Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Remembering the MUA and the Australian Army Conspiracy 1998

From the book of cartoons – War on the Wharves
One feature of the 1998 Patrick dispute that distinguishes it from anything else in Australia's recent history is the blatant, unashamed declaration by the government and big industry that they are preparing the army (specifically the SAS) to move against wharf workers in a direct physical conflict.

They were not merely desperate scab workers to be trained in Dubai - they are soldiers in the Australian army. 

The threat is much more serious than 'professional strike-breakers and a mini army supplied with truncheons and riot shields' - bad enough as this would be. The threat is guns - in the hands of professional soldiers whose special training is not only military, but highly political. These are soldiers who have no qualms about killing workers - they believe it's necessary.

It might not be coincidence that the SAS have been rushed into international 'duty' just now. Their reputation took a set-back after the Blackhawk crash, and the Government would be hoping to establish a good image for them preparatory to sending them in against workers.

How are we to deal with this? Most of us workers have no experience of facing the army. The Hawke Government used the RAAF to scab on pilots, but then the violence was implied rather than direct. The issue of the use of armed force against the workers should be brought into the open and discussed in pubs, street meetings, on radio, the internet, in markets, shops, transport stations, etc.

Peter Reith became unelectable in his safe Melbourne seat and resigned from parliament
John Howard was also to lose his very safe Sydney seat and his ambition to copy Menzies

Qube Melbourne Wharfies Walk Off The Job As Company Seeks to Terminate Agreement

Posted by Mua communications on March 18, 2018

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says its wharfies at Qube’s Melbourne Bulk & General operation have gone on strike for 48 hours this weekend after the company’s attempt to terminate their EBA and revert to the award, which would mean a pay cut of at least 40 per cent.

Qube management has continually provoked workers in Melbourne by removing long-established rosters and pushing excessive working hours, in contrast to other Australian ports where the company has reached agreement with its workforce.
“Why should Qube Melbourne not get the same wages as other ports when the company has inflamed the workplace with unjust sackings, excessive hours, discipline and removal of the roster,” MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.

After deliberately inflaming tensions in the workplace and refusing to negotiate in good faith, management have now decided to try to cut workers’ take home pay by 40 per cent by reverting to the award.

  • “The company is running rampant over the workforce with targeted sackings and the creation of work patterns that directly result in unsafe levels of fatigue.
  • “The company removed the roster in early 2015, saying it would revert when trading conditions improved but some three years later volumes have increased but the roster has not been reinstated.
  • “The company has identified fatigue as a major priority when it comes to occupational health and safety yet workers at Qube in Melbourne are working longer hours including several consecutive 12 hour shifts. This is the core of the problem.”

The ACTU and unions have broadly condemned the emerging corporate tactic of applying to terminate Enterprise Bargaining Agreements in order to cut workers’ pay and conditions.

This is a sneaky backdoor tactic, whereby companies apply to the FWC to terminate an existing agreement on the grounds it has negotiated in good faith when they had no intention of reaching agreement in the first place.

This is then used to severely undercut decades worth of enterprise negotiations.

  • “The MUA agrees 100 per cent with the ACTU in saying that it’s time to change the rules,” Smith said.
  • “Wage growth is stagnant while CEO pay packets and corporate profits are at record levels.
  • “All trade unionists know that the only way working people get pay rises when they have the power to negotiate them."
  • “Right now corporations like Qube have too much power and working people have too little.
  • “We need to change the rules, including the right to strike, so that there is a fair power balance between working people and big business.”

ANMF Sends a Message to Federal Politicians to Protect Australia’s Elderly

Ratios For Aged Care. Make Them Law. Now.

Monday 19th March, 2018

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), is sending a message to all federal politicians with a new public awareness campaign calling for staff ratios in aged care to be legislated as a matter of urgency – to protect vulnerable, older nursing home residents who are the victims of Australia’s crisis in aged care.

The voices of the campaign are people who are all involved in the aged care system. They include a registered nurse (RN), an assistant in nursing (AIN), a relative of a nursing home resident, a doctor working in the system, and a community supporter, who have come together to call on our politicians to fix aged care.

They describe how, in the absence of mandated ratios, dangerously low-levels of nurse and carer staffing continue to put the lives of the elderly at risk.

  • “When my husband went into aged care it was an absolute shock, I was quite horrified by what I saw. I saw a degree of neglect. The lack of staff amounts to abuse,” says Margaret, a widow whose husband was in a nursing home.
  • “There’s not enough staff and it’s extremely stressful. Things are so much worse than people realise,” says Cherise, a registered aged care nurse, who also had her Grandmother in a nursing home.
  • “I feel like sometimes I am on a production line, you don’t get enough time to properly care for residents,” says Julie, an AIN working in aged care.

The campaign highlights how there are fewer and fewer nurses and carers to care for an increasing number of nursing home residents with increasingly complex medical needs.

From 2003 to 2016, there was a 13% reduction in trained nursing staff working full-time in aged care facilities;

Over the past 13 years there has been a 400% increase in preventable deaths in nursing homes, from falls, choking and suicides;

Nursing home residents are receiving 2 hours 50 minutes of care per day from nurses and carers, well below the 4hours 18 minutes they should be getting; and,

Some aged care providers are spending just $6.08 a day for each resident’s daily meals.
All this, at a time when the profits of aged care providers continue to rise. The ANMF says this shows that the system is all about “profits before people.”

The media campaign commences with a series of TV commercials which air this morning coinciding with Federal Senators returning to Canberra today. Mobile billboards will also be circling Parliament House and moving throughout the city.

The ANMF is also supporting the actions of Senator Derryn Hinch, who has introduced a private member’s bill, the Aged Care Amendment (Ratio of Skilled Staff to Care Recipients Bill) 2017, and is calling on all political parties to support ratios for aged care.

Quotes attributable the A/Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Annie Butler:

  • “There are no actors involved in our campaign – our campaign’s voices belong to real people who are all living or working in aged care or have a relative in aged care. They want to send a strong message to our politicians, that there must be safe staffing in aged care because, without it, the care of the elderly continues to be compromised.
  • “Understaffing means that often just 1 registered nurse has to manage the care for sometimes over 100 residents on a night shift or that one carer has to feed, bathe, dress and mobilise 16 residents in less than an hour.
  • “Nurses and carers are struggling, they’re run off their feet. They are doing the best they can but they can’t provide the level of care they want to. It’s just not possible.
  • “It’s a national disgrace. It’s a crisis that shames us.
  • “Our aged care system has been ignored by governments for far too long.
  • “Australia has strict ratios for childcare, which is only fair and reasonable, but not for aged care. The result is a system where 1 registered nurse may be responsible for managing the care of more than 100 residents. How is this justifiable?
  • “While care for the elderly gets worse, taxpayer-funded providers increase their profits. Last year, owners of aged care facilities pocketed over $1billion in profits while cutting staff.
  • “It’s time elderly Australians get the care they deserve.
  • “Our politicians must stand up for elderly Australians and make ratios law now.”

ACOSS calls on crossbench to reject the Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill

With new Senators just arriving to sit on the crossbench, the Federal Government is again attempting to push through its widely rejected Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill, that will cut more people off income support and increase homelessness and destitution in our community.

The Welfare ‘Reform’ Bill is before the Senate today. If passed it would cut 80,000 people off income support, delay payments to people in need, and make it more difficult to access income support if you have an addiction.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS says people who are already skipping meals to pay bills will hurt even more if this Bill is passed.
  • “The new Senators have just arrived in Canberra and are faced with a government trying to ram through a Bill containing 17 different measures that will negatively affect the lives of thousands of people across Australia, including women and their children escaping violence.
  • “Over the last nine months the entire community sector has spoken out about the damage this Bill would do to thousands upon thousands of people in Australia, and yet the government wants the new Senators to pass this Bill without adequate deliberation or consultation with people affected or their representatives.
  • “It is essential the new Senators take the time they need to fully understand the implications of these proposals.”
  • “This Bill introduces more social security cuts and changes that would make life tougher for people already struggling,” she said.
  • “This Bill would remove legislated protections for people who, because of extenuating circumstances, cannot get all the paperwork for their income support claim into Centrelink.
  • “This means that people in hospital, people going through a separation, or women escaping domestic violence will have to wait longer to get their Centrelink payment because it is impossible to get the paperwork together.
  • “This Bill would deny back-pay to people, meaning they could lose hundreds of dollars in their first payment as they wait for the department to process their claim.
  • “80,000 people looking for paid work, will be cut off income support under a tougher compliance regime.
  • “It is near impossible to look for work if you are homeless and hungry. As we saw last week, homelessness is on the rise in Australia.
  • “Rather than cutting the incomes of people who already have the least, the government should focus on ensuring everyone has a roof over their head and food on their tables. It should look to increasing unemployment payments, which are now so low they act as a barrier to employment.
  • “We do not support punishing people for the sake of punishment.”
  • “We call on the crossbench to reject this Bill as a matter of urgency.”

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fischer takes on US-inspired firearms lobby

Tim Fischer takes on US-inspired firearms lobby
One of the architects of Australia’s strict gun control laws says he is “deeply concerned” about the emergence of what he described as a US-inspired firearms lobby.

Tim Fischer, the former deputy prime minister and leader of the National party who alongside John Howard helped to pass landmark reforms after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, says he believes a “wave” of firearm lobbying influenced by the US National Rifle Association is putting renewed pressure on Australian gun laws.

Fischer told the Guardian he believed “NRA-inspired” lobbying coupled with the increased influence of rightwing parties such as One Nation in Canberra and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party in New South Wales had influenced a “pushback” against Australia’s gun laws, and called on politicians to stand up to pressure.

“Waves of NRA-originated ideology do descend on Australia and have done since 1996,” he said. “I think we are seeing another wave of the NRA’s indirect influence descending on Australia at the federal and state levels [and] that’s deeply concerning to me.”
Fischer’s warning comes in the context of an increasingly well-funded and organised gun lobby with ties to weapons importers and manufacturers.

Last week the Guardian revealed that the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, was considering establishing a committee to allow gun importers to review proposed changes to firearm regulations for “appropriateness and intent”.

The proposal to establish the committee was put to Dutton during a private meeting with representatives from gun importer Nioa and the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (Sifa).

A lobbying outfit whose directors include some of Australia’s largest gun dealers, Sifa has only five members and represents a departure from the membership-driven model of most shooting groups in Australia. But what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in funding and influence.

Financial disclosures published with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission show that Sifa’s five members pumped $768,000 into the group in the 2016-17 financial year.

Among the members is Robert Nioa, the managing director of the largest small arms importer in Australia.

Aside from being a major donor to his father-in-law, the independent federal MP Bob Katter, Nioa’s company receives millions of dollars in defence contracts from the Australian government and Nioa himself is well connected politically.

In December the defence industry minister, Christopher Pyne, attended the opening of his new office in Canberra, according to the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia.

The federal lobbying register also lists Sifa as a client of Barton Deakin, a Liberal party-aligned lobbyist group. Barton Deakin’s federal director is Grahame Morris, a former chief of staff to Howard.

When contacted by the Guardian on Friday, Morris said he had never heard of Sifa but after checking said a former consultant of Barton Deakin had done “some work” for the group. However, he said the group was no longer a client.

“Do I want Australia’s gun laws changed? The answer is no,” Morris said.

Earlier this month the Guardian reported that Australian pro-gun groups including Sifa pumped more than $500,000 into helping minor rightwing parties win seats in last year’s Queensland state election.

Fischer said that while interventions such as Dutton’s were not “necessarily” a negative thing, the gun lobby’s motivations needed to be “watched closely”.

“The whole point is that the core structure and content of the Howard gun reforms must not be done away with,” he said. “Creep and corrosion of the core of the gun law reforms is a danger.”

While pointing to the pressure faced by Australia’s current politicians, he noted that he and Howard had faced fierce resistance to the changes in some parts of the country in 1996.

“I got hung in effigy in Gympie, I got shouted at across the country but I did not take step back,” he said. “It was all pretty ugly, but 20 years on there have been no massacres and the case [in favour of the laws] rests pretty strongly.”

Ged Kearney Wins Batman

Labor Celebration – Ged Kearney and Bill Shorten at the Thornbury Theatre
Labor party faithful are waiting to celebrate with Ged Kearney, after she won the Batman by-election following a battle with the Greens over the federal seat.

Labor has claimed victory in the federal Melbourne seat of Batman after a tightly contested by-election battle with the Greens.

Former ACTU leader Ged Kearney emerged the winner on Saturday with 42 per cent of the primary vote, 52 per cent on a two-party basis, trumping the Greens candidate Alex Bhathal who has now lost the seat six times.

Ms Kearney, is yet to attend the Labor by-election party to make her victory speech, but Greens leader Richard Di Natale has conceded defeat.

The mood was electric at the Labor camp in Thornbury, with supporters wearing red chanting 'Ged, Ged' and 'solidarity forever' as results poured in, though the count remained neck-in-neck for some time.

Federal Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou was confident the party would retain the long-held seat, left vacant by Labor's David Feeney after he resigned amidst the citizenship saga.

She said that was largely due to Ms Kearney's work history, as a nurse and unionist, and warm character.

"I think all that made a big difference in terms of engaging people locally and perhaps getting them to refocus on Labor and a Labor agenda," the Member for Calwell told AAP.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

MUA Members March On Rio Tinto Headquarters in Brisbane

Posted by Communications Team on March 16, 2018

MUA members have protested out the front of the headquarters of mining giant Rio Tinto over the company's continuing refusal to employ Australian seafarers for the vast majority of its interstate and intra-state shipping needs. 

Rio Tinto continues to mine and refine Bauxite in Queensland, however they are mostly employing foreign seafarers paid $4 an hour to transport bauxite from Weipa to Gladstone and alumina to Newcastle from Gladstone.

The MUA believes that Aussie seafarers should be employed in these jobs under decent pay and conditions.

MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Bob Carnegie read out a letter to Rio Tinto chief executive Peter Manion outlining the ways in which Rio Tinto is derelict in its duties.
  • "This demonstration held today by Maritime Union of Australia Queensland Branch members and their supporters, call upon Rio Tinto to engage immediately with the Maritime Union of Australia Queensland branch and the Maritime Union of Australia National office to implement the standard of the 2010 MOU between Rio Tinto and our union, the letter says. "Australian merchant seafarers demand and expect to have the right to work in their own country, respected and acknowledged by employment on the vessels Rio Tinto owns and operates on the Australian coast. 
  • "Our resolve is strong and if necessary we will engage Rio Tinto in a long tortuous public debate about how the second largest mining house in the world justifies employing foreign nationals at a pittance whilst skilled Australian merchant seafarers are forced onto the dole, selling their homes and feeling left out of this life (of which we only have one) whilst Rio Tinto pulls in $8 billion dollars in profits per year. 
  • "The ball is now in Rio Tinto's court." Local media reported that Carnegie made a point of emphasising to the crowd that the MUA protest is not in any way against "people from other nations".
  • "One of the things that we're most proud of in the MUA is that we're an internationalist based organisation and an injury to one worker anywhere in the world is an injury to all workers everywhere in the world,² Carnegie said.

Solidarity messages were presented by Michael Clifford from the Queensland Council of Unions and representatives of the Electrical Trades Union. Other unions present included the Queensland Teachers Union, the Rail Tram and Bus Employees Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the new Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

US – Thousands of Students March to end Gun Violence

Thousands of students across the nation walked out of classrooms and into a political firestorm Wednesday, marking one month since the bloody rampage at a Florida high school shocked the world and fueled their dynamic movement demanding an end to gun violence. 

Students from about 2,800 schools marked National Walkout Day, many by leaving their classrooms at 10 a.m. to show solidarity for the 17 killed in the attack Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In Parkland, students gathered on the football field, embraced and chanted, "MSD!" and "We want change!" Rejecting requests from administrators to return to classes, they joined students from a nearby middle school to walk 2 miles to memorials set up for the victims.

"To the parents supporting their children walking out, thank you for raising this new generation of leaders," tweeted Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky. "To the parents who didn’t support their children who walked out anyway, thank you for raising this new generation of leaders."

At Columbine High School south of Denver, hundreds of students solemnly filed onto the soccer field for a short rally. They released balloons to memorialize the Parkland victims, along with the 13 people killed at their own school 19 years ago. 

“We should never go to school in fear of our lives,” said sophomore Leah Zundel, 15, as her voice broke. “Enough is enough.”

ACTU demands action on Exxon’s $1.4 billion in unpaid tax

14 March 2018

The ACTU has addressed the Senate Corporate Tax Avoidance Inquiry and called for significant changes to tax law to stop the unprecedented tax avoidance being undertaken by Exxon.
Exxon’s entire business is structured to enable massive tax avoidance, which has cost at least $1.4 billion according to some estimates.

Exxon has paid no corporate tax for several years, despite making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year off Australian natural resources.

Quotes attributable to ACTU National Campaign Coordinator Lance McCallum:

  • “In the 2015/16 financial year, Australian working people went without $13.4 billion dollars’ worth of teachers and school infrastructure, hospital beds, nurses and doctors, road building and other vital services because big companies don’t pay their fair share of tax.
  • “Companies which avoid paying their full share of tax in Australia are taking money away from all working people in this country and using our infrastructure, our labour, our natural resources, to send profits overseas.
  • “It’s a glaring example of how big businesses have too much power, and get to play by an entirely separate set of rules to ordinary people.
  • “We need to change the rules so that companies like Exxon are held to account and has to pay its fair share.”

ACOSS – The Tax War and Essential Services

The tax cut war and why everyone must pay for essential services, including wealthy shareholders

14 March 2018

Labor’s policy on tax refunds for shareholders released on 13 March 2018 is a stark reminder that policies addressing the huge gaps in Australia’s revenue base are necessary.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says that governments’ continued provision of essential health, aged care, NDIS and other services is shaky as long as large gaps in Australia’s revenue base remain.

  • “One of the gaps is the excessively generous tax breaks for wealthy retirees. Their super funds are not taxed on their income, including share dividends. Instead, in many cases, the Tax Office pays them thousands of dollars a year in tax credits on their share investments. Only 16% of people aged 64 years and over pay income tax, and many who don’t are actually very well off. This is not sustainable.
  • “We have a choice. We close gaps like these in the tax system, or we charge people more for services like aged care and home care.
  • “In the debate over winners and losers from Labor’s policy, some of the so-called ‘’evidence’’ will be misleading. We need proper data on who is affected. 
  • “Although we’re confident the proposal will mainly affect people with substantial private wealth and, among retirees, those in the top 20 per cent by total income, we need to see a breakdown of the total income and wealth of those affected (both direct investors and those investing through super), and not just their taxable income which is often zero due to over-generous retirement tax-breaks.
  • “But all of this is a distraction. We are increasingly concerned that we are entering into a pre-election  tax cut bidding war, when our priority should be to make sure we have the revenue we need to deliver essential services, including for older people. 
  • “This is not the time for personal tax cuts, company tax cuts, or more tax breaks for investment. We need to be certain the budget has moved into surplus before tax cuts are delivered. We need to prepare for all the expenditure challenges governments will face into the future.
  • “We need to get the budget back on a firmer footing by making sure everyone is paying their fair share for essential services. That includes reducing over-generous tax breaks for super and shares, strengthening the Medicare Levy, and closing tax shelters in capital gains tax, negative gearing and trusts.
  • “The parties need to focus on how to pay the future costs of health, aged care and the NDIS while meeting urgent needs such as affordable housing, public infrastructure, and reducing the worst poverty by increasing Newstart.
  • “Today’s data showing a disturbing increase to 116,000 people who are homeless in Australia is a stark reminder of who is really doing it tough and the priorities that should be set by any government committed to tackling poverty and inequality.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

CPSU – Major Survey Confirms Turnbull’s Hypocrisy On Women At Work

MARCH, 2018

A major survey shows that the invaluable contribution of women in the Australian public sector is threatened by Malcolm Turnbull’s continued attacks on workplace conditions.

What Women Want is a biennial survey of thousands of working women conducted by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). Most of the participants (75%) are employed in the Australian Public Service, with the rest predominantly employed by the ACT and NT Governments.

The survey found increasing pressures on women and a continued decline in job satisfaction since 2013, after years of budget cuts and chronic understaffing, together with substantial obstacles to bargaining for improved conditions of work.

The survey, released to coincide with International Women’s Day, shows that the most important issue to women remains access to flexible work arrangements - but satisfaction with work/life balance continues to decline. Women are also less confident about job security, and are badly affected by continued cuts to the public sector that increase workloads.

Women are also becoming less satisfied with their pay (pay satisfaction has dropped from 71% in 2013 to 53% in 2017), reflecting the Turnbull Government’s years of using Commonwealth bargaining to suppress incomes in the public sector.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Malcolm Turnbull says he wants to encourage more women into work. He even changed the Ministerial Code of Conduct because he says he wants ‘respectful workplaces for women’.”

“But then he lets a cabinet minister threaten female staff at Parliament House without consequence and brings in policies in the public sector which are exactly the opposite of what women are saying we need.”

“Working women deserve fair workplaces and jobs that offer reasonable flexibility and allow them to live balanced lives. But for years, the Turnbull Government has used bargaining in the Commonwealth public sector to stand in the way of family-friendly policies and work/life balance for women. Now they’ve released their new bargaining policy and it’s just as unfriendly as the old one.

Women are saying really clearly what matters at work: we want work/life balance, fair pay and respectful workplaces. But the number of women who believe that their current entitlements are sufficient to let them balance work and non-work commitments has dropped from 65% to 54% in just two years. And a quarter of women agree that taking time out for family or personal reasons is frowned on."

"These survey findings are another sign that the rules that made this country fair are broken - and that's why we're going to change them.”

The full report is available at: https://www.cpsu.org.au/campaigns/international-womens-day-2018

Cover the Coal Wagons Group Report

Cover the Coal Wagons Group (CTCWG) Meeting with the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held  Friday 02/2/18.

We recently met two representatives from the NSW EPA Jacinta Hanemann, Regional Manager Operations, Metropolitan Infrastructure  and Sarah Thompson, Unit Head Metropolitan Infrastructure, and Yvonne Scougie, Senior Team Leader, Atmospheric research Office of the Environment and Heritage Department.There were nine interested community representatives including the organisers of the meeting from the Blue Mountains Union and Community, its President Kerry Cook as well as a local retired GP who had worked with the now disbanded NSW Dust Diseases Board and Green Party members. The overall impression from the attendees was that it was a positive meeting which could lead to useful future contact with the EPA.

In discussion the government representatives stated that obtaining accurate air quality readings is a contestable area of scientific research. They explained that obtaining reliable air quality readings across the Blue Mountains rail corridor posed real difficulties due to the fact the rail line and the Great Western Highway ran near to or along side each other . We learned that there was 16 coal trains travelling ‘down’ line with 20 empty wagons returning. The EPA agreed to provide written confirmation of these figures.

In relation to the group undertaking a citizen scientist air monitoring project using our hand held units. it became apparent that any research undertaken would have to withstand the riggers of scientific scrutiny. The group’s collective thought prior to this meeting was that we did not have the scientific savvy/skills to warrant spending time monitoring the coal wagons.

The meeting was told the EPA is awaiting delivery of monitors that were being designed to monitor air quality readings at low ground levels, but it was clear they had no plans to commence any trials in the Blue Mountains. The representatives acknowledged that coal wagons in Queensland were covered explaining it could be the result of different types of coal density.

They discussed other air quality issues, such as wood fire smoke in the winter months, in relation to diesel emissions from the trains pulling the coal wagons they agreed these were high in PM 2.5 particulants. They informed the meeting that the State Government was working on a retro fit the diesel  engines system to reduce emissions, no time frame was given for this work to be completed.

The representatives said the NSW Government was rolling out a rural air quality monitoring program and suggested that we apply to become part of this initiative. As well as that option they said the EPA could make available a portable air monitoring pod, requiring mains energy, which could be used to begin an general air monitoring program.  If the group wanted to become involved in this suggestion we would have to decide on a safe site with access to mains power and the EPA would transport and install the unit. The data from the pod would be become available to the public, and the EPA would undertake maintenance of the pod.

The meeting heard that an air quality study had been commissioned in 2008 by the Blue Mountains City Council and undertaken by Sue Reed, it was  agreed to seek this data and use it as the basis of any future air quality studies.

In conclusion the meeting agreed that to undertake a credible air quality study focusing on uncovered coal wagons was out of the group’s scope.  As it had been on the initiative of the Blue Mountains Union and Community to undertake this study the meeting agreed that this decision to now focus on a political campaign be taken back to the next BMUC monthly meeting (04/02/18 for ratification.

The local member Trish Doyle has already raised questions in State Parliament about uncovered coal wagons and their impact on the Blue Mountains communities health and air quality.  It is expected the government to respond in the near future. The group agreed to keep this issue in the public arena via press releases, as well as approaching prospective State candidates position on covering coal wagons as the State  election campaigning commences.

We will investigate further the suggestion to approach the State Government about the Blue Mountains being included in the Rural Air Quality monitoring program as well as seeking a suitable location to site the air monitoring pod.

Peter Lammiman
Cover the Coal Wagons Group. 

NSWTF – 2018 Principals’ Conference

March 09, 2018

Federation’s 2018 Principals’ Conference aimed to help Principals understand and navigate the changing nature of work in schools. In an opening address, President Maurie Mulheron singled out the Department’s Local Schools, Local Decision policy as the primary driver of increased workload in schools.

“Local Schools, Local Decision is not a good idea implemented badly, it’s a bad idea working exactly as intended,” he said.

Under this policy and a state Treasury directive to deliver a 1.5 per cent “efficiency dividend” each year, hundreds of administrative and support positions had been cut with the workload shifted to schools, Mr. Mulheron said. This resulted in principals being occupied with much more administrative work that took time away from the primary responsibilities of curriculum, teaching and learning, and student wellbeing.

The rest of the conference provided a range of workshops to help principals better address key aspects of their work in schools, including addressing issues of violence and bullying from members of the community, supporting casual and temporary teachers, addressing the challenges facing small schools, and more.

The closing keynote address was delivered by Dr Rachel Wilson of the University of Sydney, who presented a stark outline of the trends in student achievement, and the changes in the academic attainment of graduates entering the teaching profession.

Despite popular narratives in the media, Dr Wilson said, negative trends were consistent across schools, sectors, and sections of society. Whatever the issues, they were widespread, and the thinking and policies that created this situation were not going to be the solution to address it.

“We must interrogate the system data and structures rather than place the blame on schools, teachers, students (and) parents,” Dr Wilson said.

A video of Dr Wilson’s full speech will be made available to members in coming weeks.

ACTU – There’s never been a better time for a big pay rise

13 March 2018

As working people struggle through a period of low wages growth the ACTU has put an argument forward for a substantial pay increase of $50 per week for people on the minimum wage.
It’s part of a long-term strategy to restore a living wage, with the peak body for working people wanting to bring the minimum wage up to 60 percent of the median wage.

A $50 per week raise would represent a 7.2 percent increase to the pay of Australians earning minimum wage, putting someone who works full-time on $744.90 a week.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus will address a rally of people who work for the minimum wage in the cleaning industry shortly before making the submission to the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Directly and through awards, the Fair Work Commission’s decision will affect around 2.3 million working people nationwide.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “With record low wages growth holding us back, penalty rate cuts kicking in and bills and rent rising faster than ever there has never been a better time for a big pay rise for Australians.”
  • “People should not work full-time and struggle to pay for the basics of life. We need to restore a living wage.
  • “Low wages growth is pushing our economy off course. It’s not just working people saying that – the Reserve Bank and Treasurer Scott Morrison agree.
  • “Our wages aren’t keeping up with key living costs like power and housing in a lot of areas, and it’s hurting working families.
  • “We need a substantial pay rise to lift up working people who are struggling.
  • “This will help put us on the path to a living wage where the minimum is 60 percent of the median wage in the long term.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tim Berners-Lee: we must regulate tech firms to prevent 'weaponised' web

The inventor of the world wide web warns over concentration of power among a few companies ‘controlling which ideas are shared’

Tim Berners-Lee: ‘What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms.’

Tim Berners-Lee: ‘What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms.’ Photograph: 2013 Rick Friedman
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, has called for large technology firms to be regulated to prevent the web from being “weaponised at scale”.

“In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data,” Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter marking the 29th anniversary of his invention.

These problems have proliferated because of the concentration of power in the hands of a few platforms – including Facebook, Google, and Twitter – which “control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared”.

“What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,” said the 62-year-old British computer scientist.

These online gatekeepers can lock in their power by acquiring smaller rivals, buying up new innovations and hiring the industry’s top talent, making it harder for others to compete, he said.

Google now accounts for about 87% of online searches worldwide. Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users – more than 20 times more than MySpace at its peak.

Together, the two companies (including their subsidiaries Instagram and YouTube) slurp up more than 60% of digital advertising spend worldwide.

Although the companies are aware of the problems and have made efforts to fix them – developing systems to tackle fake news, bots and influence operations – they have been built to “maximise profit more than maximise social good”.

“A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions,” he said.

Aligning the incentives of the technology sector with those of users and society at large, he argued, will require consulting a diverse group of people from business, government, civil society, academia and the arts.

Berners-Lee warned of “two myths” that “limit our collective imagination” when looking for solutions to the problems facing the web: “The myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points we need to be a little more creative,” he said.

“I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions,” he said.

The open letter coincides with a significant milestone: 2018 is the first year that more than half of the world’s population will be online.

This still leaves a gaping “digital divide” that exacerbates existing inequalities: you are more likely to be offline if you are female, poor, or live in a rural area or a low-income country.

“To be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate,” Berners-Lee said. “If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042. That’s an entire generation left behind.”

Two years ago, the UN declared internet access to be a basic human right on par with clean water, shelter, food and electricity. However, in many places, getting online is prohibitively expensive – the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband in Malawi is more than 20% of the average monthly income. In Zimbabwe, it is nearly 45%.

The open letter comes a year after Berners-Lee called for tighter regulation of online political advertising, which he said was being used in “unethical ways”.

Since then, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google have been hauled in front of Congress to answer questions over the extent to which their platforms were used in a multi-pronged Russian operation to influence the 2016 presidential election.

All three admitted that Russian entities bought ads on their sites in an attempt to skew the vote. Russians posed as Americans to buy ads on Facebook pushing divisive messages focusing on swing states. They also spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads to spread disinformation across YouTube and Google. On Twitter, swarms of bots helped promote fake news stories.

All three companies have since announced measures to improve transparency over who is buying political ads on their platforms and what messages they are promoting.

Berners-Lee has always maintained that his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, his vision to create an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged as the web has become more centralised.

“I’m still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence,” he told the Guardian in November. “We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

ACTU – Change the Rules

Today we take the Change the Rules campaign to the next level.

We’ve just launched a nationwide, multimedia campaign that’s going to strike a blow for all working people.

Can you share our new advert?

Our message is simple. Big business has too much power and Australians need more secure jobs and a wage rise. Now this message is going to reach millions of people.

We’re calling on people to join the movement for change. To change the rules, we need to grow our movement.

Big business and their political representatives in the Liberal Party aren’t going to like this campaign one bit. They will attack us relentlessly.

So we need your help.

Share this video on Facebook now and help us get the message out.

We know that people trust information most coming from their friends and family. So sharing this video online will ensure that people see if from trusted sources.

Our ad is also available on YouTube and Twitter.

We’ve struck a blow for working people today, but winning depends on you.

Share this video now with your networks and let's get on with changing the rules.

In Unity,

Sally McManus

Friday, March 09, 2018

MUA Amalgamation with CFMEU Decision

Posted by Sofia Madden on March 08, 2018

This is a great day for our union, the TCFUA, CFMEU and the entire trade union movement in Australia and internationally.

The Fair Work Commission has recognised our legitimate right to form our new union with the overwhelming support of our membership.

The employers have persistently tried to block the merger, together with Turnbull Government.

The only basis for this opposition is to further attack the rights of maritime, construction, forestry and manufacturing workers in this country.

It is nothing more than a response driven by their elitism and the fact their ideological agenda is threatened by the genuine interests of our members.

The employers will probably appeal but the members have spoken.

The Fair Work Commission has confirmed that voice and we will now continue to embark on forming the new union regardless of their opposition – legal, political, industrial or otherwise.

Congratulations to all members, officers, officials and staff for your overwhelming support that helped realise this historic day.

Yours in solidarity and unity.

 Paddy Crumlin
National Secretary
Maritime Union of Australia

Thursday, March 08, 2018

ACTU – Three Billboards


International Women’s Day 2018 – Leave No Woman Behind.

Together we can empower women across the globe.

South Korean women rally to mark International Women’s Day in Seoul
International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8th. You can find our events across Australia listed below along with further information and links to purchase tickets.

Our theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is “Leave no woman behind”, examining the vital role that women play in humanitarian and disaster planning and response. Each of our events will explore the impacts disasters have on women and girls, and highlight the important roles that women play in risk reduction, rebuilding, rehabilitation and peace processes.

Why are women and children 14 times more likely to die or be injured in the wake of a natural disaster? Following the Boxing Day tsunami, a simple lesson shook us all: many girls didn’t know how to climb trees. Boys did. Climbing to safety, more boys survived than did girls. This is only one example of how gendered roles and action can mean the difference between life and death. There are many more.

Women’s knowledge and expertise as leaders, planning for and responding to disasters and conflict can help protect and empower women and girls so that they can survive and thrive.

By attending an International Women’s Day (IWD) event and making a donation, you support UN Women’s work to transform the lives of women and girls in our region, for the better.

Unions NSW – Sydney International Women's Day March 
and Rally will take place on Saturday 10th March Hyde Park

Tokyo Demonstration
New York

Fukushima – 450 million Dollar Ice Wall Not enough

Nuclear experts concluded today that a 450 million Dollar ice wall meant to contain radioactive water at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power station is only partially effective and that other measures were urgently needed.

The plant’s private operator Tepco says the ice wall has helped reduce the ever-growing amount of radioactive water by half. The plant also pumps out several times as much groundwater before it reaches the tsunami-damaged reactors.

The groundwater mixes with radioactive water leaking from the damaged reactors. Contaminated water also results from rainwater that comes in contact with tainted soil and structures at the plant.

Fukushima Daiichi suffered meltdowns of three reactors after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 2011 in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Investigators found that Tepco had not met basic safety requirements before the disaster.

The government-commissioned panel said additional measures need to be taken to minimise the inflow of rainwater and groundwater, such as repairing roofs and other damaged parts of buildings.

“We recognise that the ice wall has had an effect, but more work is needed to mitigate rainfall ahead of the typhoon season,” said panel chairman Yuzo Onishi, a Kansai University civil engineering professor.

The mile-long, coolant-filled underground structure was installed around the wrecked reactor buildings to create a frozen soil barrier to keep groundwater from flowing into the heavily radioactive area.

Tepco said today the amount of contaminated water that collects inside the reactor buildings was reduced to 95 tons per day with the ice wall, compared to nearly 200 tons without.

That is part of the 500 tons of contaminated water created every day at the plant, with the other 300 tons pumped out via wells, treated and stored in tanks.

In addition to the 450m dollars construction cost paid by the government, the ice wall needs about £7m a year to be spent on maintenance and operation.

The plant has been struggling with the ever-growing amounts of water — only slightly contaminated after treatment — now totalling 1 million tons and stored in 1,000 tanks, taking up significant space at the complex, where a decades-long decommissioning effort continues.

Officials aim to minimise the contaminated water in the reactor before starting to remove melted fuel in 2021.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

ANMF – Submission to 2018–19 Australian Government Budget.

The ANMF is Australia's largest national union and professional nursing and midwifery organisation.

In collaboration with the ANMF’s eight state and territory branches, we represent the professional, industrial and political interests of almost 270,000 nurses, midwives and carers across the country.

Our members work in the public and private health, aged care and disability sectors across a wide
variety of urban, rural and remote locations.

We work with them to improve their ability to deliver safe and best practice care in each and every one of these settings, fulfil their professional goals and achieve a healthy work/life balance.

Our strong and growing membership and integrated role as both a trade union and professional organisation provide us with a complete understanding of all aspects of the nursing and midwifery professions and see us uniquely placed to defend and advance our professions.

Through our work with members we aim to strengthen the contribution of nursing and midwifery to improving  Australia’s health and aged care systems, and the health of our national and global communities.

Our submission highlights the contribution nurses, midwives and carers currently make to Australia's
health and aged care sectors and outlines how, through good, well-funded Government policy, this contribution  could be dramatically increased.

Adopting and implementing our submission's recommended policy reforms would  result in a more efficient and equitable health and aged care system, and ultimately better health for the Australian community.

ACTU – Future of work is what we make it

6 March 2018

The shape of our future working lives depends on Australian governments making the right choices to navigate looming technological and social changes, an ACTU submission to a senate committee from the peak body for working people says.

The submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers Inquiry argues that technological advances and demographic changes will only further erode the power, wages and security of working people if policymakers allow them to do so.

The last decade has seen significant re-shaping of the Australian work landscape with working people losing power as precarious, insecure and non-standard forms of work have become more common and legislative and regulatory protections for working people have failed to keep pace.

A clean break with the trickle-down economics of the past is required if government is to take the necessary steps to ensure that coming technological changes benefit everyone rather than just a few wealthy corporate bosses.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus ACTU Secretary:

  • “Everyone needs basic rights to protect their living standards. Technological and social changes may re-fashion society but they do not change this basic fact.”
  • “Our rules and institutions have failed to keep pace with changes in the real world – changes to the way we work, the way we live and the way we interact with technology.
  • “Our lawmakers have a clear choice – if they choose to act in the interests of working people we can secure a better future where the benefits of change are shared among everyone.
  • “We can have a future of secure work, but we need to change the rules so people have basic rights.”

Rooftop Panels help Reduce Carbon Emissions

The future of Australia’s solar industry is looking bright after a record 3.5m panels were installed on rooftops last year, giving the equivalent output of a medium-sized coal-fired power station.

The record 1,057 megawatts of capacity in small-scale systems installed across the country smashed the previous record set in 2012, figures from the Clean Energy Regulator showed on Tuesday. It equated to 9,500 installed every day.

The data also revealed that the average system size has also doubled since then from three to six kilowatts as average prices continued to fall.

A fully installed 5KW system costs an average of $5,930 in Australia, according to the energy broker Solarchoice.net.au. Its records show that the price has roughly halved in many capital cities since 2012.

The regulator’s executive general manager, Mark Williamson, said there was increasing interest in renewables as a way to take control of electricity bills.

But he said it was also good news for reducing carbon emissions.

“We are seeing a wide cross-section of Australians – households, community centres, schools, and small businesses – receiving incentives under the small-scale renewable energy scheme,” Williamson said.

“Our data shows consumers are embracing renewable energy to take control of their electricity bills.”

In 2017, there was a 41% increase in installed renewable energy capacity across all states and territories compared to 2016. Queensland led the way with installed capacity at 295MW, with the Australian Capital Territory taking top place for biggest annual increase, up 57%.

“The data collected by the Clean Energy Regulator in 2017 reflects the industry is going from strength to strength. It looks like 2018 will be another big year for the solar industry.”

The total of installed capacity for last year is expected to rise to 1,070MW when all the data is collected. A large coal-fired power station such as Loy Yang A in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley has a capacity of 2,200MW.

Up and Running – CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA

Paddy Crumlin – Ged Kearney – Tony Maher – Michael O’Connor
The National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union Michael O’Connor has welcomed the decision of the FWC to approve the formation of the new union by the amalgamation of the CFMEU, TCFUA and the MUA.

“We will hit the ground running immediately, with the first meeting of our senior national officials this Friday, March 9, in Melbourne,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Big Business has too much power, we have record levels of inequality in our community, and working families are finding it hard to make ends meet. We will be fighting every day to restore the fair go.

“What you can expect from us is a clear focus on what we have to do to turn our country around.

“We are absolutely committed to a change of government, to changing the rules to restore balance and fairness into our communities, and to growing our movement.

“It’s time for big business to stop riding on the coattails of everyday working Australians, time the banks stopped ripping people off, and time for every business in this country to pay tax. Nearly 700 big corporations pay no tax, which is a national scandal.”

Michele O’Neil, Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia National Secretary, welcomed the decision, saying: “The TCFUA has a proud history of fighting for the rights of some of Australia’s lowest paid and most exploited workers.

“The combined strength of the CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA in our new union will write a new chapter in Australia’s union movement. Ordinary workers now have a powerful new force for change on their side.

“Big business and the Federal Government should now get out of the way so we can get on with winning better pay, conditions, rights, and secure jobs for our members.”

International President of the new union, Paddy Crumlin, called the decision a proper recognition of trade union rights being directed towards the will of the membership.

“Today is an important part of the renewal of our union and of our movement,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Wherever there is a need to defend the interests of Australian workers, we will be there with them in their workplaces and communities.

“The failure of government to protect those workers from international and national tax avoidance, deregulation driven by corporate self-interest and elitism, and a continuous ideological attack on workers’ rights by many multinational corporations and service providers, means we will also be there globally with other working men and women similarly affected and mobilised.”

Centenary CD – Songs and Poems of the MUA
Wharfie Tom Hills with Wendy Lowenstein – Authors of Oral History book 'Under the Hook'

Monday, March 05, 2018

Food Safety and Bees – Neonicotinoids – World Wide Ban Advised

Wild bees and honeybees are put at risk by three pesticides from a group known as neonicotinoids, Europe’s food safety watchdog said on Wednesday, confirming previous concerns that prompted an EU-wide ban on use of the chemicals.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report, which covered wild bees and honeybees and included a systematic review of scientific evidence published since EFSA’s 2013 evaluation, is seen as crucial to whether the European moratorium on neonicotinoid use remains in place.

The updated risk assessment found variations due to factors such as species of bee, exposure and specific pesticide,“but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed,” said Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA’s pesticides unit.

The European Union has since 2014 had a moratorium on use of neonicotinoids - made and sold by various companies including Bayer and Syngenta - after lab research pointed to potential risks for bees, which are crucial for pollinating crops.

EU nations will discuss a European Commission proposal to ban three neonicotinoids next month in the Plant Animal Food and Feed Standing Committee.

“This is strengthening the scientific basis for the Commission’s proposal to ban outdoor use of the three neonicotinoids,” a spokeswoman for the EU executive said.

Crop chemical companies have argued that real-world evidence is not there to blame a global plunge in bee numbers in recent years on neonicotinoid pesticides alone. They say it is a complex phenomenon caused by a number of factors.

The industry lobby said that while it allows that there may be a risk to bees, EFSA has overstated it. It argued that any risk can be managed and a ban would cause further harm by forcing farmers to extend agricultural lands.

“Farmers need access to a broad range of tools to protect their crops,” Graeme Taylor of the European Crop Protection Association said.

Two major field studies in Europe and Canada published last year that sought to examine real-world effects gave mixed results. They found some negative effects after exposure to neonicotinoids in wild and honeybee populations, and also some positives, depending on the environmental context.

Environmental campaigners said the study confirmed regulators should act to ban the use of neonicotinoids.

“National governments must stop dithering ... to prevent the catastrophic collapse of bee populations,” said Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU food policy adviser.

Wednesday’s EFSA report looked in detail at three specific neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam –and assessed bee exposure to them via three routes: residues in bee pollen and nectar, dust drift during sowing or application of treated seeds, and water consumption.

Some scenarios, such as when the pesticides are used on crops inside glass greenhouses, present a low risk to bees, Tarazona told Reuters. But others, such as using neonicotinoids on flowering field crops that attract bees, are high risk.

He said EFSA’s findings would now be shared with European Commission risk managers and then with EU member States, who will decide on any potential changes to current restrictions.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Patrick Dispute – 1998 MUA Here To Stay

As the 20th Anniversary of the "Patrick Dispute" approaches it is worth remembering that amazing victory against government conspiracy with corporations, the sending of soldiers to train in Dubai and the shaming downfall of Minister Peter Reith. The Easter 1998 lockout of MUA members aroused a strong community reaction that ensured its success. Community support also helped to  ensured the next Federal Election ousting of PM John Howard from his safe Sydney seat.

MUA Here To Stay !

John Howard is still in denial as Martin Feil shows in his 2010 review Howard's autobiography, Lazarus Rising:

The wharfies are portrayed as people who ''had it coming''. The problem was that they represented ordinary people, and some of the tactics used by Patrick, Corrigan's stevedoring company, were beyond Australian standards of basic decency.

Corrigan used strikebreakers who included a number of serving soldiers and who were trained in Dubai. Howard acknowledges this, but says it was ''news to us'' and a ''consultant in [then minister for workplace relations Peter] Reith's office knew'' but nobody else had a clue.

Since when do the armed forces allow their soldiers to be trained as strikebreakers? Why did the United Arab Emirates expel the trainee strikebreakers when their presence was reported all over the world? Why is ignorance of a fact acceptable at the highest levels of government? Isn't this lack of knowledge a nonsensical standard political defence?

Corrigan also put Patrick into administration by withdrawing all of the company's capital. It meant that the wharfies would not get their leave and other entitlements. Howard's government fixed this by paying the entitlements out of the public purse. This had never happened before and has never happened since.

The Department of Finance recovered this largesse by charging $6 per container and $12 per motor vehicle imported for the next eight years. The levy amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars and was ultimately paid by Australian consumers.

The ultimate buyers of Corrigan's Patrick went back to the market in 2009 offering shares at $1.65. This raised more than $2 billion to meet intermediate obligations for a $4.5 billion debt. The original shareholders must be happy.

They haven't had a dividend for four years. Aren't highly productive and internationally competitive businesses supposed to make profits? All of the high profit margins have been consumed by the debt.

This may sound complicated. It isn't. The productivity improvements were a mirage. The Australian government, or at least Howard and Reith, didn't question either the motives or the goals of Corrigan, and the competition watchdog wimped out by settling for a penalty amount from Corrigan that was risible. Reith ultimately disappeared as a consultant to a major military supplier to the Australian government.

The 1998 waterfront dispute was a time when bad things were allowed in the name of policy goals that were, ultimately, meaningless. Larger cranes and larger container ships are making Australia a backwater in the international trade of merchandised goods, especially as there is very limited two-way trade except in empty container exports.

Lazarus Rising is a big, complex, constant exposition of Howard's view that he was always right. He has been the ultimate politician. Always being right depends on putting a certain spin on events and a certain slant on personalities. I suppose this defines a politician.

I still see the lines of people in Melbourne that the strikebreakers moved through. I still see the dogs. I am still glad that then premier Jeff Kennett (to Howard's dismay) did not allow the Victorian police to monster those in the picket lines.

Howard's book attempts to justify his view of the achievements of his long period as prime minister. The ''On the Waterfront'' chapter is an apologia for a disgraceful period justified in the name of productivity. It was all about money and the financial gain of one man.

The Circumnavigation of the German owned Columbus Canada

Throughout the dispute ships carrying cargo loaded by non-union labour in Australia found they were prevented from unloading in ports around the world, because dock workers everywhere so strongly supported the MUA’s struggle to survive.

In one case international solidarity forced the German owned Columbus Canada to complete a circumnavigation of the globe before any unloading of the Australian goods on the vessel became possible.

We were awakened on Sunday night to pass along the word that the Columbus ship would attempt to leave anchorage this morning at 0600 to come to berth. The call went out at the last minute and we were able to organize 50 - 100 community protesters to await the ships arrival. The docking orders were again canceled after the community support started picketing.

Diane Middleton, San Pedro resident and one of the community picketers said "I think there are times in life when you have to take a stand, and this is one of those times. If employers try to fire union workers and give those jobs to scabs, then a price will be paid. The price this time is that the Columbus Canada will be a ship without a home until it's sent back to Australia and loaded by union workers,"

Wharfies – History of the Waterside Workers of Australia

Saturday, March 03, 2018

ACTU – Biggest ever worker survey shows Australians want fair pay, secure jobs

Biggest ever worker survey shows Australians want fair pay, secure jobs
2 March 2018

The largest survey of workers ever undertaken by the Australian union movement, released today, shows that working Australians are overwhelmingly concerned about the difficulty of winning fair pay increases and the threats to good, secure jobs.

The survey of 57,959 people conducted from September 2017 to February 2018 found:

  • 81.4% say it’s hard to get a decent pay rise in their workplace
  • 91% are worried about the loss of permanent jobs for the next generation of workers in Australia
  • 95.6 % agreed unions should be able to bargain with the decision makers, whether it’s at enterprise, franchise, sector or industry level
  • 83.5% say its “extremely important” to change the rules so employers cannot get away with underpaying workers
  • Of the respondents, 90.91% were union members. 

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus:

  • “Working people speak with one voice on the most important issues in our country.”
  • “The rules are broken. It’s too hard to get a pay rise, but big business is getting a tax cut thanks to Turnbull. Our work is less secure and we are worried about losing our jobs but corporate profits are surging.
  • “We are not buying the Turnbull Government’s lie of trickle-down economics.
  • “The Turnbull Government needs to start listening to working people instead of big corporations.
  • “We are demanding that all parties step up to the plate and address these key issues. Woking people need rules that let them win pay rises and have good, secure jobs.”

Friday, March 02, 2018

ACOSS – Non-energy market solutions for low income households

February 28, 2018

Policy makers need to increase their focus on non-energy market solutions for low-income and disadvantage households, said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie at Foresighting Forum 2018 today.

We have talked a lot about market solutions to bring energy prices down. But policy makers are not talking enough about solutions to reduce the size of people’s electricity bills, and improving people’s capacity to pay their bills.

Electricity prices have increased 63% in real terms in a decade, well above average wage growth, while income support payments have remained been relatively flat. For instance, Newstart hasn’t increased in 20 years!

People on low incomes pay disproportionately more of their incomes on electricity than other households. This is on top of rising housing costs. Governments need to improve energy concessions and increase income support payments.

We also need a greater focus on energy efficiency and household productivity.

Too many people are living in rental properties or public housing with low energy efficiency. This means it costs more to heat and cool, and people don’t have the ability to improve the efficiency of their homes, or access solar or batteries.

We need mandatory energy efficiency standards for rental properties and support for owners to engage in property upgrades.

Cassandra Goldie also says that in addition to ensuring the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) is more efficient, equitable and ambitious, the COAG Energy Council should be looking at a package of measures for low-income and disadvantaged households.

Dr Goldie was speaking at the Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) conference today.

Scathing UN migration report mars Australia's first week on human rights council

Australia’s first week on the UN human rights council has been undermined by a scathing report that has implicated its migration policies as part of a global “escalating cycle of repression and deterrence” that has caused “massive abuse” of migrants.

Australia, which campaigned for three years for a seat on the council, has also been a global promoter of its hardline policies designed to deter irregular migration, including boat pushbacks, mandatory and indefinite detention, and offshore processing.

The 20-page report to the human rights council, from the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, said the major reason migrants were exploited and abused was the policies of states that sought to deter people from migrating and punish those who did.

“The primary cause for the massive abuse suffered by migrants in all regions of the world, including torture, rape, enslavement, trafficking and murder, is neither migration itself, nor organised crime, or the corruption of individual officials, but the growing tendency of states to base their official migration policies and practices on deterrence, criminalisation and discrimination, rather than protection, human rights and non-discrimination,” Melzer said.

“States have initiated an escalating cycle of repression and deterrence designed to discourage new arrivals, and involving measures such as the criminalisation and detention of irregular migrants, the separation of family members, inadequate reception conditions and medical care, and the denial or excessive prolongation of status determination or habeas corpus proceedings, including expedited returns in the absence of such proceedings.

“Many states have even started to physically prevent irregular migrant arrivals, whether through border closures, fences, walls and other physical obstacles, through the externalisation of their borders and procedures, or through extra-territorial ‘pushback’ and ‘pullback’ operations, often in cooperation with other states or even non-state actors.”

Migration policies that expose migrants to foreseeable risks of torture or ill-treatment “are conclusively unlawful and give rise to state responsibility for the ensuing harm”, Melzer said.

Last year Australia agreed to pay $70m in compensation and damages to nearly 2,000 asylum seekers it illegally detained in its detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Australia did not admit liability in the case.

To mark the start of Australia’s three-year term on the council, governor general Sir Peter Cosgrove said Australia was “deeply committed” to promoting equality for all.

“We have a duty to promote the rights of the most vulnerable, oppressed, discriminated communities, and to seek universality of human rights to all parts of our world,” he said.

The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, defended Australia’s asylum policies and its record on assisting refugees.

“Since the second world war, 865,000 people have come to Australia on refugee and humanitarian visas. Every year we resettle 18,750 people on refugee visas,” she said. “It is a record that Australians should be proud of and it is certainly one that I am prepared to have scrutinised by the human rights council and any other nation around the world.”

Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre, who is in Geneva observing the human rights council session, said Australia’s defence of its policies lacked credibility in the face of consistent and independent criticism.

  • “Our government’s deterrence regime is not only cruel, it fundamentally misses the point,” he said.
  • “If every country in the world just used cruelty to bludgeon away innocent human beings, then people who are forced to flee their homes would be left with nowhere safe to go. People fleeing danger deserve a chance to rebuild their lives. The focus has to be on safe passage.”

Webb said in Geneva, asylum policy was “haunting” Australia, and had profoundly damaged the country’s moral authority in the eyes of other nations and the council. He said government representatives “want to talk about anything other than the 2,000 innocent people who are still languishing on Manus and Nauru after five years”.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement Protest

On International Women's Day, Australia and 10 other countries will sign a revised version of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, rebranded as the 'Comprehensive Progressive' TPP (CPTPP).

But there is nothing 'progressive' about this agreement.

It gives special rights to foreign investors to sue governments over domestic laws, entrenches stronger monopolies on medicines, restricts the regulation of essential services and will result in more vulnerable temporary migrant workers.

You are invited to a public forum to hear about the impact that the CPTPP will have on women across the globe.

Dr Patricia Ranald (AFTINET), Michelle Higelin (Executive Director, ActionAid) and Jane Brock (Immigrant Women's Speakout Association) will discuss the implications of the CPTPP for women. 

Friday March 9, 12.30pm - 2pm
Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament House,
Macquarie Street, Sydney 2000 NSW.

Admission is FREE, but places are limited so please RSVP as soon as possible to campaign@aftinet.org.au