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.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

US – Black Lives Matter

"Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men, and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men," says a fact sheet published by The Sentencing Project, adding that people of colour make up around 67 percent of the 2.2 million people in the country's prisons and jails.

These disparities, particularly the killing of African Americans by police, sparked the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, a popular civil rights movement aimed at ending police violence and dismantling structural racism.

A week before the presidential election, police in Paterson, New Jersey, shot an unarmed black man, 41-year-old Larry Bouie, in front of his two sons.

In late September, mass protests broke out in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher , an unarmed black man.

'White supremacist in highest office'

President-elect Donald Trump has drawn the ire of communities of colour, particularly African Americans, for his lengthy history of racist comments and offensive descriptions of black communities.

Since Trump's electoral victory, protests have erupted in cities and towns across the country, and mainstream media outlets have reported an increase in hate crimes targeting communities of colour, including black communities.

Capitalism As a Blatant Failure

Greg Jericho in the Guardian

On becoming New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern said that capitalism was a blatant failure, and in light of the deluded positions taken by proponents of capitalism and free markets this week it is hard not to agree.

Ardern’s comments are revealing in how she framed the question. She suggested, “If you have hundreds of thousands of children living in homes without enough to survive, that’s a blatant failure. What else could you describe it as?”

For those drinking from the free-market well, Ardern might be talking gibberish. What about international competitiveness, productivity, efficiency? What is this talk of poor people? Doesn’t she know government regulations are to blame for reducing incentives to work?

But let’s be honest, capitalism is all about winners and losers, and it’s a bit silly to pretend otherwise. As the head of Eastern Airlines said when his company went bust in the 1980s, “capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without ​hell”.

The difference of course is that capitalism generally sees those with enough money being able to pay their way out of hell, such as for example the current ​president of the United States, Donald Trump, whose companies have gone bankrupt six times.

Which brings us to this week’s lesson in “late capitalism”, in which Trump’s son Donald Jr decided to use his daughter’s haul of candy from Halloween to teach everyone about the failure of socialism.

Showing a photo of his daughter holding a bucket of candy, he tweeted, “I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It’s never to early to teach her about socialism.”

Now of course Donald Trump Jr is hardly a shining light of free-market intellectual thought, but that is actually the point. His voice is more prominent and the position he holds is more powerful than those who might bring reason and rationality to the debate from his side of the economic and political fence.

He is the smiling, clueless face of capitalism – the millionaire who is one because he is the son of a millionaire who is one because he was the son of a millionaire, who seems to believe that literally begging for free candy is an example of being justly rewarded.

Trump and his son Donald Jr are not where they are in spite of capitalism but because of it.

It is a capitalism that has poorly served the democratic process. This week Facebook, the eighth largest corporation in the world by market capitalisation, admitted it took money from Russian sources (paid in roubles no less) for electoral advertisements that were crafted to sow discord and disinformation.

So the democratic process was undermined but hey, there’s a profit to be made.

The vice-president of Facebook, Colin Stretch, told the Senate judiciary subcommittee: “There were signals we missed and we are now focused”.

But don’t worry, in our clueless, blatantly failing capitalistic world, there will be no repercussions for Facebook.

It is a capitalism, as the ACTU noted this week while advocating for an increase in the minimum wage, in which the focus of workers’ wages is most often on how they will affect “profits, international competitiveness, investment, economic growth and other economic objectives” but not how they will affect the lives of those workers.

It’s a capitalism that has become so lost to reason and beholden to a deluded belief that the market will correct all wrongs that an organisation such as the Institute of Public Affairs is taken seriously by some within the government.

The IPA responded to the call for an increase in the minimum wage by arguing that the way to improve the lot of working people was “abolishing the Renewable Energy Target and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.”

Australians really should not get too smug about Donald Jr.

It says a lot that the most visible and influential champions of capitalism and free markets in Australia ​ are so struck dumb by climate change. Rather than acknowledge the market failure, their response instead is to publish turgid books suggesting it is all a hoax perpetrated by the UN and government agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology.

Were capitalism not a failure, the drive to combat climate change would not require government intervention.

It is a capitalism where the government’s key employment policy is to provide cheap labour to companies with little discernible benefit for workers. This week it was revealed that only 40% of those participating in the government’s low-paying youth internship scheme were getting a job as a result.

It’s a system where a government employment policy is really an employer subsidy program that can involve workers being paid less than the minim wage if they work more than 20 hours a week.

Were capitalism not a failure we would also see balance in the industrial relations systems.

Instead we are told the key is less government intervention and more flexibility, all the while ignoring that the flexibility inevitably exists mostly from the employer’s point of view.

One of the key tenets of industrial relations since the early 1990s has been the reduction in the ability for workers to strike – thus the flexible IR system is founded on less flexibility for workers to protest their conditions and wages.

As such the options involve workers and their representatives using other means.

Currently the AMWU is leading a boycott of Streets ice creams in protest against Unilever, its multinational owner, attempting to terminate a collective agreement for workers at its Sydney factory which the union says will lead to a 46% pay cut for workers.

Actions such as those by Unilever are becoming commonplace as corporations seek to subvert the IR system by in effect blackmailing workers to negotiate or be forced onto the minimum wage.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Sydney Manus Demo 4 November 2017

Adam Bandt at Melbourne Rally

UN human rights chief tells Turnbull government to restore services to Manus immediately

Bangkok: The United Nations' human rights chief has lashed out at the Turnbull government, expressing "serious concerns" over the welfare, safety and well-being of more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

In a blunt statement issued in Geneva, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the situation on the Papua New Guinea island as an "unfolding humanitarian emergency".

Refugees and asylum seekers protesting inside the now-closed regional processing facility on Manus Island, which they refuse to leave. Photo: Supplied
"All migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers are human beings," Prince Zeid said through a spokesman.

"Like all of us, they have a right to a safe and secure environment, a right to an adequate standard of living and to participate in the decision-making process that is affecting their future," the spokesman said.

The men have refused to leave the Australian-funded regional processing centre on Manus Island over fears for their safety outside.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has backed many of the men's claims that new camps to accommodate them are unsafe because they are open to the violence-wracked Manus community and medical and other support there is inadequate.

Prince Zeid levelled blame for the stand-off at Australia, saying that as Canberra interned the men in the first place it should provide protection, food, water and other basic services which have been cut off since authorities shut the centre.

He called on the Australian Government to restore services immediately.

He said the men have said they fear they will be subjected to violence at the hands of locals if they leave the compound.

"Given there have been violent incidents in the past we believe these fears should be respected and satisfactorily addressed," the spokesman said.

"We urge the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to fully respect their human rights under international refugee law and to enter into a dialogue with the men to ensure these rights are duly respected, protected and fulfilled," he said.

"We urge the Australian Government to transfer the men to the mainland where their claims can be processed."

The men have said they are hungry and exhausted and have had to dig wells to access water.

Food donors have reportedly been barred from going to the centre.

New Zealand's new Labour government has confirmed New Zealand is prepared to accept 150 refugees from the island and Opposition leader Bill Shorten has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to accept the proposal.

Friday, November 03, 2017


OCT 31, 2017

The CPSU says the Gunner Government is treating Northern Territory public sector workers with contempt through the current round of enterprise bargaining, particularly people with families and those working shifts.

The union was formally advised of the NT Government’s offer to staff during a meeting yesterday, and told the proposed employment agreement would be voted on within weeks.

CPSU NT Regional Secretary Kay Densley said: “This so-called offer from the Gunner Government to NT public sector workers absolutely stinks. What’s being pushed on workers shows this Government will cut the take-home pay and cut the penalty rates of the people providing essential public services. It is completely unfair to these workers and their families.”

“We’re talking about people mostly earning modest wages, trying to raise families and get by with the high cost of living that’s faced by all Territorians. The Gunner Government is offering these people more low wage increases, 2.5% a year stretched over four years. Our members have made it clear they want a three-year agreement rather than being locked into this stinking offer until 2021!”

“The Gunner Government is attacking the NT Allowance, which is so important to workers struggling with the extra costs of raising children in the NT. Under the Government’s plans new workers and existing workers who have children in the future would miss out. Children are our future and cutting take-home pay like this is sending a terrible message at a time when population growth is so critical.”

“Shift workers are being shafted by what’s on the table here. The Gunner Government is trying to cut penalty rates, slashing the pay of frontline staff such as public safety housing officers and transit safety officers by taking away critical shift penalties. Our essential Triple-0 operators are similarly being asked to move from eight to 12-hour shifts while losing shift penalties.”

“This attack on NT public sector workers by the Gunner Government is also an attack on all Territorians who rely on the services these people provide. You can tell a lot about any boss by how they treat their staff and this Government has shown so far that it’s prepared to repeatedly attack public sector workers.”

“The Government is setting itself up for an embarrassing failure if it insists on rushing to a ballot on this dud agreement proposal rather than listening to our constructive feedback. NT public sector workers will stand up and show they demand a fair deal. In a recent survey of members, 84% of respondents rejected this same package.”

ACTU – Jobs NAB’d and profits pocketed: Banks Sell Out of Workers

 Jobs NAB’d and profits pocketed: Banks epic sell out of workers

Australian Unions have renewed calls for a Royal Commission into the big banks, after NAB announced plans to slash a fifth of its workforce, despite a $6.64 billion profit.

The extreme announcement to fire 6,000 staff, comes after countless scandals, detailed in the ACTU’s banking dossier, released yesterday.

Australian Unions urged all parliamentarians to back a Royal Commission into the big banks, and to block efforts by the Turnbull government to allow big banks more access to working peoples’ superannutation.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President, Ged Kearney:

  • “NAB profited over $6BN from hard working Australians last year. Sacking one fifth of their workers is a greedy, heartless and irresponsible decision.
  • “NAB are abandoning the very people who allowed them to achieve record profits, its workers.
  • “These massive job cuts are just wrong. 6,000 people will now be without a job because of the self-interest of banking executives.
  • “These cuts will close branches and reduce services.
  • “NAB have ripped off customers, putting profits ahead of people.
  • “The Turnbull Government have failed to instigate a Royal Commission into the banks, preferring tax cuts for businesses racking it in, and abandoning working people. 
  • “To make matters worse, the Turnbull Government have legislation before Parliament to give big banks more power over working peoples’ retirement savings.
  • “Many of the Liberal front bench are former bank employees. Imagine the government’s outrage if this was a union behaving in such a terrible way. There’s clearly one rule for unions and another rule for the big banks.
  • “Big banks in Australia have way too much power. It’s one of the reasons we have record inequality.
  • “We have to change the rules to give working people more power.
  • “We need to protect working people’s superannuation from the new legislative changes that will make it easier for the big banks to get their hands on working people’s superannuation by making it harder for workers to use their collective power to get better financial outcomes.”

Thursday, November 02, 2017

CFMEU – Turnbull seeks control worker entitlement funds

The Turnbull Government’s proposed legislation to control worker entitlement funds could lead to the loss of apprentice jobs, and erode the union movement’s ability to deliver vital industry health and safety programs.

The Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill seeks to control worker entitlement funds, which support workers who are made redundant. Interest from these funds supports health, safety and welfare programs, training and education in one of the most dangerous industries with high rates of suicide.

These programs include suicide prevention (the construction industry has high rates of suicide), high risk licensing training, drug and alcohol treatment, skin cancer awareness, and other vocational training and education in the industry.

The proposed laws bestow regulation making powers on the Employment Minister, allowing for future Ministerial interference in union affairs.

CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan told a Senate Committee hearing into the Bill in Melbourne this morning that the Government was proposing an unprecedented and unwarranted level of control and interference over the funds, for which there is no equivalent in the corporate world.

“If this legislation goes through, it leaves the door open for the Employment Minister to regulate to interfere in the running of these funds, making it harder for us to deliver lifesaving programs and apprenticeships,” CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said

  • “The Turnbull Government has lost its majority and is floundering in the polls. It can’t run its own affairs, yet it wants to try and control union business and run interference.
  • “I would suggest the Australian public might be better served if Michaelia Cash and the Prime Minister got their own house in order, and focused on running the country, not unions.”

The level of financial management and scrutiny proposed by this legislation goes beyond anything that exists for publicly listed companies that manage shareholder funds – which far exceed union resources.

The Bill proposes to give independent directors the power of veto over funds being used for training and welfare purposes.

“This would give directors of these funds more power than other fund trustees and would hinder the ability to run vital health, safety and wellbeing programs for our industry.”

The Bill prohibits donations to welfare or charitable organisations, meaning support for programs such as ‘Mates in Construction’ – a mental health/self-harm and suicide prevention programme - would cease. There is no equivalent restriction in corporate law.

“The Government is bringing in this legislation under the deceitful guise of adverse Royal Commission findings. The measures proposed in the legislation go far beyond what was recommended by the Royal Commission.”


The following resolution was carried by the ACTU Executive:

The events of the past 7 days reinforces what the ACTU has been saying all along is true; The ROC is a political organisation operating to attack unions who represent the interests of working people and is persecuting the opponents of the Turnbull government who advocate for higher wages and better conditions for working people.

There is now a string of political appointments to and politicised actions by agencies established by the Turnbull government and directly under the control of Minister Cash.  The establishment of the ABCC, appointment and defence of a long term law breaker in Nigel Hadgkiss, the fiasco of the ROC raid and the director confusing which union he was investigating and the questionable transfer of staff between the Fair Work Ombudsman and Minister Cash’s office all point to government more interested in attacking unions than in improving wages and conditions for working people.

Sadly this behaviour follows a pattern set by the final years of the Howard Government that also politicised organisations and agencies in order to push their anti-worker ideological agenda and attack unions.

The decision by members of Minister Cash’s office to ensure the media was aware of and present at the ROC initiated raid on the AWU clearly shows that the Turnbull government is using the ROC as a tool in its political vendetta against unions.

At a time of stagnating wages, growing inequality, insecure work and growing cost pressures the need for workers to be able to join their unions and actively participate in improving their wages and working conditions is as great as ever.

Instead of acting to bring back fairness to workplaces so working people can achieve wage increases and reduce inequality Minister Cash and the Turnbull government have wasted millions of dollars establishing political agencies to target unions and make it more difficult for workers to organise.

The ACTU therefore resolves to demand that the Turnbull government should immediately withdraw the bills that it has in parliament that would give even more power to the ROC and further provide the Minister with the opportunity to politicise the actions of government agencies.

ACTU calls for Living Wage on 110th anniversary of Harvester Decision

2 November 2017

The ACTU is calling for the minimum wage to be raised to the level of a living wage, on which a low-paid worker could support themselves and their family, after ABS figures released last week show that soaring cost of living is driving millions of workers into poverty.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus will give a major speech on the 110 year anniversary of the landmark Harvester decision on Thursday night, and release a new report “Living up to the Promise of Harvester: Time for a Living Wage” which argues for all people to be paid a living wage, as part of the campaign to Change the Rules for working people.

The Harvester judgement, a seminal moment in Australian history, stated that all Australians deserve to be paid a wage that they can afford to survive on. The report and the speech shows how

A breakdown of official ABS data released by the ACTU in this report show a cost of living crisis, with the following increases over the last year compared to the rate of inflation:

The price of electricity has increased 539% faster than the CPI;

  • Gas increased 356% faster
  • Childcare increased 161% faster
  • Utilities increased 394% faster
  • Health increased 117% faster
  • Housing increased 83% faster
  • Education increased 74% faster
  • Transport increased 50% faster

A living wage must be sufficient to ensure that all working people are able to afford rent in a suitable dwelling, a healthy diet, a good quality education, healthcare, transport, electricity and other energy costs, adequate clothing, entertainment and a contingency for unexpected expenses.

The current minimum wage leaves 3 million people in Australia below the poverty line. The promise of the Harvester Judgement, which established a world-first living wage in Australia, has been completely eroded by decades of neo-liberal policies.

Today the Fair Work Act has the minimum wage set a by a panel of experts looking at a set of criteria only one small part of which is the needs of the low paid. The 2017 minimum wage decision included an acknowledgement that the new rate would still leave many full time workers in poverty.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus:

  • “When millions of working people have fallen into poverty, Australia needs a pay rise.
  • “The figures from the ABS show that rather than getting better, everything is getting more expensive and wages aren’t keeping up. The government is failing working people.
  • “The promise of Harvester was financial security for working people, not barely keeping from starving and making endless sacrifices to keep the lights on.”
  • “The minimum wage is leaving millions in poverty. No one should live in poverty in Australia.”
  • “The decline of our minimum wage is clear proof that the rules that once made Australian workplaces fair are broken.”
  • “We are rapidly moving towards the creation of an American-style working poor. A class of people who barely keep their heads above water, despite working full time, sometimes in multiple jobs.”
  • “Corporate profits rose 40% last year, and full time workers can’t afford to feed and clothe a family. The system is broken.”