.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

NSWTF – Federation celebrates marriage equality vote, and will watch legislation closely

Submitted by nswtf on 15 November 2017

Teachers across NSW welcomed the news of a 61.6% YES vote in the marriage equality survey, confirming the long-held majority opinion that Australians support marriage equality.

In acknowledging the result, General Secretary John Dixon said, “Love is Love. The vote vindicated those who argued that the Parliament should have legislated in favour long ago.”

Mel Smith, officer attached to Federation’s LGBTIQ special interest group, thanked everyone who participated in the campaign and voted yes in support of the Australian LGBTIQ community.

President Maurie Mulheron outlined the need for vigilance and close scrutiny over any proposed legislation that would now go before parliament.

“Australia voted to allow same-sex couples to marry,” Mr Mulheron said. “They have voted to remove discrimination, to not weaken our anti-discrimination laws. Therefore, Federation will be closely reviewing any proposed legislation and strongly advocating for a simple wording change that would make it legal for same-sex couples to marry.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ANMF says end discrimination and division, enact marriage equality now

Wednesday 15th November, 2017

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) welcomes the result of the marriage equality postal vote and is now urging our politicians to introduce new Legislation to stop any further discrimination against LGBTI Australians.

Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF and its members were relieved that the majority of Australians had voted “yes”, in support of a change of law finally allowing same sex marriage.

  • “The ANMF has long-campaigned for marriage equality for LGBTI Australians,” Ms Thomas said today.
  • “It’s a special day for our members in same-sex relationships who can be heartened that Australians have spoken and have come out in strong support of equality – introducing a new, fairer law which will give same sex couples the same rights as the rest of the community.
  • “Unfortunately, the plebiscite has created deep division within the community and as health care professionals, we acknowledge the compelling research that shows that members of the LGBTI community suffer poorer health outcomes, compared to others, as a result of discrimination.
  • “This is why the division and discrimination must stop once and for all.  
  • “Our politicians must respect the result of the national vote and support the introduction of a Bill allowing same-sex couples to marry by the end of the year.
  • “Any other Bill, as being put forward by Conservative MPs, will be contrary to what the majority of Australians have voted for – a fair go for all.
  • “The result of the plebiscite has shown that Australians have given our politicians a clear message – it’s time they listen to the Australian people and enact marriage equality.”

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

ACTU – Figures show wage shock continues

15 November 2017

Statement from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

“Today’s ABS wage growth statistics show that wage growth has flat-lined and that Australia needs a pay rise.

Annual wages growth remains at close to record lows at 2.0 per cent in the September quarter 2017.

“Working people are struggling to keep their heads above water.

“Corporate profits are increasing 40% annually, and yet none of that money is making its way into the hands of working people. A third of big businesses don’t pay their tax. Neo-liberal economics has failed.

“Australian workers need a pay rise. Wages aren’t growing and it’s a clear sign that the neo-liberal economics of this, and previous coalition governments, have failed.”

“We need to change the rules to put money in the pockets of working people; something we know will drive economic growth.”

“The Turnbull Government has cut wages for 700,000 people, failed to argue for an increase in the minimum wage and campaigned against paid family and domestic violence leave.”

“Everyone from Treasury to the RBA has said that flat-lining wage growth is dragging the economy down. The Turnbull government must act to improve working people’s living standards.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

ACTU - Controversial IR and super legislation must be halted until citizenship crisis is resolved

9 November 2017

ACTU President Ged Kearney  citizenship crisis  controversial IR and super legislation
Statement from ACTU President Ged Kearney:

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is calling for all controversial IR legislation to be put on hold until we can know for certain who is, and who isn’t, eligible to sit in the Federal Parliament.

There are currently five pieces of controversial industrial relations and superannuation legislation before the parliament. Three bills give more power to the big banks over working people’s financial security, and the other two give more power to the ROC, which is currently embroiled in the controversy over the police raid on union offices.

The ongoing citizenship saga is impacting the legitimacy of the government to pass these controversial measures which do not have bi-partisan or stakeholder support.

The government is in crisis. It is improper for controversial industrial relations and superannuation legislation to be passed at this time.

Australians do not currently trust the big banks or the ROC. Giving these organisations more power at this time is not appropriate.

These bills have the capacity to adversely impact the lives of working Australians, and their financial security. They should not be debated, amended or voted on until the public can have confidence on the legitimacy of the government.

Each day, new questions emerge about the status of different members of parliament. These questions need to be answered to give the Australian people assurance that the decisions being made that affect the lives of working people are being done by those who are properly elected.

If the government doesn’t know who is meant to be in the Parliament, they must pause their controversial IR and superannuation agenda until confidence can be restored in the eligibility of those who would be voting to strip rights and financial security from working people.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Blue Mountains Unions & Community Calls for Monitoring of Coal Dust Pollution

Every week, thousands of tonnes of coal cross the Blue Mountains aboard trains up to 60 wagons long. But not all coal leaves the mountains.

As the coal wagons are uncovered, dust escapes into the atmosphere causing what doctors believe is a hidden health risk.

Now their calls for Government action are being backed by the Blue Mountains Unions and Community (BMUC) who have voted unanimously to raise these concerns with state and federal governments and the Blue Mountains City Council.

Dr Sujata Allan from the public health advocacy group Doctors for the Environment says that air pollution from the mining, burning and transport of coal increases risks of heart disease, lung disease, asthma and some cancers.

“Research from Newcastle has shown that every time coal trains go by there are big spikes in air pollution-with potential impacts on nearby populations. Covering coal wagons and regulating dirty diesel locomotives would reduce air pollution.”

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has already raised BMUC’s concerns in State Parliament and called upon the “the NSW Government, freight rail industry and coal industry to work together to establish air quality monitoring infrastructure along the Blue Mountains rail corridor to reassure residents of their air quality.”

The BMUC has established through approaches to the Environmental Planning Agency ( EPA) that so far there has been no air quality monitoring along the Blue Mountains rail corridor. The EPA has informed BMUC that the nearest air monitoring stations are at Bathurst and St Mary’s.

Greens Councillor Kerry Brown has established that the BMCC has no air monitoring stations in the mountains.

In a statement from the EPA, BMUC was told: “In August 2016 the Chief Government Scientist, Mary O’Kane released a report on rail coal dust emissions management practices in NSW. The report found that further investigation and research is needed to better understand the nature and distribution of particles along the rail corridors, and that industry should continue to implement existing dust mitigation measures.”

BMUC president Kerry Cooke pointed out that thousands of Blue Mountains residents live within 100 metres of the rail line. “We’ve already waited far too long for government action on this. If the government can’t get its act together to carry out monitoring in the Blue Mountains we will be looking to get the job done independently. There’s a real double standard here. One of our members was fined $400.00 for driving his ute with an uncovered load of wood. “Yet the government apparently sees no health risk from massive uncovered coal trains or dirty diesel locomotives carrying thousands of tonnes of coal over the mountains week after week.”

“BMUC is calling for state and federal Environment ministers to implement air quality monitoring along the rail corridor where coal wagons traverse, for the coal wagons to be covered and pollution standards be introduced for locomotives similar to those applying to trucks. As well as following the Senate recommendations that all coal wagons be washed prior to returning to the coal mine.

BMUC was advised on the dangers of coal dust pollution by two members of Doctors for the Environment-Dr Richard Stiles who practices in Lithgow and Katoomba and Dr Sujata Allan who formerly practiced in Faulconbridge and Katoomba.

For further info, contact:

Peter Lammiman: 0410 153157
Kerry Cooke: 0481 341950
Nick Franklin: 0428 259754
Sujata Allan: 0416 550242
Richard Stiles: 0427 525484

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Midnight Oil – Great Circle

NOVEMBER 10 2017
David Leser

Desmond Tutu, the South African anti-apartheid activist, Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner once observed that if you are impartial in situations of injustice, you have ended up siding with the oppressor.

"If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse," he said, "and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

Since Midnight Oil announced their Great Circle world tour in April this year, five months after Donald Trump's improbable victory in the US 2016 presidential elections, there has been no let-up to the remonstrations across the globe.

Midnight Oil has been many things to many people over the past 40 years but neutrality has never been part of the band's genetic make-up. Scorching music behind a spellbinding lead singer, yes. Angry anthems directed against corporate greed, environmental vandalism, Aboriginal dispossession and unchecked militarism, absolutely. But neutrality? Not on your life.

During the reviled apartheid era the Oils steadfastly refused to break the United Nations-approved cultural boycott of South Africa, despite generous enticements to do so. (Queen, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner and Julio Iglesias, to name just a few, showed no such moral conviction.) It was only after Nelson Mandela had walked free from 27 years in prison and, in 1994, become the country's first democratically elected black president that the band agreed to play.

"We went there about six months after Mandela came to power," drummer Rob Hirst recalls now. "We'd been invited before, but that would have meant breaking the boycott."

"So we ended up playing in Johannesburg at the famous Ellis Park, alongside Sting, Lucky Dube and Johnny Clegg. It was the first multi-racial show in post-apartheid South Africa and people had been bussed in from the townships and were singing these beautiful three and four part harmonies to Dead Heart:

We carry in our hearts the true country
We follow in the steps of our ancestry
And that cannot be broken

Since first coming together on Sydney's northern beaches in the mid to late 1970s Midnight Oil – comprising Peter Garrett, Rob Hirst, guitarists Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey, and bass player Bones Hillman – has been Australia's most overtly political musical outfit. Never mind the nine year hiatus (2004-13) that saw frontman Garrett take an eyebrow-raising detour into Australian Labor Party politics, there's never been a group in this country to equal the Oils for conveying the rage, fear, cynicism and burning idealism of a generation. (Despite the censure that Garrett received in some quarters for swapping his role as an activist singer for a mainstream politician, the former minister for the environment and the arts – and later school education and youth – proudly claims to have made more decisions to protect the environment than any other Australian environment minister.)

If there were an anti-uranium or nuclear disarmament concert to be played the Oils would be there. (They probably organised it!) If it was a protest concert against, say, the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, then the Oils would be the ones blocking traffic outside the corporation's Manhattan headquarters. If there was going to be a way to symbolically express regret for the history of Aboriginal trauma in Australia … and to do so at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics in front of a global audience, well then no prizes for guessing who'd be the ones wearing black "sorry" suits. As playwright Stephen Sewell once observed, they were the group who "plugged into the passionate commitment to human values that is at the heart of left politics".

The domain has always been one of the epicentres of articulated resistance

Peter Garrett

But that was yesterday right, when winter days still felt wintry and the political left could still be heard? Well not quite. Since Midnight Oil announced their Great Circle world tour in April this year, five months after Donald Trump's improbable victory in the US 2016 presidential elections, there's been no let-up to the remonstrations across the globe. In America: Inauguration Day protests, an enormous Women's March on Washington, airport protests in support of refugees; protests against American withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement; demonstrations in support of migrant children; NFL players dissenting on bended knee; impeachment marches; Resist Trump Tuesdays, Not My Presidents Day declarations, even mass objections to Trump returning to his home in New York.

And that's not the half of it. Look beyond Trump and the clamour of civil disobedience seems to be everywhere – on the streets of Barcelona, Caracas, Istanbul, Delhi, London, Jerusalem and, of course, here in Australia where rallies in support of same sex marriage, the Manus Island asylum seekers, and in defiance of Indian coal giant Adani seem to be getting larger and louder. "It seems protest is back in fashion," says Hirst. "And that gives relevance to a lot of our material. Even though, for example, US Forces was written at the time of the face off between (US President) Ronald Reagan and (Soviet leader) Yuri Andropov, it could equally be the face off now between Trump and (North Korean president) Kim Jong-un. The world is still living on the edge."

Put down that weapon or we'll all be gone
You can't hide nowhere with the torch light on
And it happens to be an emergency
Some things aren't meant to be

Peter Garrett concurs. "There is no doubt that the reaction to the band and to its music has been of a much greater order of magnitude than we expected," he says shortly after returning with the band from unveiling a protest banner on the endangered Great Barrier Reef.

"That is partly due to the titanic shifts that have taken place in the political landscape, most notably the rise of the alt-right and Trump becoming president of the US … but I think the backdrop to that is the dissatisfaction with the way in which people's lives have panned out for them. And of course many Midnight Oil songs reference these things, either directly or indirectly."

That's why Midnight Oil's final two performances in the Domain today and on Friday, November 17, are not just exercises in fabulous, life-affirming nostalgia, although they are that too. Rather, they're timely and poignant reminders that songs which were once relevant might always be relevant. Please take your pick from the treasure trove: The Dead Heart, Blue Sky Mine, Short Memory, When the Generals Talk, Truganini, Forgotten Years, Power and the Passion, Beds are Burning ...

What better place, then, to end an extraordinarily successful world tour than the Sydney Domain where Garrett and Hirst first ventured as young boys to hear political philosophers firing up the crowds from Speaker's Corner.

"It was an age of eloquence and great public speaking," says Hirst who came on many occasions with his father. "Back then there was more kudos for someone who could put forward a view in front of an irate rabble."

Garrett remembers, too, the sheer exhilaration of visiting the place with his mother and marvelling at what a focal point it was for self-expression. Then and now.

"When there's a great challenge before us, whether it's to do with the way we treat one another, whether it's to do with human rights, or the way we look after and secure our natural environment; whether it is about opposing forces of greed and the concentrations of power and the trampling over people that goes with it, the Domain has been one of the epicentres of articulated resistance to that."

Sounds like the perfect occasion for geography and history to come together. And for Midnight Oil to raise the volume once more.

Friday, November 10, 2017

ACTU – Trans Pacific Partnership would increase cost of medicine for Australians

Turnbull Government resurrection of the Trans Pacific Partnership would increase cost of medicine for Australians
10 November 2017

Statement from ACTU President Ged Kearney:

The Turnbull Government is pushing for the resurrection of the Trans Pacific Partnership -  a move which a new report shows would massively increase the cost of prescription medication in Australia.

The proposed deal, which has been abandoned by its original architects in the US, would extent patents, meaning the Big Pharma monopoly on drug production would jump from 5 to 8 years, costing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) hundreds of millions of dollars.

A study by La Trobe University found that biologic medicines – which are currently given additional patent protection - cost the PBS $2.2 billion a year, and could be cut by $560 million if current protections were scrapped.

Big pharma is already the most profitable industry in the world, with Pfizer alone making US$22 billion profit in a single year.  

The new PM of New Zealand is calling for reform of the agreement, including removal of a clause which allows multinational companies to sue our government. But our Government is happy to allow foreign companies to sue us for implementing legislation which supports the good of all Australians. 

French company Veolia is suing the Egyptian government for increasing the minimum wage, and a US pharmaceutical company is suing the Canadian government over a court decision which refused a patent on a drug which was no more effective than existing medicines.

The deal also opens up the Australian labour market to unlimited numbers of temporary workers from Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam as contractual service providers in a wide range of jobs including nurses, engineers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, tilers, mechanics and chefs.

Academics estimate the TPP would directly result in 39,000 job losses in Australia.

The TPP has no tangible benefits to Australian citizens, with the World Bank predicting that Australian GDP would rise by less than 0.005% per year. The ACTU is strongly in favour of democratically reviewed trade deals to ensure that they promote good jobs, help consumers and protect our sick and vulnerable.

The TPP fails on every test. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

ACTU – Cash’s Australia: higher youth unemployment, fewer women in trades

6 November 2017

ABS data released this week shows that on Minister for Women and Employment Michaelia Cash’s watch, apprenticeship numbers have tumbled, and the share of women in apprenticeships has also fallen.

Apprenticeships are a highly effective path to good, steady employment for young people, but despite youth unemployment being in double digits nationally the LNP has allowed the total number of apprenticeships to fall by 41,000 - from 226,500 in 2011 to 185,400 this year.

The share of apprenticeships held by women has also fallen, from 23.5% in 2009 to 17.1% this year.

The Abbott/Turnbull LNP government has cut $1 billion from apprenticeships, cut funding to TAFE, completely cut the Industry Skills Fund, allowed open rorting of the visa system and brought in the PaTH program, which pays young people $4 an hour but at no cost for big businesses.

The youth unemployment crisis is entirely the creation of the Abbott/Turnbull government’s refusal to invest in skills training for young people, coupled with its willingness to do anything that business asks, including providing young people as free labour and allowing the exploitation of migrant workers.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President, Ged Kearney:

  • “The gutting of apprenticeships will be part of the disastrous legacy of Michaelia Cash’s term as Employment Minister. The Minister has made savage cuts to skills training which we know is the pathway to good, steady jobs for our young people.”
  • “The refusal of the LNP to do anything to address the youth unemployment crisis is selling out an entire generation of young people who are growing up in insecure work, without a viable path to a proper job.”
  • “We need to change the rules to give young people access to properly funded skills training, and end programs which exploit them, or allow the exploitation of migrant workers.”
  • “This government promised jobs and growth, but has cut funding to skills training and universities, wage growth is flat-lining, insecure work is rampant, and youth unemployment is a national crisis.”
  • “This has been a disastrous period for employment policy in Australia, overseen by one of the most reactionary, anti-worker Employment Ministers in recent memory.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn discusses Brexit and Paradise Papers

Nov.06 -- Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn discusses Brexit and his call for an inquiry into offshore investments. He speaks with Bloomberg's Anna Edwards.

AMWU – Turnbull Goes Toxic

The Turnbull government has announced changes that could introduce harmful chemicals into your workplace.

Under proposed legislation 99% of new chemicals will NOT be officially assessed by the independent regulator with companies now overseeing the assessment process.

This means that potentially dangerous chemicals will be introduced into your workplace that have NOT been approved by the independent government regulator. There would also be no mechanism to report the use and quantity of chemicals used if a chemical turned out to be toxic.

We need your help to fight these changes and make sure that you are not exposed to toxic chemicals. Sign our petition below and don't let the Liberal’s get away with making your workplace more dangerous

Sign Petition 

BMUC – Uncovered Coal Trains-Exposing the Health Risks

Every week, thousands of tonnes of coal cross the Blue Mountains aboard trains up to 60 wagons long. But not all coal leaves the mountains.

As the coal wagons are uncovered, dust escapes into the atmosphere causing what doctors believe is a hidden health risk.

Now their calls for Government action are being backed by the Blue Mountains Unions and Community (BMUC) who have voted unanimously to raise these concerns with state and federal governments and the Blue Mountains City Council.

Dr Sujata Allan from the public health advocacy group Doctors for the Environment says that air pollution from the mining, burning and transport of coal increases risks of heart disease, lung disease, asthma and some cancers.

“Research from Newcastle has shown that every time coal trains go by there are big spikes in air pollution-with potential impacts on nearby populations. Covering coal wagons and regulating dirty diesel locomotives would reduce air pollution.”

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has already raised BMUC’s concerns in State Parliament and called upon the “the NSW Government , freight rail industry and coal industry to work together to establish air quality monitoring infrastructure along the Blue Mountains rail corridor to reassure residents of their air quality.”

The BMUC has established through approaches to the Environmental Planning Agency ( EPA) that so far there has been no air quality monitoring along the Blue Mountains rail corridor. The EPA has informed BMUC that the nearest air monitoring stations are at Bathurst and St Mary’s.

Greens Councillor Kerry Brown has established that the BMCC has no air monitoring stations in the mountains.

In a statement from the EPA, BMUC was told: “In August 2016 the Chief Government Scientist, Mary O’Kane released a report on rail coal dust emissions management practices in NSW. The report found that further investigation and research is needed to better understand the nature and distribution of particles along the rail corridors, and that industry should continue to implement existing dust mitigation measures.”

BMUC president Kerry Cooke pointed out that thousands of Blue Mountains residents live within 100 metres of the rail line. “We’ve already waited far too long for government action on this. If the government can’t get its act together to carry out monitoring in the Blue Mountains we will be looking to get the job done independently. There’s a real double standard here. One of our members was fined $400.00 for driving his ute with an uncovered load of wood. “Yet the government apparently sees no health risk from massive uncovered coal trains or dirty diesel locomotives carrying thousands of tonnes of coal over the mountains week after week.”

“BMUC is calling for state and federal Environment ministers to implement air quality monitoring along the rail corridor where coal wagons traverse, for the coal wagons to be covered and pollution standards be introduced for locomotives similar to those applying to trucks. As well as following the Senate recommendations that all coal wagons be washed prior to returning to the coal mine.

BMUC was advised on the dangers of coal dust pollution by two members of Doctors for the Environment-Dr Richard Stiles who practices in Lithgow and Katoomba and Dr Sujata Allan who formerly practiced in Faulconbridge and Katoomba.

Tax Avoidance exposed by the Paradise Papers

By Stephen Long

The late media mogul Kerry Packer once famously said anyone who wasn't trying to minimise their tax needed to have their head read.
In a similar vein, the revelations in the Paradise Papers about the huge transfer of income to tax havens by the rich and powerful will doubtless prompt some to question: "What's wrong with that?"

Even if it does not cross the threshold into illegal tax evasion, there are many reasons why the shifting of trillions of dollars of income to tax havens by global companies and wealthy individuals is not a good thing.

What are the Paradise Papers?

The Paradise Papers are the largest leak in history with more than 13.4 million files revealing the workings of the tax haven industry. The first and most obvious reason is the impact on public services.

The draining of tax revenue means there is less money to spend, among other things, on needed infrastructure, health services, mental health services and public education.

In the United States — the richest country in the world — the cities and suburbs are dotted with crumbling physical infrastructure, dilapidated roads and bridges and decaying telegraph poles held up with star pickets.

In Australia, public schools — which once provided a means of social advancement — have increasingly become a repository for the disadvantaged.

"If the current trends continue, if we allow our corporate tax revenues to drain to nothing … we'll be increasingly unable to provide these things," Matt Gardner, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, told the ABC's Four Corners program.

"An indirect but far more corrosive effect is on the public's view of our institutions."
If the middle class and the working class are bearing a disproportionate share of the tax burden, trust in democracy is undermined.

"When it's documented as well as it has been that companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft — these incredibly profitable companies — are just able to use the tax system like a piƱata, that just reinforces the belief that no-one cares about the plight of middle-income families," Mr Gardner said.

The tax avoidance also imposes a higher tax burden on others; companies that don't engage in the offshore tax avoidance game as well as individuals.

"Right now there's a phenomenal level of public distrust of our government, of our institutions, of our neighbours, and the more it's obvious that our tax system is being hijacked by well-heeled lobbyists, by corporations in particular, the more reason there will be for the public to distrust their institutions," Mr Gardner said.

The Paradise Papers leak reveals a deal hatched in an offshore tax haven to cash in on the myth, the aura and music of rock star Michael Hutchence. This applies equally to Australia, where a third of the largest companies are not paying tax.

When smart accountants, investment banks and law firms help powerful corporations and "high wealth" individuals shift income from higher tax jurisdictions to low tax jurisdictions characterised by secrecy, the less-well-off suffer.

Warren Buffet, the famously successful US billionaire investor, has argued it's wrong to have a system where his secretary pays a higher proportion of income in tax than he does.

While there are global initiatives to crack down on tax havens, the revenue drain has also prompted a "race to the bottom", with major economies cutting corporate tax rates with the aim of attracting more investment and discouraging tax avoidance.

Cuts to public services can also result from the corporate tax "race to the bottom" and this can fuel inequality as the well-off, who can afford to, buy their way out of inadequate public provision.

It's difficult to determine just how much income is being siphoned off to tax havens by companies and rich individuals, but there is no doubt the sums are huge.

According to the most recent statistics from the Commissioner of Taxation, at least $148 billion in international related party dealings flowed through tax havens.

Australian companies paid out about $75 billion to import "business services" from abroad, including payments for intellectual property and royalty payments, according to ABS balance of payments data.

Buying inter-company services from a subsidiary in a tax haven is a convenient way for multinationals to shift income offshore — the transfer of income from Google Australia to Google Ireland is an example.

At the very least, billions — and perhaps tens of billions — in potential tax would be lost to Australia each year through such transactions.

ACTU – Porter threatens job security for thousands

8 November 2017

Social Services Minister Christian Porter has threatened the job security of all employees who work under government contracts in a shocking letter sent to workers at 1800-RESPECT.

The letter states that given 1800-RESPECT - a critical community services for women, children and men experiencing violence - was not guaranteed funding on a permanent basis by the federal government, they were “negligent” in offering job security to their workers.

Most government contracts for goods and services, including those in the community services sector operate under the assumption that fixed term contracts will be renewed on a rolling basis subject to review. This enables providers to give consistent and high quality services and ensure that front line staff have a measure of job security and stability. 1800-RESPECT was operating on a 7-year contract.

Mr Porter’s staggering assertion would throw this assumption on its head, and undermine the job security of hundreds of thousands of front line community and social service workers who work for organisations which receive government funding on a fixed term contracts.

Immediately, this will affect child protection workers, rape/domestic violence counsellors, disability workers, drug and alcohol counsellors, people helping the disadvantaged find work, educators and trainers and public transport workers.

The federal government is the largest single consumer of goods and services in this country, and the change Mr Porter seems to be suggesting in funding arrangements between the government and Australian businesses would have far-reaching consequences for the whole economy and millions of workers.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President, Ged Kearney:

  • “What Mr Porter has said in this letter is a disgrace, and is alarming to all Australian workers.”.
  • “40% of jobs in Australia are insecure. The government should be working to increase permanent secure jobs, not the opposite.”
  • “Mr Porter needs to immediately clarify his comments and make it clear whether he believes that all workers on government contracts should be in insecure work.”
  • “This is the face of our broken industrial relations system. A government minister telling a service provider that they have made a mistake by creating permanent jobs for Australian workers. This government doesn’t believe in good, steady jobs. In fact, it’s actively trying to destroy them.”

“We need to change the rules so that critical services like 1800-RESPECT don’t get their funding cut to help the government pay for corporate tax cuts.”

Monday, November 06, 2017

Our Humanity Moz from Manus

Asylum Seeker ‘Moz’ releases song recorded in Manus Island detention centre August 30, 2017. ‘All the Same’ produced by O’Brien, Skov & Pilkington @Audrey Studios

Behrouz Boochani – Song from Manus Prison

Journalist and poet Behrouz Boochani has been held in immigration detention on Manus Island for four years.  "When I was in Delta prison, my roommate is Kurdish. He wrote this poem on the wall. 

Dutton Revealed

Self Portrait by Dutton in the Parliament

Cartoon by Matt Golding in the Age

United call for Australian Parliament to respect and back full Uluru Statement from the Heart

A broad cross section of Australian civil society voices are calling on the Federal Coalition Government to respect the wishes of Australia’s First Nations peoples in the Uluru Statement and make constitutional reforms that enable First Nations peoples to take their rightful place in Australia an immediate national priority.

READ JOINT STATEMENT: A call to the Prime Minister and Australian Parliament

“The marginalisation of our First Nations people and their virtual exclusion from having a say in the policies and practices which affect their lives is a major reason for their current poor outcomes. In spite of this their resilience and strength is extra-ordinary and giving them the power to influence and change is urgent,” said Professor Fiona Stanley, from the Telethon Kids Institute and University of Western Australia.

“National and International studies on colonised Indigenous peoples show clearly that when they are able to implement the solutions developed by them, the outcomes are far better.”

“Our research has shown also that the impact of previous practices of marginalisation and removal are responsible for a large part of today’s trauma and First Nations circumstances. Their problems and challenges are similar to other colonised Indigenous populations and we have lots to learn from other countries with treaties and better ways of giving Indigenous people capacity and power to act and take their rightful places in society.”

“Of course there are a multiplicity of First Nations voices, as we have diversity in our opinions. It is therefore imperative that we listen to those different voices to ensure the best outcomes. If we do this and acknowledge this ancient 60,000 year old history in our country, we will all benefit and feel proud to be Australians.”

Australian Council of Social Service COSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made their views crystal clear in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It is a deeply disrespectful act for our Federal leaders to have unilaterally rejected those views on our behalf.”

  • “There is broad agreement among the general Australian community for constitutional reform regarding the rightful place of First Nations peoples in our country. We celebrated the Uluru Statement and are now stunned that the First Nations leadership has been treated in this way. We call upon this Federal Government and Parliament to put the issue at the top of their agenda.”
  • “Australia’s First Nations leaders have been understandably disillusioned and frustrated by what has occurred. Although we cannot change our past, we can determine our country’s future. A better future can only start when our Federal Government finally respects the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and allows the wider Australian community to listen to their views and to seize this historic opportunity to deliver on the rights of Australia’s First Nations peoples,” concluded Dr Goldie.

READ JOINT STATEMENT: A call to the Prime Minister and Australian Parliament which has already been signed by over 900 organisations and individuals from across Australia.