Sunday, December 15, 2019

George Monbiot and UK Election

Yes, it’s dark. Darker, arguably, than at any point since the second world war. We have a government not of conservatives but of the radical right, who will now seek to smash the remaining restraints on capital and those who accumulate it. They will take their sledgehammers to our public services and our public protections. They cheated and lied to assist their victory; they will cheat and lie even more to implement their programme.

They are led by a man who has expressed overtly racist views, who won’t hesitate to stir up bigotry and xenophobia whenever he runs into trouble, scapegoating immigrants, Muslims, Romany Gypsies and Travellers, the poor and the weak.

They will revel in outrage and affront, using every attack on common decency to normalise the unacceptable. This government has no vision for the country, only a vision for the oligarchs to whom it is bound, onshore and offshore.

 Labour won’t win again until it works out why it lost

So I don’t want to minimise the scale and horror of what we face. But documenting it is one task; the other is resisting it. Here, roughly and briefly, is an outline of how we might begin. I am as tired and shocked and frazzled as you are, so please forgive me if I have missed some essential elements.

First, we must park the recriminations and blame. We need to be fully occupied fighting the government and its backers, not fighting each other. Solidarity is going to be crucial over the coming months. We should seek, wherever possible, to put loyalty to party and faction aside, and work on common resolutions to a crisis afflicting everyone who wants a kinder, fairer, greener nation.

All the progressive manifestos I’ve read – Labour, Green, SNP, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru – contain some excellent proposals.

Let’s extract the best of them, and ideas from many other sources, and build an alliance around them. There will be differences, of course. But there will also be positions that almost everyone who believes in justice can accept.

I believe we need to knit these proposals into the crucial missing element in modern progressive politics: a restoration story

I believe we need to knit these proposals into the crucial missing element in modern progressive politics: a restoration story. A powerful new narrative is the vehicle for all political transformations. While all the progressive parties in the UK have proposed good policies, none of them have told a story that exactly fits the successful narrative template. Let’s work together to craft the story of change.

We should use the new story, and the proposals this narrative vehicle carries, to build mass resistance movements, taking inspiration from – and building on – highly effective mobilisations such as the youth climate strikes. We will draw strength from the movements in other nations, and support them in turn.

A major part of this resistance, I believe, must be the reclamation of a culture of public learning. Acquiring useful knowledge requires determined study. Yet we have lost the habit of rigorous learning in adulthood, once seen as crucial to social justice. This makes us vulnerable to every charlatan who stands for election, and every lie they amplify through the billionaire press and social media.

Those who govern us would love to keep us in ignorance. When they deride “elites”, they don’t mean people like themselves – the rich and powerful.

They mean teachers and intellectuals. They are creating an anti-intellectual culture, to make people easier to manipulate. Let’s reinvigorate the workers’ education movements. Let’s restore a rich public culture of intellectual self-improvement, open to everyone. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in politics.

We must expose every lie, every trick this government will play, using social media as effectively as possible. We must use every available tool to investigate its financial relationships, interests and strategies. We should use the courts to sue and prosecute malfeasance whenever we can.

We will create, to the greatest extent possible, a resistance economy. This means local cooperative networks of mutual support, which circulate social and material wealth within the community. The astonishing work of Participatory City, with Barking and Dagenham council in London, shows us one way of doing this.

We will find each other and ourselves through volunteering, which provides the most powerful known defence against loneliness and alienation, helps support the people this government will abandon, and can defend and rebuild the living world.

We will throw everything we have into defending our public services – especially the NHS – from the government’s attempts to degrade or destroy them. There will be many public service failures over the coming years, as a result of cuts and “restructuring”.

Let’s remember where blame for these failures will lie: not with the massively stressed and overloaded practitioners, but with those who made their jobs impossible. The long-standing strategy of governments such as this is to degrade these services until we become exasperated with them, whereupon, lacking public support, they can be broken up and privatised. Don’t fall for it. Defend the overworked heroes who keep them afloat.

No one person should attempt all these things. We will divide up the tasks, but always in the knowledge that we’re working together, with mutual support through the darkest of times. Love and courage to you all.

MEAA – Journalists cannot and will not reveal their sources


A current defamation claim in the Federal Court is seeking to compel two senior investigative journalists to reveal their confidential sources. The claim involves multiple Walkley Award-winning journalists Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters – both members of MEAA – over a story they wrote alleging a war crimes incident in Afghanistan in 2012.
MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom says: “MEAA backs our members who are obliged to adhere to the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics. Clause 3 of the Code says that confidences made to a journalist's source must be respected in all circumstances. There is no higher principle for journalists the world over.
“Journalists have been have been found guilty of contempt and jailed for maintaining this ethical principle. But they have not revealed the identity of their confidential source. To do so would be a betrayal of trust. It would have a chilling effect on journalism because whistleblowers would think twice about telling the truth if their identity is exposed.
“The principle of journalists’ privilege is already enshrined in Commonwealth ‘shield’ laws that protect journalists from being compelled by a court to name their sources. Shield laws exist in many countries around the world. To discard the shield at a time when the public’s right to know is already under assault would further damage press freedom in Australia,” Strom says.
“It is pointless to pursue this path in court because the outcome is already known: journalists cannot and will not reveal their confidential sources,” Strom says.

Sydney’s Light Rail Fiasco

Sydney’s CBD and South East Light Rail project has turned into an urban construction nightmare featuring delays, cost overruns and a bitter legal dispute with a major subcontractor. Is the project a case of political point-scoring overriding commercial sense and technical reality?

Light rail systems have the potential to help solve some of the major problems that spring up in the world’s increasingly busy cities. Trams can provide a fast and reliable option for travellers taking short trips, while offering the possibility of viably pedestrianising key streets to reduce congestion, revitalise the local economy and cut inner-city carbon emissions, all of which are high on the agenda for urban policymakers.

But while the potential benefits are enticing, light rail projects such as trams and monorails are notoriously complex to plan and pull off, particularly in densely-packed urban centres, and the eventual benefits often don’t meet the lofty expectations set at a project’s outset. The tendency for troubled, underwhelming light rail projects to fall flat is prevalent enough that it even got a high-profile pop culture mention courtesy of The Simpsons in the early 90s: the show’s ‘Marge vs the Monorail’ episode sees the town of Springfield hoodwinked by a slick scam artist into spending lavishly on an unnecessary monorail system, with amusingly disastrous results.

In the real world, the consequences of failed or ill-conceived light rail projects aren’t a good source of laughs. With huge investments on the line and long periods of inconvenience for commuters and small businesses while districts are re-configured for light rail operations, air-tight planning is essential to keep work schedules on track and budgets under control.

In Sydney, the ongoing construction of the CBD and South East Light Rail project, which will connect the city’s central business district (CBD) with the suburbs of Randwick and Kingsford, is today acting as an unfortunate showcase of the risks of urban light rail development and the paramount importance of rigorous planning.

The CBD and South East Light Rail project was first announced in December 2012, consisting of a 12.5km, 19-stop tram line between Circular Quay and the CBD before splitting into two branches terminating at Randwick and Kingsford. The plan was sold to Sydneysiders as an effective, high-capacity means of cutting traffic congestion on the economically vital George Street, 40% of which will be pedestrianised under the plan. The then-Transport Minister for New South Wales (NSW) Gladys Berejiklian, who became the state’s Premier in 2017, warned at the time that traffic congestion in the CBD would “only get worse” without quick action.

“With the introduction of light rail and the redesigned bus network announced today, we will be able to significantly reduce the number of buses clogging the city’s streets and provide fast and reliable links for people to key destinations like the Prince of Wales Hospital, University of NSW, SCG, Allianz Stadium, Moore Park, Central and Circular Quay,” Berejiklian said in 2012.Fast-forward to today and the project is beset with issues. The original completion date for the project was set at March 2019, but a host of technical and legal issues has seen this date pushed back by a year to March 2020. Berejiklian said in August that the government is working “pedal to the metal” to bring the deadline forward to December 2019, while statements made by the project’s Spanish subcontractor Acciona – part of the ALTRAC Light Rail Partnership responsible for the project – put the completion date even further out, at May 2020.

The project’s budget has also ballooned by A$500m, from A$1.6bn at its outset to an estimated A$2.1bn today. The cost increase has prompted the NSW Government to provide a guarantee for $500m in private sector loans.

Last month, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe highlighted the project as an example of inadequate oversight of infrastructure projects.

“I live in Randwick, so I am living with that substandard governance continuously with the tram,” Lowe said.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Firefighter writes passionate letter to Morrison

Firefighter Chris Nicholls has posted a passionate and heartfelt plea to Scott Morrison in an online letter which has gone viral, urging the government to take urgent action and stop offering prayers.
He is urging all levels of government to treat it as a national emergency.
In a heartfelt open letter, Mr Nicholls calls for better planning, task forces, more resources for firefighters including communications technology, fire fighting aircraft and the pilots to fly them.

The letter was posted on his Facebook page and it has been shared more than 5000 times.
Chris Nicholls' letter:
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you as a member of the Far South Coast of NSW community, and as a bush firefighter with our local RFS Brigade.
You need to listen to me.
I swore that if I heard the word, "unprecedented" one more time I would write to you. I heard it again tonight in comments by experts over the mega-fire around Sydney. So, here's your letter.
There is one more thing that is 'unprecedented'. It's your Government's complete INACTION over the current bushfire emergency in Australia. And please don't tell me about the pathetic response so far with more thoughts and prayers from Hillsong. This is a NATIONAL EMERGENCY not a minor weather event.
We are not frantically impressed with these platitudes down here. When I see my colleagues from my brigade jump into a plane or a bus to take them up north in a strike team to go into battle against an unprecedented enemy of catastrophic proportions, I wonder if we might ever see them again. And they are my friends and wonderful people.
When my RFS pager goes off in the middle of a hot, blustery severe fire danger day and I have to rush off to a bushfire, and as I am sitting in the truck proceeding under sirens and lights to the fire, I wonder if this might be my last day too.
We don't have time for you to sit on your hands and wish us platitudes and cricket news.
Here's what we need you to do:
1. Treat the situation as if it was a WAR being waged on Australia by an unpredictable enemy with considerable weaponry, capable of jumping front lines easily and attacking from several fronts simultaneously, with devastating results. It takes no prisoners.
2. Treat each event as a BATTLE and a part of the WAR.
3. Appoint a WAR cabinet with special powers to mobilise the country, the armed services and whatever resources are required to fight the battles to win the WAR.
4. The WAR is CLIMATE CHANGE, and the battles are fires, drought, intense weather events such as tropical cyclones and other climate-related phenomenon in the new normal of the climate-changed world.
5. The WAR is the long game - and will be fought over several decades into the future, so there needs to be planning and task forces and armies and technology and considerable ingenuity.
6. Support your people - the people of Australia: tell them the Government cares and is actually mobilising and doing something about it.
7. Do it, and let's worry about the platitudes some other day.
Yours sincerely
Chris Nicholls, Merimbula, NSW


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

ACTU Supports action against targeted killings Philippines

The Australian union movement stands with unionists in the Philippines who have become the target of frequent attacks, with 43 union members and officials being killed in the last three years. The ACTU is participating in a global day of action on Human Rights Day to draw attention to the treatment of unionists in the Philippines.

The ITUC has named the Philippines as being one of the worst ten countries in the world for workers’ rights. Unionists and other activists have been labelled as terrorists and enemies of the state.

Australia has a long-standing bilateral military relationship with the Philippines, including providing counter-terrorism capacity training. Despite the many reports of attacks by the armed forces of the Philippines against their own people, from 1 December 2019, Australia increased its support of Duterte’s military through the new Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “We are taking part in this global day of action on Human Rights Day to demand that the Philippines government, led by President Duterte, stop the killing of unions and union activists.
  • “We are also calling on the Morrison government to stop enabling human rights violations in the Philippines – no Australian taxpayer money should be spent supporting a regime that routinely violates the rights of trade unionists, journalists and human rights defenders.”

'It's nuts': Malcolm Turnbull condemns Coalition climate change deniers

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the Coalition saying it has a "fundamental problem in dealing with climate change" and its approach is being held to ransom by denialists within the party.

He took aim at the negative influence of climate “deniers” during the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night strongly expressing his discontent.

Now that the “climate change do-nothings are in power”, does Malcolm Turnbull regret not having stuck to his beliefs when he was Prime Minister? #QandA

 “The Coalition has a fundamental problem in dealing with climate change because there is a group within the Liberal Party and the National Party who deny the reality of climate change,” he said.

“The problem is people are treating, on the right, they are treating what should be a question of physics and science and economics and engineering as though it were an issue of religion and belief. And it’s nuts.”

The former leader was asked about “climate change do-nothings” in the Coalition and whether he regretted not having “stuck to his beliefs” on taking action as prime minister.

But Mr Turnbull defended his record citing his proposed policy National Energy Guarantee had “dared to address cutting emissions” and become “the lever that the insurgents used to blow up the government.”

Malcolm Turnbull said the party is being held to ransom by climate change denialists within the party.

He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had both supported the doomed policy, dropped following Mr Turnbull’s downfall.

“The government’s policy on climate is being held to ransom by a group of deniers within the party and in the media and other sections outside the Parliament,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said he had strived to deliver action on climate change and support the transition to renewable energy and a zero-emissions electricity sector.

“The key is to get to zero-emissions electricity which we can do… that will result in more affordable and available energy,” he said.

The panel's climate debate also ventured into the severe bushfire conditions currently taking hold along Australia’s east coast.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the NSW RFS in Wilberforce on Sunday

'Australians are paying the price': Scott Morrison under fire over bushfire emergency

Mr Turnbull and fellow panellist opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for a national approach to fighting and preventing fires and dealing with the current crisis.

"If it isn't a national security issue, what is? The national government has to provide leadership," Mr Turnbull said.

"We do have to come together and recognise that this situation with fires is going to become worse.

"That is the inevitable consequence of a hotter and drier climate. That means we need stronger and more coordinated responses."

Both Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese acknowledged the link between climate change and the severity of bushfires raging across NSW and Queensland.

Mr Albanese said a greater response is needed and the national government should be providing leadership on these issues.

"I wrote to Scott Morrison three weeks ago. He wrote back to me saying (a national response) wasn't required and that everything was in hand,"

"Quite clearly it's not."

"When it comes to our domestic emissions, there's a need to take strong action and have strong targets and we will do so and have mechanisms to drive that through," he said.

"It's about a transition - making sure that people (in coal mining towns) have security and are looked after."

The Coalition has long defended its response to climate change saying it is acting to reduce emissions in line with global commitments in an economically responsible way.

With additional reporting from AAP

Monday, December 09, 2019

Morrison Government’s failed PaTH internship program

The Morrison Government’s failed PaTH internship program - introduced by disgraced former Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash in the infamous 2016 budget – has fallen well short of all metrics according to new data.
The scheme requires any young people who have been out of work for five months to undertake training and then pays businesses $1000 to take them on as interns for a month, during which time they earn $4 per hour.
There is no incentive to retain interns in ongoing positions or even to keep them on for the full month, and businesses can bring in another intern and receive another $1000 at any time. Many of the placements to date have been at major supermarkets and in hotels, displacing real, wage-paying jobs.
Data revealed in senate estimates shows that the cost of generating a single job through the PaTH program is $19,000. The total cost of the program is $725 million.
For the cost of putting 53,000 through the Government’s free labour scheme, only 39,700 of whom got any form of ongoing employment, 125,000 young people could have received a TAFE qualification. 
This is ironic given that the Morrison Government’s immense cuts to TAFE and skills training has generated the pool of unemployed young people necessary for the operation of the PaTH scheme.
Quotes attributable to ACTU secretary Sally McManus:
  • “PaTH is codified, legislated exploitation of young people. Earning $4 an hour doing jobs that would otherwise pay minimum wage isn’t a leg-up, it’s free labour for big business.
  • “The program creates an incentive to churn through workers and increase exploitation. This is happening while we have a crisis of wage theft and regional youth unemployment.
  • “The Morrison Government is selling out young people to appease its backers in big business.
  • “Australians deserve a government which works to solve the wage growth, wage theft and unemployment crises, rather than making them worse.”

CIVICUS Monitor Our Democracy Downgraded

AUSTRALIA’S DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN DOWNGRADED FROM ‘OPEN’ TO ‘NARROWED’Australia is now in line with the United States, Ghana and Botswana in terms of civil freedoms.

An annual report on the civil rights of countries worldwide has downgraded Australia’s democracy from “open” to “narrowed”.
The CIVICUS Monitor is a collaboration between human rights organisations around the world, to assess the democratic freedoms of 196 countries.
In the 2019 report, Australia’s democratic ‘status’  dropped. This was due to recent police raids on media outlets, the growing trend of prosecuting whistleblowers like Witness K - and the increasing crackdown on peaceful protest.
The CIVICUS Monitor combines several different sources of data looking at things like the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and ‘expression’. 
Countries are then given a ranking ranging from closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open.
The Human Rights Law Centre is concerned about the findings.
 “All of these restrictive policies add up. We need to draw a line in the sand and say ‘enough’,” said the Centre’s Campaigns Director Tom Clarke.
 “Powerful politicians and their corporate backers don’t always respect the rights of individual people or communities,” he warned. 
We need to create an Australian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to help level the playing field.
The 2019 report took particular aim at legislation passed by Australian parliament this year that allows law enforcement authorities to force tech companies to hand over user information - even if it is protected by end-to-end encryption.
The report’s assessment of the Australian civic space is echoed in public opinion, with just 59 percent of Australian’s saying they are satisfied with how democracy is working.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

MEAA Paul Murphy's Walkley Awards Address

I pay my respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional owners of this land we meet on. To their elders past, present and emerging, and I acknowledge their ongoing custodianship of this land.

One night I would like to stand here and praise our government, our parliament, for what they have done to protect press freedom.

Maybe next year. Hopefully next year. But most certainly not tonight.

Because the reality is our Parliament has made telling the truth – bringing important stories to your fellow citizens – a criminal offence.

Armed police can raid your office. Or even more disgracefully, your home.

And it’s not just journalist truth tellers who are subjected to this.

Take Richard Boyle. He was concerned about harsh, unreasonable and possibly unlawful, debt collection methods by his employer, the Tax Office. He raised his concerns with his superiors but after seeing no action, he decided to go public.

The truth was told with the assistance of journalists at Nine Publishing and the ABC. It has led to a parliamentary investigation and an inquiry by the Small Business Ombudsman that will lead to changes in Tax Office practices.

But Richard’s life has been shattered. His home was raided. He is now being prosecuted and faces six life sentences for telling the truth.

This is Australia in 2019. It is not the Australia we thought we knew. It is not the Australia we want.

Richard’s story has become the experience of several whistleblowers that are punished, when they should be encouraged, and protected, for exposing wrongdoing on behalf of all of us.

In fact, you could argue that the strongest protection for whistleblowers at present is in the ethics of our own profession.

Someone who makes a confidential disclosure to a journalist knows that journalist will protect their identity in all circumstances. Even under threat of jail. That unshakeable ethical obligation is at the heart of our profession.

The Right to Know campaign calls for protection for whistleblowers, and much more.

Research for the campaign showed 87 per cent of Australians value a free and transparent democracy where the public is kept informed. But only 37 per cent think this is happening in Australia today.

In the past 20 years, around 75 laws related to secrecy and spying have been passed by our Parliament, each one chipping away at what Australians can know about their government.

The Right to Know campaign is seeking reforms to these laws in six key areas:

– The right for journalists and media companies to contest applications for warrants;

– Exceptions from laws that criminalise journalists for doing their job;

– Proper protection for whistleblowers;

– Limits on which documents can be stamped as “secret”;

– A properly functioning freedom of information regime; and

– Defamation law reform.

The unparalleled unity of our industry, of our profession, in this campaign is inspiring and unshakable. This campaign will not stop until our Parliament takes action on reforming these laws.

And reforms are essential. Australia’s role as an open and transparent democracy and a defender of democratic freedoms is more important than ever. But our reputation has been damaged. It is harder for Australia to advocate on the world stage if our own house is not in order.

Last year 95 of our colleagues around the world lost their lives in targeted killings, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents. More than 250 journalists were in prison.

A recent New York Times study found that the term “fake news” has now been used by 50 governments on five continents to justify attacks on the media.

We must also remember that two Australian citizens, and MEAA members, are in prison overseas.

Yang Hengjun, a prominent Chinese-Australian blogger and author, is accused of espionage in China.

Julian Assange may be extradited to the United States to possibly face a lifetime in prison. Among the charges, Assange is accused of publishing material that “could harm the national security of the US”. The scope of those words should alarm every journalist.

MEAA has called on the Australian government to do all it can to gain the release of both Australians.

Every Australian has the right to know about the decisions governments make in our name.

That’s why our campaign will continue, and succeed.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank you all for your support for media freedom.

ACTU–Union regulators conducted unlawful raids

In a blow to the Morrison Government’s arguments for the Ensuring Integrity Bill currently before the senate the Federal Court has ruled the union regulator, the Register Organisations Commission (ROC) investigation into the AWU was invalid.

Justice Bromberg has ruled that the ROC did not have grounds to order an AFP raid on the offices of the AWU and has ordered the return of the documents that were seized on behalf of the regulator in their first act after being established by the Liberal Government in 2017.

The decision comes as the Morrison Government attempts to pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill in the Senate which would give the ROC the extreme power to determine which unions are deregistered and which officials are disqualified under the dangerous and hypocritical new union-busting law. 

Under the EI Bill the ROC would have the power to begin deregistration proceedings against a union which had made a handful of paperwork mistakes over a period of 10 years.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil: 

  • “The Morrison government has been telling Senators that the ROC is an impartial body which can administer the extraordinary powers granted under EI. The Federal Court has just found it conducted an illegal raid on a union office. 
  • “Giving union busters more power to drag unions into courts over minor paperwork breaches, some that would only cost a company an $80 fine, Will cost members and the taxpayer millions in legal fees. This is before accounting for the cost of not being able to campaign for higher wages, better working conditions and safer workplaces. 
  • “To defend themselves from the ROC’s harrassment the AWU was forced to expending significant resources over two years to get justice. If the Ensuring Integrity Bill passes, all unions could face this harrassment over paperwork breaches. 
  • “Questions also need to be asked of the ROC who is continuing to waste tax payer’s money to challenge this finding. 
  • “This ruling gives the crossbench senators a stark example of how the Morrison government targets unions and will stop at nothing to try and bust unions. Ensuring Integrity will become another tool for union busters and should be rejected. 
  • “The Federal Court decision is a vindication for the AWU but also a warning for the Senate crossbench who weighing amendments which would give this discredited body even more power.”

Monday, December 02, 2019

infrastructure – Government Wastes Billions


New independent economic research shows a lack of expertise has seen Australian governments waste $10.8 billion in the last ten years, with warnings of a further $5 billion set to be wasted in the next several years through appalling management of infrastructure projects.
The analysis by Equity Economics finds projects such as Sydney’s Light Rail, Victoria’s Regional Fast Rail and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital have run significantly over budget with substantial delays and quality issues as a direct result of state, territory and Commonwealth Governments not retaining adequate expertise in the procurement of infrastructure projects.
This research follows earlier work which revealed that Australia’s apartment building and construction crisis will cost $6.2 billion in remediation and associated costs.
Together, this research shows the multi-billion consequences of decades of government outsourcing and deregulation.
‘Bad Customers: the billions going missing from infrastructure investment in Australia is the second of a series of reports on the major issues in Australian infrastructure delivered by the CFMEU.
Construction and General Division National Secretary Dave Noonan said: “Governments across Australia remain uninformed customers of infrastructure and services leading to extraordinary economic waste and delay.
“When it comes to delivering infrastructure, Australian governments have become bad customers, and sadly this has often hurt workers.
“We have tens of billions of dollars going to waste because of a deregulation-at-all-cost agenda. This has resulted in burgeoning corporate profits, compromised worker and community safety,” Mr Noonan said.
“The Federal government’s only answer is to silence the whistle-blowers by putting even more power in the hands of the major construction companies.
“The Ensuring Integrity Legislation is a sham which doesn’t address any of the big failures in construction. All it does is stop sunlight being shone on them,” Mr Noonan said.
Media contacts:
Pia: 0412346746, John: 0407071703

There is an estimated $288 billion in Australia’s infrastructure pipeline over the coming decade.
Over the past decade State, Territory and Commonwealth governments have funded $315 billion in infrastructure projects, with another $110bn due to be allocated over the next three years.
A lack of government skills has cost Australian taxpayers $10.8 billion over the last ten years and may cost an additional $5.0 billion over the coming three.
This builds on other CFMEU-commissioned research which showed Australia’s building and construction crisis will cost $6.2 billion in remediation costs, with 3,460 apartment buildings across Australia found to contain defective, non-compliant combustible cladding.
This is a direct result of state, territory and Commonwealth Governments not retaining adequate expertise in the procurement of infrastructure projects, or in regulating construction.
The $5 billion likely to be wasted over the next three years could deliver:
- Several major public hospitals
- 250 schools
Or could fund:
- More than 10,000 teachers or nurses per year

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Shock as Hanson and Lambie defeat Morrison union-busting bill

One Nation just voted with Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie to block the Ensuring Integrity bill. It wasn’t a mistake. 
Liberal senators were staring at their phones trying to work out what had happened.
Labor and Greens senators cheered - and one bitter Coalition senator shouted out “thanks Malcolm [Roberts]” across the chamber.
On my way back to the Guardian office I saw a clearly shocked Labor senator Catryna Bilyk profusely thanking Hanson and Roberts. Hanson said that One Nation “votes on merit”.
As we’re not allowed to interview people in the corridor I asked if Hanson would like to invite me into her office to explain. She declined.

Under the proposed government and Centre Alliance changes, a union official who committed breaches of provisions punishable by a total of 180 penalty units would be eligible for disqualification.
Under existing laws, most industrial law breaches, including right of entry and paperwork breaches, carry penalties of 60 penalty units, meaning the new threshold amounts to a three-strikes policy.
More serious breaches such as misrepresentations in union reporting requirements carry penalties of 100 penalty units, with the most serious industrial law breaches attracting penalties of 600 units.
Union officials would also be eligible for disqualification if their union committed breaches punishable by a combined maximum penalty of at least 900 penalty units and the official “failed to take reasonable steps to prevent at least two” of those contraventions.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sydney Light Rail Blowout Shock

The cost to taxpayers of Sydney's troubled light rail line has ballooned to at least $2.9 billion - $1.3 billion above the amount first budgeted for the project.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance released the final bill for the project late on Friday, less than two weeks before trams are due to start carrying passengers between Circular Quay and Randwick.
The remaining $120 million provided for financial support for small businesses disturbed by construction of the light rail line, "activation" measures along the route, safety campaigns and advertisements and extra project staffing costs due to delays.
"No one is denying the light rail project has been a difficult build," Mr Constance said.
"We took the busiest street in the nation and ripped it up to transform it into the open, inviting boulevard it is today."
He said the service would "move 6570 people across both directions during peak times and each 67-metre light rail vehicle will have the same capacity as up to nine standard buses".
But Labor leader Jodi McKay said: “Before Andrew Constance starts popping the champagne there are still a number of outstanding class action claims so the bill is likely to be $3 billion – almost double the original cost."
The light rail project has been a long-running political headache for the Berejiklian government.
Apart from the cost blowouts, it has been frustrated by lengthy delays, legal battles and prolonged disruption to businesses and residents along the route.
A $400 million class action from retailers disrupted by construction remains afoot in the NSW Supreme Court, but Transport for NSW has withdrawn cross claims against ALTRAC and Acciona.
The cost to the government of paying ALTRAC to operate the line for 16 years has previously been put at almost $938 million and is separate to the $2.9 billion capital cost of building the line and buying the trams that will run on it.
Sydneysiders will get a chance to ride on the new light rail line as early as December 7, which is the target date for trams to start carrying passengers between Circular Quay and Randwick.
The government has been reluctant to put a definitive date on the opening of the line because final testing of the trams is still under way.
If authorities decide more testing is required, the start of services will be shifted to the weekend of December 14-15. Trams are not due to begin carrying passengers on a branch line to Kingsford until March 2020.
The government had originally planned to open the line in March this year, shortly before the state election.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Politics in the Pub - There's a War on the Poor Being Waged

Saturday, 23rd November, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm in the
Dining Room of the Family Hotel, 15 Parke St, Katoomba.

As income inequality increases our government's policies offer, not a helping hand up, but shaming, punishment and a push into even deeper poverty.
Calls to #RaiseTheRate of Newstart Allowance from $124/week below the poverty line by at least $75 per week are broadly supported by groups ranging from charities which are increasingly being called on to fill the welfare gaps for basics like adequate food to business groups seeking the economic stimulus of spending in local economies.
The LNP are ideologically opposed to raising the rate of Centrelink payments, particularly Newstart. PM Scott Morrison's use of the slogan "If you have a go, you'll get a go" is not only untrue. It's also a failure - or refusal - to acknowledge the low rate of Newstart is in itself an obstacle to "having a go".
Organisations like the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre, the community and health sector bodies represented by ACOSS and the Centrelink workers represented by the CPSU are increasingly picking up the pieces, lives decimated by policies of "mutual" obligation, robodebt, the cashless welfare card, and reduced services caused by inadequate Centrelink staffing and privatisation.
This is all down to the Liberal Government absolving themselves of responsibility for public services by cutting and capping the number of staff DHS can employ. Since 2017 the Liberal Government has been privatising vital Centrelink services by outsourcing call centre work to Serco and labour hire companies, where workers have been fired for taking more than 2 days leave due to family deaths, terminal illness diagnosis and unplanned emergencies.
Those who depend on Centrelink services are pushed even further into debt and poverty when forced to wait for services, such as the granting of claims for payment, or even someone to answer the phone when they need to reschedule an interview, declare a change in circumstances, or respond to a request from Centrelink. Punitive responses to alleged mutual obligation requirements, robodebt, paternalistic shaming in the form of the cashless welfare, and other demonising policies compound a raft of financial, social and health problems.
There are solutions which don't necessitate waging a war on the poor.
At Politics in the Pub we discuss to problems - and the solutions.

Pas Forgione.

Pas is the Raise The Rate Campaign Coordinator at ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service), the peak body for the community and health sector, and one of the country's leading voices on tackling poverty and inequality.
He has been with the organisation since February, working closely with people on Newstart and Youth Allowance, and individuals and organisations that support the campaign to raise Allowances by at least $75 a week.Before this, he spent over 5 years coordinating Anti-Poverty Network SA, a grassroots organisation, led by people directly affected by poverty and unemployment, that advocated on a wide range of topics related to social security policy, included the inadequacy of Allowances and Pensions, cashless welfare, robodebt, Job Active, Centrelink call waiting times, and other issues.

Arlia Fleming.

Arlia is the Managing Principal Solicitor at the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre.
EECLC provides free legal services and education to disadvantaged people of the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Oberon and Bathurst regions. Arlia has worked in the community legal sector for 14 years, mostly working with women in prison and Aboriginal women who have experienced family violence and/or sexual assault. Arlia is passionate about social justice, human rights, and community legal education.

Katie Higgins and Kate Cooke (replacing Sophie Callard).

Katie Higgins and Kate Cooke work for the Community and Public Sector Union in NSW. Katie is a Field Organiser and represents workers in the Department of Human Services, while Kate is an Industrial Organiser in the Member Service Centre and specialises in representing members with individual issues in the workplace.
The CPSU has been campaigning against the privatisation of Centrelink since 2017, when the LNP Government first began demolishing vital Centrelink services and outsourcing call centre work to Serco and labour hire companies.
In the course of their work, Kate and Katie hear from the community members who have suffered under the unethical Robodebt system, the labour hire workers who struggle with insecure work and limited training and the permanent employees whose ability to provide vital community services has been diminished by a lack of resources. These issues are a direct result of choices made by the Liberal Government to cut funding and limit the number of employees working for Government agencies. The workers represented by the CPSU bear the brunt of public frustration with government policies but are threatened with sanctions or terminations should they speak out publicly in support of their jobs and the Australian people they serve.
Politics in the Pub finishes with a Q&A where speakers respond to questions from the audience.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

ACTU– Westpac accused

Westpac has been accused of breaching the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML-CTF) Act on more than 23 million occasions.

This is the second of the big four banks to be implicated in or found guilty of major criminal wrongdoing in the last two days, and yet there is no suggestion that the Morrison Government is acting urgently to improve regulation, let alone shut down the banks responsible or penalise their directors.

Under the Ensuring Integrity bill, which the government is attempting to force through the Senate, unions representing hundreds of thousands of working people could be shut down for simply submitting paperwork late.

It is clear that under the Morrison Government, there is one rule for banks and big business, and another for working people.  

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  1. “Yesterday, one of the big four banks admitted to 87 criminal offenses, today another is being implicated in a multi-billion dollar breach of criminal law, yet still the Morrison Government will take no action. Instead, they continue to use Parliament to attack unions and working people.

  • “The Ensuring Integrity bill would mean that if paperwork was submitted a day late three times over ten years, the entire union could be shut down.
  • “It would mean that nurses stopping work to improve patient care could have their union taken away from them.

  • “Unions already face much stiffer penalties than corporations for similar offences.

  • “The Morrison Government is so focused on forcing through its union-busting laws that it is ignoring systemic law-breaking in the banking and financial sector. Australians deserve better.”

23 Fire Chiefs Condemn Attempts to Gag Climate Debates

A coalition of 23 fire and emergency services say the government is trying to gag debate on climate change.

Former fire chiefs from across Australia have accused the government of trying to gag debate on climate change which they say is "supercharging" bushfires. 

A coalition of 23 fire and emergency services leaders from every state and territory gathered in Sydney on Thursday to call for a climate emergency to be declared, insisting that harder-to-control fires have broken out earlier-than-normal across New South Wales and Queensland because of global warming.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to meet with the group called Emergency Leaders for Climate Change and has dodged questions about the link between climate change and the devastating bushfires that broke out on Friday. 

Greg Mullins, a former NSW fire and rescue commissioner, slammed what he said was an unofficial gag order on speaking about climate change.

"This fire season is going to go for months, so do we just simply get gagged? Because I think that's what's happening," he told reporters on Thursday.

"Some people want the debate gagged because they don't have any answers."

Michael McCormack speaks at the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deployment Centre in Warana.

NSW mayor slams deputy PM’s 'insulting' climate change attack during bushfires He said no time was wasted discussing the causes of other disasters such as the Grenfell fire in London or train crashes. 

"It's okay to say it's arsonists' fault, or that the 'greenies' are stopping hazard reduction burning, which simply isn't true, but you're not allowed to talk about climate change. Well, we are, because we know what's happening." 

The group first requested a meeting with the prime minister in April, and have finally locked in a meeting with Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud. 

"This government fundamentally doesn't like talking about climate change."

Mr Mullins said the delay in securing a meeting was frustrating because they could have warned the government about the need for more resources to prepare for the "horror" fire season. 

"Had we spoken back in April, one of the things we would have said was try to get more aircraft on lease from the northern hemisphere."

A war of words has broken out between politicians on the issue, with the Morrison government insisting it is not the time to talk climate policy while the nation burns.

On Monday, Nationals leader Michael McCormack attacked "raving inner-city lunatics" for linking climate change to the fires.

In return, the Greens labelled the deputy prime minister a "dangerous fool" who was putting lives at risk.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has described it as "inappropriate" to discuss the issue while fires continue to rage but insisted her government has not shied away from the issue and is prepared to discuss it at a later stage.