Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ACOSS–Welcome words on Newstart but we need action

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) welcomes the Leader of the Opposition’s clear acknowledgement today that the rate of Newstart is too low and calls on both the major parties to commit to raising the rate. 

  • “We welcome Mr Shorten’s acknowledgement of what has been clear to the community, unions, business and experts for a long time – that $39 a day is not enough to cover the basics of life. We need more than a review,” said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.
  • “We don’t need a review to know that Newstart is trapping people in poverty. We need a clear commitment to immediately increase the single rate of Newstart by at least $75 a week.
  • “The evidence is in. There is broad agreement across the community, from business groups, the union movement and a growing number of politicians, including the Greens, Labor Chief Ministers, independents and Mayors, as well as John Howard and John Hewson, that we must finally lift the rate of Newstart after 24 years. 
  • “Most people receiving Newstart live below the poverty line. It is very hard to look for a job when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or how to put food on the table for your kids.
  • “People cannot afford to wait for relief while a review is carried out. The Morrison Government must act immediately to increase the single rate of Newstart and the Shorten Opposition needs to commit now to raising Newstart by at least $75 per week should it win government.
  • “Many of us are a job loss or a relationship break down away from relying on our social security safety net and 70% of voters believe Newstart should be increased. Politicians must heed the calls from right across the community on the need for a decent social security safety net.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

ACTU – Independent body needed to oversee energy shift: report

30 October 2018

The peak body for working people has backed calls for an independent statutory body to manage energy transition for working people and their communities, as a major report warning of the dangers of inaction was released.

The Ruhr or Appalachia? report from the University of New South Wales Industrial Relations Research Centre identifies key characteristics of successful and unsuccessful approaches to communities in transition globally to inform approaches to transition in Australia.

The report recommends a national transition authority to oversee the energy sector transition and protect workers and communities affected by the transition to clean energy.

Such an authority would co-ordinate support for workers through income assistance, redeployment, retraining and early retirement.

The report also recommends programs to facilitate investment in high-tech industries and services in affected areas, and public sector infrastructure investment to create local employment in affected areas.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “People working in industries, regions and communities that are exposed to energy transition have contributed a huge amount to Australia. Their wellbeing should be ensured as our energy system changes. Communities that are facing transition must flourish, not just survive.
  • “International experience shows that without firm, competent and consistent direction from a national body, people in coal-power dependent communities can suffer enormously.
  • “That’s why we need an independent statutory body to manage energy transition and make sure that communities and people at the heart of this transition benefit from it.
  • “We know that this is achievable because it has been done before – in Germany, in the Netherlands and in Singapore for instance.
  • “We also know that getting it wrong can cause enormous suffering and poverty, as we have seen in the Appalachian region of the USA.
  • “It’s up to our leaders to choose the path that will look after working Australians affected by energy transition and allow communities and regions to thrive.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The targeting of Trump critics reveals about America's rotting core

Political violence in the United States has tended to come in two forms. The first consists of simply unhinged acts, like John Hinckley Jr shooting Ronald Reagan in the hope of impressing the actress Jodie Foster, or Timothy McVeigh hoping to bring down the government with a bomb. The second is more systematic and sinister: the violence used to keep down groups who threaten the social and political order. This is the violence of strikebreakers and the KKK. It is the violence that killed Emmett Till, an African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly wolf-whistling at a white woman.

Has age of Trump's violent rhetoric brought 'the awful' back to US politics?

A key feature of the second type of violence is that it has often been perpetrated by private individuals while serving the interests of public authorities. This is why the authorities encourage it. Till’s killers walked free because Mississippi’s court system would not convict them, understanding that their act reinforced white supremacy at a time when it was under threat from desegregation. This was violence of the people, by the people, for the government.

This is the correct context in which to understand the bomb scares that have recently affected Barack Obama, the Clintons, Eric Holder, George Soros and others. We don’t yet know the state of mind of those responsible. But the identity of the targets chosen (primarily women, African Americans and a Jew) and the fact they are all known enemies of the president of the United States tells us something deeply disturbing about the state of America today.

Unhinged threats and acts of violence have been on the rise in American politics recently, such as the shooting last year of Republican congressman Steve Scalise. But most notable of all and influential for the culture has been the rise of a president who talks frequently and vividly about the desirability of violence being done to his opponents, and supporters who revel in it.
The nationalism that fuels Trump’s movement is based on the idea that the country can be divided into two groups. One is the pure and virtuous true Americans, the overwhelmingly white crowd who come to his rallies. The other group consists of minorities, elites and Democrats who stand poised to sell out the “real” Americans if they are given a chance.

Hence Trump’s political opponents are cast as “globalists” who “want the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country”. They support “caravans” of “unknown Middle Easterners” (read: terrorists) who are coming to threaten the security of the country. They rely in elections on the votes of millions of non-American “illegals”, as Trump suggested of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Most of all, Trump has been obsessed with overturning the legacy of his first political foil, President Obama, who he alleged was literally foreign-born and hence not a real American.

The threat of violence has never been far behind. Trump suggested that Obama was the “founder” of Isis and that the group, which the US is pledged to destroy, “honors” him. He said that “second amendment people” might be best-placed to deal with Hillary Clinton. Only last week he praised a Republican congressman for body-slamming a Guardian journalist who asked him a question he didn’t like.

 It is no surprise that this febrile atmosphere, in which any lie can be justified if it paints the president’s opponents as traitors, would lead to violence
Trump and his supporters see themselves as engaged in an apocalyptic struggle to defend America against a coalition of liberal whites and ethnic minorities who seek to degrade it. They are fueled by a conservative media machine which simply invents lies and outlandish conspiracy theories if they serve the needs of the movement – such as that the recent spate of attempted bombings was carried out by liberals seeking to embarrass President Trump.

It is no surprise that this febrile atmosphere, in which any lie can be justified if it paints the president’s opponents as traitors, would lead to violence. But what is particularly disturbing is that the propaganda that inspires this violence has been outsourced to private organizations, meaning no simple change of government by election can end it. Nowadays, even the president himself gets his daily talking points by parroting Fox News, which he believes over his own government officials. The rot is pernicious and deep, and it will inevitably lead to more violence.

 The worst aspect of the US attempted bombings? Their air of inevitability

In other times and places, groups of private individuals willing to deploy violence on behalf of a particular vision of the state have been instrumental in the rise of fascism. America, because it still has strong institutions despite the damage of the Trump era, is not there yet. But parts of the foundation are sinking into place, and it is unlikely they can be uprooted without a concerted effort.

Changing course depends on Trump’s brand of nationalism not being seen to pay political dividends. The question of whether the conservative movement will play with fire in order to gain power is no longer in doubt; they will and they are. The question now is whether they can get away with it. The election in two weeks will either be a warning to them or a vindication – a vindication that might tempt the president and his followers inside and outside of government to who knows what extremes in the future.

Growing Sydney Support For Refugees

Friday, October 26, 2018

ACTU – Fair Pay Rises Needed To Save Our Savings

25 October 2018

Working people will soon be forced to raid whatever long-term savings they have to keep up with the rapidly rising cost of living thanks to flat-lining wage growth according to federal Treasury secretary Phil Gaetjens.

Household savings are at a 10 year low at around 1 per cent of income after spending. Using these savings for everyday expenses is completely unsustainable.

Wages are going backwards in real terms for most Australian workers while the cost of everyday expenses like energy, housing and transport grow significantly faster than CPI.

In the year to June 2018:

  • Childcare increased by an average 6%
  • Housing increased by an average 3.1%
  • Electricity increased by an average 10.4%
  • Gas increased by an average 7.10%
  • Transport costs increased by an average 5.2%
  • Health costs increased by an average 3.4%
  • Education costs increased by an average 2.7%
  • In the six years to June federal politicians enjoyed an average annual pay increase of 5.34%, while working people’s average wages stood still or went backwards in real terms.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:  

  • “People are being driven to desperation by the Morrison Government’s refusal to address the wage growth crisis.
  • “Kelly O’Dwyer is out of touch with working people. They are about to dig into their savings to make ends meet, and she refuses to accept that there is an issue.
  • “The Abbott/Tunrbull/Morrison government has actively worked against  working people trying to get fair pay rises. It has slashed penalty rates, presided over a massive drop in enterprise bargaining and backed big business at every turn.
  • “The government has to accept that its trickle down economic experiment has failed. Working people are in the middle of a wages crisis and its hurting the economy.
  • “The government has fought  against harsher penalties for wage theft and better legal rights for workers to easily claim back the money they are owed, against sector bargaining which would give working people the tools to win fair pay rises, and against working peoples right to a living wage not just a minimum wage.
  • “We need to change the rules for working people so that we win fair pay rises that stay ahead of the cost of living.”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

UK – MPs pass bill demanding legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland

MPs have backed a bid that would ramp up pressure on the government to reform abortion and gay marriage laws in Northern Ireland.

Cheers rang out as politicians voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Labour amendment that would force the government to monitor human rights compliance in Northern Ireland over same-sex marriage and terminations, both of which are matters devolved to Stormont.

The bid, led by Stella Creasy and Labour MP Conor McGinn, was approved by 207 votes to 117, as part of an emergency bill to restore stability to the region's public services.

It piles further pressure on Theresa May to act over strict abortion laws in Northern Ireland, and comes only a day after a string of Tory minister broke ranks to back a backbench bill that would legalise terminations in the region.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning executive since power-sharing collapsed last year, forcing ministers to fast-track legislation through the Commons while politicians at Stormont try to resolve their differences.

The new Northern Ireland bill, which sets out how the country is run without a government, will make it harder for Westminster to stand back from reforming the ban on terminations and same-sex marriage.

Laws created in Westminster are having a direct impact on the lives of people in Northern Ireland, as women who have been raped could face longer prison sentences than their attackers and gay couples do not have the right to equal marriage in 2018, Ms Creasy said.

She told MPs: “This amendment would not create a new law in Northern Ireland but what it would do is recognise that there are thousands of people in Northern Ireland whose lives right now are affected by two key human rights issues.

“They are human rights issues because they are issues on which our courts are currently discussing, ruling and indeed appealing.

“They refer in particular to the right of somebody to be able to marry who they love and the right of women to have bodily autonomy.”

Mother 'in fear' over prosecution for buying daughter abortion pills

Some 28 women a week are travelling to England to access terminations on the NHS, a process the Supreme Court deemed “cruel and degrading treatment of our own citizens”, she said, while 84 couples had civil partnerships last year rather than getting married.

Ms Creasy urged MPs not to "use devolution as a decoy for a denial of their human rights", adding: "People in Northern Ireland need to hear that their lives are not going to be the casualty of the chaos we're seeing right now in Northern Ireland."

Tory MP Anna Soubry also spoke in support, saying: "All it means is somewhere in the region of 28 women every week have to come to England and Wales, so the laws are not working in any event.

"It just makes it even more barbaric because women have to travel to exercise the same rights that my constituents have."

Following the vote,  Richard Bentley, Marie Stopes UK's managing director, said: "We are heartened by this show of solidarity with the people of Northern Ireland. For too long they have been treated as second-class citizens, with women and girls denied healthcare in breach of their human rights.

"This amendment is a significant step forward on the path to equality, holding Westminster accountable for monitoring and addressing these issues, and giving guidance to civil servants in Northern Ireland on the issue of abortion."

The bill was given its third reading and will now go to the Lords for further scrutiny.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hard Brexit ‘could cripple UK science’, warn Nobel laureates

Hard Brexit ‘could cripple UK science’, warn Nobel laureates

'The overwhelming negativity of scientists towards a hard Brexit should be a wake-up call to the country and the government'

World-leading scientists and mathematicians from across Europe have warned against a hard Brexit if the UK is to preserve its vital research.

In a letter addressed to Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, 29 Nobel Prize winning scientists and six winners of the prestigious Fields Medal urged them to pursue the “closest possible cooperation”.

French biologist Jules Hoffmann, Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen and ​German biologist Christiane Nusslein-Volhard were among those warning that leaving the EU could establish barriers to scientific partnerships that have provided a massive boost for European research.

“Many of us in the science community therefore regret the UK’s decision to leave the EU because it risks such barriers,” they wrote.

The call was reinforced by a survey at the UK’s biggest biomedical lab, the Francis Crick Institute, which found 97 per cent of its researchers believed a hard Brexit would be bad for British science. Half also expressed a desire to leave the UK due to Brexit.

Sir Paul Nurse, the institute’s director and one of the letter’s signees, said a hard Brexit “could cripple UK science and the government needs to sit up and listen”.

“The overwhelming negativity of scientists towards a hard Brexit should be a wake-up call to the country and the government,” he said.

“We need a deal that replaces the science funding lost because of Brexit, that preserves freedom of movement for talented scientists, and that makes them feel welcome in this country.”

Scientists have been vocal in their criticism of the government’s approach to leaving the EU, which they say will lose them millions in research funding and throw their projects into disarray.

Royal Society president Venki Ramakrishnan, another signee, has warned that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the scientific community. 

Many scientists have expressed their support for a second Brexit referendum, a cause which saw 700,000 people gather in London on Saturday.

Sir Paul was among the top scientists to back The Independent’s campaign for a Final Say on the Brexit deal, alongside Nobel prize winner Sir Fraser Stoddart and astronomer royal Lord Martin Rees.

Another Final Say supporter, Royal Society of Edinburgh president Dame Anne Glover echoed the sentiments of the letter as she called on the prime minister to secure the closest possible research relationship with the EU.

“This includes providing for the UK’s full participation in the European framework programmes for research and innovation, and ensuring that universities and research institutions can continue to recruit talented researchers and the staff that are needed to underpin the UK’s research base from a global pool,” she said.

Ms May has previously indicated she wants the UK to remain fully associated with the EU and its Horizon 2020 funding programme.

However, scientists have pointed out that under current plans Britain stands to lose around half a billion pounds of funding in the case of a no-deal outcome, and the positions of UK researchers leading European projects look precarious.

Around one in six academic staff at UK universities are EU nationals, and the legal status of them and their families may not be protected after Brexit.

Researchers warn that besides the livelihoods of those working in the sector, the decline of British science should be a concern to everyone due to knock-on effects on everything from medicine to environmental protection.

“The challenges we face must be tackled in a manner that benefits everyone and those challenges are better faced together,” the Nobel laureates wrote in their letter.

“Only a deal which allows the closest possible cooperation between the UK and the EU, now and in the future, will make that possible.”

Massive workers rally has shut down Melbourne's CBD

A massive workers rally has shut down Melbourne's CBD, sending public transport into chaos and blocking roads to thousands of motorists.

Change the Rules rally, a protest calling for better working conditions and a national pay rise, which began at 10.30am at Trades Hall, on the corner of Lygon and Victoria streets, is slowly moving through the city.

Thousands of protesters signed up to march in the rally, which has closed parts of Lygon, Victoria and Swanston streets.

About 150,000 protesters are signed up to march in the rally, which has closed parts of Lygon, Victoria and Swanston streets.

The protesters will walk along Russell and La Trobe Streets before making their way down Swanston Street to Flinders Street Station.

Trams are operating with limited service in the city, with most stopping at the edge of the CBD until the delays clears around 12.30pm.

The city circle tram is impacted as well as trams that operate along Bourke, Swanston, Collins and La Trobe streets.

Thousands Rally in PERTH

About 4000 trade union members rallied in Perth's Solidarity Park on October 18 to kick off the nationwide series of Change the Rules protests organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Addressing the crowd, ACTU secretary Sally McManus said: “We rally because we will not accept record low wage growth at a time when profits are up and CEO pay and bonuses are up.

“We rally because Australia needs a pay rise.

“We rally because we know how horribly the rules are broken.”

“As much as they try to defeat us, what they don’t understand is this: You cannot stop working people standing together, you cannot stop ideas and belief in a fair go, no law can stop that.

“Together we are mighty, we are unbreakable and we are unstoppable.”

Transport Workers Union (TWU) state secretary Tim Dawson spoke about their dispute with Transdev, a private company contracted by the Western Australian state government to run part of Transperth's bus network.

Dawson slammed the fact that the rate of casualisation had risen from 20% to 60 % within the space of two years.

Bus drivers responded by announcing they would take protected industrial action over October 11-12 and allow passengers to ride for free.

TWU Transdev delegate Lee Patterson told the crowd how Transdev responded to the threat of industrial action by standing down drivers for 48 hours with no pay.

Dawson said further industrial actions, such as rolling stoppages, would continue until TWU members got a decent pay rise and employers, whether the state government or a private company, recognised the need for workers to have secure jobs and conditions.

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) state secretary Mike Zoetbrood paid tribute to the 1600 Alcoa workers who recently spent 52 days on strike and condemned the Fair Work Commission (FWC), saying: “We should rename the Fair Work Commission to the Bosses Court, because when the bosses go there to get an order against workers or their union, they get it.

"When the bosses go there to take away workers penalty rates, they get it. When the bosses go there to tear up worker's enterprise agreements they get it.

“Where's the fairness in that?”

The FWC ruled in Alcoa’s favour to block AWU members employed at its Pinjarra work site from attending the rally.

British oil and gas multinational BP has announced that it too is going to the FWC, to seek the termination of its agreement with 200 AWU members at its Kwinana facility.

AWU oil and gas organiser Alana Herbert told the rally: “For more than 18 months, BP has produced deals that have gotten progressively worse.

“Our members have voted ‘No’ by at least 98% to one of these and what does BP do? Produce another even worse agreement so they can go to the commission and say we aren’t ready to make a deal.”

Speakers from Unions WA, the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union and Electrical Trades Union also addressed the rally.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Stolen super continues to rise

Stolen super continues to rise
22 October 2018

Industry Super Australia has released new figures showing superannuation theft from Australian workers has continued to increase under the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government.

The research by the industry group revealed that 2.98 million workers have had $5.9 billion in superannuation stolen in 2015-16, an increase of 220,000 workers and $300 million over the last two years.

One in three workers are having their super stolen with an average of $1,994 per year or $77 per fortnight stolen from each worker.

Young workers and those in insecure work are most vulnerable, part time and casual workers making less than $30,000 per year are 33% more likely to have super stolen than full time workers on higher salaries.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly: 

  • “This is appalling abuse of workers by employers. This is not a few bad apples, this is systemic disregard of the rights of working people. This is theft as a business model.
  • “This level of theft is difficult for ordinary people to comprehend. There is one set of rules for employers and another for working people.
  • “We need the restore the right for workers’ representatives to inspect pay records and ensure that pay and super and wages are being paid in full.
  • “Where working people have had superannuation stolen the independent umpire must be empowered to deliver swift, low-cost, plain-language access to justice, including restoration of stolen super.”
  • “We have to change the rules on wage and super theft, employers must pay full legal wages and entitlements.”

ACTU – Nationwide rallies calling for a fair go for workers

Thousands of workers will fill the streets in Sydney, Wollongong, Gladstone, Cairns, Mackay, Darwin, Rockhampton, Townsville, and Melbourne tomorrow, calling on the Federal Government to change the rules so working people have pay rises that keep up with the cost of living.

Between October 18 in Perth and November 20 in Canberra and Brisbane, workers from 22 locations are taking to the streets across Australia.

Wage growth is at near record lows, with four out of five working people not getting pay rises that keep up with the cost of living.

The current Australian minimum wage is not a living wage, and is no longer keeping people out of poverty. Tomorrow, more than 28,000 people are homeless but working full-time.

Forty percent of working people are in insecure work – either in casual work, dependent on contracting, in labour hire, getting too few hours, or in the gig economy.

We need to change the rules so working people get a fair go, fair pay rises, and jobs they can count on.

Working people need the tools and power to win fair pay rises. This includes making our bargaining system fair, increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, ensuring award minimums improve over time, penalty rates to be restored, wage theft ended, and secure and equal pay for women.


Melbourne, Victorian Trades Hall, 10:30am
Sydney, Belmore Park, 12pm

Wollongong, Wollongong Mall 12pm
Gladstone, Marina Parklands Area E, 12pm

Cairns, Fogarty Park Sound Shell, 12:30pm
Mackay, Bluewater Quay, 12pm

Darwin, Senator Nigel Scullion’s Office, 4pm
Rockhampton, Riverside Park Auditorium, 5pm
Townsville, Strand Park, 5pm

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Working people in Australia are demanding that the rules are changed.
  • “This political protest is aimed at making Scott Morrison and Federal politicians listen - Our wages are going backwards, families are struggling, too many people are stuck in insecure work.
  • ‘We need to bring back balance to the system so working people get fair pay rises.
  • “It is not right that profits are up, CEO bonuses are up, but our pay is not.”

ACTU – O’Dwyer backs business, betrays working people

18 October 2018

The peak body for working people has slammed Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer’s decision to back a massive foreign-owned labour hire business in a court case about the rights of casual workers.

The Minister’s decision to intervene on the side of the company is evidence that she is governing in in the interests of big business rather than those of working people.

The case, which the company is seeking to be heard by the Full Federal Court, is an attempt to sidestep a recent decision of the court in the case of Workpac V Skene. In that earlier case the Court found that a worker who had been incorrectly classified as a casual by the company was entitled to the payment of accrued leave after his employment had come to an end. The company decided not to appeal that earlier decision.

The intervention comes after questions were raised about collusion between the Morrison Government, Workpac and private lobbying companies when leaked emails between lobbyists and parliamentarians appeared to show that the Morrison Government was directing lobbying efforts to pass legislation that would overturn the decision and erode the rights of working people.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:  

  • “This is the Minister once again coming down on the side of big business and against the pay and rights of ordinary workers.
  • “The court has rightly exposed that big business has been cheating workers out of their entitlements. To use taxpayer money to undermine that decision shows how biased and out of touch Kelly O’Dwyer and the Morrison Government are.
  • “There is a long history of case law about what makes a person a casual and it is very clear that people who have fixed and continuous work are entitled to accrued leave.
  • “Big businesses in the labour hire industry have been caught abusing the casual classification and they’re trying to escape paying working people the money they’re owed.
  • “Kelly O’Dwyer is helping them keep them myth of the ‘permanent casual’ alive and to strip workers of their rights.  
  • “At a time when more than 40 percent of Australian are in insecure or non-standard forms of work, when wage growth is at near-record lows, working people should have a Minister that stands up for their rights.
  • “Instead they have one who joins cashed-up foreign-owned businesses and high-priced lawyers who are trampling those rights.
  • “I call on the Minister to withdraw her intervention in this court case and to speak out for the rights of working people as they were made clear in Workpac V Skene and many earlier cases.”  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Paul Krugman – The Trump Tax Scam

When the Trump tax cut was on the verge of being enacted, I called it “the biggest tax scam in history,” and made a prediction: deficits would soar, and when they did, Republicans would once again pretend to care about debt and demand cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Sure enough, the deficit is soaring. And this week Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, after declaring the surge in red ink “very disturbing,” called for, you guessed it, cuts in “Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.” He also suggested that Republicans might repeal the Affordable Care Act — taking away health care from tens of millions — if they do well in the midterm elections.

Any political analyst who didn’t see this coming should find a different profession. After all, “starve the beast” — cut taxes on the rich, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse to hack away at the safety net — has been G.O.P. strategy for decades.

Oh, and anyone asking why Republicans believed claims that the tax cut would pay for itself is being naïve. Whatever they may have said, they never actually believed that the tax cut would be deficit-neutral; they pushed for a tax cut because it was what wealthy donors wanted, and because their posturing as deficit hawks was always fraudulent. They didn’t really buy into economic nonsense; it would be more accurate to say that economic nonsense bought them.

That said, even I have been surprised by a couple of things about the G.O.P.’s budget bait-and-switch. One is the timing: I would have expected McConnell to hold his tongue until after the midterms. The other is the lying: I knew Donald Trump and his allies would be dishonest, but I didn’t expect the lies to be as baldfaced as they are.

What are they lying about? For starters, about the causes of a sharply higher deficit, which they claim is the result of higher spending, not lost revenue. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, even tried to claim that the deficit is up because of the costs of hurricane relief.

The flimsy justification for such claims is that in dollar terms, federal revenue over the past year is slightly up from the previous year, while spending is about 3 percent higher.

But that’s a junk argument, and everyone knows it. Both revenue and spending normally grow every year thanks to inflation, population growth and other factors. Revenue during Barack Obama’s second term grew more than 7 percent a year. The sources of the deficit surge are measured by how much we’ve deviated from that normal growth, and the answer is that it’s all about the tax cut.

Dishonesty about the sources of the deficit is, however, more or less a standard Republican tactic. What’s new is the double talk that pervades G.O.P. positioning on the budget and, to be fair, just about every major policy issue.

What do I mean by double talk? Well, consider the fact that even as McConnell blames “entitlements” (that is, Medicare and Social Security) for deficits, and declares (falsely) that Medicare in particular is “unsustainable,” Paul Ryan’s super PAC has been running ads accusing Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare. The cynicism is breathtaking.

But then, it’s no more cynical than the behavior of Republicans like Dean Heller, Josh Hawley and even Ted Cruz who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which protects Americans with pre-existing medical conditions, or supported a lawsuit trying to strip that protection out of the act, and are now running on the claim that they want to … protect people with pre-existing conditions.

The point is that we’re now in a political campaign where one side’s claimed position on every major policy issue is the opposite of its true position. Republicans have concluded that they can’t win an argument on the issues, but rather than changing their policies, they’re squirting out clouds of ink and hoping voters won’t figure out where they really stand.

ANMF calls for evacuation of children from Nauru

Friday 19th October, 2018

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has joined the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses and other healthcare professionals in calling on the Prime Minister to urgently evacuate over 85 children and their families from the Nauru and Manus island detention camps.

They say nurses have a “responsibility to advocate for the fair and compassionate treatment of people who at risk and in need of health care, including those who are enduring mental health distress and despair.”

The Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Annie Butler, said Mr Morrison must order the evacuation of children and their families from Nauru as a matter of urgency to stop their suffering.

  • “Australia’s current policy of keeping babies, young children and their families locked-up in mandatory detention centres is morally reprehensible,” Ms Butler said today.
  • “As nurses, we are all too-aware of the devastating impacts that mandatory detention is having on the physical, mental and emotional health of asylum seekers, particularly those young children living behind bars.
  • “In joining the College of Mental Health Nurses, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) and a host of other peak NGO and health professional groups, we are lending our voice to growing number of calls for the humane treatment of refugees being detained on Nauru and Manus Island.
  • “Mr Morrison must listen and act.”

Authorised by Annie Butler, ANMF Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.

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

Corbyn outlines Brexit Approach

Jeremy Corbyn said today that he can “fully understand” why working-class areas voted to leave the European Union, as he outlined his party’s Brexit plans.

The Labour leader was meeting people in the East Midlands, including the constituencies of North East Derbyshire, Bolsover and Ashfield — all of which all voted overwhelmingly for EU withdrawal.

He said that, although he had campaigned for “Remain and reform” in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, he understood what had prompted large numbers of working-class people nationwide to vote Leave.

Mr Corbyn said: “Why would anyone who hasn’t had a pay rise in 10 years, can’t get a proper bus service in the evening or worries about sending their kids to university because of years of crunching debt listen to politicians saying nothing really needs to change?”

Outlining Labour’s vision for EU withdrawal, Mr Corbyn said that his party offers an “alternative plan” that encourages job growth, social and employment rights.

He also emphasised the need to avoid a hard border in the north of Ireland, as well as a new relationship with the EU single market and a newly configured customs union.

“The Tories aren’t going to use Brexit to rebuild Britain,” he warned.

“They want to use it to slash rights and protections and turbocharge their bankers-first market free for all.”

Mr Corbyn said that Labour “will not support a deal cobbled together by a divided and chaotic Tory government if it’s going to make life tougher for millions of people.

“But, even more importantly, Labour in government has a plan for a post-Brexit Britain where we use the powers available to kick-start the economy and rebuild our industry, infrastructure and public services in all regions and nations of the UK.”

He also attended a local anti-fracking meeting in Eckington, North Derbyshire, where he congratulated residents on their commitment and determination to “support their local community and oppose fracking.”

Usdaw Tesco rep Cameron Mitchell said: “I think what Jeremy is saying today is spot on.

“Thousands of our young Labour voters here also voted to leave the EU, and that mustn’t be forgotten in London’s corridors of power.

“Young workers want a better future across the country and Labour are the only party capable of delivering.”

Cambridge Analytica Boasts role in Trump Election

Senior executives from the firm at the heart of Facebook’s data breach boasted of playing a key role in bringing Donald Trump to power and said they used “unattributable and untrackable” advertising to support their clients in elections, according to an undercover expose.

Cambridge University asks Facebook for evidence about role of academic

In secretly recorded conversations, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, claimed he had met Trump “many times”, while another senior member of staff said the firm was behind the “defeat crooked Hillary” advertising campaign.

“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape,” said the executive. “And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

Caught on camera by an undercover team from Channel 4 News, Nix was also dismissive of Democrats on the House intelligence committee, who had questioned him over Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

Senior managers then appeared to suggest that in their work for US clients, there was planned division of work between official campaigns and unaffiliated “political action groups”.

MPs summon Mark Zuckerberg, saying Facebook misled them

That could be considered coordination – which is not allowed under US election law. The firm has denied any wrongdoing.

Cambridge Analytica said it had a firewall policy in place, signed by all staff and strictly enforced.

The disclosures are the latest to hit Cambridge Analytica, which has been under mounting pressure since Sunday, when the Observer reported the company had unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles – and used them to build a political targeting system.

In Tuesday’s second instalment of an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News in association with the Observer, Nix said he had a close working relationship with Trump and claimed Cambridge Analytica was pivotal to his successful campaign.

“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy,” he told reporters who were posing as potential clients from Sri Lanka.

The company’s head of data, Alex Tayler, added: “When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3m votes but won the electoral college vote that’s down to the data and the research.

“You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day. That’s how he won the election.”

Peter FitzSimons On Wentworth Victory

Sometimes after elections and byelections, earnest analysis by experts is called for. But not this time.

Kerryn Phelps has claims victory in the Wentworth by-election
The message is clear even to us bozos: the Australian people are waiting for the Libs with a cricket bat, intent on pounding their behinds and administering electoral punishment.

Keep coming, keep coming. Now bend over and WHACK, WHACK, WHACK.

Liberal Candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, after conceding defeat.

Longman byelection: 10 per cent swing against the LNP. Wagga byelection: 28 per cent swing against the LNP. Wentworth byelection: so far, a 20 per cent swing against the LNP.

Yes, the Prime Minister and his remaining supporters will try to spin this, pointing to the perfect storm that formed against their candidate. And there really were headwinds for their candidate, Dave Sharma, that must have felt like Cyclone Tracy – the knifing of Turnbull, the backing of Pauline Hanson’s white supremacist motion in the Senate, the angst over the lack of climate change policy, the fury of the continued insistence on keeping refugee kids on Nauru, the outrage over the Opera House being used as a billboard, the issue of allowing the expulsion of gay kids and teachers from private schools.

But there are two problems with that. The first is that all of those headwinds are of the Libs’ own making. And secondly, a disaster of these proportions is simply unspinnable.

Swings like those are unprecedented in Australian history and it points to carnage for the LNP at the next federal election due at the latest in May next year.

Graham Richardson put it well on Sky in last night’s coverage: if the Libs can’t hold Wentworth, the blue-est of all blue ribbon seats in Australian political history, just what can they hold? If they can’t hold a seat with a 17.8 per cent buffer, then who is safe?

The answer? No one.

Indeed, this swing is so bad the question has to be asked: is the LNP risking an implosion that might resemble what happened in Canada a couple of decades ago, where the ruling Progressive Conservative Party went from holding 169 seats before the 1993 election to just 15 seats, after a 26.97 per cent swing against them – eerily similar to the Wentworth swing.

Wentworth hiding puts Morrison government on course for general election catastrophe
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In terms of averting such a disaster, the Libs face a crucial choice. Do they move further to the right, as much of the commentariat will be urging them? Or do they head back to the centre to try to save the furniture?

I suspect they will head further right, but they should go to the sensible centre. Get serious on climate change. Embrace policies that will reduce emissions and might help save the reef. Treat refugees with humanity. Abandon cosying up to Pauline Hanson.

Move the whole soul of your party away from right-wing ideologues, and towards where the bulk of the people are – much closer to the centre. It is their choice.

Wentworth sent a very strong message, just as Longman did, just as Wagga Wagga did. Turn away from your nutters. Turn back to the people. Or face the consequences.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Scott Morrison’s ABC warning

Scott Morrison’s warning that the ABC board could “expect a bit more attention from me” if it did not “do better” has prompted a key Senate crossbencher to suggest stronger legislation to safeguard the national broadcaster from political interference.

The prime minister used his Sunday appearance on ABC TV to put the organisation’s board on notice, despite allegations of political interference having led to the resignation of the chairman, Justin Milne, in a week of turmoil that included the sacking of the former managing director, Michelle Guthrie.

Tim Storer has called for an overhaul of how the board positions and the managing director are selected, saying he was “troubled” by Morrison’s comments, given the events of the past week.

“The position of chairman and managing director should not be filled permanently unless and until new legislative arrangements are in place to strengthen that independence and transparency,” Storer said. “Several directors have been appointed by the current government without following the panel’s recommendations, undermining the value and credibility of the panel.”

Storer suggested legislative change, advocating for the establishment of a US-style independent panel that would publicly publish its recommendations and force the government to publicly explain why it was choosing to ignore those recommendations, if making its own appointment.

Documents obtained by Guardian Australia, first published last week, show the five most recent appointments to the ABC were directly made by Mitch Fifield, with the panel’s recommendations either circumvented or ignored.

Storer said Morrison’s weekend comments had concerned him to the point he now believed the parliament needed to act “urgently” to “guarantee the independence of the ABC”.

The opposition has also called for urgent change, with the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, calling for any future permanent appointments to be bipartisan, “given these publicly revealed attempts to undermine and politicise the ABC by the current government”.

“Labor is incredibly concerned about the ability of Minister Fifield to make suitable appointments, including for the new ABC chair, given his disregard for the independent nomination panel process,” Shorten wrote in a letter to Morrison. “This approach cannot continue. The government’s partisan approach to the ABC is putting its independence and integrity at risk.”

Morrison did not explain what form his “attention” would take if the board did not improve to his standard, given the ABC’s legislative independence from the executive government, and on Monday would only reiterate his demand the broadcaster “get back to work”.

“As I said on the weekend, the ABC have got to stop talking about themselves and get back to work and do their job,” he said from Perth.

"When it comes to the issues which are really of burning interests to Australians, it’s the drought, it’s jobs, it’s electricity prices. It’s all of these things, that’s what they’re focused on, and, you know, the ABC is a very important institution but frankly there are a lot of issues out there that I think are really burning through kitchen tables as topics of conversation more than that one.”

 The ABC continued broadcasting as usual as the turmoil played out at board level. Morrison made no comment about the government’s most recent decision to cancel parliament during the Liberal leadership crisis that saw him become prime minister in August.

But he did rule out Storer’s overhaul, and also Labor’s suggestion that the next permanent appointments be bipartisan, by saying he saw no reason to change the process.

“There’s a process for appointing chairs and board members to the ABC,” he said. “We’ll follow that process. Elected governments make appointments to these boards. I’m sure if they have suggestions, they’ll make them. But the government runs that process.”

Last week, the government nominated board member Dr Kirsten Ferguson as the interim ABC chair. She vowed to maintain distance from the government to ensure the broadcaster’s independence was protected.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Election Song (1921) Then as Now

Under the Clocks
In 65 state electorates some 150 candidates are now carolling something like this:--

What do ye lack, sirs ? What do ye lack ?
Come to my heart your troubles unpack
Ask o' me big things small, beg o' me
Size or degree doesn't matter at all !
( Man, it would have to be something sublime
Able daunt me this promisful time !)
Granted each wish you may fairly expect-
Ay' e'en the moon !--if but me you elect!

Open mart, free or compulsory, Pool,
Library, road grant, a bridge or a school ;
Plentiful trains and your produce freight-free,
New ports wherever their sponsors agree ;
Wages put up and dear living brought down ;
Country existence made pleasant as town:
Fourpenny loaves and twelve shillings for wheat-
All, all are yours, if I'm given the seat !

Soviet? Yes, sir. Lowered wages? Yes, too.
Railway to Woop Woop? Of course, sir-for you !
Redistribution ? Reduction of rates ?
Rigid economy ? Taxing rebates ?
Pensions for p'licemen? Release of Crown land ?
Cinemas, cocktails, and jazz-palais banned
Anything-everything-more-you may win
All you've to do is Just ME to put in !


From the Victorian Newspaper The Herald 13 Aug 1921 Page 9.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

ACTU welcomes new direction on trade

15 October 2018

The peak body for working people has welcomed opposition trade spokesperson Jason Clare’s private members’ bill and related announcements on trade as a seismic shift in ALP trade policy.

The ACTU maintains its opposition to the TPP and its enabling legislation. The bill sets out a new course for trade in our country after years of damaging deals by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government, which put big business profits ahead of working people.

The ALP’s future trade policy will ensure that employers must hire locally before bringing in temporary workers. It will ban clauses that let foreign companies sue Australian governments in secret and unfair courts. And it will safeguard vital public services and our pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

It will also ensure that our governments can support Australian industry and the people who work in it when they make their purchasing and procurement decisions. It will help stop the flow of dangerous and unsafe goods onto our shores.

The ACTU also welcomes the ALP’s commitment to remove unfair clauses that let business exploit temporary workers instead of hiring locals and let foreign companies sue Australian governments from existing trade deals.

The ALP has also committed to voting down any further trade deals that contain such damaging clauses between now and the next federal election.

 Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “The recent commitments by the ALP, including those in this bill, are a big step forward for fairness. This will change the way our country does trade, and who that trade benefits.
  • “These changes ensure that working people’s interests are prioritised and protected in future trade agreements, and that existing agreements are improved.
  • “The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Governments have consistently done deals like those with China and Korea that put big business ahead of working people. They have let businesses exploit temporary visa holders instead of providing good, secure jobs to local workers.
  • “They have signed away our sovereignty by letting foreign corporations sue Australian governments in secret offshore courts if we make laws they don’t like. And they have endangered our public services and the PBS.
  • “Future deals will put working people first and past deals will be improved. We look forward to a future government pursuing a trade agenda that puts working people ahead of multi-nationals.
  • “Today’s announcement puts the Government on notice that they will not get any more deals that include these damaging and unfair provisions past the parliament.”

Greens eclipse rise of Germany's right in Bavaria

Berlin: Voters in Bavaria, the German state that formed the front line of the 2015 migration crisis, abandoned the conservative allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel in droves in an election on Sunday. But rather than shifting their allegiance mostly to the anti-immigrant far right, they gave the biggest boost to a rising liberal force: the pro-refugee Greens.

Greens candidates Ludwig Hartmann and Katharina Schulze celebrate after the first exit polls for the Bavarian state election in Munich, southern Germany, on Sunday.

The Christian Social Union, a key component of Merkel's fragile coalition government, remains the strongest party in the region. But it lost the absolute majority it had held in Bavaria almost without interruption since the 1960s.

It was a political earthquake that confirmed not only the continuing disintegration of support for Merkel's government, but also the striking decline of big-tent political parties across Europe: A onetime environmental protest movement is now the second-strongest political force in Bavaria and Germany.

Morrisson – "Voting is Like a Box of Chockolates"

Cathy Wilcox Cartoon

Monday, October 15, 2018

MEAA – Launch of Behrouz Boochani’s new book, "No Friend but the Mountains"

Please join:

Michele O’Neil, Australian Congress of Trade Unions, president, Behrouz Boochani, journalist and author, live from Manus Island, and Paul Murphy, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, chief executive.

For a union-movement launch of Behrouz Boochani’s new book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.

Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist who has been detained on Manus Island by the Australian Government for the past five years. He used a mobile phone to write this book and produce a film about his experiences in detention in the Manus prison, and has also written for many Australian media outlets. He has been adopted and recognized by PEN International as a journalist and writer imprisoned and persecuted by Australia.

Michele O’Neil has been a fierce proponent for the rights of workers through the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union, and for the rights of refugees seeking asylum in Australia. In 2018 she became president of the Australian Congress of Trade Unions (ACTU), Australia’s peak union body, which has a strong rights-based refugee policy that rejects offshore detention and turning back boats at sea.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has supported Behrouz’s efforts to be recognised as an accredited journalist and assisted him in receiving his International Federation of Journalists press card. The media union has also campaigned for Behrouz to be released from detention and into the Australian community as part of its Bring Them Here campaign.

This event is hosted by Unions for Refugees which was founded in 2013 by unionists in Sydney and is endorsed by Unions NSW.

MSF confirms forced exit from Nauru as refugee mental health 'beyond desperate'

MSF confirms forced exit from Nauru as refugee mental health 'beyond desperate'

NGO says all staff were forced to leave the Pacific island where it has treated local and refugee patients for almost 12 months

Wed 10 Oct 2018 11.58 AEDT Last modified on Wed 10 Oct 2018 19.56 AEDT

All Médecins Sans Frontières’ international staff have left Nauru. The organisation said it is ‘deeply concerned’ for its patients on the island.

Médecins Sans Frontières has confirmed it has officially been forced to end its mental health work on Nauru, leaving local and refugee patients behind in a situation it said was “beyond desperate”.

MSF was given its marching orders on Friday and told to cease its services on Saturday. Several days of attempted negotiations failed to sway the Nauruan government.

The organisation said: “MSF is deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of its patients and describes the mental health situation of asylum seekers and refugees on the island as ‘beyond desperate’,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nauru self-harm 'contagion' as 12-year-old refugee tries to set herself alight

MSF, which plans to hold a media conference on Thursday, confirmed it had “officially been forced to terminate its provision of mental healthcare services on Nauru and all its international staff have now left the island”.

There is a growing mental health crisis among adults and children on the island, and dozens have been flown to Australia for treatment because of a lack of adequate available treatment on Nauru.

Despite this the Nauruan health minister last Friday told MSF its psychological and psychiatric services were “no longer required on the island”.

MSF had been treating both refugees and locals since November 2017. Asylum seekers are treated by the Australian government contractor, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), but they have little trust among their patients. IHMS and MSF didn’t share medical notes, island health sources said, risking overmedication and inconsistent treatment.

MSF gave patients their files, which often made their way into legal applications to Australia’s federal court for urgent medical transfers, some of which Nauru officials had opposed.

There has been speculation that this informed Nauru’s decision (they lose money every time a refugee is flown out) but no specific reason has been given.

According to MSF’s website, it has provided “one door for all” psychological and psychiatric services as part of an agreement with Nauru’s health ministry.

Most Wentworth voters want Nauru children brought to Australia

It has pointed to a lack of mental health support for both “the Nauruan population and the asylum seekers and refugees living on the island as part of the Australian government’s policy of offshore processing”.

MSF staff were also training and supporting local authorities in an effort to increase Nauru’s capacity to provide psychological and psychiatric treatment.

“At this stage MSF wishes to reiterate our strong commitment to providing quality mental health care to all those in need on the island,” a MSF spokeswoman had said on Saturday.

“We are extremely concerned that the health of our patients may be affected by this decision and urge the authorities to grant us permission to continue our lifesaving work.”

The Australian government, which regularly distances itself from involvement in its offshore processing centre when questioned on various allegations, failures, and deaths, said the issue was a matter for Nauru and MSF.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Acoss – Household income spent on energy hits new high for people on low incomes

12 October 2018: Householders’ income spent on energy in Australia is surging according to new research commissioned by the Australian Council of Social Service and the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

The analysis, conducted by the Australian National University (ANU), investigated the burden of electricity and gas costs for a range of household types in Australia between 2008 and 2018.

The research found some of the lowest income households in Australia spend more than 10% of their incomes on spiralling energy costs. Meanwhile, more affluent households spend significantly less of their income (1.5%) on energy.

This gap between low and high income households has also widened since 2008.

ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said, “This analysis confirms once again that people on low incomes are doing it the toughest, spending more of their income on the bare essentials.

  • “Having to pay more of their income on energy is a slap in the face for households already struggling with increasing costs of living, slow wage growth and unemployment.”
  • The research found the hardest hit Australian households were unemployed people on Newstart and Youth Allowance, who are studying or job hunting.
  • A quarter of Newstart or Youth Allowance recipients spend over 10% of their income on energy. A decade ago these households were spending 8% on energy. Single parents, pension households and renters are also highly vulnerable to energy stress.

“These very high levels of income spent on energy will be stressing many household budgets, and it’s hitting those who can least afford it hardest,” said Damian Sullivan, head of Energy, Equity and Climate Change at the Brotherhood of St Laurence

“On those very hot summer days, we know some older people in poor health who need cooling will go without it, just so they can afford to pay their bills. This risks their health and wellbeing. Winter is the same with too many households forgoing heating to pay their bills.”

The research found low-income households spend around 6.4% of their income on energy (up from 5.9% in 2008), with a quarter spending 8.8%, compared with the highest earning households who spend only 1.5%.

ACOSS and the Brotherhood of St Laurence say policy solutions need to focus not only on reducing energy prices, but also on reducing the size of energy bills and improving capacity to pay for vulnerable households.

Dr Goldie said, “It’s clear urgent action is needed to bring down energy prices, but this won’t be enough for people on low incomes who pay disproportionately more of their income on energy and have less choice and control over their energy. More help is needed.
“Governments must immediately increase the woefully inadequate Newstart Allowance, mandate energy efficiency standards in rental properties, and improve energy concessions.”

The research was conducted by Associate Professor Ben Philips, Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University.

Read the report

Saturday, October 13, 2018

All too easy for Corbyn as Maybot reduced to babble

John Crace Guardian report

Prime minister Theresa May speaking during PMQs in the House of Commons, London. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA
Theresa May had a lot on her mind during her leader’s speech at the Tory party conference in Birmingham last week. Trying to avoid falling scenery. Not accepting a P45. Not losing her voice. A low bar, but one that required all her concentration. So much so that she made the basic error of failing to actually check what she was reading out.

In hindsight, the prime minister will come to regret having declared that austerity was over. It might have gone down well enough with a conference audience that was willing her to get to the end of her hour-long dirge without toppling over, but it was never likely to survive wider scrutiny.

With the International Monetary Fund having just declared the UK’s public finances to be in a more catatonic state than those of the Gambia, Kenya and Uganda, and with no guarantee of a Brexit deal that won’t make everyone even more worse off, telling the country it had never had it so good could be seen to be a little premature.

Jeremy Corbyn may still not be a natural at parliamentary set pieces but he is enough of a pro these days to spot an open goal when it is presented. So at the start of prime minister’s questions he put the ball on the spot and did the business. Nothing fancy, just a straightforward tap-in. There were 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than there had been in 2010. When was austerity going to end for mental health services?

You’d have thought May might have had some inkling that the Labour leader would go in on austerity, but instead she seemed genuinely surprised. Um, er, she was sure everything was fine because she had recently appointed a minister for suicide prevention. Not sure this would be at the top of many mental health professionals’ priorities. Corbyn raised an eyebrow, pointed out that her own health secretary had said mental health services were hopeless, and moved on to policing. When would austerity be over for the police?

May had no real idea. Soon, very soon, she hoped. Could we move on to something else? Corbyn obliged by switching to education. When would austerity end for teachers?

The prime minister was now so panicky that she began using bogus statistics that had already been discredited after the education secretary used them two days previously. Like many in government, she now seems to believe that repeating a lie often enough will turn it into the truth.

Next up were the failures of the Conservative-led local councils of Northamptonshire and Somerset, both of which were near enough broke. Now May completely lost touch with reality and went into Maybot autopilot. The reason the councils had no money had nothing to do with them having no money. It was because of something else, though she couldn’t remember what.

“There are better times ahead,” the prime minister ended feebly. Throughout the previous exchanges, the Tory benches had been unusually quiet, sensing their leader was flatlining her way to oblivion. Now they fell silent. Telling people things are going to get a bit better generally only serves to remind them of just how rubbish they currently are. And the prospect of taking a few weeks longer to starve to death isn’t always cause for celebration.

Corbyn rather appeared to lose interest by the time he reached his final question – it was all just too easy – but Labour’s Caroline Flint kept up the pressure by quoting the government’s own predictions that most of the cuts had yet to come through and people on universal credit would be £200 worse off each month. Esther McVey, the work and pensions minister, appeared delighted by this but May looked hollow-eyed and broken. There was just enough sentience remaining for her to be aware of her own inadequacy.

By the time Ken Clarke had pointed out there was no parliamentary majority for any kind of Brexit deal she looked capable of negotiating, May was left with nothing but her own incoherence. A binary babble of meaningless ones and zeros.

Long before the end, the Commons had voted with its feet and there were huge gaps on the benches of both sides of the house. There’s only so much mediocrity anyone can take. Even Theresa May. For a brief moment, she appeared tempted to make for the exit herself. After all, silence could only have raised the tone of the proceedings. But then a flicker of doubt. Perhaps no one would even notice she had gone. Not even herself.

'Vote to protect creation': Rabbi's plea to Wentworth voters

A senior rabbi in Wentworth has written to his congregation with an extraordinary message urging them to consider the "moral issue of climate change" when they vote in next week's byelection.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, who serves at Emanuel Synagogue in Woollahra, has weighed into the key byelection issue in Malcolm Turnbull's former seat and implored people "to vote to protect creation."

"I speak as a concerned individual, and certainly not on behalf of my congregation, yet I encourage them to think of the future as they vote in the present," Rabbi Kamins said.

Alex Turnbull, the son of Malcolm Turnbull, has also made a dramatic intervention in the byelection and cited climate change policy as a major failing of the Liberals.

In an explosive message posted on social media, Alex Turnbull, an investor based in Singapore, said voters should take a stand and not vote for the Liberals in Wentworth.

The End of the Myth of Green Capitalism

The IPCC report landed in public consciousness on Monday. By Tuesday it was forgotten. On the day the most comprehensive and chilling prospectus on climate breakdown was published most newspapers in Britain led with Strictly Come Dancing. In the evening the BBC’s flagship Newsnight invited a Trump-supporting climate denier on television. Today the UK govt announced they would re-start fracking.  Brazil are on the brink of electing a fascist who wants to cut down the Amazon rain forest.

The report wasn’t so much apocalyptic as precise.

A queue of professional climate science deniers were sufficiently unsettled to evoke their well-trodden disinformation. Over at Steve Bannon’s alt-right Breibart, James Delingpole called the IPCC report: “wailing hysteria and worryingly eco-fascistic policy prescriptions”. Similar panic could be read in all the usual outlets: the Spectator; Sun; Telegraph, Daily Mail; and across the BBC.

The crisis-non-crisis leaves many people in turns utterly despondent, or consciously, doggedly oblivious.

Why can’t we make the changes we need to make?

The first and the most obvious reason is the myth of green capitalism, the myth that any of this is redeemable. Instead of wondering why Exxon or BP aren’t converting their business model, we need to be taking them over, shutting them down and switching them off. Instead we’re rinsing out our bottle tops and demanding a Plastic Straw ban.

Hyper-capitalism requires hyper-individualism. This is incompatible with our species surviving.

As Martin Lukacs has written:

“Anything resembling a collective check on corporate power has become a target of the elite: lobbying and corporate donations, hollowing out democracies, have obstructed green policies and kept fossil fuel subsidies flowing; and the rights of associations like unions, the most effective means for workers to wield power together, have been undercut whenever possible.

At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy — so that solar panels can go on everyone’s rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.

Neoliberalism has not merely ensured this agenda is politically unrealistic: it has also tried to make it culturally unthinkable. Its celebration of competitive self-interest and hyper-individualism, its stigmatization of compassion and solidarity, has frayed our collective bonds. It has spread, like an insidious anti-social toxin.”

Hyper-individualism isn’t just ineffective it’s isolating and dispiriting.

You can’t buy your way out of climate breakdown, nor can you recycle your way out of this level of crisis. Changing the means of production, changing the endless cycle of productivism and consumerism is the only way back.

Ending the obsession with growth and accumulation is the only way to avoid the catastrophic species loss, collapse in biodiversity, rising sea levels, an ice-free Arctic, ocean acidification, crop failure and the loss of our coral reefs that the report lays out in minute detail.

But this isn’t what the people who run the world want to do.

The problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do.

We know exactly what needs to be done.

As the Canadian author Naomi Klein explains:

“We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe — and would benefit the vast majority — are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets. That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when those elites were enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s.”

Umair Haque suggest that the “mathematics of catastrophe” means that the other, competing reason we will not manage to survive this process is that the challenge comes at the moment when capitalism is morphing into a form of fascism as it struggles with it’s own failures.

He charts the descent, the closing of a window since the Kyoto Protocol, during which America elected the King of Idiots (“Why Catastrophic Climate Change is Probably Inevitable Now“):

“Before the neofascist wave, the world might have indeed “solved” climate change. Maybe not in the hard sense that life would go on tomorrow as it does today — but in the soft sense that the worst and most vicious scenarios were mostly outlandish science fiction. That is because before the neofascist wave, we could imagine nations cooperating, if slowly, reluctantly, in piecemeal ways, towards things like protecting life, reducing carbon, pricing in the environment, and so on. These things can only be done through global cooperation, after all.

But after the neofascist wave, global cooperation — especially of a genuinely beneficial kind, not a predatory kind — began to become less and less possible by the day. The world was unravelling. When countries were trashing the United Nations and humiliating their allies and proclaiming how little they needed the world (all to score minor-league wins for oligarchs, who cashed in their chips, laughing )— how could such a globe cooperate more then? It couldn’t — and it can’t. So the neofascist wave which we are now in also means drastically less global cooperation — but less global cooperation means incalculably worse climate change.”

That doesn’t sound good does it?

Some people – like Mario Molina, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Durwood J. Zaelke and David Wallace-Wells – think it’s far worse.

Molina, Ramanathan and Zaelke, writing for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, point to the fact the IPCC largely ignores the issue of feedback loops, what happens as integrated systems fail and collapse? They write:

“So far, average temperatures have risen by one degree Celsius. Adding 50 percent more warming to reach 1.5 degrees won’t simply increase impacts by the same percentage—bad as that would be. Instead, it risks setting up feedbacks that could fall like dangerous dominos, fundamentally destabilizing the planet. This is analyzed in a recent study showing that the window to prevent runaway climate change and a “hot house” super-heated planet is closing much faster than previously understood.

These cascading feedbacks include the loss of the Arctic’s sea ice, which could disappear entirely in summer in the next 15 years. The ice serves as a shield, reflecting heat back into the atmosphere, but is increasingly being melted into water that absorbs heat instead. Losing the ice  would tremendously increase the Arctic’s warming, which is already at least twice the global average rate. This, in turn, would accelerate the collapse of permafrost, releasing its ancient stores of methane, a super climate pollutant 30 times more potent in causing warming than carbon dioxide.

By largely ignoring such feedbacks, the IPCC report fails to adequately warn leaders about the cluster of six similar climate tipping points that could be crossed between today’s temperature and an increase to 1.5 degrees—let alone nearly another dozen tipping points between 1.5 and 2 degrees. These wildcards could very likely push the climate system beyond human ability to control.”

There are of course other feedback loops, like the issue of climate migration fuelling the shift to fascism that Umair Haque outlines.

Writing in The Intelligencer (“UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That”) wrote that:

“…the action needed is at a scale and a speed almost unimaginable to most of us. The IPCC report called it unprecedented. Other activists often see one precedent, in all of human history, citing the model of how the United States prepared for World War II, and calling for a global mobilization of that kind — all of the world’s rivalrous societies and nationalistic governments and self-interested industries organized around the common pursuit of a stable and comfortable climate as though warming was an existential threat.

It is. And the World War II mobilization metaphor is not hyperbole. To avoid warming of the kind the IPCC now calls catastrophic requires a complete rebuilding of the entire energy infrastructure of the world, a thorough reworking of agricultural practices and diet to entirely eliminate carbon emissions from farming, and a battery of cultural changes to the way those of us in the wealthy West, at least, conduct our lives. And we need to do all of that in two, or possibly three, decades. As a comparison, simply the last phase of the recent three-stop extension of New York City’s Second Avenue subway line took 12 years.”

If all of this sounds apocalyptic, I’m sorry.

Molina, Ramanathan and Zaelke, suggest that “neither fatalism nor despair are warranted, but rather a sense of urgent, or even running-scared, optimism.”

There is no doubt that we have the resources, the innovative capacity, drive and imagination to salvage the situation. Jim Skea  co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. said that limiting global warming to 1.5 degree C is “possible within the laws of chemistry and physics” …”But doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

As contrived indifference meets abject poverty and celebrity moronism, it’s difficult to have faith that this is feasible.

We will need to overturn Frederic Jameson’s famous dictum that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. This is not just a socio-economic crisis of systemic proportions, but also a crisis of the imagination. We’ll need to upset all of the internalised myths we’ve consumed and been groomed to believe in: growth is good, choice is good, endless choice is best; accumulation is a goal in itself, we are masters of nature.

If we can’t throw off these myths we will die of consumption.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

O’Dwyer with serious questions to answer over lobbying leak

8 October 2018

Kelly O’Dwyer and the Morrison government have serious questions to answer following reports that they directed private lobbyists to pressure the crossbench over laws that would weaken our rights at work.

Reports in the Australian newspaper today of communications between lobbyists SAS Group and unnamed members of the crossbench appear to reveal that the Government is directing the lobbying efforts.

The report quotes an email to the crossbench that includes the admission that “The government has asked us to meet with crossbench senators during the current parliamentary break given the significance and urgency of this matter.”

The matter referred to is an attempt to legislate to undermine a court decision that would have prevented employers falsely classifying permanent employees as casuals, and granting backpay to people who’d been denied paid leave because of false classifications.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “It is deeply concerning that the Morrison Government appears to be directing lobbying efforts to undermine a court decision protecting the rights of working people.
  • “Kelly O’Dwyer must come clean on what she knew about the activities of the SAS group, who in the Morrison Government is directing them, and why the Morrison Government is directing private lobbyists to speak to the crossbench.
  • “The job of the Government should be to protect working people and ensure those who’ve been denied their legal rights receive justice, not to undermine court decisions to suit the whims of the business lobby.
  • “It is important that we get to the bottom of this deeply concerning affair.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tom McDonald on Peter Hartcher's call to deregister the CFMMEU

Tom McDonald, former National Secretary Building Workers Industrial Union & Founding Trustee of Construction and Building Unions Superannuation (CBUS), wrote to Fairfax national political editor Peter Hartcher, in response to Hartcher’s call for the CFMMEU to be de-registered.

The CFMMEU led large union demonstrations in multiple locations to demand the Right to Strike on Thursday, with over 8000 workers participating in Sydney CBD alone.

Dear Peter

I look forward to reading your articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and listening to you being interviewed on important political and social events etc.

Your contributions are underpinned by various values I share with you and the arguments are supported by rational reasoning, facts and history and help people to make informed decisions that are an essential element of our democracy.

Your view that the CFMEU (now CFMMEU) should be deregistered came as a shock to me and prompted me to write this letter to you.

CFMMEU members rally for the right to strike in Newcastle on Thursday 6th September 2018

In my view the CFMEU should be judged on its achievements for working people because that is the purpose of its existence.

Without the CFMEU the MUA would have been crushed. We would not have full workers compensation pay if there had not been an illegal strike by building workers in 1971 that ended the system of half pay to injured workers. We would not have RDOs, a world-best system of industry based universal superannuation, nor jointly lawfully-recognised employer and worker safety committees. But for the BWIU (now part of the CFMEU), we would now have a much lower minimum wage. We would not have universal redundancy pay and but for Green Bans a lot of our heritage would have been lost and we would have had massive over-development. Many more examples could be given.

The CFMEU played a key role in all of the struggles of the ACTU, one being the defeat of Work Choices that would have taken us a long way down the road to Americanisation of our industrial relations system which has impoverished many millions of American families.

Today the Australian workers and our society need stronger unions to address the challenges ahead not the destruction of a union. Unions need to be militant in their tactics when all other ways to achieve justice have failed.

What I am trying to describe as a defence of my union is best told in the publication “The Quiet Revolution” which I am posting to you.

I now want to raise with you a couple of other thoughts but first it is important to recognise that the CFMEU spans several industries in addition to the construction industry – power generation, mining, forestry, furniture, maritime and now clothing.

But the CFMEU is only criticised for its tactics used in the building and construction industry. The reason is that the construction industry is different to all other industries.

Anyone can work in the building industry as a worker or as a sub-contractor (employer) because they don’t need start -up capital. So, we have every type of people in the industry ranging from gangsters, thugs and corrupt elements and across to hard-working and principled workers.

Construction projects are being completed every day and new projects started every day. There is always a dozen or more contractors (employers) on a building construction site – some who complete their contracts before others start. Trying to negotiate enterprise agreements is very difficult particularly when some contractors are shonky operators who break every rule in the book, pay cash in hand, don’t pay taxes, ignore safety regulations, don’t pay entitlements such as superannuation etc. Contractors are on and off the site as is their workforce and others only come on the site in finishing fitting-out stages.

The industry is probably the most culturally diverse in Australia which brings with it communication difficulties and problems and at times a clash in cultures.

A building site is safe one day but not the next as building workers move from completing a section of work to a new section of work and the nature of accidents are more serious than accidents in most other industries.

The union organiser is expected to solve all these problems and deal with all these employers in circumstances where time is the enemy. I personally can understand what leads to what others describe as stand-over tactics and I think those that criticise them would do the same if faced with the same circumstances.

This is the situation the union organiser is likely to face day in and day out, week in and week out. For these and other reasons, aggressive tactics are often needed, and threats are needed, to help achieve what the workers want and need. In other words, the organiser has to break the law to enforce the law and make the site safe or move the employer into negotiation.

I don’t agree with all the tactics and language which may be used by organisers, but they are not the most important issue. Of greater importance is - do they achieve results that benefit building workers?

When it comes to corruption, even petty corruption such as accepting gifts from employers, there should be zero tolerance if an organiser has engaged in any corrupt behaviour. I know they would be immediately sacked from the union.

When I look at findings of the various Royal Commissions, I think criticism of the tactics and behaviour of the CFMEU officials are relatively insignificant compared with what has been disclosed with Royal Commissions into the Banks and Insurance Companies and the Churches- where people have lost life-long savings, made bankrupt, or abused and sexually assaulted.

The question I ask you Peter - why should the union be de-registered? Even its critics must accept that the union’s actions did not have the same disastrous effects on the lives of many as revealed by those other Royal Commissions?

The truth is that the actions of the union helped save lives and benefitted building workers.

I believe that financial institutions and religious organisations are an essential part of our society, so they must be preserved and at the same time held accountable. I also believe that militant unions are an essential part of our system of democracy and they must be preserved.

Note: There is a fundamental difference in what happened in respect of the Gallagher BLF – one being they lost the support of the ACTU whereas the CFMEU has unanimous support of the ACTU.

Yours sincerely

Tom McDonald
Former National Secretary BWIU & Founding Trustee of CBUS