Thursday, May 31, 2018

ACTU – Only a quarter of Longman voters feel living standards have improved under Turnbull

Only a quarter of Longman voters feel living standards have improved under Turnbull
30 May 2018

Only a quarter of voters in Longman feel that their living standards have improved at all since the 2016 Federal Election, according to a poll conducted by ReachTel and the ACTU.
The poll of 928 people in the federal division of Longman, taken on the 14th of May, reveals that more than 75 percent of people in the electorate feel their living standards have either stayed the same or gone backwards.

The relative pessimism of the electorate comes at a time of near-record low wages growth, rising costs of living and increasing work insecurity.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Most people want to be able to earn a living, support their family and have a bit of time to spend with them at the end of the day – it’s not a lot to ask.
  • “But under the Turnbull Government these simple and reasonable aspirations are getting increasingly harder.
  • “Under Malcolm Turnbull, wages have flatlined even though profits are rising. The very wealthy are doing just great and the rest of us are increasingly struggling.
  • “The cost of living is going up but we aren’t getting the pay rises we need to keep up – the result is that people’s living standards are falling, in Longman and across the country.
  • “We need to change the rules so that people have the power to get fair pay rises and more secure jobs.” 

Court will find the truth on Minister’s involvement in AWU raids

The ACTU welcomes the subpoena issued to Minister Cash and calls on the Minister to abandon her attempts to have it set aside.

The Australian people have a right to know about the involvement of Minister Cash’s office in the raids, and the Minister has to date not being forthcoming with this information.

It is unfortunate that a Minister needs to be dragged before the court to give an account of her involvement in the public televising of a police raid, but extraordinary measures are called for when a Minister evades public scrutiny as diligently as Minster Cash has on this issue.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The Minister’s continuing efforts to avoid answering questions in relation to this matter are deeply regrettable, but the court system should be able to find a way to compel her to answer questions.
  • “Minister Cash must tell the truth to the Australian people about what she knew and to what extent she was in control of her office when it informed the media of a police raid on the offices of the elected representatives of working people.
  • “It is extraordinary that a Minister would have to be subpoenaed to speak about a vital matter of national importance and even more extraordinary that she would try and avoid the actions of a court trying to get to the bottom of the matter.
  • “We, like the rest of Australia, look forward to finally hearing the truth on this matter.”

Friday, May 25, 2018

ACTU – Amnesty for stolen super lets thieves walk free – $5.6 billion stolen per year

24 May 2018

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer this morning suggested an amnesty which would allow the employers who have stolen superannuation from 2.4 million Australian workers to avoid punishment.

The Turnbull Government is so determined to protect employers that it is willing to write off any penalties for billions in stolen superannuation.

Employer should be facing increased, financially meaningful penalties, instead they are being let off scot-free by a Government which has never demonstrated any interest in protecting the rights of working people.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “The Government should be increasing penalties to try and stop wage theft and theft of superannuation; instead they are giving employers a green light as long as they return the money they stole.
  • “The egregious double standard being created here is an insult to all Australian workers, more than 2.4 million whom have had super stolen by an employer.
  • “$5.6 billion per year is taking from workers’ retirement savings and this proposed measure adds to the list of inadequate attempts by the Turnbull Government to deal with unpaid super.
  • “We need to change the rules so that employers are held to account for their actions, and if this Government won’t protect the rights of working people, then we need to change the government.”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

NSWTF – Public Education Day

Today is national Public Education Day, a day we celebrate the critical role that public education has played in building our nation. We are proud of all that public education has achieved over many years.

It’s also a day where we need you to stand up, speak out and create change for public education.

We’re campaigning to give all children a fair-go and calling on politicians to:
  • Reverse $1.9 billion cut from public schools & disability cuts in 2018 and 2019.
  • Fund all schools at 100% of agreed schooling resource standard by 2023.
  • Establish a public schools capital fund, starting with $300 million per year.
  • Remove the Commonwealth 20% public school funding cap.
  • This Public Education Day, Federation encourages your workplace to celebrate the local successes of needs-based funding and stand up, speak out and create change by showing support for the Fair Funding Now Campaign.
Our students only get one chance at an education. Help them reach their potential and register your support today for

We cannot stay silent while millions of our students miss out on the additional attention and opportunities that could change their lives.

We need fair funding now!

So join us. Stand up. Speak out. Create change this Public Education Day.

Want to know more? Visit, watch the “Whatever happened to Gonski?” video narrated by Jane Caro, or contact your local Federation Organiser.

Yours sincerely,
John Dixon
General Secretary
Maurie Mulheron

Turnbull Government chooses insecurity instead of jobs we can count on

24 May 2018

The Turnbull Government is using the massive employment capability of the federal government to create insecure, short-term jobs rather than good, steady jobs which Australian workers can rely on.
In 2007, only 7.4% of public sector workers were on short-term contracts. That figure now stands at  just under 10%. This is a staggering number but paints a very limited picture of the level of insecure work in the federal public service which the Turnbull Government has diligently concealed.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) believe that an additional 3% of workers are either ‘independent’ contracts, consultants, or employed through a labour-hire firm.

Recent polling by the ACTU in the marginal electorates of Petrie and Swan showed between 55% and 64.6% of voters support the creation of more public sector jobs, even if this means no tax cuts.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The Government can use the huge employment power of the public sector to create good, steady jobs and improve wages growth. Instead they are creating insecure jobs and capping wage rises to keep wage growth down.
  • “Unemployment rates have not budged since Abbott was elected. One million people still need more hours and we are still no creating good, secure jobs for working people.
  • “Australians expect that public sector jobs should be good, secure jobs that they can count on. The Turnbull Government is once again out of step with the community. People want good jobs, not insecurity and low wages.
  • “Our jobs policy calls for government to step up to the plate and use the significant power it has to create jobs we can count on.
  • “We need a government which uses its power to help Australian workers, not strip their conditions, cap their wages, undermine their job security and embolden lawless employers.”

Hunter Valley inspires Blue Mountains coal dust campaign

A community campaign to reduce particulate pollution along the Hunter’s coal rail corridor by covering coal wagons has taken root in the Blue Mountains. 

The Blue Mountains Unions and Community Group is seeking data about the impact of particulate pollution coming from the 16 coal trains, each with an average of 45 wagons, that pass through the mountains each week.

“A lot of people are flabbergasted when they find out how many trains pass through our community,” group spokesman spokesman Peter Lammiman said. 

 “We have had lot of support from people who have been working on this issue in the Hunter.”

Hunter-based environment groups have been pushing for the introduction of covered coal wagons in the region since 2012.

A 2013 Senate inquiry into coal dust pollution recommended the covers should be mandatory, however, the NSW Chief Scientist found in 2016 that more research was needed into the issue.

Environmental Justice Australia researcher Dr James Whelan said an increasing number of communities around the world were concerned about the impact of coal particulate pollution. 

  • “It is an issue that has refused to lie down,” Dr Whelan said. 
  • “I’m confident there will be a breakthrough. The coal industry is going to be with us for some time yet and community expectations are increasing.”
  • A NSW Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman confirmed the authority was working with the Blue Mountains Unions and Community Group to investigate air quality monitoring in the area. 
  • “Specific details are still to be determined,” she said.

ACOSS responds to ACTU and Salvation Army Reports on people with the lowest incomes

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie welcomed the ACTU and Salvation Army’s calls for an increase to Newstart in their respective reports ‘Jobs you can count on’ and ‘Feeling the Pinch’, launched today.

‘’We welcome the release today of a major report on employment by the ACTU. This strengthens the groundswell of support across the community and business sectors to raise the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments,” said Dr Goldie.

“Today, the Salvation Army renewed their calls for an increase to Newstart. These calls are backed by former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard, author and lecturer Jane Caro, the Council of Small Business, Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics, Heather Ridout AO from Australian Super, Dr Ken Henry from the ­National Australia Bank, and Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia.
  1. “A minimum increase of $75 per week to Newstart and related payments will help people struggling to afford three meals a day cover the cost of essentials such as a roof over their head, transport, bills and clothing.
  2. “Newstart is currently just $278 per week. This and related payments have not increased in real terms for 24 years. It is near impossible to look for work or study if you’re homeless and hungry.
  3. “The Salvation Army today said the inaction of the Federal Government in increasing Newstart and related payments is putting further pressure on charities to help individuals and families make ends meet.
“The ACTU today backs our call for the proper indexation of Newstart and related payments to wage and price movements, similar to how the pension is configured.

“ACOSS agrees with many of ACTU’s policies outlined today, including:
  • abolition of the Liquid Assets Waiting period, which simply dries up a person’s financial reserves before they are allowed to access the basic income;
  • abolition of Work for the Dole and the Community Development Program. Work for the Dole only increases people’s chances of getting work by 2%;
  • more investment in properly-paid work experience and training for people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more;
  • community benefit agreements requiring sponsors of publicly supported infrastructure to give preference for hiring people who are disadvantaged and long term unemployed – including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disabilities and apprentices.
“The ACTU has identified a number of major employment challenges, including the need for:
  • stronger workplace protections for temporary migrant workers;
  • stronger anti-discrimination laws re employment;
  • improved employment conditions and job security for NDIS workers and the need for improved quality of care; and more progress on equal pay.
“We call on the government to listen to the community. The Government must urgently raise the rate of Newstart and related payments as a first step in alleviating poverty and disadvantage for hundreds and thousands of people living in Australia. It must also work to improve employment opportunities and conditions for people on the lowest incomes to ensure that people in the lowest 40% are not left behind.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ACTU – Jobs You Can Count On – a secure work future for Australia

23 May 2018

More than three in four Australians want the government to spend public money on contractors who will create good, secure jobs rather than just choosing the cheapest option.

The results of a poll conducted by Calderon last week for the ACTU shows that Australians are behind one of the key recommendations of the peak body’s jobs policy released today.

The Jobs You Can Count On strategy identifies the course Australia must take to ensure that working people have good, secure jobs into the future. Calderon polled 1477 people on whether they would prefer that a government chose contractors that guaranteed well-paid, secure jobs, even if it meant higher costs.

1158 respondents said that this was preferable to a cheaper option that created insecure work. The report sets out a comprehensive, consistent strategy to improve both the quantity and quality of work: creating new jobs, lifting pay, enhancing the security and conditions of employment, and ensuring access to decent work for all Australians.

Australia must move to a more even playing field by updating our industrial laws to reflect the reality of the modern workplace and labour market – we must change the rules to put working people’s needs on par with business profits.

We must promote and encourage local industries that provide good, secure jobs, rather than relying on a failed model of trickle-down economics. This means maximising job opportunities for locals and investing in industries that train and employ local workers.

And we must fight gender inequality, marginalisation and discrimination so that people who have the toughest time getting good secure jobs have a fair shot.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “We need good, secure jobs – jobs we can count on. The Turnbull Government has the power to make choices that create those jobs, but so far they have chosen insecure jobs for working people."
  • “All across our country – and especially outside the larger cities – people are crying out for good secure jobs, and the Turnbull Government is making choices that ignore their needs.”
  • “The Turnbull Government can choose spend public money to create good, secure jobs on publicly funded projects, but so far they’ve chosen the cheapest option.
  • “They Turnbull Government could choose to invest in services, but so far they’ve made more than 18,000 people jobless since Tony Abbott took office.
  • “Our Jobs You Can Count On strategy maps out a course to a better, more inclusive, more prosperous country where wealth is more fairly shared and where people have good, secure work.
  • “We challenge the Turnbull Government and industry to embrace our plan for Jobs You Can Count On and move towards more decent, secure and equitable employment."

Monday, May 21, 2018

ACTU – Australia leading the world in creating insecure work

21 May 2018

Australia is a global pacesetter in the creation of various forms of insecure employment, leaving only 60% of the workforce in standard, secure work according to a new report from the ACTU, Australia’s insecure work crisis: Fixing it for the future.

Australia has the third-highest rate of non-standard forms of work in the OECD. We are rapidly heading towards the complete Americanisation of our workforce unless we change direction.

Around forty percent of all workers have fallen into insecure work, are part-time or on short-term contracts, are employed through a labour hire firm, the new “gig economy” or as supposedly ‘independent’ contractors.

These forms of work are often used by employers to avoid their legal obligations to their employees. A full time, standard employee can expect all the leave entitlements, superannuation contributions and workplace protections that the union movement has fought for over centuries.

A labour-hire worker, or someone on a short-term contract, has little bargaining power and takes enormous risk standing up for better rights as well as having less rights than other workers in the first place.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The level of insecure work we have in Australia is not normal. It is far worse than most OECD countries and it has got much worse over just one generation. Insecure work is the biggest issue facing Australian workers. It runs through everything. When you are not secure in your job, you have less rights, greater stress. It affects your everyday life and that of your family. This has to change.
  • “Insecurity disproportionately affects women and is entrenching the gender pay gap. “Insecure work is now destroying the workplace rights of generations of workers.
  • “There are sensible, straightforward changes to our workplace laws that will reverse this trend.
  • “We have a simple decision to make, do we want the next generation to never know what it is like to have a paid holiday or do we think they deserve the same or better rights their parents and grand parents enjoyed?”

Sunday, May 20, 2018

ACTU – Super For Everyone

18 May 2018
The peak body for working people has backed calls for all workers to receive superannuation.

A joint submission to the Senate select committee on the future of work by two of Australia’s largest industry super funds, CBUS and AustralianSuper, found that 2.3 million Australians are missing out on superannuation.

Self-employed contractors, people on low incomes and people working more than one job are not getting the compulsory 9.5% superannuation payments that are compulsory for people in more traditional employment arrangements.

The ACTU said that the current 9.5% threshold should be upped to 12% as soon as possible – a planned move that had been frozen by the Abbott/Turnbull Government.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Chief of Staff Ben Davison

  • “Superannuation is for everyone.”
  • “Working people fought for superannuation so that all workers could enjoy a future with dignified, secure retirements.
  • “Millions of working people are missing out because people in contracted work and the gig economy are falling through the cracks of our superannuation system.
  • “People are going to retire in poverty unless we take the necessary action to make sure that superannuation is for everyone.
  • “It’s time for employer-contributed superannuation to be extended to every worker so that a comfortable and dignified retirement is a right for working Australians.”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Commonwealth Bank Scam

Commonwealth Bank Corporate Opportunity Statement
Thousands of children’s Commonwealth Bank accounts were fraudulently set up by retail branch staff as part of a widespread scam to earn bonuses and meet aggressive performance targets.

The scam involved CBA staff either using the bank’s money, sometimes loose change or their own money to illegitimately activate Youthsaver accounts for financial gain.

They would do so when parents had signed up their kids for school banking, often referred to as Dollarmites, but had not deposited money into the account within 30 days. If no deposit had been made, the sign-up would not count towards sales targets and financial rewards.

A Fairfax Media investigation can also reveal that the scam is part of a broader culture of gaming financial incentives at the bank where staff were caught faking customer referrals to boost performance targets and earn rewards.

The school banking and customer referral scandals came to light inside the bank shortly after CBA's now chief executive, Matt Comyn, was appointed to run the retail operation in 2012.

Mr Comyn told Fairfax that the money taken from the bank and used by staff to open the Youthsaver accounts was very small, often loose change. He said the financial incentives received by staff were also small – a maximum of $1.76 over a year. He said there was no customer detriment.

“They would have been better off, as a financial incentive, keeping the coins themselves,” he said.

But he said using today’s lens – in the wake of repeated scandals and with the backdrop of a royal commission – the action taken by the bank at the time wasn’t appropriate, irrespective of the dollars at stake.

“It goes to the heart of integrity,” he said.

“While this practice did not financially harm any of our customers, it was a breach of their trust. For that I’m deeply sorry. As CBA’s new chief executive, my number one priority is to expedite changes that will prevent any behaviour that undermines our customers' trust in us – and to remove any CBA employee who knowingly acts against our customers’ interests.”

The country’s largest consumer group, CHOICE, seized on the scandal to renew its calls to ban school banking schemes.

“It's a pretty basic expectation that bank staff will handle money honestly. Whether it involves five cents or $5 million, any mishandling of funds goes to the heart of trust in the institution,” CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland said.

He said if senior staff knew it was happening on a mass scale and did nothing about it, they were complicit in that fraud.

Lloyd and his Right Wing Think Tank

The Prime Minister's department has refused to release emails relating to the public service commissioner John Lloyd and a right-wing think tank, saying they could prejudice an investigation into a possible breach of the law.

Mr Lloyd has previously rejected suggestions he gave special access and research to the Institute of Public Affairs after Labor senators last year raised an email he sent to a member of the group with an attachment showing what he described as "generous" provisions in public service enterprise agreements.

A freedom of information request sought emails held by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson mentioning Mr Lloyd and the IPA, and dated from October 23, after senators referred to the email in a Senate estimates hearing.

Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd has faced questions over his links to a right-wing think tank.

The department responded to the request last month by refusing to release two emails in Dr Parkinson's inbox, dated December 20 and December 22.

"I am satisfied that disclosure of the documents could reasonably be expected to prejudice the conduct of an investigation of a breach, or possible breach, of the law in a particular instance," assistant secretary Peter Rush wrote.

Releasing the documents could also "reasonably be expected to prejudice the impartial adjudication of a particular case", Mr Rush said.

One document is 30 pages long, and another is five pages.

The department and the Australian Public Service Commission have refused to answer repeated questions from Fairfax Media asking who is under investigation, who is conducting the probe, and the matters being investigated.

"The department has no comment," Prime Minister and Cabinet said in two separate statements.
The APS commission said it would not comment "on speculation about any investigation".

Australian Public Service commissioner John Lloyd said it was appropriate for him to send an email about Penny Wong to a former colleague.

'Prime Minister and Cabinet's freedom of information decision comes after Mr Lloyd agreed in an October Senate estimates hearing to take on notice requests for phone records of his contacts with the IPA.

The commission later said it wouldn't release them to senators because it would involve an "unreasonable diversion" of its resources.

"In addition, it would include the release of personal information that would breach the privacy of Mr Lloyd and the people he has phone contact with," it said.

However the commission confirmed last year that Mr Lloyd met with an IPA representative in April 2015 after sending it an email saying Labor senator Penny Wong had "taken a swipe" at two of the think tank's former directors.

The commission said the meeting had no connection to the commissioner's role, and no notes were kept.

Senators last year questioned Mr Lloyd's IPA links after the public service commission faced criticism over new social media rules against public servants revealing their political opinions.

Workers may face disciplinary action over a private email or for "liking" a social media post.
Mr Lloyd rejected a suggestion at a Senate estimates hearing last year that he provided the IPA "special access" or research, saying the information he sent was publicly available.

"My sense of it is there's nothing untoward there," he said.

He told senators his contact with the IPA was "very infrequent", that it would usually approach him, and said it was appropriate in his role to speculate on the generosity of arrangements in APS enterprise agreements.

The public service commission has previously said Mr Lloyd's email correspondence with the IPA, and his meeting with the institute, upheld the APS value of impartiality.

Before the Abbott government appointed him APS commissioner in 2014, Mr Lloyd was the director of the IPA's work reform and productivity unit.

A Case Of On The Dole (1933) – Then as Now !
A Case Of On The Dole (1933)

Come listen to my song, and I won't detain you long;
To explain the present poverty I'll try.
Even if you don't agree, you'll have better sight to see,
If I help to wipe the cobwebs from your eye.
Soon we're coming to the end, when we'll have no cash to spend,
Now the Banks have put the country up the pole.
But don't make a mistake, to their system you'll awake,<br />
With the landlord and the tenants on the dole.


Soon we'll all be on the dole,
Yes, we'll all be on the dole,
Now the Banks have put the country up the pole.
So we can lie in bed all day
Because we'll have no rent to pay
With the landlord and the tenants' on the dole.

Now it's one of Nature's laws to eradicate the cause,
And time alone will then effect a cure,
So we human beings must try, and that remedy apply
To the social ills the people now endure.
The real gist of this song is that our distribution's wrong,
Because, we allow the Banks to hold the sway;
Helped by Plutocratic law, which really is the cause
Of the poverty we're suffering today.

Soon we'll all be on the dole,
Yes, we'll all be on the dole,
If the usurious Banks we can't control,
We have to change the laws
Which we all know are the cause
Why the people, of to-day are on the dole.

With each country's goods o'erflowing
yet each nation now is owing
More interest than it's possible to pay;
Yet those Banking Thieves how cry we'll be wealthy by-and-by
If we only work an extra hour each day.
He'll deserve the nation's thanks who
Takes the power from the Banks:
Then the help of the machines can be enjoyed.
With the hours cut down to four the depression will be o'er
And ne'er again will we have unemployed.

Then we'll all get off the dole.
Yes, we'll all get off the dole,
With the people all united as a whole.
Preach and practice what is right
And put the Profiteers to flight
And ne'er again will we go on the dole.

--"Mulga Mick," Glenorchy.


Like many songs and poems of the Great Depression this example has uncanny resonance today, Profiteers, Userious Banks, Banking Thieves, Plutocratic Law, Governments which caved in to corporate greed in the expectation more funds will come their way at election time -- all leading to increased poverty and leading to demands for an urgent change in direction.

Friday, May 18, 2018

TAFE – Minister Birmingham comments about basket weaving TAFE course causes Storm

May 17, 2018

Simon Birmingham’s attempt to be smugly dismissive of Labor’s budget-reply commitment to TAFE funding has set off a social media storm, with thousands of TAFE graduates showing their support for TAFE and the positive effect their qualifications have had on their lives and careers.

In the budget reply speech, Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten announced that if elected to Government the Federal ALP will guarantee that $2 of every $3 of Vocational Education funding goes to TAFE.

The ALP has stated they will increase Vocational Education funding by $470 million, whilst the Federal Coalition Government will cut funding by $270 million.

In a doorstop interview on 11 May, Minister Birmingham attempted to play down Labor’s funding commitment, saying:

"The last time the Labor Party played in the vocational education space all we got was the disastrous VET FEE-HELP program that subsidised everything from energy healing to basket weaving and saw billions of taxpayer dollars rorted and tipped down the sink”

What Minister Birmingham did not acknowledge was that while the VET-FEE HELP program began in 2009, it was not until the coalition took power in 2013 and further deregulated the scheme that loans jumped from less than $900million to nearly $6billion by 2015.

The Guardian article quoted Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, “Birmingham’s remarks were insulting to TAFE and its teachers."

The comment by Minister Birmingham equating TAFE qualifications with "basket weaving" saw hundreds of TAFE graduates, teachers and supporters angrily respond on social media. Many people saw the comments by the Minister as a criticism of their own TAFE qualifications that had given them employment. Many people on twitter illustrated how TAFE courses had turned their lives around.

ACTU – Laundy claims credit for union-won wage increase he opposed

17 May 2018

Junior employment minister Craig Laundy has cited a union-won increase in the minimum wage, which was not supported by his own government, as the solution to stagnant wage growth which remains near record lows.

On Radio National this morning Mr Laundy responded to questions asking how the wage crisis would be solved by observing that the flow-on effects from last year’s increase to the minimum wage are still washing through the economy.

Mr Laundy was a backbencher at the time of the union-won wage rise.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The Turnbull Government did not support the minimum wage increase last year and its allies in the business lobby were its sole opponents.
  • “Then Workplace Relations Minister Michaelia Cash bizarrely argued against a sizeable increase in the minimum wage due to her belief that many minimum wage workers live in ‘high income households’.
  • “The strongest advocate for the increase was the Australian union movement.
  • “The Minister is claiming credit for the hard work of the union movement, which he and his colleagues have spent their entire political careers trying in vain to destroy.
  • “We look forward Mr Laundy’s support in other aspects of our work defending the rights of working people against the Government of which he is a member.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Unions NSW – Libs Seek Silence during Elections

The NSW trade union movement will fiercely resist any attempt to silence it if the NSW government pushes ahead with new financial restrictions on election campaigning.

The NSW Liberals have announced plans to more than halve the amount unions, charities, churches and other ‘third parties’ can spend within six months of an election.

This would cap electoral expenditure by third-party campaigners at $500,000 making it extremely difficult to run a campaign. The existing limit is $1.2 million.

“The NSW Liberals don’t like criticism and this is just the latest attempt to silence dissent after previous failed efforts to ban protest and political campaigning,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.  

“We will fight any attempt to undermine the political expression of working people. We have always pooled our resources to make sure our voice is heard as we simply don’t have the resources of an AMP or a Commonwealth Bank, or a Malcolm Turnbull for that matter.

“The Liberals are trying to engineer a situation where they can abuse government advertising promoting themselves while unions and other campaigners are silenced. This is the political equivalent of match-fixing.  

“The Liberals know we have defeated them on this issue in the High Court previously. We won’t hesitate to run another case if necessary.”   

In 2013, Unions NSW successfully appealed restrictions on political communication in the High Court, which resulted in the government being ordered to pay costs of around $600,000.

ACTU – Australian workers suffer another quarter of near-record low wage growth

Australian workers have suffered through another quarter of near-record low wage growth, with the Wage Price Index remaining at 2.1% (and 1.9% in the private sector) in figures released today.

The all-time record low for this measure of wage growth for full time work is 1.9%, but the Turnbull Government continues to refuse to even acknowledge that there is a wage crisis in this country.

The figures push the Budget’s delusional projections for wage growth even further out of reach.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The Turnbull Government has no plan to increase wages for Australian workers, and has directly contributed to cutting wages by supporting the slashing of penalty rates.
  • “Wage growth of 1.9% in the private sector is a disaster for workers. We need change now to allow workers to fight for a pay rise.
  • “This Government promised ‘jobs and growth’ but unemployment is still too high and the growth clearly isn’t going to working people. We need good secure jobs and increased pay for Australian workers.
  • “We need to give power back to workers so they can fight for increases in pay and defend their rights at work. Australia is headed down the same path as America – insecure work and low wages.
  • “We have to change the rules so that profits go to the workers who power the Australian economy, not the executives who are ripping them off.”

Turnbull Govt has questions to answer after CFMMEU charges withdrawn

17 May 2018

The Turnbull Government has serious questions to answer over their knowledge of events that led to blackmail charges against working people’s elected representatives John Setka and Shaun Reardon, who were charged after taking action on safety.

The DPP discontinued the prosecution today after the committal heard evidence that representatives from the Turnbull/Abbott Government were liaising with Boral executives before any allegations against the pair were formally raised.

The two were undergoing a committal hearing related to actions they took to protect the lives and safety of people working in the construction industry and the public.

They have been staunch advocates for safety, women in the construction industry and the rights of working people across all of society.

Under the duo’s leadership CFMMEU members in the construction business had negotiated pay rises well above the national average, with 30,000 Victorian construction workers locking in annual five percent rises until 2022 last year during a time of sluggish wages growth elsewhere.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “I welcome the withdrawal of these charges – they should never have been laid.
  • “The possibility that members of the Abbott/Turnbull Government were closely consulting with Boral over events that led to these discredited charges is deeply disturbing. This possibility should be fully investigated.
  • “This is the same Government that orchestrated the ROC raid, wasted $80 million on a union witchhunt, and is the successor of the coalition government that conspired to ruin the lives of waterfront workers 20 years ago.
  • “It is not acceptable for any government to attack the elected representatives of working people in order to advance their political agenda.
  • “John Setka and Shaun Reardon have stood up for working people in the Victorian construction industry. They stood up for safety in an extremely dangerous industry. 
  • “And for doing that they have faced unwarranted and discredited criminal charges. Working people deserve answers about how this happened.

Monday, May 14, 2018

ACOSS – Impact the Budget have on poverty and inequality in Australia

ACOSS is bringing together Australia's civil society and community services sector for a unique people-centred perspective on the Federal Budget announced on Tuesday.

ACOSS CEO, Cassandra Goldie, and a dynamic panel of high profile commentators will dissect the 2018 Budget: What impact will the Budget have on poverty and inequality in Australia? What will it mean for people on low incomes and the services they rely upon?

Join representatives from civil society and community organisations for a robust and engaging discussion which looks beyond short-term politics to the long-term implications of Budget 2018-19 for our community.

Journalists and media outlets are invited to cover the event, which is sponsored by the UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion and the UTS Institute for Public Policy and Governance (IPPG).

More information here

Speakers include:

Paddy Manning (MC), Contributing Editor Politics, The Monthly           
Danielle Wood, Budget Policy & Institutional, Reform Program Director, Grattan Institute
Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO, NACCHO               
Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO, Australian Conservation Foundation              
Peter Martin, Economics Editor, The Age   
Cassandra Goldie, CEO, ACOSS

Sunday, May 13, 2018

International Nurses Day: ANMF members rally for staff ratios in aged care

Saturday 12th May, 2018

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) will mark today’s International Nurses Day (IND), with the launch of its new, national campaign to fix the crisis in aged care.

Nurses, midwives, carers, families of nursing home residents and other concerned members of the community will come together at events all across Australia – calling on our federal politicians to legislate staffing ratios in residential aged care facilities as a matter of urgency.

“International Nurses Day is a day when the whole community can stop and reflect on the amazing contribution nurses make to Australia’s health and aged care systems,” the ANMF’s A/Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, explained.

“And that’s what ANMF members are doing today, rallying across the country to show their support for nurses and carers working in nursing homes, who are struggling to cope as a result of chronic understaffing and increasingly dangerous workloads.

“This year’s IND theme is Nurses: A voice to lead – Health is a Human Right.  

  • “ANMF agree; health is a human right and everyone in the community has the right to receive proper health care. But we know that is not happening for many nursing home residents right now – too many are being denied this fundamental right.  
  • “Without mandated staffing ratios, many providers are choosing to employ fewer and fewer nurses to care for an ever-increasing number of vulnerable residents.  More than 85% of nursing home residents have complex care needs, yet from 2003 to 2016 there’s been a 13% reduction in qualified nursing staff working in aged care.  
  • “We know staffing ratios work well in the public hospital system and in child care centres, and we know they can work in aged care. This is why ANMF members are standing up for Australia’s elderly and asking the community to join our campaign to make ratios in aged care law now.
  • “On this International Nurses Day, we’re asking Australians to acknowledge the nurses and carers working in nursing homes and the vulnerable residents they care for – and to consider how they can help in the fight for improved staffing in aged care.” 

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

The ANMF, with over 268,500 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

Cannes 2018: Female stars protest on red carpet for equal rights

Dozens of women film stars have held a protest at the Cannes film festival against gender-based discrimination in the industry.

Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart and Jane Fonda were among those taking part in the red-carpet demonstration.

The prestigious Cannes festival has come under criticism for failing to showcase more films by women directors.

The protest comes after a period of turmoil in the industry following allegations of sexual harassment.

Cate Blanchett leads the festival's jury this year

The actresses and film-makers linked arms to stroll along the red carpet. Cate Blanchett spoke of the film industry's gender inequalities.

"We are 82 women, representing the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes film festival in 1946. In the same period, 1,688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs," the two-time Oscar winner said.

"The prestigious Palme d'Or has been bestowed upon 71 male directors, too numerous to mention by name, but only two female directors," Ms Blanchett remarked.

The women taking part in the protest included all of the festival's female jury members and many women actors, directors and producers.

ACTU – Racist work-for-the-dole scheme survives another budget

11 May 2018

The Abbott/Turnbull Government’s racially discriminatory remote work-for-the-dole scheme, the Community Development Program, has survived another federal budget and will continue to generate profit from the exploitation of Indigenous labour.

Vaguely-worded changes in the budget suggest that the program will move to the same demerit system used by metropolitan work-for-the-dole schemes – but there is no explanation of how this will reduce the appalling rate of financial penalties which have been the hallmark of the CDP to date.

CDP participants are currently 25 times more likely to receive a financial penalty than other welfare recipients, and 55 times more likely to receive a severe penalty.

The promise of wage subsidies for 6000 jobs over four years is grossly inadequate and ignores the fact that the CDP has eliminated almost all genuine job opportunities in remote communities. The Minister is unable to explain why a company which is currently being supplied with labour for free through the CDP would instead pay any portion of a legal wage through the new wage subsidy system.

The CDP must be replaced with a program which creates jobs for people in remote communities, rather than destroys them

Quotes attributable to ACTU National Campaign Coordinator Kara Keys: 

  • “The Minister says that these changes will be subject to consultation – there has already been a senate inquiry into this program which found that it should be abolished. The problems with the program are not in dispute.
  • “By standing by this program the Turnbull Government is declaring that they prefer to create a system of indentured labour which exploits and punishes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over job creation and community development.
  • “The fact that many workers in this program are working for organisations and for-profit businesses in roles that would be paid anywhere else in the country is an indication that Minister Scullion and the Turnbull government are once again turning their back on Indigenous workers in favour of businesses and their profits who are able to access a pool of free labour.
  • “The fact that 6000 new subsidised jobs in remote communities will come with full work entitlements should go without saying.
  • “We welcome the assurances of Minister Scullion’s office that under these changes there will be ‘significant protections to ensure penalties are only applied when they are warranted’ and the implicit concession that many of the penalties handed out to date have not met this lowest of all possible standards.
  • “The Turnbull Government has monetised the exploitation of marginalised Indigenous communities because it thinks there will be no political consequences. We are determined that there will be severe consequences for this unconscionable conduct.
  • “Minister Scullion needs to scrap this discriminatory program and focus on the economic autonomy and the dignity of paid work in remote communities. Anything other than the abolition of this program is unacceptable.”

TUC – Workers Demand "New Deal"

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn joined thousands of workers marching through central London on Saturday to demand a “new deal” on working conditions and an end to what the organisers called the worst pay squeeze in modern history.

The Trades Union Congress used the march to call for a higher minimum wage, improved job security and investment in public services as it released research saying that wages were still worth less in real terms than before the financial crisis.

“This demonstration today is about workers rights, it is about collective endeavour but above all, it’s a declaration that we’re around to campaign as long as it takes, to bring about that social justice and that decency in society,” Corbyn told the rally.

The TUC said real wages were not forecast to return to their pre-financial crash levels until 2025. It said that would mark the worst period of wage stagnation for two centuries.

“It’s taking wages longer to recover from this crash than from the Great Depression and Second World War,” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said.

Corbyn told the rally a Labour government would increase training for young workers, build more homes, nationalise some sectors and give workers a greater say in how their companies are run, including whether they should be sold.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

ACTU – Turnbull’s Budget For the Wealthy

We knew Turnbull’s Budget would be for the wealthy and big business. How could a Budget with $80 billion in corporate tax cuts to big business and the banks be anything but? 

But the devil is in the detail. When you scratch the surface you find a radically unfair budget looking to lock in inequality for years to come. Turnbull's unfair Budget represents a lot of what we need to change. Will you join our movement to change the rules?

Here are just three unfair aspects of Turnbull's Budget:


Turnbull's tax reforms will put people who are on the full-time minimum wage of $37,000 per year in the same tax bracket as people earning $200,000 a year.

In seven years time, people earning the minimum wage of $37,000 per year will get a tax cut of only $3.76 a week, while those earning $200,000 a year will get a $137.60 per week tax cut.

Now that's obviously just not fair is it?


The whole budget is also predicated on the idea that wages magically are going to go up. We know that pay rises don’t just fall from the sky.

Especially when on 1 July there's going to be a penalty rates pay cut again.
Especially when Turnbull won't even support increasing the minimum wage.

Especially when 40 per cent of the workforce is in insecure work and Turnbull is doing nothing about it. 


Malcolm Turnbull is also cutting more public sector jobs in the Budget with 1,280 more jobs cut from the Department of Human Services.

There are already 55 million unanswered calls when people contact Centrelink. We can't afford to have more good jobs cut out of our services like that.

And there will be more debt collecting for welfare recipients. If you're unemployed or if you're on the pension or you're a family that relies on payments from Centrelink, you’re going to be hounded.

They're not going after the 732 corporations who paid no tax in 2015/16.

They're not going after the 62 millionaires who paid no tax, not even the Medicare levy.

They’re only going after pensioners that really don’t have that much money to begin with.

They have failed to deliver fair funding for schools and have cut funding of students with a disability.

There are new cuts to TAFE and apprenticeships. Vocational education and training is facing a 3% funding cut. 

There’s still no permanent pre-school funding and the continued freeze on university funding means tens of thousands of eligible students will miss out on a place at university.

They're cutting $87.3 million from the ABC, depriving Australians of reliable reporting on the affairs of their government.

They've failed to ensure safe staffing in aged care.


There’s growing speculation that the Turnbull Government will use this radically unfair Budget to go to an election sooner rather than later.

Our growing movement for change will be ready. It’s time to throw this failed government out and change the rules. Will you join us?

Westconnex stage 3 rorts begin

Posted May 9, 2018 by Jade Morellini & filed under Featured Inner West Independent, Inner West Independent.


NSW Planning approved Stage 3 of WestConnex despite receiving formal advice from the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that a more detailed environmental assessment of its impacts on the community was needed.

Along with other government agencies, the EPA was given a final opportunity to respond to the NSW Roads and Maritime Services’ Preferred Infrastructure and Response to Submissions Report (SPIR). The purpose of the SPIR was to respond to thousands of criticisms of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Stage 3 proposal to build a tunnel between St Peters, Haberfield and Rozelle.

In a letter to NSW Planning in February this year, EPA Metropolitan Regional Director Ms. Giselle Howard acknowledged that RMS had addressed some concerns raised by the EPA in its earlier rejection of the EIS, but went on to explain that the agency “reiterates its previous advice that all impacts be “assessed in detail during the Environmental Impact Assessment rather than under post-approval management plans”.

The EIS was limited to a broad assessment of impacts of a ‘concept’ for which no detailed engineering solutions or designs are available. The concept includes a three-layered underground interchange at Rozelle of a sort that has not previously been constructed anywhere in the world. The approval requires a number of post-approval plans before construction begins but these rarely involve detailed environmental assessments and will be approved without any input from community stakeholders. Many plans are regular ‘tick box’ exercises.

I received a copy of the EPA’s final advice through the EPA media’s office on Tuesday May 8th.  I made direct inquiries after I was told last Friday by a NSW Planning staff member that she had confirmed that the government departmental responses to the SPIR are never released and would not be released in this case. Following this advice, I wrote to a senior Planning Department officer Mary Garland, enclosing a link to where government responses had been published for the New M5 and requesting that the responses of the EPA and other agencies be published on the Planning website. I have neither received a response from Planning, nor have the agencies’ responses been published.

The Department’s failure to post the agencies’ responses follows the Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts’ secret approval of the Stage 3 EIS on April 17th. Mr. Roberts did not release his decision until the afternoon of Friday April 27th, and was then not available for comment.

In a planning system with even minimal accountability and transparency, one would expect such critical assessments by the government’s own agencies to be public and open to further assessment. Normally, a conflict between government departments would trigger caution and further assessment.  It is perhaps a sign of increasing fragility of the government’s position on WestConnex that it has attempted to delay the release of the agencies’ responses. The EPA’s reservations are in addition to scores of criticisms in independent peer reviews commissioned by NSW Planning that have been posted on the department’s website. These peer reviews unbelievably include findings that traffic congestion levels would be at ‘saturation’ point in St Peters and queues would back up into tunnels at Haberfield if the planned projects are completed. By then somewhere between $20 and $45 billion will have been spent on a solution that was supposed to be about solving Sydney’s traffic congestion.

The EPA’s criticisms of the NSW Planning approach to WestConnex’s planning decisions reinforces the position of groups campaigning against WestConnex, that the approval is so flawed that it lacks legitimacy. At a protest outside NSW Parliament on May 1st, City of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, Deputy Mayor Jess Miller, three Greens MPs Mehreen Faruqi MLC, Balmain MP Jamie Parker and Newtown MP Jenny Leong, Inner West Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie and Waverley Labor Councillor Marjorie O’Neill ripped up giant facsimiles of the approval to loud cheers.

Although it has not previously rejected a WestConnex EIS so clearly, the NSW EPA has made many criticisms of previous WestConnex EISs. It criticised the lack of time it was given to respond to the M4 East EIS and complained that there were “outstanding issues” with the air quality assessment that had not been addressed. In its response to the New M5 Response to Submissions, it again argued that the RMS’s EIS consultant AECOM had not “comprehensively” or “transparently” addressed outstanding problems with the air quality assessment. Global consultancy firm AECOM, which has been responsible for the EISs for the M4 East, New M5 and M4/M5, has never been required to respond to these criticisms. It was involved in the original planning and promotion of WestConnex and has commercial interests in the project. It is never available for comment as it regards all its WestConnex dealings as ‘commercial in confidence.’ On the other hand, it has recently worked for both RMS and NSW Planning on contracts for other projects, which highlights the lack of independence in the WestConnex planning process.

The EPA carries the responsibility of ensuring WestConnex complies with environmental law and its licences but it cannot halt work when persistent breaches occur; its powers to do so in relation to declared ‘state significant infrastructure’ projects were removed in amendments to the NSW Planning and Assessment Act, passed by the LNP government in 2012 before WestConnex began. This result was that when overpowering odours repeatedly spread over St Peters and nearby communities in 2017, the EPA was unable to order work to stop.

Last week, the EPA initiated a prosecution against CPB Contractors Pty Ltd  (previously known as Leighton Contractors) in the NSW Land and Environment Court for allegedly causing offensive odours from WestConnex St Peters interchange site on four occasions in 2017 in contravention of section 129 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act. A contravention of section 129 can only attract a maximum penalty of $1 million for a corporation.

In December, CPB Contractors’ WestConnex New M5 ‘s major subcontractor Metropolitan Demolition and Recycling Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to providing false information to the EPA in relation to a diary, which was allegedly used to “avoid RMS fees by underreporting overloaded trucks.” During the demolition of scores of residential and industrial buildings in St Peters in early 2017, residents laid many complaints against Metropolitan Demolition and its sub-contractors for unsafe removal of asbestos and failing to control dust. WestConnex refused to supply the names of subcontracting companies on the ground that their identity was confidential commercial information.

Last week, Fairfax Media’s The Age reported fresh evidence that staff of Leighton Holdings (now CIMIC, the owner of CPB Contractors) had been engaged in corruption over offshore contracts up until 2012. Age journalists Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker wrote that the scandal was notable because, despite a substantial amount of evidence, the Federal police have not yet charged a single individual. CIMIC, which has already received $4 billion worth of WestConnex contracts, has been reported to be involved in bidding to buy 50.1% of Sydney Motorway Corporation that controls WestConnex. A CIMIC subsidiary CPB contractor is also shortlisted for the contract for the WestConnex Stage 3 mainline tunnel between St Peters and Haberfield.

Meanwhile, the NSW Labor opposition last week released a secret letter between the New M5 CPB Dragados and Samsung consortium and Sydney Motorway Corporation which revealed that the contractors are claiming an extra $706 million to cover cost blowouts. The New M5 project, which was originally supposed to be completed in 2019 and then 2020, is now likely to be opened in 2021.

Leighton was involved with AECOM in the failed Brisbane toll road project Clem 7. After that collapse, AECOM paid more than $400 million in settlements for damages for making misleading traffic projections.

There is widespread opposition towards WestConnex, including its unaccountable planning decisions and onerous decades of tolling.  But as no hearing or appeals are possible against approvals, only political action, the collapse of financing or the privatisation deal or an inquiry exposing corrupt or secret dealings can now stop Stage 3.

Wendy Bacon who was previously the Professor of Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney is a campaigner against WestConnex. You can find more stories about WestConnex on her blog

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Budget and the NBN Scandle

The federal government is ­exposed to a brutal revision of its $49 billion outlay on the Nat­ional Broadband Network as the project’s commercial return sinks to dangerous lows amid a political storm over slow speeds for millions of customers.

Malcolm Turnbull has rung the alarm on the low returns as he admits there are “real problems” for customers who are not getting the speeds they were promised for services that can cost $80 or more every month.

Official budget advice ­obtained shows the government must review its treatment of the NBN if the commercial return falls below 2.5 per cent, resulting in bigger federal budget deficits and deepening commonwealth debt.

The dangers include cost ­increases in the network rollout and revenue shortfalls from new customers, the twin forces that can drive down the rate of return.

“If this were to occur, it would trigger a review of the treatment of equity funding not yet provided, which could result in some or all future equity contributions to NBN being treated as grants rather than equity, with a flow-on negative impact on underlying cash balance and fiscal balance,” the advice to ministers says.

While the Coalition insists the NBN can be privatised after the rollout is finished in 2020, any revision in the project’s value will trigger a drastic ­writedown in the combined $49bn ­equity and debt being used to connect millions of households.

A major pressure point for the NBN is the competition from mobile, fixed wireless and new 5G services that are growing quickly, according to telco analyst Ian Martin, of New Street Research. Mr Martin said NBN Co’s underlying assumption, that wireless connections would account for 15 per cent of connections, was wrong and would grow to around 25 per cent of the market.

The value of the NBN would be slashed because it would have fewer than anticipated customers and because it would not be able to substantially lift access fees because of competition.

“The NBN needs eight million customers, each generating revenue of $52 a month,” Mr Martin said.

“In our view, they’re not going to get that number of customers, and if wireless goes to 25 per cent of the market the competition means no one is going to be earning $52 revenue.”

Mr Martin said in its recent corporate plan NBN Co dropped any reference to its forecast that wireless connections would be limited to about 15 per cent of the market, indicating it was aware of the problems on the horizon.

The warning in the budget advice to ministers raised the risk that the government would have to cancel all or some of the value of its loans to build the NBN, adding tens of billions of dollars to the nation’s debt.

“In the event NBN was unable to make principal repayments, budget and financial reporting standards may require a reduction in the carrying value of the loan, which would likely have a negative impact to fiscal balance equivalent to the amount written down and also an increase to net debt by this amount,” says the government advice written last year.

Bill Shorten is exposed to the same risk as he promises voters a “first-class” NBN with higher speeds and more fibre connections, a plan that could put pressure on the commercial return and trigger a similar budget ­revision.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd last night blamed Mr Turnbull and the Coalition for overhauling Labor’s NBN plan to appease Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, the publisher of The Australian.

“They changed the model completely. And the reason ­people are not taking it up is ­because what we find is that people don’t see the advantage in terms of reliable bandwidth and bandspeed on the ground,” Mr Rudd told ABC TV last night.

Mr Turnbull admitted the NBN’s finances were “challenging” as he accused Labor of leaving the nation with a “calamitous train wreck” when the Coalition took government in 2013.

“At the moment, it is estimated to deliver a return of around 3 per cent … it is enough to keep it on the government’s balance sheet, as a government asset, but it certainly is not a commercial return that the stockmarket would expect,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Turnbull conceded there was “no way” it could reach a benchmark of 6 per cent.

“We were dealt a very, very bad hand of cards by Labor and we are doing the best with it to get it rolled out,” the Prime Minister said.

“But I have to say this is the fastest rollout of any telecom service in the country’s history.”

The government went to the last election with a plan to invest $19.5bn in equity in NBN while ­allowing it to take on a further $19.5bn in debt from the private sector. Four months after the election, the government said the $19.5bn would be a government loan instead.

The NBN corporate plan ­assumed a financial return that ranged from 2.7 to 3.5 per cent, ­justifying decisions to keep the project “off budget” so the equity is treated as an asset rather than an ongoing expense on construction and operations.

The government had contributed $20.3bn in equity to the NBN by June 2016 and added another $7.2bn in the year to June 2017, ­according to budget papers, which means it is too late for this to be classified as an expense rather than an asset.

“Importantly, funding contributions are classified at the time they are paid and cannot be reclassified at a later point in time,” said the budget advice prepared in May 2016.

Cairns resident Alex Cameron said he had “so many problems” with NBN he bought Telstra’s new Gateway Frontier Modem, which allows him to bypass the NBN.

“If my NBN now fails I don’t care as I will just switch to 4G at no additional costs,” he said.

Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland called on the government to take fibre cable “as deep as possible”.

Melbourne May Day Rally 2018

Union Archive – Your Rights at Work Campaign Video

MEAA says cuts to ABC “dangerous and irresponsible”

MEAA says cuts to ABC “dangerous and irresponsible”

The Federal Budget’s cut of $127 million from the ABC represents a dangerous and irresponsible assault on public broadcasting in Australia, MEAA said.

There are grave implications for audiences seeking news and information, and these cuts only weaken public broadcasting at the very time when commercial broadcasting is struggling due to the challenges of digital disruption – particularly for audiences in rural, regional and remote Australia.

There are also serious implications for television production.

The loss of $43 million in funding to support news and current affairs is particularly short-sighted, as the ABC can and must play a crucial role in providing high quality public interest journalism in the era of “fake news” and social media platforms stripping revenue from commercial news media.

MEAA Media director Katelin McInerney said: “The $43 million cut to dedicated news funding and the freezing of indexed funding at a cost of $84 million are crippling blows to the ABC and follow years of under-funding by the Abbott and Turnbull Governments. Including last night’s announcement, almost $400 million has been cut from ABC funding since 2014. ABC base funding has been cut in real terms by almost 25 per cent over the past 30 years.

“These funding cuts have placed enormous stress upon the ABC which, last night, was once again being asked to do more with less.

“The timing of these cuts could not be worse: in the lead-up to a federal election when strong journalism to independently scrutinise politicians’ claims and counter claims will be needed. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the ABC to deliver original investigative journalism and local and regional newsgathering with these deep cuts to its funding,” McInerney said.

“The spate of highly-politicised assaults on public broadcasting by the Government in recent years fly in the face of calls made to restore funding. In February, the Senate Select Committee into the Future of Public Interest Journalism recommended that the Government must ensure adequate funding for the ABC and SBS to ensure they meet their charter obligations – particularly in rural and regional services and fact-checking capacity,” McInerney said.

“Right now, the ABC is already seeking to cut 20 journalist positions in a proposed restructure, cuts that will hurt its local newsrooms and in turn, starve local communities of quality reporting of news stories that matter to them. Every time the Government announces these politically-motivated assaults on the ABC it is local communities that suffer.”

MEAA Equity director Zoe Angus warned: “These Federal Government cuts also represent a dangerous threat to the creation of original Australian television production, particularly drama. It is this type of short-sighted and devastating cuts to funding that has spurred the Make it Australian campaign. The constant slashing of funding by Governments endangers the ABC's ability to produce quality Australian screen content and fulfill its important cultural role in Australian storytelling.

"Even before last night's Budget, more than $250 million had been cut from the ABC since 2014. Over this same period, the ABC’s commissioning budgets for adult drama and children’s content each dropped by 20%. Given their important cultural role, the ABC must be properly funded and future funding must be guaranteed so that productions can be developed with certainty," Angus said.

ACOSS – Budget Bypasses Those in Greatest Hardship and Undermines Essential Services

8 May 2018

ACOSS responded today to the Government’s Budget, pointing out that more tax cuts are the wrong priority at the wrong time, will not help the majority of people on low incomes, and will deprive governments of the ability to fund essential services and restore the budget.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO, said:

  • “No sooner have we seen five minutes of budget sunshine then the Government has committed itself to seven years of income tax cuts. This is not a disciplined and responsible approach to budgeting. There is a seven year plan for tax cuts, but where’s the seven year plan for reducing poverty among adults and children, guaranteeing growth funding for health care, and closing the gaps in essential services such as mental and dental health and affordable housing?
  • “It is shameful that the Government has chosen to ignore the overwhelming consensus to help people on the lowest incomes, by increasing the woefully inadequate Newstart and student payments, as a matter of priority.
  • “Instead the Government has chosen to give away personal income tax cuts for people including the highest income-earners in the country. The maximum benefits of the new tax offset ($11 a week) will go to people earning $48,000 to $90,000, not low income-earners. Higher income earners will be the beneficiaries of lifting the $87K threshold to $90K taxable income. The lowest 40% of individuals by income will receive nothing or very little, up to $4 per week. This first stage of tax cuts alone will cost the budget $13 billion.
  • “The seven year tax plan hands out increasingly generous tax cuts that will disproportionately benefit higher income-earners. These tax cuts, on top of the corporate tax cuts, will clearly deprive future governments of the revenue we need to guarantee essential services. There are some welcome measures to stem tax avoidance, such as refusing tax deductions for vacant land, modest measures to tackle the use of trusts for tax avoidance purposes, and action to limit profit shifting by multinational corporations. Measures on the black economy are also welcome. However, these measures go nowhere near compensating for the lost revenue from the 7 year tax plan.
  • “The planned tax cuts and the arbitrary revenue cap of 23.9% to GDP place us in a damaging fiscal straightjacket. Australia is already one of the lowest taxing countries in the OECD, and with tax cuts for years ahead, we clearly could not guarantee essential services and a decent safety net to meet community needs. Tax cuts risk extending user pays for essential services leading to greater out of pocket costs.
  • “The increase of 14,000 home aged care packages is welcome, and starts to deal with a backlog of 100,000 packages. The focus on quality and transparency is also welcome. However, this aged care package highlights the yawning gaps that remain in essential services, and tonight’s announcement only begins to fill those gaps.
  • “The $1B increase in hospitals funding is also welcome, but only restores funding cuts that would have otherwise commenced in 2020. Similarly, the Medicare rebate freeze is ending. We cannot afford to keep taking one step forward and another step back in health funding. Adequate growth funds must be guaranteed and a stronger revenue base is the only way to achieve this.
  • “Other more modest measures that we welcome include the remote housing funding for the Northern Territory ($550 million), a small boost mental health services and continuity of support services for some people not eligible for the NDIS ($92 million).
  • “Commitments in education, including schools and early childhood funding, are also welcome but do not give the assurances we need that public schools and preschools will be adequately funded into the future.
  • “The harshest change in this budget affects some of the most vulnerable people in the community: new migrants lacking paid work, who will be left without income support for the first four years. This is not the way to welcome people to this country and help them contribute to its future prosperity.
  • “There are small changes to one of the harshest existing schemes, the Community Development Program for remote Indigenous communities, including a new wage subsidy scheme and slight reduction in the hours they need to work for their benefits, but the changes do not restore incomes to the thousands of people losing income support when they are penalised under this scheme, and some could make matters worse.
  • “The proposal to deduct State Government fines from social security payments without their agreement is unnecessary, intrusive, and could leave many people homeless. The ball is in the States’ court to reform the system of court-ordered fines so that people are no longer imprisoned because they can’t afford to pay.
  • “A responsible budget would strengthen the revenue base so that the government can do its job, especially to provide the essential services people need and protect people from poverty. Unfortunately this budget does the opposite, and the budget mistakes of the 2000s are being repeated.”

MUA – Abbott/Turnbull Government Has Sat On Its Hands Over Fuel Security

Posted by Sofia Madden on May 07, 2018

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has accused the Turnbull Government of sitting on its hands over fuel security, with our nation having been non-compliant with the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation since March 2012.

The Turnbull government today announced it would undertake a National Energy Security Assessment due to concerns over declining domestic production, diminishing refining capacity and concerns over potential flashpoints I the Middle East and South China Sea.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said that while the Government is running the line that the last National Energy Security Assessment was in 2011, the truth is that a number of inquiries and reports have touched on the important issue of fuel security.

  • “The Senate has held inquiries into both fuel security and flag-of-convenience shipping, while the Energy White Paper and Defence White Paper also investigated our increasing reliance on foreign fuel,” Bray said.
  • “Unlike the Abbott/Turnbull Government, the MUA has continually led the debate on fuel security in recent years but this has fallen on deaf ears with the number of Australian-crewed tankers now down to zero.
  • “There are now no Australian-crewed tankers supplying fuel to our nation, down from 12 in the year 2000. At the same time, the number of refineries has halved to four. This means we now import more than 90 per cent of our fuel and that number is rising.”

Engineers Australia told the fuel security Senate inquiry in 2015 that Australia's total stockholding of oil and liquid fuel comprised two weeks of supply at sea, five to 12 days' supply at refineries, 10 days of refined stock at terminals and three days at service stations.

The NRMA’s figures indicated that Australia only retained enough fuel in stockholdings to continue delivery of chilled and frozen goods for seven days, dry goods for nine days, hospital pharmacy supplies for three days, retail pharmacy for seven days, and petrol stations for three days.

  • “All of these doomsday scenarios have been heard before yet the Government expects us to believe the trigger for an emergency has only just occurred – they are playing us for mugs.
  • “Australians would expect our Government to have a better plan and this would involve more refining here and Australian-crewed ships to carry it around the coast.
  • “This isn’t only a matter of fuel security but also national security. Unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast,” Bray said.

With the nation facing heightened concerns over fuel security, the MUA has reminded the Australian community that the cost of hiring Aussie seafarers to move fuel around our coast averages out to less than one cent per litre at the bowser.

“It is also true that unlike the United States, in a time of national emergency, the Australian Government has no means to use an act of Parliament to second ships to a merchant navy. There is also the added problem that there are very few Australian-flagged and crewed ships.”

A copy of the Senate Inquiry Report can be found here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Karl Polanyi — a contradictory, but vital economic thinker

As a well-known British socialist activist and an academic political economist, Gareth Dale is thus ideally placed to write about Karl Polanyi, writes Derek Wall.

Polanyi was a leading 20th century critic of the free market economics that crystallised into the neoliberal system that is now threatening our planet.

Polanyi, born in Vienna in 1886, is best known for his 1944 book The Great Transformation. He is often cited by anti-capitalists from a variety of perspectives and his work provides a well developed account of the flaws of a market based approach.

Essentially, he argued that the free market approach that views humans as motivated by self interest, and that the more markets are promoted the better things will be, is deeply flawed. Polanyi used historical and anthropological sources to suggest that while markets may have existed in the past, economics is about more than markets. At the same time, economic activity in human history generally came second to collective social goals.

Polanyi suggested thus that far from being natural, markets were to a large extent artificial and were often imposed by elite interests. Polanyi, who died in 1964, never used the term neoliberalism, but the idea that markets were exploited and built by powerful regressive state interests was part of his approach.

Too often, we think of markets and states as being opposites. But with neoliberalism, far from stepping back, the state pumps cash into corporations even while it cuts spending on social services. Polanyi analysed the trajectory of this tendency that today dominates society.

In turn, Polanyi believed that the extension of the market would destroy the environment and degrade human societies.

Polanyi is becoming better known, but it can be difficult to understand where his ideas came from and the extent to which they are useful to the 21st century left. Dale thus provides an important service in writing about Polanyi in a way that is interesting and clear, but academically strong.

Dale has written two other books on Polanyi, including a detailed biography. In Reconstructing Polanyi, Dale does what the title describes; he shows where Polanyi found his key ideas, how he developed them and how they can be criticised.

Polayni’s intellectual history is complex. Austria and much of central Europe in the first four decades of the 20th century was a place of intellectual ferment. Polanyi was a heterodox thinker, he often drew upon contradictory sources and seemed to have picked up ideas whereever he could find them.

Dale, while suggesting the power of more orthodox forms of Marxist political economy, seems to find this trait attractive. Polanyi drew upon functionalist anthropology, Christian socialism, Marxism and paradoxically perhaps some forms of Austrian free market thought.

Functionalist anthropologists such as Bronislaw Malinowski argued that economic activity was rooted in cultural and social needs, and is thus collective and rejected the notion of markets based on individualism. Despite being a critique of the market, Polanyi seemed to have accepted the pre-Keynesian assumption that government intervention in markets leads to costly mistakes.

Bizarrely, his equally well-known brother Michal Polanyi accepted a free market critique of socialism, but was a strong advocate of Keynesian economics based on using government intervention to reduce the effects of economic crisis and to sustain capitalism.

Nothing about Karl Polanyi is simple. To take one example, Dale does a good job of examining his contradictory and changing attitude to Marx’s thought and to the Soviet Union. While not a Marxist Polanyi was increasingly drawn to Marx’s thought. McCarthyism, a paranoid fear of “reds under the beds” in the US, affected him and his brother (ironic given Michael’s anti-communism).

The book is full of gems and every paragraph reads like a dense fascinating summary of big debates. There is much of interest here. I was particularly taken with the description of the class nature of ancient Sumerian religion: “When the lesser gods discovered class struggle and refused to work, their overlords — Enki, Enlil, Anu and the mother goddess (Mama) — decided to create a new race to take on the task of labour.

“They slaughtered one of the cleaver worker gods (perhaps the rebel ringleader) and, combining his divine flesh with earthly clay, brought humans into being.”

Polanyi can often be criticised and the academic anthropology he drew upon has sometimes been revised by more recent research. But Dale shows that his work is still vital if we are to challenge neoliberalism and construct a socialist alternative that is equal, economically viable and ecologically sustainable.