Friday, March 30, 2018

'New dose of cruelty': up to 7,000 asylum seekers to lose income support

The federal government has outlined its plan to cut income support from up to 7,000 asylum seekers living in Australia from June, in a move lawyers and refugee support groups say could leave people destitute, hungry and at increased risk of self-harm.

Some of the asylum seekers likely to be affected have been in the country more than five years waiting for the government to make a decision on their application for protection. The Department of Home Affairs has also specifically said asylum seekers studying full-time will have their support cut.

The Guardian is aware of several asylum seekers who came to Australia as children, who have since graduated from high school and won scholarships to Australian universities. Some have said they will be forced to abandon their studies.

The status resolution support services (SRSS) payment is provided to asylum seekers living in the Australian community while the government decides upon their claim for protection. It provides a living allowance – usually 89% of Newstart allowance, or $247 per week – casework support, assistance in finding housing, and access to torture and trauma counselling.

A process for asylum seekers to “transition out” – in departmental nomenclature –from SRSS will begin in April.

The government’s rationale for withdrawing support is that work rights have been restored to almost all bridging visas (on which asylum seekers live in the community) and those who are “job-ready” should be obliged to work.

A spokesperson for the department told Guardian Australia SRSS was “not a social welfare program” and was designed for short-term, tailored support.

“Individuals on a bridging visa with work rights and who have the capacity to work are expected to support themselves prior to being granted a substantive visa or departing Australia,” the spokesperson said. “Those who have the capacity to work are expected to support themselves.”

They are going to punish these people – and some will be driven over the edge
Joyce Chia, Refugee Council of Australia

Settlement services organisations have been told to assess asylum seekers for “vulnerability” against four criteria: physical health barriers, mental health barriers, families with preschool-aged children and a major crisis, such as family violence or house fire.

A document from the department says families and individuals experiencing “financial hardship” will still have access to SRSS.

“If an adult chooses to study full-time, when they are able to work, they are not eligible for SRSS income support,” the same document says. Studying basic English on a part-time basis would not automatically preclude an individual’s access to the service, the department said.

Refugee advocacy organisations say they are already seeing more instances of asylum seekers self-harming, losing housing or being forced to withdraw from education programs.

The department has rolled out its timeline for withdrawing SRSS. From 9 April, a list of single male and female asylum seekers will be sent to settlement services organisations for assessment of their job-readiness.

Settlement services providers will be expected to respond by 7 May as to who is job-ready and from 4 June single asylum seekers will begin to have their support withdrawn. For families, the process will run between late May and 18 July.

It’s understood there are about 12,500 people on SRSS. The government has insisted it has no explicit target, but there is an expectation that fewer than 5,000 people will remain on the program at the completion of the government’s cutback.

Jana Favero, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said the government’s withdrawal of support for asylum seekers was counter-productive.

  • “The impact of the government cuts to income support is very real. People won’t be able to afford rent or to feed themselves and we are seeing this at our doors more and more each week,” she said.
  • “People studying English will be forced to stop. Parents training to get a job to support their family will be forced to stop.”

Favero said education providers were coming to the centre asking what they could do to keep enrolled students who were leaving courses.

“It’s chaotic and confusing. The government is actively stopping people from contributing,” she said.

Let’s not forget how many times the goal posts have moved for them since they arrived in Australia five years ago

Joyce Chia, from the Refugee Council of Australia, said the consequences for asylum seekers caught up in the cuts were “completely terrifying”.

“We are already hearing of people self-harming, we’re hearing of people losing housing, of huge levels of depression and anxiety,” she said. “This is a crisis in the making and of the government’s own making. They are going to punish these people – and some will be driven over the edge.”

Many asylum seekers on SRSS find working difficult because of significant mental and physical health issues or because they are carers of young children, recognised by the department’s guidelines.

But other asylum seekers who want to work find it difficult to find jobs because of a lack of Australian experience, references or networks, or because of language barriers and uncertainty over their bridging visa making them less appealing to employers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

North Korea Pledges Denuclearization

China said on Wednesday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to denuclearize the Korean peninsula during an historic meeting in Beijing with President Xi Jinping, who promised China would uphold its friendship with its isolated neighbor.

After two days of speculation, China and North Korea both confirmed on Wednesday that Kim had visited Beijing and met Xi during what China’s official Xinhua news agency called an unofficial visit from Sunday to Wednesday.

The trip was Kim’s first known journey abroad since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency made no mention of Kim’s pledge to denuclearize, or his anticipated meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump that is planned for some time in May.

Beijing has traditionally been the closest ally of secretive North Korea, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s backing of tough U.N. sanctions in response.

Xinhua cited Kim as telling Xi that the situation on the Korean peninsula is starting to improve because North Korea has taken the initiative to ease tensions and put forward proposals for peace talks.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un said, according to Xinhua.

Tim Storer and Turnbull Top End Tax Cuts

South Australian Senator Jim Storer
I wish to thank Senator Cormann and his staff for their respectful, patient and courteous dealings with me over the last month in my commencement as a senator.

As an independent senator from South Australia, it is my intention to review each bill on its merits, examining all the the evidence available in a non-partisan manner. I believe this is what the South Australian people expect of me.

My focus and evaluation of this bill has been on the impact to the future prosperity and fairness of all Australians and in particular to South Australians.

I have undertaken an at-length consideration of materials provided by many sources in relation to this bill, drawing on my business and economics background. I have held numerous meetings and received input from a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the public, South Australian businesses and business groups, leading economist groups, national business council and their members.

After undertaking that process, I remain to be convinced that in isolation from a broader discussion and initiatives on enhancing the overall sustainability of our taxation system that I should support this bill in its current form.

I believe this bill is a narrowly cast proposition of change to the overall tax and transfer system, a system which itself continues to be felt by some economists and business leaders to be unsustainable. In the significant reforms posited in the Henry tax review of 2010, the reduction in company tax to 25% was only one of a number of principal feature reforms which have not been acted upon.

I have doubts that the decision to reduce company tax for all companies is prudent to undertake in the face of Australia’s budget deficit and debt. Even without this tax cut, I doubt our present tax system is sufficiently robust to support a medium-term fiscal strategy of budget surpluses, on average over the course of the economic cycle.

Importantly I see the strength and timing of the effect of this proposed tax cut to be modest relative to its cost. With one of the highest rates of population growth in the developed world, I am mindful of other uses of government revenue which can generate prosperity and enhance fairness for the Australian people, such as well-targeted social and economic programs aimed at supporting businesses with RND, innovation and industrial transformation, funding of world-class education and health systems, harnessing the contribution potential of our youth and ageing populations, reducing inequality and investing in public infrastructure.

On January 31 2018, in an opinion piece in the Australian newspaper, the minister for urban infrastructure and cities, the honourable Paul Fletcher, noted that the commonwealth share of total public infrastructure spending, rising to nearly 30% would see a 0.5 to 0.7% rise in GDP growth and jobs in the fiscal year 2018.

He noted that an investment in infrastructure results in long lived assets that deliver benefits to the community for many decades, but also stimulates economic growth as the investment occurs.

So, as stated before, I remain to be convinced that I should support this bill in its current form, in isolation from a broader discussion and initiatives on enhancing the overall sustainability of our taxation system and with alternatives uses of government revenue that can generate prosperity and enhance fairness for the Australian people.”

U.S. Trump Trumped by Congress

President Obama finally got a Republican-controlled Congress to fund his domestic budget. All it took was Donald Trump in the White House to get it done.

In the $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Trump reluctantly signed on Friday, lawmakers did more than reject the steep cuts in dollars and programs that Trump proposed for domestic agencies a year ago. Across much of the government, Republican leaders agreed to spending levels that matched or even exceeded what Obama asked Congress to appropriate in his final budget request in 2016—and many of which lawmakers ignored while he was in office.

The Department of Health and Human Services received $78 billion, nearly identical to the $77.9 billion Obama sought and almost 20 percent more than what the Trump budget called for. Ditto for the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, which got $1.5 billion more than Obama’s final request and nearly $12 billion more than the reduced level Trump sought. Obama-era priorities like Head Start and Pell Grants drew increases, too.

Congress eliminated none of the 18 independent agencies Trump wanted to scrap, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. And several of the programs he wanted to zero out won huge increases instead. Take the TIGER grants, an infrastructure program created by Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package. Congress had allocated $500 million to it each of the last several years, despite annual Obama requests to boost it to $1.25 billion. Trump’s budget called for axing it entirely, but lawmakers went even higher than Obama, giving $1.5 billion to TIGER. Or the Community Development Block Grant, a federal housing program that had been receiving $3 billion from Congress annually. Obama actually proposed cutting its funding by $200 million in 2016, while Trump called for chopping it altogether. In the end, it received $3.3 billion—a 10 percent boost.

The spending spikes all contributed to this week’s unexpected display of Democrats celebrating legislation enacted under complete GOP control of Washington. And the victories for a president who has been out of office for a year were not lost on conservatives. “This could have been written by President Obama and liberal Democrats,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said Thursday night on Fox News, hours before he consented to a vote on a 2,200-page bill most of his colleagues hadn’t had time to read. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska accused his party of hypocrisy. “Every Republican would vote against this disgusting pork bill if a Democrat were president,” he said in a statement.

The domestic spending increases were set in motion a month ago, when Trump signed a budget agreement Congress approved so that he could get the dramatic spike in military spending he had prioritized all along. Lawmakers on the House and Senate appropriations committees—in negotiations with party leaders and the White House—decided exactly how the money would be spent. But the details of the domestic spending sparked a new round of complaints among conservatives who lamented the return of a big-spending Republican governance they once campaigned against.

And Trump took notice. First, as my colleague Elaina Plott reported, he vented to colleagues about insufficient funding for his southern border wall and the lack of restrictions for so-called sanctuary cities. Then, he bemoaned that he was forced to “waste money on Dem giveaways” in order to secure a 10 percent jump in defense spending and some additional funding for border security.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that he was considering a veto even after the bill cleared Congress, but his advisers talked him down.

By early afternoon, he had signed the omnibus, but not before delivering a rambling speech in which he vowed never to approve such a bill again, called for a line-item veto that the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional in 1996, and reiterated his demand for eliminating the Senate’s legislative filibuster—a step that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly rejected.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ACTU – Fincantieri Reaches Landmark MoU with Australian Unions on Future Frigates Project

27 March 2018

One of the world’s largest shipbuilders, Fincantieri, a final contender for the Federal Government’s SEA 5000 Future Frigates project has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with key Australian trade unions in Canberra today.

The MoU signals the intent of unions and Fincantieri to work together to ensure that the Future Frigate SEA 5000 project produces the best possible naval vessel for the Australian Navy, but also helps to build a sovereign shipbuilding capability, revitalise Australia’s manufacturing industry and secure highly skilled jobs for the future.

According to the Chairman of Fincantieri Australia, Dario Deste, SEA 5000 is a once in a generation naval ship building project that represents a unique opportunity for Australia’s manufacturing industry: “The significance of the project cannot be over-stated and will inject hundreds of new opportunities for defense and advanced manufacturers across the supply chain, while also creating new skilled jobs,” Mr Deste said.

The commitments within the agreement signal a genuine cooperative approach between Fincantieri, its workforce and their representatives to ensure the productive use of technology, the application of modern shipbuilding practices and investment in a skilled workforce provides a clear path forward for the future of naval shipbuilding in Australia.

Signatories to the agreement include: Fincantieri, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), The Electrical Trades Union (ETU), Professionals Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Mr Deste said that the MoU reflects Fincantieri’s long-term industrial relations record and collaboration with trade unions across its shipbuilding portfolio to deliver results for its customers.
“With 20 shipyards across the world, our relationships with unions and our workers are a key factor in our success. We are very keen to ensure that our engagement with key unions is a contributing factor to the success of the future frigates project,” Mr Deste said.
“If selected by the Federal Government we will actively work with the unions to address and solve issues through an ongoing communications process which is reflected in the agreement we have committed to.”

A stable industrial relations environment is a key component for project success and the MoU we have signed will help meet this objective,” he said.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “The Frigate program is critical to Australia’s national security, and the security of thousands of Australians jobs.
  • “This project has huge potential to create jobs and build capacity right across the shipbuilding industry and its related manufacturing supply chains.
  • “The ACTU hopes that this agreement signals the start of a constructive relationship between Fincantieri, its workforce and the shipbuilding unions.”

Quotes attributable to AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson:

  • “This agreement is another milestone in our campaign for an Australian shipbuilding industry that delivers good jobs and meets Australia’s future needs. Thousands of shipbuilding workers have campaigned to secure the future of this industry.”
  • “We look forward to working with Fincantieri to build a workforce that has the skills to deliver this critical project.”

Quotes attributable to ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks:

  • “Today’s agreement represents the beginning of a productive partnership between working people and a major employer in the defense construction industry.”
  • “It is evidence for all industry participants in the manufacturing, construction and infrastructure sectors that a co-operative working relationship with unions is in the best interests of working people, business and the nation.”

Quotes attributable to AWU SA Secretary Peter Lamps:

“The AWU looks forward to working constructively with Fincantieri and our fellow unions to deliver a successful project that generates quality employment now and into the future.”

Quotes attributable to Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton

  • “Australia is in dire need of major projects which generate good, steady jobs for engineers and other workers in the shipbuilding industry.”
  • “This is the most important and complex project in Australia, providing an enormous opportunity to fast track our move into advanced manufacturing and create the smart jobs of the future through.”
  • “That opportunity will only be seized if we do the vast majority of work locally in Australia to get the flow on benefit to Australian workers through direct jobs in the supply chain.”

ACTU backs fair pay for early childhood educators

ACTU backs fair pay for early childhood educators
27 March 2018

The ACTU has voiced its support for 6,500 early childhood educators walking off the job today for fair pay.

Thousands of parents have kept their children at home today in support of the action, which calls for government intervention to ensure fair pay for early childhood educators.

The predominantly female workforce in early childhood education has been systematically undervalued with people in the sector earning as little as $21 per hour.

Early childhood educators are calling on the Turnbull government, which is responsible for funding the sector, to step in and ensure fair pay.

Since the previous walk-off in September 2017, more than 3000 additional educators have joined the campaign.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “It’s outrageous that the Turnbull Government has refused to take action on equal pay for early childhood educators. A responsible government would have taken action already.”
  • “Qualified early childhood educators deserve wages that reflect the professional work they do.
  • “Ninety-seven percent of early childhood educators are women. It is not acceptable to pay people in female-dominated sectors less simply because they are women.
  • “It is long past time for the Turnbull government to act to ensure fair pay for early childhood educators.” 

Quotes attributable to United Voice Assistant Secretary Helen Gibbons:

  • “Across the country, parents are supporting the national action by keeping under-fives at home so that their children’s educators can walk off and fight for professional pay.”
  • “The Turnbull government can’t keep putting their heads in the sand and allowing this pay crisis to escalate even further and driving centres to continue to close.
  • “The Turnbull government funds the sector and they can fix this issue today if they have the will.”

Monday, March 26, 2018

ACOSS - More competition brings significant risks to human services

26 March 2018

The Australian Council of Social Service today cautioned that introducing further competition into human services provision carried significant risk, in response to the tabling of the Productivity Commission’s report Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services: Reforms to Human Services.

The report, tabled following an Inquiry by the Productivity Commission, includes a number of proposals that are welcomed by ACOSS, but a number of proposals that would create problems in the delivery of human services.

ACOSS CEO Dr. Cassandra Goldie said:

  • “The Productivity Commission Report is a “mixed bag”, and includes some proposals that are positive, and others that will damage human service delivery in Australia.
  • “The reality is that finding examples of human service delivery that lend themselves to further competition or contestability is challenging, if not impossible.
  • “We’ve seen how disastrous the experiment has been in other areas where competition has been introduced, like in vocational education and training. It has led to costs rising, consumers being placed in inappropriate courses through aggressive sales practices, and quality reducing significantly across the sector.
  • “The Productivity Commission report clearly demonstrates that any further expansion of competition in human services carries risks, and in significant areas has recommended that further competition is not appropriate at this time.
  • “In some areas, the Commission has correctly identified that the top priority should be further investment to meet demand. When we have such significant gaps between demand and supply in human services the priority should be on meeting that demand, not introducing greater competition.
  • “Importantly, the Productivity Commission recognised that unlocking the potential benefits of competition or contestability in human services markets requires careful stewardship from governments and there are instances where neither competition nor contestability are appropriate.
  • “There are some real positives to come out of this report. The Commission has made some interesting recommendations that have the potential to improve how family and community services are commissioned and contracted. Importantly, this includes increasing contract lengths to seven years for most not-for-profits, and to ten years for services in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Longer contracts provide greater certainty for organisations delivering services, and that certainty supports better service planning and the development of long term, stable relationships with people using the services.
  • “The Productivity Commission believes that both not for profit and for profit providers should be involved in the delivery of human services. Not-for-profits, are focussed on their mission, and often service remote localities and work with the most complex clients. They usually reinvest surpluses in service delivery, ensuring that funds invested remain in the service system. These are just some of the ways that not-for-profits add value to the services they deliver.  
  • “On the other hand, we know that for-profit providers are focussed on making a profit, and will prioritise services that generate the highest profits. They also take vital money out of the service system through dividends to shareholders.
  • “We need to put people at the heart of how we determine what services are needed, and how we design the services that will be delivered. We don’t need more competition to achieve that.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Paddy Crumlin – MUA Merger

U.S – Massive crowds rally across US for tighter gun control

Chanting "never again," hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month's Florida high school massacre and rallied across the country on Saturday to demand tighter gun laws.

At least one million Americans are rallying nationwide on tighter gun laws in “March For Our Lives” protests led by survivors of the Florida school massacre, and sympathetic protests are being held worldwide.

In some of the biggest US youth demonstrations for decades, protesters in cities across the country called on politicians and President Donald Trump to confront the issue. Voter registration activists fanned out in the crowds, signing up thousands of the nation's newest voters.

Zachary Chakin holds up a sign as crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control on Saturday in San Francisco.

At the largest March For Our Lives protest, demonstrators jammed Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue where they listened to speeches from survivors of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

There were sobs as one teenage survivor, Emma Gonzalez, read the names of the 17 victims and then stood in silence. Tears ran down her cheeks as she stared out over the crowd for the rest of a speech that lasted six minutes and 20 seconds, the time it took for the gunman to slaughter them.

The massive March For Our Lives rallies aimed to break legislative gridlock that has long stymied efforts to increase restrictions on firearms sales in a nation where mass shootings like the one in Parkland have become frighteningly common.

"Politicians: either represent the people or get out. Stand with us or beware, the voters are coming," Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, told the crowd.
Another survivor, David Hogg, said it was a new day.

"We're going to make sure the best people get in our elections to run not as politicians, but as Americans. Because this - this - is not cutting it," he said, pointing at the white-domed Capitol behind the stage.

Youthful marchers filled streets in cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego and St. Louis.

More than 800 demonstrations were scheduled in the United States and abroad, according to coordinators, with events as far afield as London, Mauritius, Stockholm and Sydney.

Organisers of the anti-gun rallies want Congress, many of whose members are up for re-election in November, to ban the sale of assault weapons like the one used in the Florida rampage and to tighten background checks for gun buyers.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "Hey, Hey, NRA! How Many Kids Have You Killed Today," while gathering on 6th Avenue during the March For Our Lives in New York City on Saturday.
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "Hey, Hey, NRA! How Many Kids Have You Killed Today," while gathering on 6th Avenue during the March For Our Lives in New York City on Saturday.

In New York City, a handful of counter-demonstrators waved placards with messages such as "Keep America Armed" and "Re-elect Trump 2020".Celebrity support

Among those marching next to New York's Central Park to call for tighter gun controls was pop star Paul McCartney, who said he had a personal stake in the debate.

"One of my best friends was shot not far from here," he told CNN, referring to Beatles bandmate John Lennon, who was gunned down near the park in 1980.

Taking aim at the National Rifle Association gun lobby, teenagers chanted, "Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today?"

On stage in Washington, one of the Parkland students who was shot and survived, Samantha Fuentes, was so overcome with emotion that she vomited during her speech.

"I just threw up on international television and it feels great," she said to loud cheers afterward.

The young US organisers have won kudos and cash from dozens of celebrities, with singers Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande, as well as "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, among those performing in Washington. Actor George Clooney and his human rights attorney wife, Amal, donated $US500,000 ($625,000) and said they would be at the Washington rally.

Matthew Soto, 19, just spoke about the impact of gun violence.

His sister, Vicki Soto, was gunned down in the shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook elementary, where she taught first grade.

“Get involved in your community, because change no matter how small, is change.”

Soto said he was on stage because there were no significant changes to US gun laws after 20 students between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members, were killed at Newtown’s Sandy Hook elementary school. 

“Five years ago and no change has come,” Soto said.

A Sandy Hook elementary graduate, Tommy Murray, followed Soto.

Murray said he was in sixth grade at the school when the shooting occurred. The gunman was his neighbor.

“I have attended vigils, I have protested in front of the gun lobby in our town,” Murray said.

“They didn’t ban assault weapons, they didn’t pass background check bills.”

Another Newtown student, Jackson Mittleman, talked about how he became an anti-gun violence organizer when he was 11-years-old.

“Long after the media trucks leave, we will stand by you in your healing and recovery,” he said.

“Mr Trump, senate and all elected members of Congress, you have failed us. We have had enough of your NRA agenda.”

“We are going to vote you out.”

American football team the New England Patriots loaned its plane to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their families to travel to Washington for the march.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said the administration applauded "the many courageous young Americans" who exercised their free-speech rights.

"Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president's," said Walters, noting that on Friday the Justice Department proposed rule changes that would effectively ban "bump stock" devices that let semi-automatic weapons fire like a machine gun.

Also on Friday, Trump signed a $US1.3-trillion spending bill including modest improvements to background checks for gun sales and grants to help schools prevent gun violence.

Former President Barack Obama said on Twitter that he and his wife Michelle were inspired by all the young people who made the marches happen.

"Keep at it. You're leading us forward. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change," Obama said.

Friday, March 23, 2018

ACTU – Cash and Laundy Anti-worker Bill

Late Monday afternoon Michaelia Cash and Craig Laundy thought they were about to get their anti-worker Bill, the so-called “Ensuring Integrity” Bill, through the Senate.

Remember, this is the Bill that if passed would give Michaelia Cash and big business the power to act to de-register unions, stop unions merging, and have a say over who can and can’t run a union. 

Because you responded to the call to contact crossbench Senators, these Senators now realise the severe impacts this Bill would have on working people and have a better understanding of just how undemocratic the Bill is. They got the message loud and clear that the same laws don’t apply to big business.

Because you took action, the Bill will not pass this week.

This doesn’t mean the government will stop trying, so we need to be ready to take action again when they try to get the Bill through the Senate next time. We’ll keep you posted and let you know when it’s time to take action on this again.

Congratulations to everyone who responded to the call to action and thanks to those Senators for listening to working people.  

You have played a big part in this anti-worker Bill not getting through this week. Well done!

Sally McManus
ACTU Secretary

NYT – Trump Steel Tariff Problems

In recent history as narrated by President Trump, the United States has been fleeced and humiliated by savvier nations unrestrained by naïve notions like global trading rules. Predatory powers have exploited American weakness to steal factory jobs, sowing despair.

The primary villain in this narrative is China, the country that Mr. Trump has placed at the center of the combative trade policy he is advancing. Steep tariffs on steel and aluminum set to take effect this week are portrayed as targeting China, even as they mostly hit other powers. In a broadening of the battle to electronics and clothing, the Trump administration is readying at least $50 billion worth of tariffs and penalties on imported Chinese goods.

If these demonstrations of muscle are intended to strengthen the American position in grappling with China, trade experts increasingly fret that Mr. Trump’s policies are doing the opposite: They potentially diminish the place of the United States in the world by alienating allies, undermining the potential for collective action among countries nursing shared grievances with China.

“It’s going to be far more effective if they go together,” said Meredith Crowley, an expert on international trade at the University of Cambridge in England. “The fact that the United States is doing all of this alone, it does seem to be weakening the U.S. position.”

China’s staggering economic development has indeed been propelled by trading practices that exploit gaps in international rules or breach them outright. The Communist Party government still subsidizes key industries, lavishes credit on state-owned companies and imposes barriers against foreign competitors.

In many major economies, steel makers are contending with a glut of low-cost product, much of it made in China. Western businesses must acquiesce to Beijing’s wishes, sharing cutting-edge technology as a condition of entry to the Chinese marketplace. Frequently, the incoming technology is folded into Chinese goods that land on world markets, forcing innovators to compete against their own creations.

These problems are real and persistent. None are easily solved, despite the political appeal of vows to get tough with China.

President Trump with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing last year. Most experts assume that only collective global action can pressure China to change its trade practices.

China is an inextricable part of the global supply chain, producing the piece parts of cars, gadgets, bluejeans and practically anything else made by human hands. Its products — and, increasingly, its investment — are crucial components in every economy.

Given this, no single country has the power to force China to reform its ways, the thinking goes. China can get around tariffs in one nation by sending its wares elsewhere. It can buy its way into markets by wielding its largess, building infrastructure and proffering loans.

Most experts assume that the only way to make progress in pressuring China to play fair is through collective action. Major economies must join forces, taking cases at the World Trade Organization and harmonizing their policies.

“There are some grave concerns on China, who are massively subsidizing state-owned companies,” the European Union trade minister, Cecilia Malmstrom, said in January, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And there, yes, we could work with the U.S.”

Yet Mr. Trump is pursuing the opposite course.

In one of his first acts as president, he renounced American participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade bloc forged by the Obama administration in part as a counter to China’s rise. The pact included prohibitions on state subsidies, in what was supposed to be a template that could eventually influence China’s commercial realities.

Mr. Trump has also attacked the World Trade Organization — the linchpin of the global trading system and the ultimate venue for collective action — even suggesting that he might revoke American participation. In a formal statement to a congressional committee on Wednesday, a top White House trade official called the W.T.O. “wholly inadequate to deal with China’s version of a state-dominated economy that rejects market principles.”

Mr. Trump has, at least for now, exempted Canada and Mexico from the bite of his tariffs on steel and aluminum. But that is conditional on their satisfying his demands for sweetened terms in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A steel mill in Hangzhou, China, before its planned shutdown last year. Potential partners of the United States in efforts to rein in China are instead scrambling to win exemptions to new tariffs.

Others — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, the European Union and South Korea — have won a temporary reprieve. But they did so only after intense lobbying. Stalwart allies were reduced to effectively begging to be spared from an American offensive. It does not make for fertile conditions for coalition building.

“It takes everybody’s eye off the real issue,” said Chad P. Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “Now, no one is talking about China’s overcapacity on steel. When you’re hitting the Europeans and the Japanese and the South Koreans on steel, how easy is it going to be for those countries to cooperate with you on forced technology transfers?”

“You would need all of these countries to agree on these issues, which requires a tremendous amount of cooperation and trust,” he added. “And there’s such a dearth of that now.”

Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump’s decision to cite a supposed threat to American national security as justification for the steel and aluminum tariffs has prompted allies to question the reliability of their friendship with the United States.

China produces only about 2 percent of the steel used in the United States, while Canada is the largest supplier. The national security justification for tariffs rests on the idea that metal is a building block of defense, and that America’s access is so imperiled that it must protect domestic suppliers.

Given that the United States already produces some two-thirds of the steel it uses, most economists dismiss that argument as absurd. In advancing it, they say, Mr. Trump risks dealing a real national security blow to the United States by threatening the durability of its alliances.

Japan and Germany — two major steel producers — are home to American military bases. The vast majority of the European Union’s members belong to NATO. South Korea, another major source of steel, is key to the talks that Mr. Trump has said he intends to hold with North Korea to resolve the nuclear crisis.

“It strikes me as not helpful to put these tariffs on metals against some of our most important military allies,” said Ms. Crowley, the Cambridge trade expert. “Trump is saying, ‘We can’t rely on you to provide high-grade steel in the event of a war.’ That is a very bizarre thing to say to an ally when you have military facilities in their countries. People there might wonder: What does the average American think of my country if their president is saying we can’t rely upon them?”

MUA – Breakthrough Win in NSCOP Battle

Posted by Ashleigh Telford on April 30, 2015

Against the odds, the Maritime Union of Australia achieved an upset win in its ongoing campaign for a National Stevedoring Code of Practice with members of Safe Work Australia yesterday voting to approve it as a code.  

The news comes after an intensive lobbying effort, a six-year campaign and in the face of opposition of well-resourced stevedoring employers, peak bodies such as the Australian Logistics Council and Shipping Australia and their cheerleaders in the Federal Government, Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.

All seven mainland states and territories voted for the code. Only Tasmania, two business lobby groups - AiG and ACCI - and the Abbott Government voted against.

“It has been an onerous, uphill battle that is almost over, but the fight is not over until we see a final approved document,” Smith said.

“The final code must now be approved by a council of all the state industrial relations ministers and this will require us to continuing to put pressure on our respective State Governments, Liberal or Labor.

  • “So many people have been involved in getting NSCOP this far and hopefully all of their hard work will be eventually paid off.
  • "Safety is won on the job through struggle and we must organise to keep winning even better safety laws."

The union is actively campaigning to improve safety in all areas of the industry.

For seafarers, the two existing codes of practice are now up for review.

Meanwhile, the union is joining forces with offshore petroleum unions to draw attention to severe safety shortcomings in the offshore oil and gas industry.

Safety and union training courses are coming up in all states.

To find out more check out the Training page of the MUA website.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mr Reith, his Prime Minister & the Treasurer – 1998

From War of the Wharves pp. 78-79

Mr Reith, his Prime Minister & the Treasurer 

The Federal Court decision destroyed the government's credibility in the dispute. Equally, it legitimised the MUA's claim that it was the victim of an unlawful conspiracy, built respect for the labour leaders and relieved pressure on the pickets.

Henceforth, the government had to pursue its strategy while simultaneously fending off mounting evidence that it had been deeply involved in perpetrating the conflict. In the lead-up to the conflict, the government had invested heavily in polls, focus groups and political marketing as part of its campaign to demonise the MUA.

After the midnight assault, John Howard, Peter Reith and Chris Corrigan deluged the media with spiels tailored to counter sympathy for the union. They sought licence for the shocking attack by claiming the MUA had tried to destroy Patrick, and they stimulated antipathy among other workers with exaggerated claims about "elite" wharfie wages and working conditions obtained by "thuggish union bosses"

To combat the colourful and, at times, heroic working class history of Australia's maritime unions, Howard conjured "heart-breaking stories of farmers and small business men and women sent broke, having to sack people because of the behaviour on the wharves".

Reith worked up a World War II tale about his father being stranded in Borneo without tank support because of waterside industrial bans. The quality media gave the government editorial support, right-wing commentators and neo-liberal columnists pilloried unions as "dinosaurs", and most tabloids and commercial talk-back radio stations simply operated as arms of the government's propaganda machine.

Business groups supported the sackings, and warned of more mass dismissals as cargo piled up on the docks. The NFF remained active. Farmers regularly threatened to crash the pickets, and the day before the first Federal Court decision 40 of them blockaded Bob Carr in a country airport for two hours demanding strongarm police action.

Regardless, throughout the conflict no reputable polling company found that the government ever got even as much as 50 per cent of public opinion to support the way it involved itself in the dispute, A Morgan poll taken straight after the sacking showed 46 per cent to 45 per cent disapproved of the government supporting Patrick.

A week later, in a poll taken straight after the incident between the police and the terrified girls on the Port Botany picket line, Morgan found 47 per cent to 42 per cent supported the government. This was as good as it got. A Herald-AC Neilson poll taken on 17-19 April, the weekend when the pressure on the pickets was most intense, found 52 per cent to 33 per cent disapproved of the way the government had handled the dispute.

After the first Federal Court finding, Morgan found the government's broad political support had dropped by 5 per cent, leaving it trailing the Labor opposition by 9 per cent. The poll also found only 8 per cent wanted Patrick to continue employing non-union labour and the pickets removed by police.

As the strategy imploded, the most dramatic loser was Peter Keanston Reith, the 47-year-old, plump, balding and over-confident Victorian lawyer who once boasted: "I was born to plot". Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business and the Member for Flinders, before the conflict Reith had been touted as one of two future leadership contenders, the other being the Treasurer, Peter Costello.

Known on the pickets as the "Grim Reither", his repetitive, relentlessly pugnacious and tendentious debating style wore thin, irritating and irrelevant in defeat. Commentators quickly busied themselves calculating Reith's diminished future, particularly as it compared with the Treasurer, whose budget responsibilities allowed him a safe distance from the conflict.

Ominously, the last Member for Flinders who tried to destroy Australia's maritime unions and its industrial relations system was Prime Minister Stanley Bruce. At the ensuing federal election in October 1929, Bruce lost his seat to the secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

CPSU – Courts Staff Update

The Senate has ordered the government to table the KPMG and Ernst and Young reviews by 9.30am today, Thursday 22 March.

In the words of one CPSU delegate, “This is great news, it shows that our speaking to Members of Parliament was worthwhile and that they are listening”.

We believe the 2014 KPMG report warned that failure to increase funding to the Courts would force significant cuts to service and staffing levels, based on an article in The Australian on 29 August 2014.

The release of these reports is important for transparency in funding models, restructures and decisions that affect the services you deliver. You and I know successive governments have failed to adequately fund the Courts. What’s been missing is a discussion on possible solutions that would address access issues for the many Australian families who rely on the services the Courts provide.

Senators Pratt and Griff, supported by others, successfully put a motion noting the Governments failures to adequately fund the Federal Circuit and Family Courts and neglecting the families that rely on them. You can read the motion and the orders (page 44 of Hansard) online here.

The CPSU has been advocating, campaigning and lobbying to have these reports released since 2014. This has included requesting release directly from the Court then through FOI to the Court and the AGD in 2016. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is currently considering that FOI. CPSU representatives have also lobbied members of parliament across political parties about the critical issues facing the Courts.

I acknowledge the hard work of CPSU workplace representatives advocating for transparency, the work you do, and adequate services for the community.

MEAA – Momentum building for cultural change in live theatre

About 50 representatives of major, medium and small theatre companies, performers, crew and other industry stakeholders came together in Melbourne last weekend for an unprecedented forum dedicated to addressing harassment, discrimination and bullying in Australian theatres.

The forum was instigated by independent artists and organised by the MEAA and Artists for Safe Theatres.

It follows MEAA’s national survey of more than 1000 theatre workers last year which found 40% had experienced sexual harassment and a similar number had witnessed it. Since then, there have been several high-profile cases involving allegations of inappropriate conduct in a live theatre context.

MEAA Equity director Zoe Angus said the two-day forum had been a valuable contribution towards lasting cultural change but it was important it now be followed by concrete action and commitment from stakeholders.

The 12 theatre companies who attended, including the nine members of the Confederation of Australian State Theatres (CAST), have agreed to harmonise their policies and procedures to create a common framework which can be adopted throughout the industry.

There is also a shared commitment to the Live Performance Australia code of practice, once it is finalised.

“The collaboration across the board is a sign of how seriously our industry is taking the need for cultural change,” Angus said.

“It is now essential that the momentum is not lost as there is much work still to be done before we can declare we have made workplaces safer from harassment, discrimination and bullying.

“If the performers and crew we represent are to have confidence that real change has taken place, there will need to be concrete action to turn the commitment shown at this forum into effective policies and procedures at the workplace level.

“Moving forward, Equity will be seeking to ensure that theatre companies put in place transparent and accountable procedures for dealing with complaints about harassment and bullying.”

Ms Angus said there should be a first preference for mediation and problem-solving; procedures for referring matters to external agencies where appropriate or necessary; systematic record keeping; respect for the rights of all parties to a complaint, including natural justice, and provision of support by their chosen representative, such as a union.

To prevent unacceptable behaviour, MEAA believes the expected standards of conduct should be clearly spelt out both in writing and verbally to all persons engaged by the theatre company, with a particular focus on an induction in the first week of rehearsals.

There should also be regular welfare checks with cast and crew during the run of a show to ensure policies are being adhered to and if there are any issues arising, and written agreement by people engaged to comply with the code, says MEAA.

“There is much work to be done, but what this weekend’s forum has demonstrated is that we all share a commitment to work together and we are confident that real progress will be made to making our workplaces safer,” Angus said.

The forum is part of an ongoing conversation to achieve lasting cultural change and the participants expect to reconvene in 12 months to report back on progress.

ITF calls on Australian Federal Police to investigate another “Man Overboard”

Posted by Mua communications on March 21, 2018

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has called for an immediate investigation into the disappearance of 45-year-old seafarer, Arnel Gillo who was reported missing on the 13th March 2018 on the Flag of Convenience ship “Galloway Express”, bound for Australia.

Dean Summers, ITF National Co-ordinator said the Queensland Police had boarded the vessel yesterday when it docked at Townsville, but he called into question their understanding of the crew’s language, culture, and appreciation of maritime industry.

  • “The Australian Federal Police need to investigate this incident as a matter of urgency given their experience and involvement in other maritime cases.
  • “The disappearance occurred in international waters and should be investigated by the AFP who have experience on dealing with these cases following the high-profile case of FOC Sage Sagittarius in 2012 where three seafarers died, and the NSW coroner found at least two were victims of foul play.
  • “Arnel’s wife and family contacted us on the 16th March claiming that the company had not responded to their calls and were obviously distraught”. His family have asked the ITF to help and have said “All we hope and pray is to know what happened to my brother and if he needs rescue right away.”
  • “Yesterday an ITF inspector - asked by the family to investigate - was harassed by company representatives on board the ship and get answers for the family. The Queensland Police even prevented access and frustrated all attempts for us to speak to the master and crew”

At this stage the parallels with Sage case are obvious Mr Summers said.

The livestock carrier, owned by Dutch company Vroon, is Flag of Convenience vessel registered in Singapore and has been chartered by Australian based Harmony Agriculture and Food Company. The owners have called the case an “Unfortunate Incident” but refuse to cooperate with the federation.

The Sage Sagittarius was subject a two-year coronial investigation with the NSW Coroner finding the ship’s chief cook and chief engineer met with foul play at the hand/s of other unidentified persons on board the Flag of Convenience (FOC) ship.

The Coroner recommended her findings be sent to Japanese authorities to investigate a third suspicious death on board. A company superintendent, sent by the owners to Australia to investigate, was found dead in the self-discharge gear while docked back in Japan.

The coroner recommended establishing a permanent standing group, with members from at least the AFP, State police, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to investigate the death or suspicious death on board, or disappearance from, an international vessel in or bound for Australian waters.

NSWTF – The Tide is Turning

March 02, 2018

This year is the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy, known simply as NAPLAN. And it’s time to be frank.

For too long a culture of bullying has protected NAPLAN. Teachers questioning its efficacy and purpose have all too often been accused of trying to hide something from parents, or not wishing to be accountable, or scared of statistics.

In reality, NAPLAN was devised by politicians who deliberately set out to exploit parents’ concerns and fears about schooling.

The implication was obvious: Teachers cannot be trusted to tell you, the parent, what you need to know about your child’s progress.

It was never about gathering data to assess standards across the entire education system. Sample testing would be a much more cost-effective method if that was the aim.

It was never going to be diagnostic. A mass test that bears no relationship to the curriculum, which is marked externally with the results delivered months later, could not possibly be diagnostic.

Indeed, it is the use of medical metaphors such as this that has framed the debate in deliberate and unhelpful ways. The term diagnostic implies that NAPLAN is a scientific measurement just like a blood or urine test. Once the results are back the treatment can begin.

As experts such as Professor Margaret Wu have warned, the margins of error and large random fluctuations make it all but impossible to compare the performance of different cohorts from year to year or compare schools, let alone use the data to make any significant decisions about a child’s progress at the individual or class level.

So, let’s call it. NAPLAN is an unsophisticated, expensive and imprecise test that is developed under contract by commercial interests.

Oh, let’s not forget. It may, or may not, be marked by a qualified teacher. Or even an adult, it would seem. So crude and simplistic is the marking process, ACARA is keen to hand it over to robots.

But there are some politicians who are starting to listen to the concerns of teachers, academics and parents. This is a positive development.

At a recent meeting of the Education Council, made up of all state education ministers and the federal minister, some called for a review of NAPLAN.

NSW Minister for Education Rob Stokes had this to say in a recent ABC television interview: “The stakes have become higher in relation to NAPLAN testing to the extent that we’ve now got commercial interests publishing guides on how to pass NAPLAN and the whole focus among teachers, among parents and among students has created an environment of high stress.”

His Queensland counterpart Grace Grace also shared her government’s reservations.

“I think after 10 years of it being in place that it’s timely for us to re-evaluate; Is NAPLAN delivering what it was set up to deliver?”

Another education minister, Susan Close from South Australia, also expressed concerns about the undue importance placed on the test.

“I think the high stakes of NAPLAN has come out of this obsession with reporting NAPLAN and judging schools on their NAPLAN results.”

In contrast, the Federal Minister Simon Birmingham, only months after tearing up funding agreements with the states, delivered the predictable response about parents wanting more information. Of course they do. But poor data is not information.

The next Education Council meeting is in May and the teaching profession will watch with interest the outcomes of this meeting.

Should there be a decision to review NAPLAN, it is essential that such a review be led by the teaching profession.

Federation will continue to play a key role in the debate. To this end, we have commissioned Dr Les Perelman, former Director of Writing and Assessment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to write an academic paper about dismantling the existing NAPLAN regime and replacing it with assessment processes that respect teacher judgment, connect to the curriculum and which benefit all students and school communities.

In a few months, Dr Perelman will be visiting Australia. He will be giving a public lecture, Towards a New NAPLAN, on 4 May in the Teachers Federation Conference Centre auditorium, Surry Hills. All are welcome but bookings will be essential through

Ten years on, it is time for the vested interests, the large edu-businesses that profit from testing, to leave the building. In their place, let us invite back the real experts, teachers, to develop useful, quality assessment practices that the profession can share.

Click here to download PDF.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

War on the Wharves 1998

Waterfront Reform & Related Issues 

The slogan "waterfront reform". which was the Howard government's war-cry, cloaked the issues at stake. Throughout, public opinion favoured reform, upheld as it was not only by the government, Corrigan, and the NFF, but also by the labour movement, the MUA and the Federal Court.

Waterfront reform itself was not an issue: as in all wars, all camps claimed God was on their side. The conflict was not about 'reform', but the meanings contained within it. For the labour movement, 'reform' meant finding ways in which the docks might work better, and negotiating a civil path to the improvements.

For the government, 'reform' meant busting the MUA 'monopoly' as a totem part of its agenda to destroy workers' traditional social protections. in order to intensify individual competition in the labour market.

The heat in the conflict arose from a conviction which, in private at least, both sides agreed on: if the MUA could be busted. every union could be busted; if wharfies could be brutally, sacked and re-hired on ower paid individual contracts, no-one was safe. There was, of course, room for change on the docks, as there always is in all workplaces.

But the government, inclusion of union busting in its definition of 'reform' was an ideological sleight-of-hand that licensed intellectual dishonesty and laziness. and it meant the public reform debate never progressed past propaganda. Indeed, if anything the government, tendentious sloganeering soiled the name of 'reform' while 84 per cent of public opinion agreed that reform was important immediately after the sackings, within two weeks this had dropped to 74 per cent.

Ideology aside. the government's technical case for reform also deteriorated. Reith's repeated allegations that the waterfront was an inefficient industry which placed intolerable cost burdens on exports was only supported by decontextualised statistical comparisons with container lifts per hour at overseas ports. The figures ignored different shipping patterns, container sizes, and port layouts, volumes. equipment, management, cultures and  hinterlands.

And just as it exaggerated the wharfies' conditions so the government also magnified the relatively meagre gains available to farmers from more rapid container movements, ignored the effects of the Patrick-P&O duopoly, and gave no serious commitment on where the benefits it wanted to seize from the workers would be redistributed.

The government's case was also undermined by a report from a leading shipping consultant, which showed that the Australian average number of containers handled per hour was close to the international benchmark for terminals with comparable shipping patterns.

Even the government's own Productivity Commission found dock shortcomings were due to management and government agencies, as well as work practices. The Commission singled out one small operator—Sea-Land—as the most efficient. Sea-Land had good employee relations. The accusations of 'rorting wharfies'. also rang hollow from a new government within which six frontbenchers had already been forced to resign for rorting public funds.

The casualties included John Sharp, the original leader of the attack on the MUA. Sharp resigned his ministry after being caught forting his travel allowances in September 1997, and announced his prospective retirement from the Parliament in June 1998.

Cynicism was heightened further by the government's failure to act on the concurrent fate of miners from Cobar and Woodlawn, where corporate trickery also deprived workers of their fair entitlements.

Likewise, sympathy for the NFF eroded in many areas, as its determination to deprive this section of society of its livelihood sat hypocritically next to its appeals for certain on land title for its own members in its response to the High Court's Wik decision.

Indeed, for many, the assault on the wharfies joined with the government's anti-Aboriginal policies to create a sense of an Australia being propelled to an election by a strategy premised on nothing but creating a society in perpetual pandemonium.

From War on the Wharves p. 101. 

It’s time to change the rules: ACTU’s job security package

21 March 2018

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus will outline the rules that need to be changed for more secure jobs and better pay to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

Thirty years of trickle-down economics has failed to provide secure jobs or fair pay rises.

Ahead of the speech, the ACTU is releasing the secure jobs component of the package. The full package will be released at the conclusion of the address.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary:

  • “Too many people in Australia have no job security. They can no longer predict or plan their lives. Having a job you can count on is a foundation of the Australian way of life.
  • “The rules must be changed so jobs with basic security and rights can be restored.

Casual employment should be limited and properly defined:

  • “Workers in Australia can get trapped in casual employment. The average tenure is over three years.
  • “We have to change the rules so big business can no longer deny people basic rights by refusing them permanent positions. Our laws need to properly define casual employment. Working people should have the choice to convert to permanent if they are in long-term regular work.”
  • “Casual employees who have worked on a regular basis for six months, deserve the right to choose to convert to permanent work.

Equal rights for all workers, including those in the gig-economy:

  • “Classing workers as individual contractors has seen people paid below minimum wage, denied access to workers’ compensation, denied sick leave, superannuation, access to unfair dismissal, and denied the benefits of collective bargaining. Everyone deserves these rights.
  • “We need to change the rules so everyone has basic rights, including the right to collectively bargain.

Complete overhaul of labour hire:

  • “Labour hire companies simply rent out workers for lower pay and less job security. It’s got to stop.
  • “We need to completely overhaul labour hire companies by creating a national labour hire licensing system to ensure they are not cutting wages and conditions.
  • “Workers need protection from unfair dismissal by the host employer, and the ability to bargain with the company so they can win fair pay rises and gain secure work.

End the uncapped temporary working visa system:

  • “The government is shipping in exploitation and taking job opportunities for locals through its temporary visa system, and it needs to end.
  • “The system should favour permanent migration and local employment. Temporary visas should only be used for genuine shortages, with strong protections against abuse.

Skills for the future:

  • “Privatising vocational education and training has been a disaster.
  • “We must rebuild the funding for schools, TAFE and universities.

More secure jobs from free trade:

  • “The government is negotiating trade agreements that sell out Australian jobs.
  • “We must only enter into agreements which defend and improve wages and job security. They should not be able to bypass our laws regarding the movement of people, just for the benefit of corporations.

Secure jobs from government’s buying power:

  • “The government is currently using its spending power on what’s cheap, not quality. Rewrite the Commonwealth Procurement Rules to ensure that the government hires directly and locally, and prefers local businesses which pay fairly and provide secure jobs.

Time to care:

  • “The majority of working people have a responsibility to care for children, sick relatives, or an elderly parent.
  • “We need to change the rules so people have the right to a part time or reduced hours. And the right to return, when their caring responsibilities have reduced or ended.

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 shatter his desires to beat 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.