Saturday, December 08, 2018

Morrison abandons regions, energy users with Silesia snub

6 December 2018
Morrison abandons regions, energy users with Silesia snub

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has turned his back on energy users and regional communities affected by energy transition with his decision to leave Australia out of the Silesia Agreement on just transition, which has so far been adopted by 45 countries at the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference.

Signatories to the agreement include the EU, UK, most European nations and many other developed and developing nations from around the world, with both progressive and conservative leaders.

The decision of the federal government to continue to resist measures to ensure the future of communities which will be effected by energy transition means it is out of step with international best practice and Queensland, which has recently established a state-based transition authority to manage a just transition for workers in the coal fire power sector.

We need coordinated action to ensure a just transition for workers in the energy sector and the Morrison Government is standing in the way of that to appease its radical right wing.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:  

  • “Workers who are facing an uncertain future as we transition to a renewable energy economy deserve job certainty and security that can only be guaranteed through a just transition.
  • “The Morrison Government is once again putting ideology ahead of the needs of working people. It is pandering to the far right and ignoring regional communities which face serious challenges if no action is taken to ensure that there are jobs in renewable energy and other industries for current energy sector workers.
  • “We know from international examples like the German coal industry that this can work. But the Morrison Government is unwilling to lift a finger to help workers in the energy sector.
  • “We need to change the rules for workers facing an uncertain future in the energy sector. We can ensure that there will be jobs in the future for these workers but the Morrison Government is to captive to the radicals in its ranks to help Australian workers.”


Queensland Land Clearance Frenzy

If a tree falls in the Queensland outback during an election, does any voter care? If you happen to be a besieged koala, you’d definitely hope so.

Queensland farmers suspected to have defied tree clearing controls in 'deforestation frenzy'

With the Queensland election upon us, it has become clear that the rights and wrongs of clearing Queensland’s forests and woodlands have been a polarising issue with all major players releasing dramatically different policies.

The scene was set for this debate when, only weeks before the election, shocking new independent data was released that showed that 400,000 hectares of bush were cleared in Queensland during the year 2015–16.

This is the equivalent to a Gabba cricket pitch-sized area of forest cleared every three minutes every day, all year. Experts from WWF Australia have estimated that 45 million animals were killed as a result of the clearing in 2015through 2016 alone.

Last week it was also revealed that an astounding 945,755 hectares of bush have been targeted, between 20 July 2016 to 30 September 2017, for clearing following a detailed analysis of notifications from landholders received by the Queensland government.

This onslaught was triggered by changes made to the previously stringent vegetation management laws by the Newman government in 2013. These changes were made at the urging of Agforce, the peak agricultural and beef industry lobby group.

The Palaszczuk government attempted to rein in the worst of the clearing last year but its attempts at reform were torpedoed by the combined opposition of the LNP and the crossbenches.

Given this form, it is not surprising that again Labor has put a big ticket policy on the table for the consideration of voters.

Released only a day after the remarkable Adani policy backflip, the Labor policy is built on two foundations. The first is to stop the actual clearing of high conservation value forests and woodlands and the second is to invest $500m in a fund that will encourage farmers and other landholders to both protect and also replant forests to gain financial benefits through carbon farming.

The latter initiative is in fact consistent with, and complementary to, the Turnbull government’s $2bn emission reductions fund, which has seen farmers funded to keep their trees to help reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The LNP in Queensland however has no interest in this sort of policy, despite it being championed by their federal colleagues. The LNP is silent on issue of carbon farming and maintains support for the existing laws, which have delivered the highest rates of land clearing in a generation.

This approach must be causing significant friction within the LNP. Brisbane-based members philosophically aligned to the old Liberal party know that this policy position is poison in their western suburbs Brisbane heartland. Before the LNP merger, the Liberals voted with Peter Beattie’s Labor government to dramatically reduce the rates of land clearing in the 2000s.

Unfortunately the sniff of ministerial leather has forced the ex-Liberals to do the bidding of the ex-Nationals who are spooked and under siege in rural Queensland.

The party doing the spooking is of course One Nation and it is perhaps unsurprising that the Hanson party wants all land clearing laws abolished.

The ghost of Joh Bjelke-Petersen lives on in Hanson’s DNA and her policies speak to the distant past, not the future. Sadly the LNP seems intent in following her down that time tunnel.

While Hanson’s position is predictable, polling commissioned by the Wilderness Society in late 2016 demonstrated that One Nation voters – just like voters from across all party lines – supported strong laws to end land clearing once they understood the size and scale of the clearing taking place across Queensland.

Friday, December 07, 2018

ACOSS – Australian First: Cross Party Support for Raising Newstart

Both of the major parties in South Australia have agreed that Newstart is “far too low” and have called on the Federal Government to make an urgent increase, in the interim report of a Parliamentary Inquiry into poverty, released today. 

The first recommendation of the report, endorsed by Liberal, Labor, Greens and SA Best MPs, states:

The Committee agrees with the overwhelming majority of submissions to the inquiry that the Newstart Allowance is far too low and falls well short of the state-based poverty line. 
The Committee calls on the Federal Government to make a meaningful increase to the rate of the Newstart Allowance (and other base allowances) as a matter of urgency.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: 

  • “This cross-party support for an increase in Newstart is a national first and we call on the Federal Parliament to urgently follow suit. 
  • “This impressive achievement for South Australia is testament to the hard work of SACOSS, Anti-Poverty Network SA, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children and everyone on allowances who has been sharing their story of how hard it is to get by. 
  • “Nationally, almost 70% of the community, the majority of federal cross bench MPs, the Business Council of Australia and John Howard agree on the need to increase Newstart, the payment for people looking for paid work. 
  • “Federally, the major parties are out of touch on this issue. The Coalition Government has tried to cut the already inadequate rate of Newstart. And the Federal Labor Opposition has promised a review should it win government but we don’t need a review to know that Newstart is trapping people in poverty and must be urgently increased. 
  • “South Australia has the highest rate of poverty in Australia and is the location of the Australian Labor Party’s upcoming National Conference.
  • “We’re calling on the both of the major parties to commit to raising the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance, which is the single most effective thing they can do to tackle the persistent poverty we have in Australia, despite having the highest median wealth in the world,” Dr Goldie said. 


O’Dwyer Sacks Independent Umpire With Bosses

The peak body for working people in Australia condemns the actions of the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O’Dwyer, who has stacked the independent Fair Work Commission with six new big-business lobbyists in the last days of her failing government.

These appointments are reportedly against the express wishes of the Fair Work Commissioner and go directly against the intended function of the commission as an independent body.

This takes the “balance” of appointments to the commission to 30 business representatives, with only 14 representatives of working people.

Kelly O’Dwyer and her government are grossly out of touch with working people and will stop at nothing to appease their friends in big business.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:  
  • “This is a disgraceful abuse of power. Kelly O’Dwyer is using the dying days of her ministry to stack the supposedly independent umpire with big business lobbyists.
  • “She is stacking the body that is supposed to protect the pay and rights of working people with representatives from the big business lobby against the wishes of the president of that body.
  • “These six appointments will result in a Fair Work Commission that is almost two-thirds comprised of people who’ve spent their lives attacking working ­people’s rights as big business lawyers and lobbyists.”

Robert Fisk – Khashoggi and CIA Past Crimes


Spare me America's tears for Jamal Khashoggi – this excuse for Trump-bashing ignores the CIA's past crimes

A generation ago, the CIA’s 'Operation Phoenix' torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. And have we forgotten about the thousands of Muslims still perishing under our bombs and missiles and mortars?

Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Clean Coal's Dirty Secret

Champions of coal say the superabundant fossil fuel can be made environmentally friendlier by refining it with chemicals – a “clean coal” technology backed by a billion dollars in U.S. government tax subsidies annually. 

But refined coal has a dirty secret. It regularly fails to deliver on its environmental promises, as electric giant Duke Energy Corp found.

Duke began using refined coal at two of its North Carolina power plants in August 2012. The decision let the company tap a lucrative federal subsidy designed to help the American coal industry reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides – also known as NOx, the main contributor to smog and acid rain – along with other pollutants.

In nearly three years of burning the treated coal, the Duke power plants collected several million dollars in federal subsidies. But the plants also pumped out more NOx, not less, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysed by Reuters. 

The NOx emission rate at Duke’s Marshall Steam Station power plant in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, for example, was between 33 percent and 76 percent higher in the three years from 2012 to 2014 than in 2011, the year before Marshall started burning refined coal, the EPA data shows.

The utility also discovered that one of the chemicals used to refine the coal, calcium bromide, had reached a nearby river and lakes – raising levels of carcinogens in the water supply for more than a million people in greater Charlotte.Duke stopped using refined coal at the plants in May 2015 because of the water pollution problems, said spokeswoman Erin Culbert. Bromide levels in the region’s drinking water dropped sharply several months later, said Barry Gullett, the city’s water director, in a 2015 memo. 

Duke’s experience reflects a fundamental problem with the U.S. clean coal incentive programme, a Reuters examination has found. Refined coal shows few signs of reducing NOx emissions as lawmakers intended, according to regulatory documents, a Reuters analysis of EPA emissions data, and interviews with power plant owners, scientists and state environmental regulators.

Consumption figures compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that American power plants are on track to burn about 160 million tons of clean coal in 2018 – a fifth of the U.S. coal market. That amount would generate about $1.1 billion in incentives at the current tax credit amount of $7.03 per ton. 

But most of the plants receiving the subsidy failed to reduce NOx emissions by 20 percent – the threshold required under the policy – in 2017 compared to 2009, the last year before they started burning refined coal, according to a Reuters analysis of EPA data on power plant emissions.

Reuters identified 56 plants that burned refined coal in 2017 using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and disclosures from energy companies and refined-coal developers. 

Only 18 of that group reduced NOx emissions by more than 20 percent in 2017 compared to 2009. And 15 of those 18 only reported the improvements after installing or upgrading pollution control equipment or switching a portion of power production to cleaner-burning fuel, complicating the question of whether their pollution reductions are attributable to refined coal. 

At 22 of the 56 plants, NOx emissions were higher in 2017 while burning refined coal than they were when using raw coal in 2009.

David Attenborough "Our Greatest Threat in Thousands of Years"

British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough urged world leaders at the COP24 summit in Poland to get on and tackle "our greatest threat in thousands of years".

Known for countless nature films, Mr Attenborough has gained prominence recently with his 'Blue Planet II' series, which highlighted the devastating effect of pollution on the oceans.

"Leaders of the world, you must lead," said the naturalist, given a 'People's seat' at the two-week UN climate conference in the Polish coal city of Katowice alongside two dozen heads of state and government.

"The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands," he said.

Political leaders are in the Polish coal city of Katowice for the two weeks of talks to revive the landmark Paris 2015 deal on climate change - amid dire warnings about a lack of action.

The world is currently on course to overshoot by far the limits for global warming agreed in the Paris accord, which were intended to prevent more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at the summit that the world is "way off course" in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change.

After a string of damning environmental reports showing mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Mr Guterres told delegates: "We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough".


Minister Richard Bruton represented Ireland at the opening ceremony. Speaking from the conference, Mr Bruton said he "completely" agrees with the UN Secretary General's comments.

"The decisions we take now will define the next century. I recently received Government approval to develop an all of Government plan to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change," said Mr Bruton.

"Mr Guterres' comments underline what we are seeking to do and highlight the urgency of this work."

Representatives of some of the most powerful countries and biggest polluters are conspicuous by their absence, as the United States has said it is leaving the UN process and China was not expected to send any top politicians.

To maximise the chances of success, technical talks began yesterday, a day earlier than planned, with delegates from nearly 200 nations haggling over how to implement the broad promises of the Paris deal on moving away from fossil fuels.

The talks in Katowice have been billed as the most important UN conference since the landmark Paris accord, as they precede an end-of-year deadline to agree a "rule book" on how to enforce action to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Expectations for the Polish talks are low: the atmosphere of political unity built in Paris has been shattered by a wave of populist governments that place national agendas before collective action.

The host nation Poland remains committed to coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, calling for a "just transition" to allow communities dependent on fossil fuel help in changing their lifestyle.

The riots in Paris at the weekend, partly in protest at higher fuel taxes, also illustrate the conundrum: How do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Actors Demand End to Detention

Actors Sam Neill, Rebecca Gibney, Simon Baker, Asher Keddie and Bryan Brown are among hundreds of Australia's most well known film and TV stars to sign the open letter, calling for the major parties to "put politics aside" and end Australia's offshore detention policy.

The letter, which will be presented to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten on Monday, also calls on those in Canberra to support a bill set to be introduced by Independent MP Kerryn Phelps to make it easier for asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru to be flown to Australia for medical and psychiatric treatment.

The TV and film personalities have gotten behind the #BlueForManusandNauru campaign, and are calling for attendees of the AACTA Award in Sydney on Wednesday night to wear blue ribbons.

"Together we send this message to parliament, to you who represent us: Please put aside parties and politics," the letter said. "After five years of indefinite detention, we must bring these human beings to safety and ensure they receive the medical treatment they need."
Read more

Nauru refugees are suffering 'absolutely devastating' conditions: doctors

Neill and Gibney also appear in a video alongside music icon Jimmy Barnes and actor Warwick Thornton, condemning the federal government's offshore detention policy. "It is hard to think of anything more cruel than indefinite detention, no charges, no prospect of release, no end in sight," Neill said. "This is barbarity." Barnes calls for federal MPs to "listen to your consciences".

MPs Rebekha Sharkie, Kerryn Phelps and Cathy McGowan all want a federal corruption watchdog.
AAP

Dr Phelps' bill, which is expected to be introduced on Monday but may not be debated, would require the urgent evacuation of any asylum seeker who is critically ill and unable to be treated offshore, as well as their families, on the recommendation of two or more doctors. It would strip from existing legislation the ability of Australia's immigration minister to veto medical transfer requests from treating doctors.

Kerryn Phelps pushes for third country resettlement for refugees

The changes would also require the urgent medical transfer of all asylum seeker children on Nauru. "It's a medical solution, not a political solution, to a humanitarian crisis," independent MP Kerryn Phelps told reporters in Canberra on Thursday. Dr Phelps has the backing of fellow crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie, Rebekha Sharkie and Adam Bandt. But she will need support from the full cross bench, as well as Labor and one coalition member, to bring on the debate in the lower house.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Thousands of Aussie kids rally on climate

Despite a serious message, the events were a sea of colour and placards, many of which poked fun at their adult counterparts.

"I'll stop farting if you stop burning coal," one read.
A student at a Sydney event drew cheers for announcing he was "here because we are all from nature and we should all be taking care of it" before playing a clarinet solo.
The stage was set earlier in the week when out of touch Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the intended action, saying Australia needed "more learning in schools and less activism". Morrison is clearly incapable of learning.
But the comments only seem to have emboldened the students, as just a few of their signs show.



Julian Burnside
(@JulianBurnside)
#Scomo reckons kids should stay at school learning, rather than protesting climate change. The fact that they are protesting climate change suggests that they have learned things #Scomo hasn’t (or prefers not to)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

ACTU – Commonwealth Bank sponsorship of Australian of the Year completely inappropriate

27 November 2018

Commonwealth Bank sponsorship of Australian of the Year completely inappropriateThe ACTU has called for the Commonwealth Bank, currently at the centre of the banking royal commission and potentially facing thousands of criminal and civil charges as a result, to end its inappropriate sponsorship of the Australian of the Year awards.

Allowing a disgraced bank to use a national institution to repair its image is a disgrace.

Commonwealth Bank has been found to be charging fees to dead people and charging fees for services that were never provided, alongside almost every other type of exploitation and misconduct it is possible for a bank to commit.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “Commonwealth Bank has been found to be entirely morally bankrupt – an organisation which has for decades profited by exploiting the trust of the Australian people, enriching itself at the expense of hard-working Australians.
  • “It is hard to imagine an organisation less suitable to sponsor an award which symbolises the best of Australian society.
  • “The banks revelations of the banking royal commission leave no room for doubt. This is an organisation with a sick, rotten leadership culture. It has swindled working people – including its own workers – and destroyed lives.
  • “This disgraced company has no business sponsoring our highest national honour.”

ANMF – Recommendations for greater transparency in aged care a positive first-step

Recommendations for greater transparency in aged care a positive first-step, but more action is needed
Wednesday 28th November, 2018

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has welcomed many of a Senate Committee’s recommendations aimed at greater transparency for the country’s taxpayer-funded, for-profit aged care providers.

However, ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, says the Senate Economics Reference Committee did not go far enough in making the big for-profit operators more accountable for the $2.17Billion in Government subsidies they receive and ensuring they use it on safe, best practice care for vulnerable nursing home residents.

  • “We believe that many of the recommendations lay the foundations for bringing greater transparency into the financial practices of for-profit providers, but more action is needed for us to have a real chance of fixing the crisis in aged care,” Ms Butler said today.
  • “Looking at all of the evidence that was presented to the Inquiry, the Government and our politicians must realise it’s time to listen to nurses and carers and it’s time to listen to elderly residents and their families – who are concerned that taxpayer funds aren’t being used to provide quality care. And that as a result, far too many nursing home residents are being neglected.
  • “Evidence to the Inquiry raised questions about the financial and tax practices of the for-profit providers, at a time when they are embarking on ‘cost-cutting measures such as employing too few staff and staff with lower levels of qualifications.’
  • “What is clear, highlighted in evidence given by the Tax Justice Network Australia, is that for-profit providers certainly have the capacity to employ more qualified nurses and care staff, but are focused on their bottom-line, with some paying little or no tax through their use of complex corporate structures. As the Committee stated, ‘each dollar that is taken for corporate purposes is a dollar that is not spent on the provision of care.’
  • “So whilst we welcome the Committee’s overall recommendation that for-profit providers be subject to greater transparency and accountability as a positive first step, we don’t believe that politicians should avoid making tough decisions about the practices of for profit aged care providers by deferring the most difficult issues to the Royal Commission.
  • “Every day we wait for the Royal Commission, more qualified nurses and care staff positions are cut and nursing and care hours slashed. That means that vulnerable residents are suffering without enough staff to care for them, as for-profit providers continue to use their Government subsidies to bolster their bottom line. Residents and their families can’t wait for up to two years for a Royal Commission, they need the Government to act now – to stop their suffering.”


ANMF media release authorised by Annie Butler, ANMF Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.

The ANMF, with over 275,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia. ANMF

Forget the wacky theories, the Liberal Party trashed its own brand

Forget the wacky theories, the Liberal Party lost because it trashed its own brand

When the prosperous residents of an electorate like Brighton suddenly vote for anyone but the Liberals in such numbers that for a long moment it appeared a 19-year-old Labor candidate who had spent $1750 on his campaign might become the local member, you can be pretty sure that something has gone seriously tits up.

Forget a lot of the agonised tripe that has been written and said about the reasons for the Liberal Party’s near-death experience at the weekend.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he's pleased Victoria rejected "the negativity, the fear, the spite and that small brand of nasty politics."

Conservative commentators were drowning in alternative realities: Miranda Devine thought it was because Matthew Guy didn’t tackle Safe Schools; Peta Credlin opined, weirdly, that the latest Bourke Street attack had made it hard for the Liberals to campaign on law and order. Sydney’s Alan Jones topped them all by claiming Guy would have done better if he’d had the “courage” to spend time on Sky TV.

Hogwash. It’s a lot simpler than all that.

Feuding Liberals show zero interest in learning lesson of Andrews win

The Liberal Party has trashed its own brand.

And it’s far from limited to Victorian state issues, despite the shambles of a campaign led by the unconvincing Guy whose slogan, “Get Back in Control” gave the game away from the very start.

Premier Daniel Andrews, of course, ran a campaign that showed he and his colleagues were actually in control and prepared to borrow and spend big to keep it that way.

Improved roads and rail, free school lunches, doggie vet subsidies, public IVF treatments and cheap solar panels might have won Labor the state election anyway.

But whatever Labor offered would never have been enough in even halfway conventional circumstances to tempt large numbers of affluent voters in places like Brighton or Hawthorn to abandon the Liberals in the way they did at the weekend.

Those voters, quite obviously, were rejecting a party they felt had rejected them, or at least their idea of what the Liberal Party was supposed to be.

The behaviour of what had been their party at federal level - the flirting with Tony Abbott’s choice of punisher, Peter Dutton, the overthrow of their idea of a leader, Malcolm Turnbull, and the choice of a chancer, Scott Morrison, as a replacement prime minister - had poisoned them.

And the poison had seeped all the way down.

It’s how you trash a brand. A batch of frozen berries is tainted in Beijing, causing customers in Melbourne to fall ill, and that brand of berries quickly finds itself with no buyers anywhere.

Andrews and his colleagues recognised this pretty simple equation.

That’s why they erected all those billboards featuring pictures of Matthew Guy surrounded by Dutton, Abbott and Morrison.

They were tainting Guy with federal poison, just to be sure.

And Liberal voters in every corner of Victoria were reminded, wherever they looked, that their old party, its current leaders near and far consumed by a search for some mythical base, had lost its bearings.

Should anyone be surprised that brand Liberal, poisoned from the top - just like brand Labor during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years - had found itself short of buyers at any price?

Of course not.

Those who’ve been watching have already seen the toxin have its way in September, when the Liberal Party lost a NSW state byelection in, of all places, Wagga Wagga, and in October, when the party couldn’t retain Turnbull’s previously unloseable seat of Wentworth.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Labor – Crushing Victory shocks Liberals in Victoria and Nationally

The Liberal Party's disastrous performance in the Victorian election has put the Morrison government on course for a crushing defeat at next year's federal poll, as a brawl breaks out over whether Malcolm Turnbull's demise was to blame for the shock result.

Premier Daniel Andrews easily won Saturday's election following a surge to Labor in a swag of seats across the state, including marginal electorates held by the Liberals.

Victoria election: The blame game begins

As Premier Daniel Andrews and the Labor faithful celebrated their landslide victory in Victoria, recriminations began after the Liberal Party's crushing defeat.While Coalition figures blamed the loss on a poor campaign spearheaded by Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, they conceded leadership instability in Canberra was a significant factor with worrying implications for next year's federal election and the NSW election in March.

Party strategists believe the federal seat of Corangamite – the nation's most marginal – is a certain loss for the Coalition, along with Chisholm. Chisholm was the only electorate the Liberal Party won at the 2016 election. The current MP, Julia Banks, is leaving politics after sensationally alleging she was bullied during the Liberal leadership implosion in August.
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They are also worried about La Trobe, which is held by 3.5 per cent, Deakin, held by Peter Dutton ally Michael Sukkar on 6.3 per cent, and Casey, held by Speaker Tony Smith on what should be a safe margin of 4.5 per cent.

Dunkley, which was won by the Liberal Party in 2016 but is now notionally Labor after a redistribution, is also vulnerable.

The Morrison government lost its majority after losing last month's Wentworth byelection, and will be swept from office next year even if it lost just one or two seats.

The Victorian Labor Party capitalised on Mr Turnbull's dumping by erecting billboards featuring Mr Guy alongside pictures of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and former prime minister Tony Abbott.

One senior Liberal MP told Fairfax Media that Mr Dutton's claim in January that Victorians were "scared to go out to restaurants" because of "African gang violence" had caused enormous damage in the state.

Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger – who is under pressure to resign over Saturday's outcome – said Mr Turnbull's removal had been "very disorderly" and "obviously the federal issue hasn't helped us".

"We knew we were always up against it here," he said.

Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt said the state defeat would send "shockwaves through Canberra".

Bolt said Mr Guy was a "hopeless campaigner" and in a message to federal Liberals who are preparing next year's campaign strategy, said the party could not rely on "scaring people" to win votes.




Thursday, November 22, 2018

ACTU – Super plan no substitute for paid family domestic violence leave

20 November 2018

The peak body for working people says a Morrison Government plan to allow women escaping violence to dip into their superannuation and take on debt to fund the significant cost of leaving is inadequate.

The ACTU is campaigning for 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave, saying that such leave is necessary on both social and economic grounds for women who want to escape violence.

Today Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer will announce a plan that will see women escaping violence expected to dip into their superannuation and take out micro-finance loans instead of having a guaranteed right to access paid family and domestic violence leave.

Women currently retire with 47 percent less super than men on average, according to the ASU and Per Capita’s Not So Super for Women report.

Paid family and domestic violence leave would cost only five cents per employee per day and has been included in a number of public and private sector industrial agreements, including all NSW Government employee awards.

Both the ALP and the Greens support the ACTU call for 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave.

The ACTU welcomed some other aspects of Ms O’Dwyer’s announcements, including the restoration of the ABS time use survey and changes that will prevent people who have experienced family and domestic violence being cross-examined by their abuser in court.

The changes to paid parental leave are a small step in the right direction. The ACTU has called for the abolition of primary and secondary carers’ leave and for 26 weeks’ leave to be granted to expecting parents to be used however the family chooses.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:  

  • “Women experiencing family and domestic violence need leave to be able to leave. It’s long past time for 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave.
  • “In 2018 women escaping violent relationships should not have to choose between their income and their safety. And they should not have to spend their retirement savings or take on debt.
  • “Our broken system already sees women retire with 47 percent less than men. Forcing women to dip into their super is likely to make worse women’s already inadequate retirement savings.
  • “Paid family and domestic violence leave is vital for women escaping violence. It’s the right thing to do, and every major party except Ms O’Dwyer’s recognises that it’s time to write it into law.”


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bill Shorten to adopt Malcolm Turnbull's energy policy

Bill Shorten to adopt Malcolm Turnbull's energy policy, pledges to throw billions at renewables
By political editor Andrew Probyn

Australian households will be offered federal rebates to install solar storage batteries under a federal Labor energy policy that will also direct billions of taxpayer dollars at solar, wind and hydro projects.

Key points:


  • Labor to adopt Malcolm Turnbull's National Energy Guarantee (NEG)
  • Rebates for households and businesses to install batteries if Labor wins election
  • Pledge of $10 billion for Clean Energy Finance Corporation
  • With climate and energy expected to be subjects of fierce battle ahead of the election next year, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will unveil Labor's long-awaited policy on Thursday.


The ABC understands Mr Shorten will formally adopt former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's ill-fated National Energy Guarantee (NEG) as Labor policy.

Though Mr Shorten is likely to frame ALP adoption of the NEG as an attempt to find common ground with the Coalition on energy and climate change, it will also serve to give Labor political cover against Coalition attack.

The NEG, which was enthusiastically backed by then-energy minister and current Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, was twice supported by the Liberal party room but was dropped in August after some Coalition conservatives continued agitating against the policy.

Mr Shorten will recommit a Labor Government to a 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

He will promise massive spending on renewable energy projects, with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to have its funding topped up to $10 billion.

Extra rebates will be offered to households and businesses installing batteries to store solar energy, with Mr Shorten expected to argue that increased battery storage will improve reliability of the electricity grid.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hands Off ABC – Then As NOW – from 1976

Reflection on Referendums

Reflection on Referendums
May 27th, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum.
Most Australians think this Referendum gave Aboriginal Australians the right to vote.  That is not so.  Aboriginal people had the right to vote in all Australian elections well before the referendum of 1967.
The questions posed to the Australian people in the 1967 Referendum were about changing two sections of the Constitution, one which excluded Commonwealth government involvement in the welfare of Aboriginal people, and another which prevented Aboriginal people from being included in Commonwealth censuses.  90.77% of Australian people voted in favour of the changes proposed in the referendum.
Successful referenda are hard come by in Australia.  The overwhelming result of the 1967 Referendum came after decades of campaigning by Aboriginal people that they have the same rights as other Australians. There is no doubt the result had great symbolic meaning for Aboriginal people who saw it as ensuring the rights and protections of Australian citizenship were available to all Australians.
So how much has changed for Aboriginal people in the 50 years since the 1967 referendum?
Given the disparity that still exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians on every major social and economic measure, the anniversary of the Referendum gives us another opportunity to highlight that much still needs to be done to ensure every Australian has by right, a living standard commensurate with citizenship in a developed country.
Presently work is being undertaken on the wording of another referendum question about the place of Aboriginal people in the Constitution and soon it will be put to the Australian people.  As it is presently worded, the Constitution reads as if Australia’s national story began with the arrival of the British colonists. Its wording also allows the Commonwealth government to discriminate against people on the basis of their race. The new referendum aims at making changes in both these areas.
When the wording of the questions to be put in this next referendum are agreed, and assuming it is passed by the Australian people, (wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a similar positive response to that achieved in 1967) we cannot assume that there is nothing more in relation to Aboriginal people we as a nation need to address.
There is still the issue that there has never been any agreement between the descendants of the Australia’s First People and the descendants of those who have come later as to how we will share the rights, responsibilities and resources of this land. Two states, Victoria and South Australia, have begun conversations with their Aboriginal people about what a shared sovereignty in their states might look like.
The rest of the nation would do well to consider doing the same.
Laraine Crowe rsj

Monday, November 19, 2018

Joseph Stigliitz Backs Union Demands

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has backed unions on penalty rates, saying cuts to Sunday rates in Australia are an indication that workers’ power has been eroded.



"The economy is supposed to be helping increase people's living standards - and part of living standards is enjoying leisure," Professor Stiglitz said.

"If you have to work on a Sunday, you should get compensated ... And the background of this [is that] the bargaining power of workers has been eviscerated. They would want to say 'I don't want to work on a Sunday' - but they can't say that."

Joseph Stiglitz, economics professor at Columbia University, says governments must act to address inequality.

The respected American economist and Columbia University professor, who is in Australia to accept the Sydney Peace Prize, also supports the Australian Council of Trade Unions' demand for industry-wide bargaining, which he sees as necessary to address weak wage growth.

"When you don't have any collective voice for workers, obviously workers are not going to do as well," he said.

It comes as the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that hourly pay rates increased 2.3 per cent nationally over the past 12 months, marking the highest annual growth rate in three years.

Unions argue the increase, which came after the Fair Work Commission raised the minimum wage by 3.5 per cent, is insufficient to offset the rising cost of living.

In a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Professor Stiglitz called on governments to address inequality and warned that doing so was crucial to a well-performing economy.

He urged Australia to learn from the mistakes of the United States, where he said worker rights had been eroded through a series of policy failures based on trickle-down economics.

"It used to be that we thought that you could only get more equality by sacrificing economic growth," he said.

"That view is no longer accepted ... Having a progressive agenda with greater equality leads to higher economic growth and that higher economic growth then generates more tax revenue-  and that more tax revenue gives you a source of funding for more progressive reforms that can make a more inclusive society."

Labour, competition and taxation laws had been restructured in a way that led to "slower economic growth and more inequality", he said, adding: "What paltry economic growth has occurred, the benefits have all gone to the top."

Professor Stiglitz said large segments of the population had been locked out of the middle class as corporations increased their profit margins while refusing to pass on productivity gains to workers.

He said penalty rates should not be eroded, and that governments must act to protect workers.

"Having a life where you don't get the same time off that everyone else does is really interfering with your wellbeing," he said.

"That's why there's a really important role for a government to set hours and overtime standards."

The Fair Work Commission decided to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for full-time and part-time workers in February.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised to reverse penalty rate cuts within 100 days of a Labor government being elected.

Mr Shorten has also said he will consider the ACTU's industry wide bargaining proposal, which would empower workers to strike across industries.

Unions lost a bid to overturn the commission's penalty rates decision in the Federal Court last month.

Hospitality workers' Sunday rates were cut from 175 per cent of their standard wage to 150 per cent; in the retail sector, the drop was from 200 per cent to 150 per cent.



ACTU – Casuals robbed nationwide by broken work laws

19 November 2018

Casuals around Australia and across a wide variety of industries and occupations are being ripped off, in some cases being paid even less than permanent staff.

A paper released today by the peak body for working people has blown apart the myth perpetrated by the business lobby that casuals are paid a significant premium for the loss of leave rights and job security.

The Myth of the Casual Wage Premium paper found:

  • Australia has the highest proportion of temporary labour in the OECD at one in four
  • Most casuals are not paid 25 percent more than permanent workers in the same job
  • The longer someone works in a casual position the more likely they are to be paid less than permanent staff
  • About half of all casuals say they would prefer permanent employment with paid leave rights and job security

In most industries and occupations examined, the casual wage premium was five percent or less. For several, including sports and fitness workers, clerks, and packers and product assemblers, the “premium” was actually negative.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:  

  • “This research shows what people who are being ripped off in casual work already knew – that our work rules are unfair and we need to change them.  
  • “Casual pay on average is actually around two to five percent more in similar occupations, and many people get paid less than permanent staff, particularly in lower-paid work – not the supposed 25 percent premium.
  • “Casual work should be exactly that – work where shifts can vary and there is no legitimate expectation of ongoing work.
  • “While some people do choose casual work because they need flexibility, many would prefer the paid leave and security that comes with permanent work.  
  • “People who are engaged as genuine casuals should receive a genuine premium for the lack of paid leave and job security.
  • “Big business has been rorting our system, using loopholes and underhanded arrangements to pay some casuals even less than permanent workers doing the same job.
  • “This is another reason for the gender pay gap, as women are more likely to be working as casuals.
  • “This is unfair and it needs to stop. We need to change the rules so that working people – no matter how they’re engaged – have fair pay and more secure jobs.”


Saturday, November 17, 2018

ACOSS – Newstart Support

Friday November 16, 2018

From Kerryn to Derryn, Bob to Bandt – entire lower house crossbench and key senate crossbenchers support increase to Newstart

ACOSS can confirm that all of the crossbenchers of the Lower House of federal Parliament and key Senate crossbenchers now support an increase to Newstart.

“When Adam Bandt, Cathy McGowan, Kerryn Phelps, Andrew Wilkie, Rebekha Sharkie, and Bob Katter all agree, it’s time to stop talking and act,” said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.

“The diverse crossbench’s unity on increasing Newstart confirms just how out of touch the major parties are on this issue, as does polling which finds 68% of the community agrees we must increase Newstart.

“Most people receiving Newstart live below the poverty line. It is very difficult to look for a job when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or how to put food on the table for your kids. For years, people have been telling their story, trying to get the Federal Government to hear them.

“It’s time for the Coalition Government to listen, and most importantly to act now to increase Newstart by $75 per week. 

“The rate of Newstart has not been increased in real terms for 24 years, and since 2014, the Coalition Government has been trying to cut the payment even further. While the Labor Opposition has promised a review of Newstart should it win government, people cannot afford to keep waiting in poverty for politicians to finally act.

“We strongly call on the major parties to work together to urgently steer bipartisan legislation to raise the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance through the Australian Parliament before the holiday season.

“It’s time politicians righted this long-standing wrong and delivered social justice to people on the very lowest incomes in our wealthy country.

“There is broad agreement across the community, from business groups, the union movement and a growing number of politicians including the Greens, Labor Chief Ministers, independents and Mayors, as well as John Howard and John Hewson, that we must finally lift the rate of Newstart after 24 years.

“Many of us are a job loss or a relationship break down away from relying on our social security safety net. We can afford a decent social security safety net and universal access to services by ensuring that businesses and individuals contribute their fair share of tax.

“We are, at our heart, a compassionate country and we want to be proud of who we are.”

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Snob Song – Then as Now



A Snob Song! (1922)
(By Jean Bell.)

Though there has been no straight out declaration on the part of Capitalist candidates for the Provinces in favor of the  imposition of University fees, there have been some guarded references to "discrimination" in the matter of selecting students.

The Labor candidates believe in discrimination as it applies to an entrant's personal fitness or character, but strongly object to the "discrimination" which, would take cognisance only of the wealth and social standing of the student's parents, to the exclusion of the children of working classes. They would not, for instance, be guilty of singing the following snob song-

'Twould surely be a howling joke,
A farce to tickle all creation,
To educate the common folk
Above their station !

High fees will stop our kin and kith
From being with Bill Bowyangs handed,
Our sons and daughters mixing with
The hornyhanded !

The poor man at the poll--oh yes !--
May mingle with the moneyed voter;
In Halls of Learning--no"--unless
He owns a motor !

His entry is the tradesmen's door--
The front to him must show defiance--
Imagine him a Bachelor
Of Arts or Science !

Without high fees a worker's brat
Might soon attain a scholar's station--
He might--Gadsooks !--be honored at
A Graduation !

The toil-stained serf who humps a hod
Might wear a "mortarboard" in season ;
He might become a classic god ;

So, for that reason,
We'll have to make the entrance stiff,
To stifle that absurd ambition,
Which urges him to seek a different position.

The higher steeps of learning's joys.
The college honors and the passes,
Were never meant for girls and boys
Of working classes.

To working girls we'll close the door,
And bar their brains, and wilt their wishes--
Enough that they should scrub the floor
And wash the dishes !

No boy who owns a working dad
May venture 'cross our boodled borders--
The cheek and impudence of (Gad !)
The lower orders !

'Twould he a sacriligious sin,
A crime beyond all knowledge mortal.
Should e'er this rabble enter in
Our Sacred Portal !

High Fees must be our Sentries bold
To keep our Walls against the spoilers,
To guard the Privilege of Gold
Against the Toilers !

Notes

From the West Australian Newspaper The Westralian Worker 19 May 1922 p. 3.

The end of the Great War saw a period of hope that the old ways might change lives for the better and the growing labour movement demanding better conditions and rights for workers.

CFMEU – The Rules Are Broken

MEAA – Save Sydney’s historic Theatre Royal.



A campaign featuring some of Sydney’s best-known actors and leading theatre producers has been launched to save Sydney’s historic Theatre Royal.


A deal done nearly 40 years ago to ensure the theatre had a permanent home is being ignored by the current owners. The Theatre Royal has operated from its current site since 1875.

Live Performance Australia’s President, Andrew Kay AM, said the live theatre industry isn’t going to sit idly by while over a century of history is destroyed so a property developer can make a few extra dollars.

“Sydney is already desperately short of capacity and needs 3000 to 4000 additional seats to avoid losing more and more shows interstate. The permanent loss of the Theatre Royal would be a serious blow to the viability of live theatre and a blot against the good name of Sydney as a truly international city.”

In 1972, faced with demolition by the developer of the MLC Centre, Sydneysiders rallied to save the Theatre, with thousands attending protest meetings at Sydney’s Town Hall. Sydney’s leading actors, politicians, combined with trade unions to force the developer to change their plans.

Faced with a huge backlash from Sydneysiders, the development company Lend Lease agreed to change their designs for the future MLC Centre to include a new purpose built 1200 seat theatre to replace the old Theatre Royal. In exchange for saving the theatre, Lend Lease was given up to 8000 square metres of extra commercial office space or close to six additional floors as compensation. The value of this ‘deal’ provides to the owners and shareholders an additional $9-11 million of commercial office rent per year or when capitalised adds over $200m to the building’s value.

However, the new owners DEXUS/GPT are now reneging on this deal and the theatre has been closed for over two years.

“We are turning away shows every month due to a lack of suitable venues in Sydney in which to show them. This building needs to be retained as a theatre contributing to the culture of Sydney, not yet another high end retail outlet,” said Kay.

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Chief Executive, Paul Murphy, said the shortage of theatre space in Sydney is currently costing hundreds of jobs for performers, creatives and crew every year.

“Scores of great Australian artists have performed at the Royal over the years and it is part of the theatrical history of this city. We urge the developers to rethink their plans and encourage all performers, crew and other theatre workers to join this campaign to retain a jewel in Sydney’s theatrical scene.”

An online petition calling on the owners to reopen the Theatre has been launched today.

“Unless someone intervenes, Sydney is about to sacrifice yet another great venue to the altar of developer greed,” Andrew Kay AM, LPA President said.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

ACTU – FWO report barely scratches the surface of wage theft

8 November 2018

A report released today by the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman reveals the very limited extent to which FWO and the Morrison government are dealing with wage theft as a business model in Australia.

More than one in three business previously caught breaking laws, including stealing wages, were still doing so when the FWO audited them through a desktop process of emails and phone calls.

Despite 184 businesses being found to be breaking the law a second time, only two were prosecuted, with the FWO preferring the softer options of cautions and notices for 92% of these second breaches.

One of the prosecutions commenced six years after FWO first became aware of the employer’s behaviour, in 2012.

The net amount recovered by the FWO from the 184 multiple-offending employers was just $244 246, or $1300 per repeat-offending business.

The peak body for working people has repeatedly called for changes to workplace laws to simplify investigation and enforcement processes so that unions can tackle wage theft head-on.

Proposed changes include simpler avenues to recover wages and superannuation for the thousands of workers in Australia who are being regularly and systematically underpaid.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “People should go to work confident of getting paid what they’re owed, including super.
  • “But for a huge number of working people in Australia, that confidence is betrayed, and their wages are stolen by corporations.
  • “The Fair Work Ombudsman can’t meaningfully address this issue and the Morrison government doesn’t care.
  • “There are around 200 FWO inspectors charged with enforcing our workplace laws for more than 12 million workers.
  • “Meanwhile thousands of workers’ representatives are sitting on the sidelines unable to stop wage theft because our broken laws prevent them from effectively doing so.
  • “Putting workers reps back on the wage theft beat would significantly increase the number of people stopping wage theft at no cost to the taxpayer.”
  • “We need to change the rules so that working people who are underpaid can have fast, efficient access to justice and get their money back.”


USA – How the House Fell: Republican Chaos and Democratic Focus



The message from Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, was urgent and unsparing. In a meeting with Republican lawmakers before they left Washington for the August congressional recess, Mr. McCarthy warned that time was running short: Unless they intensified their campaign efforts and forcefully delivered a coherent message, he said, Republicans would suffer grievous losses in November.

Instead of arresting their political decline, House Republicans proved unable at every turn to stay ahead of their troubles — including many of their own making.

By Labor Day, Republicans were fatally unprepared for an onslaught of Democratic campaign spending that overwhelmed their candidates from South Florida to Seattle. Party leaders on Capitol Hill and in the White House soon turned on one another and against their candidates with growing intensity. Two key groups — the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s campaign arm in the House, and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a powerful Republican super PAC — plunged into all but open warfare over messaging and money.

Democrats, in turn, delivered a message about health care with the repetitive force of a jackhammer. They cracked congressional maps drawn to favor Republicans and seized an array of open seats, while also felling longtime incumbents who had grown complacent.

And in the end, President Trump may have delivered the final blow to his party across the diverse and growing metropolitan communities that decided control of the House. In the last weeks of the campaign, Mr. Trump cast aside a positive Republican message about economic prosperity in favor of stoking racial panic about immigration — with appeals that veered into overt racism, alienating moderate swing voters and further enraging Democrats.

Republicans lost control of the House Tuesday night after eight years in power, with Democrats picking up seats in several suburban districts where the party traditionally did well. But if House Republicans were badly shaken by their defeat, few party leaders were genuinely surprised at the nature of their losses. In interviews with dozens of lawmakers, campaign strategists, activists and donors in both parties, a clear consensus emerged about the arc of the 2018 election.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

USA – Trump Trumped

The Democratic Party has reclaimed control of the House during the historic 2018 midterm elections, as the Republicans held onto their majority in the US Senate.

Tuesday night’s election results sent shock waves across the nation as voters flocked to the polls for the first time since Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

In many ways, the midterms were seen as a referendum on his presidency — and with the Democratic Party’s victory comes numerous obstacles his administration will now face in attempting to push forward his conservative “America First” agenda.

Democrats flipped a slate of seats held by Republican incumbents in battleground states like Florida, Georgia and Texas, securing a significant majority that allows them to begin holding White House administration officials accountable, including the president.

Ted Cruz defeats Beto O’Rourke in historic Senate race
Already, several Democrats have expressed an intention to demand the president’s tax returns, which Mr Trump refused to disclose during the 2016 general election.

The political and practical stakes were sky-high this year, as numerous Republicans faced a wave of progressive Democrats with bold agendas for their respective districts.

Tuesday’s elections also tested the strength of a Trump-era political realignment defined by evolving divisions among voters by race, gender, and especially education.

Monday, November 05, 2018

ACTU – Morrison announces wasteful and ineffective apprentice scheme

2 November 2018
CONTACT DETAILS

The peak body for working people condemns the Morrison Government’s so called ‘bush wage’ – a hugely wasteful and ineffective band aid over the massive funding cuts made by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government to apprenticeships and vocational education and training.

If rolled out nationally the new program is projected to cost $11 billion over four years with the aim of placing just 1630 apprentices.

Between Sep 2013 and Sept 2017 apprentice and trainee numbers dropped by a staggering 150,000. A 37% drop over the life of the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government.

The TAFE sector lost one-sixth of its financing in 2016, with operating revenues falling 16.8 per cent to $8.14 billion.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government refuses to invest in apprenticeship programs that we know work and instead continue to give handouts to big business.
  • “We have seen through the PaTH program, through CDP, and now this thought bubble, that this Prime Minister and his Government do not care about working people or developing skills, they simply want to funnel public money into private business.
  • “This program provides a perverse incentive to employers to stop and restart apprentices in order to get the subsidy. This program, like all other employment and skills programs created by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government, treats workers as disposable.
  • “We need to change the rules to make sure young people get proper skills training which will set them up for a good steady job, not sell them out to big business to be churned through meaningless programs.
  • “The Morrison Government is demonstrating yet again that it will always side with business over ordinary working Australians.”


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Family members of aviation pioneer have citizenship challenged – Border Farce

By Nick O’Malley

Nancy-Bird Walton's younger brother John was just 15 when the merchant ship he served on in World War II was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-180 off the New South Wales coast. He was one of 19 survivors rescued by the USS Patterson and is the last of them still alive.

Ms Walton went on to become one of Australia's most celebrated pilots, an Officer of the Order of Australia, and her name would one day appear upon Qantas's flagship A380 aircraft.

Pilot Nancy-Bird Walton died in 2009. She was named a National Living Treasure in 1997.

By war’s end John Bird had been awarded honours by both Australia and the United States, having served in the merchant navies of both nations. He moved for a time to the Australian protectorate that is now Papua New Guinea, where he married his Papuan wife and had five children before returning to Australia.

Each of the children were immediately registered and granted Australian citizenship, and when they turned six they were packed off to boarding school in Sydney. There they spent their weekends and holidays with their aunt, Nancy-Bird. One of John’s daughters is Mary-Anne, who at 64 remains an active member of the Australian Army Reserve, which she has now served for 29 years.

So it has been a shock to the whole family that the Department of Home Affairs is now challenging the citizenship of all the children. Mary-Anne has been forced onto a bridging visa which will expire in the new year.

Mary-Anne Bird was denied a new passport and had her citizenship challenged, despite serving in the Army Reserve for 29 years.

Another daughter, Cathy, went on the run after a Border Force officer told her she might be arrested and detained at any time pending her deportation to Port Moresby. Donald Bird is currently teaching English in Thailand and may have trouble returning should his passport expire.

"The immigration department positively hounded them" John Bird said of his children's treatment.
John Bird, now 91, is worried for his children and furious at the family’s treatment.

“I was bloody devastated. They are Australian. I am Australian. I have been a member of the RSL for 50 years and I get a veteran’s pension. The immigration department positively hounded them,” he said.

Cathy first discovered that her citizenship was being questioned by the Department in 2016 when she went to renew her passport. A couple of days after submitting her fee and the appropriate forms she received a call from the department saying that it did not consider her to be a citizen and demanding she apply for a Returning Resident visa.

Cathy Bird, niece of Nancy-Bird Walton, went into hiding after her bridging visa expired.
“I told them, ‘I can’t, I haven’t returned from anywhere, I’m here, I’ve always been here,” she says. "It is just being told you that you don’t belong that hurts the most."

Later she was informed that according to the Department she had been issued a visa in 1994 that expired in 2006 and she needed to sort out her status. She says she has no idea what the Department is talking about, that during that period she lived in Australia, holding an Australian passport, and that the Department has refused to show her the visa it is referring to.

Finally in September she was contacted by a case officer in Cairns and instructed to apply for a bridging visa. She claims her case officer bullied and intimidated her in a meeting, telling her that he could - and would - remove her from her flat at any time.

She was granted a one-month bridging visa which expired on October 31. Last week she locked up her Cairns apartment, had Mary-Anne drive her to the airport and went into hiding in rural NSW.

PNG-born Mary-Anne Bird was denied an Australian visa after her fourth Australian passport.

Fairfax Media understands that since media made enquiries to the Department on Thursday morning, the bridging visa was extended.

Mary-Anne Bird with her Papuan mother Mary. The interpretation of regulations have been changed in relation to the citizenship of Australians born to mixed marriages in PNG.

Mary-Anne’s battle with the department began later when she sought to have her own passport renewed. Like Cathy, she does not know why her citizenship is being questioned. “I am serving in the Australian Army. I have had my security check. You can’t serve in the Army if you are not a citizen,” she says.

Like Cathy, she has been forced onto a bridging visa, though she was given three months rather than one.

In recent days Cathy confessed to a friend that she had for a time considered suicide. "It was just so disheartening. I thought, 'How can I keep this fight up? How can I live like this?'"

Dan O’Brien, the secretary of US Army Small Ships Association, a group founded to assist Australian veterans, said over recent days members of the group, along with the Maritime Union of Australia, the Merchant Navy Association of NSW and the American Legion had raised money to help the Birds pay for legal assistance.

He said it was his understanding that when the Department of Immigration combined with other Australian government arms, including Border Force, to become the Department of Home Affairs, regulations - or the interpretation of regulations - about the citizenship of Australians born to mixed marriages in Papua New Guinea changed.

If this was the case, he says, those affected by the changes should have been notified and assisted rather than threatened with deportation.

“This is not how you treat a family that has given so much to this country,” he said.

Asked why the Birds’ citizenship had been challenged and how many people might be affected by changes to regulations, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs declined to comment on individual cases due to privacy concerns.

After hearing Cathy's bridging visa was extended, Mr O’Brien, called on the government to apologise to the Bird family and settle the question of their citizenship conclusively.