Monday, February 25, 2019

Morrison's Fake Climate Change

The man that once waved a lump of coal around parliament has announced a $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund to reduce Australia’s emissions. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today launch a new pre-election climate change policy, pledging $2 billion for projects to bring down Australia’s emissions.

The Climate Solutions Fund is an extension of former prime minister Tony Abbott’s Emissions Reduction Fund…
  • “We acknowledge and accept the challenge of addressing climate change, but we do so with cool heads, not just impassioned hearts,” he said.
  • “Our Climate Solutions Package will ensure Australia meets our 2030 emissions reduction target — a responsible and achievable target — building on our success in comprehensively beating our Kyoto commitments.”

In July 2007, when the Howard Government was in its death throes, John Howard also had a mea culpa and announced that a carbon trading scheme would be set up if he won the 2007 Election.

History doesn’t repeat but it sure does rhyme.

MUA – Australia’s first offshore wind farm being stalled by Morrison Government

Posted by Mua Comms on February 21, 2019

Development of Australia’s first offshore wind farm, which would power up to 1.2 million homes, has been stalled by Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s failure to sign off on an exploration license allowing a detailed assessment of the wind resource to commence.

The Department of the Environment and Energy confirmed during Senate Estimates that an evaluation of the project has been undertaken, a plan for a customised exploration license developed, and a briefing and recommendations provided to the Energy Minister, but that the project can progress no further without the Minister granting the exploration license.

The Star of the South project seeks to construct 250 wind turbines in Commonwealth waters off the coast of Victoria’s Gippsland region, generating up to 20 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs and feeding the power into the National Electricity Market via an underground cable to the Latrobe Valley.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the project — which the company claims will create up to 12,000 manufacturing and construction jobs and slash Australia’s carbon emissions — appeared to be falling victim to the Morrison Government’s ideological hatred of renewable energy.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said the exploration license awaiting approval did not allow construction to commence and was simply about allowing the use of floating buoys and platforms off the Gippsland coast to gather wind and wave observations.

  • “We have a major wind project that would create thousands of jobs and provide clean, reliable energy for more than a million Australian households, but because of their ideological hatred of renewable energy the Morrison Government appears to be actively stalling its development,” Mr Tracey said.
  • "The Star of the South project has been in the works since 2012, yet in this time no legislation has been put forward, no regulatory framework put in place, and no responsible agency nominated, despite offshore wind being an established industry internationally.
  • “Now we have revelations from Senate Estimates that Energy Minister Angus Taylor has been briefed on the project and presented with recommendations, yet the exploration license continues to sit on his desk gathering dust.
  • "Rather than support renewable energy projects, under the Morrison Government we can't even get approval for a few wind measurement buoys off the Gippsland coast.
  • “Energy Minister Angus Taylor must get off his hands and immediately allow the Star of the South wind project to move forward to the exploration stage.”

Mr Tracey said offshore wind generation was a mature industry internationally which has successfully operated for two decades, but Australia was falling behind, putting future employment opportunities at risk.

  • “This project isn’t just about generating renewable energy and tackling climate change, it’s about creating secure jobs for the future, particularly for workers who are being displaced from the offshore oil and gas industries,” he said.
  • "The Federal Government urgently needs to put in place a plan to support the development of the offshore wind industry, including a clear regulatory framework, along with the right port infrastructure and specialised construction vessels to roll out this project and others like it as quickly as possible.”

ACOSS Media Release: Government’s climate policy failing people on low-incomes

The Coalition’s climate package does little to tackle climate change or to protect people on low-incomes who are more vulnerable to its impacts as well as high energy prices.
 “The Coalition has not increased its woefully inadequate 2030 emissions reduction targets, or outlined a plan to transition equitably to clean energy with protections for people on low-incomes, ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

  •  “This summer’s extreme weather of heatwaves, fires and floods, made worse by climate change, have destroyed people’s homes and impacted livelihoods and health, especially for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.
  •  "There is no room for ideology when it comes to protecting people's lives and livelihoods, we must rapidly shift away from fossil fuels like coal to clean energy sources. People on low-incomes must be supported. 
  •  ‘’It is disappointing that the most effective and least costly policy to reduce carbon pollution – a price on carbon – seems to be off the political agenda.  
  •  “We welcomed recent government announcements to curb poor retail electricity pricing, but ongoing failure to implement a plan to transition equitably to clean affordable energy is contributing to electricity price rises and leaving low-income households unable to benefit from home solutions like rooftop solar. 
  •  “While we welcome the announced measures to improve energy efficiency, the biggest opportunities that will make the biggest difference to people and emissions have been overlooked. 
  •  “The government should be working with COAG on implementing mandatory energy efficiency standards for rental properties, co-funding energy efficiency and solar in new and existing social housing and Indigenous communities, and providing funds for homeowners on low-incomes to invest in solar and use energy more efficiently.
  •  “Climate change is a social justice and intergenerational equity issue. We cannot afford continue to tinker around the edges. Genuine action and support is needed.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

ACTU – Real wage growth remains near record low at 0.5%

20 February 2019

Real wage growth for Australian workers remains near an all-time record low at 0.5%, according to Wage Price Index statistics released by the ABS this morning.

These figures indicate that it our current rules make it far too difficult for working people to negotiate fair pay rises that stay ahead of living costs.

Annualised wage growth is 2.3 percent, barely above inflation, and well behind the rapidly increasing costs of essential consumer items like housing, healthcare and transport.

The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government has watched the wage growth crisis evolve under its watch, not only not acting to help Australian workers, but slashing penalty rates, opposing increases to the minimum wage, imposing public sector wage caps and siding with employers to entrench insecure work.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Wage growth staying at near-record lows for years isn’t normal. The system is breaking down, and the Morrison Government is doing nothing to address this crisis for working people.
  • “Workers have been told by Scott Morrison to wait for wage rises to trickle down. This won’t work, it has never worked. Our Government needs to take action to rebalance the power between workers and employers. Big business has far too much power and only action by our Government to improve the rights of workers will fix it.
  • “We need to lift the minimum wage, reduce the number of insecure jobs, stop wage theft and upgrade workers’ rights when bargaining in order to see fair pay rises.
  • “This is the reality of life for Australian workers. Wages falling behind the cost of essential items like transport and healthcare, while the Finance Minister is so comfortable he doesn’t even think about who pays for his holidays. The Morrison Government could hardly be more out of touch.”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jeremy Corbyn will visit Brussels next week for talks in a bid to circumvent the Brexit deadlock in Westminster.

Jeremy Corbyn will visit Brussels next week for talks in a bid to circumvent the Brexit deadlock in Westminster.

The Labour leader is expected to meet EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt.

The visit – far from Mr Corbyn’s first to the EU capital – comes after senior EU figures have spoken out to welcome Labour’s proposals for a softer Brexit than the one planned by Theresa May.

Mr Barnier’s deputy Sabine Weyand said earlier this week that Labour’s plans deserved to be examined, while European Council president Donald Tusk is said to have spoken well of the proposals in a private meeting with Theresa May.

Mr Verhofstadt also said he welcomed Mr Corbyn’s letter to the prime minister, which called for a cross-party compromise that included a customs union, close alignment with the single market, adherence to EU workers’ rights, and “shared institutions and obligations”.

UK a 'diminished country on the wane' after Brexit vote, says Dutch PM

Spokespeople for Mr Barnier, Mr Verhofstadt, and Mr Corbyn declined to comment on the record about the planned visit when approached by The Independent, but it is understood that the Labour leader will come to Brussels on Thursday. An exact itinerary is still said to be under discussion between the parties.

The Government has relentlessly focused on trying to get the EU to concede changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, which Brexiteer MPs are resolutely opposed to.

The European Union has however responded by saying it will not reopen the withdrawal agreement – but that the UK should change its red lines to build a closer future relationship with the EU that could avoid the backstop being triggered.

This has put Labour and Brussels on roughly the same page – with the opposition party’s proposals going down well in the EU capital.

Though the prime minister has held talks with other parties, including Labour, about a cross party way forward, they have yet to bear any fruit. The prime minister is reported to be sceptical about whether her MPs would back the sort of close future relationship Labour is demanding. 

Cash on Trial

Senator Michaelia Cash has denied she referred the Australian Workers’ Union to the national regulator because of Bill Shorten, and told a court she had no knowledge of controversial police raids until she saw them on television.

Senator Cash gave evidence in the Federal Court in Melbourne on Friday as part of a civil trial brought by the AWU in an attempt to halt an investigation by the Registered Organisations Commission, which regulates unions and employer associations.

The AWU says the police raids on its offices in 2017 were politically motivated.

During more than two hours in the witness box, Senator Cash said she referred the AWU to the commission in August 2017 after a newspaper reported the union donated $100,000 to activist group GetUp! in 2005 and 2006.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was the national secretary of the AWU at the time of the donations, but Senator Cash, the then employment minister, denied her involvement in the matter was motivated by the hope of discrediting the Opposition Leader.

‘‘It was of interest to me because he was the person named in the article as the relevant [union] secretary at the time,’’ she said.

Asked if Mr Shorten was of interest to her in 2017, Senator Cash said: ‘‘Not from a ministerial perspective, no.’’

Instead, she said she believed serious allegations had been made against the union and ‘‘it just happened that Mr Shorten was the relevant secretary of the AWU as outlined in the article’’.

Pressed by both Caryn van Proctor, for the AWU, and later, Justice Mordecai Bromberg, on whether there was a political interest in referring the union to the commission, Senator Cash conceded: ‘‘I am a politician. By nature I am political. But I think you are confusing the discharging of my role as the minister, which is based on facts.’’

Senator Cash said she wrote two letters to the commission but didn’t receive a response.

Australian Federal Police officers raided the AWU’s offices on October 24, 2017. Senator Cash has previously denied she knew anything of the raids in advance, although it later emerged her staffers were involved in alerting media to them.

Ben Davies, the senator’s then chief of staff, and David de Garis, her then media adviser, have been implicated in the leaks to the media, as has Michael Tetlow, who at the time worked for the then justice minister Michael Keenan.

Senator Cash on Friday said the first she knew of the AFP raids was about 4.45pm that day while she was in her Parliament House office.

‘‘I watched it unfold on television,’’ she said.

Asked if she had a ‘‘positive reaction’’ at seeing the AWU offices raided, the senator said: ‘‘I would have wondered why they were executed, what was the reasoning for the warrants.’’

She said she called another adviser in to ‘‘ask what was going on’’. The commission had been in touch with that adviser to advise that the raids were happening.

Senator Cash presumed the commission got into touch with her office because the commission, while an independent body, fell under her then portfolio as employment minister.

The trial continues.

Friday, February 15, 2019


FEB 14, 2019

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has cut more than 100 jobs serving Indigenous communities around Australia, underlining the Coalition’s empty promises around Closing the Gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

An analysis by the Community and Public Sector Union of official staffing figures shows 100 jobs in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have been slashed from regional and metropolitan areas outside of Canberra since June 2015, with a further 75 positions cut in the ACT.

Prime Minister and Cabinet had no staff based outside of Canberra until Indigenous Affairs was moved into the department in 2013, indicating the vast majority of job cuts have fallen in this critical policy area.

CPSU Deputy National President Brooke Muscat-Bentley said: “Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to think that a speech once a year and appointing Tony Abbott as Special Envoy for Indigenous Affairs is all he needs to do for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s disgraceful that while Mr Morrison is paying lip service to Closing the Gap, his Government has been slashing scores of Indigenous Affairs jobs around the country.”

“These job cuts in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet mean this Government has slashed more than one in 10 jobs in Indigenous Affairs in less than four years. These cuts have hit some parts of the country particularly hard, with the Government slashing 40 jobs from the Northern Territory alone.”

“These job cuts are a double body blow for Indigenous people. Clearly this has an impact on the important services that Indigenous Affairs provides, but these positions that have been cut were also desperately needed permanent, quality employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“Indigenous Affairs is the agency tasked with running the critical Closing the Gap initiative, so the Prime Minister shouldn’t pretend for a second that this Government is serious about reducing Indigenous disadvantage. Tony Abbott is absolutely not the answer to this problem.”

“Indigenous Affairs runs a huge number of programs with just a few hundred staff in a really diverse range of areas, from community safety to health and employment. A good government would restore these jobs immediately as a first step to making the wellbeing of Indigenous people a national priority in reality not just in political rhetoric.”

ACTU – Morrison Government bill a backdoor to casualisation

A bill by the Morrison Government would make it easier for employers to casualise jobs and reduces the rights of working people, the peak body for working people has warned.

The bill, which purports to allow people to request to convert from casual employment to permanent after 12 months service – a right already won by unions for most workers in the Fair Work Commission last year – contains a fatal flaw that could erode workers’ rights by altering the definition of casual employment.

Courts have repeatedly ruled that the test of whether a person’s employment is casual or permanent depends on objective characteristics of their work. Work that is short-term, intermittent and irregular is casual, while work that is ongoing, predictable and continuous is permanent.

The language in the bill referring to people ‘designated as casual’ would allow employers to call any job casual without regard to the type of work being performed.

The ACTU has repeatedly called for an objective definition of casual to be included in legislation to avoid confusion for employers and employees.

The bill would also allow employers to sue people who went to the Fair Work Commission to plead their case for conversion without first attempting to resolve it at a workplace level.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “We oppose this bill which is inadequate and counter-productive. It has the capacity to do far more harm than good.
  • “It hands the power to employers to arbitrarily determine who is or is not a casual, rather than applying an objective test of casual work, which is what courts currently rely on, and what working people need for their own job security.
  • “It relies on an employer’s designation of someone as a casual rather than the characteristics of their work itself, which is a serious error. A job should be either permanent or casual based on the characteristics of the work itself – an objective test – as courts have repeatedly found. People should not be  able to classified as casual on the whim of employers if their work is ongoing, predictable and permanent.
  • “It allows employers to sue people who go to the Fair Work Commission to enforce their rights without first attempting to negotiate with their employer directly for conversion. Given that people in casual employment are already less secure than permanent employees there is a very real prospect that someone wanting to exercise the right this bill is supposed to protect could find themselves without work, or sued by their employer for taking their case to the Commission in the first instance.
  • “It further allows employers significant practical latitude to refuse requests for conversion and avoid granting conversion to people who have served as casuals for 12 months.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

ACTU – Union movement celebrates Hakeem’s release

Union movement celebrates Hakeem’s release
12 February 2019

The Australian union movement is celebrating the release of Professional Footballers Australia member Hakeem al-Araibi from a Thai prison where he has been held since November 27 last year.
The news broke Monday evening that the Thai Attorney-General requested the case to extradite Hakeem to his former home country of Bahrain be dropped.

Hakeem fled Bahrain after being imprisoned and tortured for taking part in pro-democracy protests in the gulf state. He was granted refugee status and permanent residency in Australia.

The Melbourne local was arrested on his honeymoon in Thailand last year.

The move to drop the extradition case follows a months-long campaign by football players, fans, civil society organisations and unionists for the return of the 25-year-old Pascoe Vale FC defender to his wife in Australia.

PFA member and former Socceroo Craig Foster led the campaign, travelling the world working tirelessly to free his fellow footballer.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “Like all Australians we are celebrating the return of Hakeem al-Araibi to his home, his wife and his club.
  • “Hakeem is an Australian union member who should never have been in prison.
  • “His union, Professional Footballers Australia, have been instrumental in securing his release. Their leadership and international partners – John Didulica, Francis Awaritefe and Brendan Schwab – deserve the highest praise for all their incredible work, and never giving up. 
  • “Too many civil society groups, working people and passionate individuals to name gave this campaign everything. The Federal Government pressed his case on a diplomatic level.
  • “But the true heroes of this were ordinary people – football fans, players and union members – led by an extraordinary Australian, Craig Foster.
  • “I want to extend the thanks of all working people in our country to the Thai Attorney General for his action to secure Hakeem’s freedom.”

Quotes attributable to Professional Footballers Australia Chief Executive John Didulica:

  • "Today's outcome underlines the strength and force of the football community, its members and unionists at large."
  • "Foremost, the PFA expresses its everlasting gratitude to Craig Foster, whose depth of faith in human rights and sporting virtues was tested throughout this ordeal, but never wavered."
  • "More broadly, the football community, mobilised and inspired, showcased its most admirable qualities to the world; a sport, a community and a nation united to fight in the name of decency and altruism is a force to behold."
  • "The contribution of the ACTU to Hakeem's release was immense. Like many others throughout this process, their efforts were swift, compelling and fundamental to achieving the outcome that we celebrate today."

Politics in the Pub - Change the Rules

The rules are so broken that inequality is at a 70 year high. Australia needs a pay rise and jobs we can count on - to Change the Rules and bring back the fair go.
Come and find out how you can be a force for change.

Saturday, 23rd February 2019 from 3pm to 5pm in the Dining Room of the Family Hotel, 15 Parke St, Katoomba.
Authorised by D Smith, Secretary, Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc, 52-52A Great Western Hwy, Mount Victoria, NSW, 2786
#GiveADam - the Documentary.

"The NSW Government wants to raise the Warragamba Dam wall so it can over-develop western Sydney floodplains, and so destroy 65 kilometres of NSW wilderness rivers. When the community gets active, change is made. This documentary showcases the spectacular landscapes under threat and the people who are trying to save it."
Bookings recommended!

Monday, February 11, 2019



Mine dust victims and supporters tried to meet with Queensland Member of Parliament Michelle Landry at her electorate office in Rockhampton but she would not come out to meet with them.

The group were kicking off their campaign to ask politicians to support an industry fund that will provide care and support to victims of deadly mine dust diseases.

Victims’ advocate Jim Pearce – a former coal miner and Queensland State MP - says that it is vital for local politicians to get behind the campaign.

“The big mining companies won’t do this on their own. They’re only interested in protecting their bottom line, not in protecting the workers and families who are risking their lives in the coal mines.

“Mine dust diseases are debilitating and often deadly. What’s more, the number of new victims suffering from dust-related diseases, such as silicosis, is growing.

“Up to 100 mineworkers are already paying a horrific price with deteriorating health and treatment costs.

"It is unfair that these mine workers who have been sent into the coal mine to do a job, didn't have the protection in place to look after them.

"It's unfair that they should have to be just left to die quietly in the corner of their home and not have the mining companies accept some responsibility.”

Mr Pearce said the Mine Dust Victims Support Group was proposing a modest 1 cent per tonne, per week levy on coal produced to go into the fund for sick workers and their families.

"This ask is not radical or unreasonable. In the US, coal companies pay a $US1.10 per tonne levy on each tonne of coal produced to assist mine disease victims.

“In Australia, the James Hardie Fund has distributed more than a billion dollars to asbestos victims.

"Some of Queensland’s coal operators are among the biggest and most profitable mining companies in the world. Our proposal would hardly be a blip on their radar.

"It’s shameful that these companies have refused to do the right thing. But we’re hopeful that with the support of our local political representatives we can get the justice and reform coal miners and their families deserve.”

Despite being given the brush off by Michelle Landry and the mining companies, the Victims Group has not given up and will keep up their campaign for the Mine Dust Diseases Victims Fund.

PSA - The Public Service Association won’t be silenced !

The Berejiklian Government has passed a new law that makes it a crime for unions, charities, churches and community groups to work together during a political campaign.

In fact, there are penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone who breaches this law.

Unions NSW is going to challenge this new law in the High Court because we believe it is unfair.

We need your support. Please sign the petition and share to send a strong message to the NSW Government, that we won’t be silenced.

This is climate litigation writ large -- Gloucester Victory

The nascent field of climate litigation in Australia came of age on Friday. The Chief Judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court, Brian Preston, delivered a landmark judgment refusing to approve a new coal mine because of its impacts on climate change. In the Chief Judge’s words, the mine proposal was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When we first argued that our client, the Groundswell Gloucester, should be a party to this case and put a climate-change ground before the court, the mining companies thought it a laughable proposition, and said it would be “a sideshow”. As it happens, climate change became the main event in this court, as it is elsewhere.

The ramifications are likely to ripple out across Australia and possibly the world. This is climate litigation writ large.

The Chief Judge refused the Rocky Hill Coal Project,  near the mid-north coast town of Gloucester, on a range of grounds, all of which are important, but what his judgment says about climate change is of greatest significance. The court accepted the evidence put by Professor Will Steffen about the global carbon budget – that is, there is a limit on the amount of fossil fuels that can be burnt if we are to meet the Paris Agreement targets and avoid dangerous climate change.

The challenge of remaining within the global carbon budget presents a major barrier for new fossil fuel developments. They must overcome what we characterise as the Chief Judge’s “wrong time test”. To pass that test, a fossil fuel proponent must now establish why their project should be allowed to proceed at this time in history, when it is clearly recognised that there is an urgent need for rapid and deep decreases in greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve this, most fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground unburned.

The Rocky Hill project failed this test. It failed because its impacts on climate change were adjudged to be unsuitable at this time. It failed notwithstanding it was a relatively small project, with comparatively fewer emissions, and one proposing to mine coking coal for steel making rather than the more frequently discussed thermal coal for energy. That would indicate that future fossil-fuel projects, which are either larger, produce more emissions, or seek to generate fuel for energy rather than steel making, face an even steeper challenge in passing the “wrong time test”.

In the Rocky Hill case, the mining company put forward four arguments as to why its project should be allowed to pass the “wrong time test”. First, the emissions could theoretically be offset by alternate mitigation measures at some point in the future. The court rejected this as speculative and hypothetical.

Second, it argued refusal of the project was not the most cost-efficient way to meet the global carbon budget. This was rejected, as it is not the court’s role to determine the least-cost way of achieving global emissions reduction (as an aside, that is the role of leadership and policy – in which we are sadly lacking).

Third, the company mounted, effectively, the drug dealer’s defence: if we don’t mine it here, they’ll mine it somewhere else. This was rejected because there is “no inevitability that developing countries … will instead approve a new coking coal mine … rather than following Australia’s lead to refuse a new coal mine”.

Fourth, the company argued the mine was necessary for the steel production industry. This was rejected on the basis that the mine is not in fact necessary to maintain worldwide steel production and therefore its impacts on climate change could not be justified.

These arguments are standard fare for fossil fuel companies. Until Friday, they had proven incredibly successful in frustrating attempts to address the cumulative impacts of multiple smaller projects on global climate change. The companies’ success had been enabled by policy settings that create no meaningful nexus between our international commitments to emissions reductions, and the approval of fossil fuel projects at a local level, where those emissions are actually produced.

Now the Land and Environment Court’s most senior judge has accepted the causal link between a project’s contribution to cumulative greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change. That, in and of itself, is a matter of great importance.

In one sense this case says the starting point for a new fossil fuel project is “no” because of climate change. A fossil fuel development may argue its unique circumstances justify approval, but it must do so in light of climate change science telling us that there are already sufficient fossil fuel projects approved to exceed the target limit agreed in Paris of a 1.5C rise on the pre-industrial global average  temperature.

We suspect we are only beginning to understand how profoundly influential this judgment will be on the legal landscape in Australia. This won’t be the last project consigned to the dust-bin of history on the grounds of climate change. It is just the first.

David Morris is  CEO of the NSW Environmental Defenders Office and Brendan Dobbie is its acting principal lawyer.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

NSW Labor Campaign to Make TAFE Free !

Since the Liberals came to power, we have received tens of thousands of signatures and emails, urging us to stop the Liberals and Nationals attack on our TAFE system. 

More than 5,700 teachers have been sacked.

Campuses have been forced to close, enrolments are down by 175,000 since 2011 and course fees have sky-rocketed. 

Now, because of people like you who have supported our campaign over the last eight years, we're going to save TAFE in NSW. 

But we only have 42 days to make this policy a reality.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

ACTU – CDP an abject failure: PM’s report

A report from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s department into a remote indigenous work-for-the-dole scheme has revealed the program as an abject failure.

The ACTU has been scathing of the Community Development Program (CDP), calling for the abolition of the program and its replacement with one that provides genuine paid employment.

The CDP forces unemployed people in remote areas to work for free, sometimes for for-profit companies for 25 hours per week, without any basic workplace entitlements, or protection of federal OHS or worker’s compensation laws.

Under the CDP, people were twice as likely to lose 20 percent or more of their quarterly income to onerous penalties than they were to get a job, the report reveals. More than 80 percent of the people subjected to the CDP regime are indigenous.

Three in five people under the scheme have had their payments cut as punishment for non-compliance, with one in ten people losing more than 20 percent of their quarterly income.

Yet only 6.7 percent of participants got a long-term job after participating the program – a increase of only 350 extra jobs over the previous program.

Failure to comply with the rigid CDP obligations leads to harsh financial penalties that harm participants, their families and their communities. 

At last year’s ALP conference the party committed to abolishing and replacing the program.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Indigenous Officer Lara Watson:

  • “People in remote and regional indigenous communities have a right to be paid fairly for their work and to have the same protections as every other worker in Australia.
  • “This report from the Prime Minister’s own department shows that the CDP has failed.
  • “You’re twice as likely to have your income slashed than you are to get a job if you’re forced into this discriminatory scheme.
  • “The coalition are the only major party clinging to this failed program. It must be abolished and replaced with a solution that provides genuine paid employment.”

Friday, February 08, 2019

ACTU – Morrison and the Banks

Secret documents obtained by Australian Unions under Freedom of Information reveal that in the days before the announcement of the Banking Royal Commission, Scott Morrison worked closely with the big four banks. 

A series of letters and emails show just how closely the Morrison Government was working with the big banks to shape the direction and limit the time available for the Banking Royal Commission. The banks gave suggestions about who should head up the royal commission too.

This is disgraceful and smacks of collusion.

It means that after voting against it 26 times, Scott Morrison only agreed to the Banking Royal Commission after the big banks gave him permission to do so.

Just one media outlet has covered this story – the ABC. Can you help us get the word out far and wide on social media, so everyone knows about this?

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Richard Flanagan: 'Our politics is a dreadful black comedy' "Seize The Fire"

When my father died at the age of 98 he had largely divested himself of possessions. Among what little remained was an old desk in which he had collected various writings precious to him over the years: poems, sayings, quotes, a few pieces he had written, some correspondence.

Among them my elder sister found a letter written by one of my father’s cousins many years before. In it she told my father that his mother, my grandmother, was of Aboriginal descent, and that in her family she had been brought up to never mention this fact outside of the home.

My father loved discussing interesting letters with his family. He never discussed this letter. Yet he kept it. The story of covering up Indigenous pasts was a common one in Tasmania, where such behaviour was for some a form of survival. There is no documentation to prove my father’s cousin’s story is true, but that doesn’t make it untrue. It leaves the story as an unanswerable question mark over my family.

The theme of this year’s Garma festival is truth telling. My father’s story is about the questions truth raises, and where the truth takes us. I don’t tell this story to claim I am an Indigenous. I have too much respect for Indigenous people to make such a claim.

Australia not a united country, Yolngu leader tells Garma festival

And yet, if it were correct, it would explain so much that is inexplicable about my father. It would make sense of his beliefs in reincarnation as wombats and wallabies, beliefs strangely at odds with those of an ostensible Catholic born in 1914, as were his strong, almost obsessive feeling for his ancestors and for the land of the island’s north-east.

It would make some sense of my father’s odd, wry acceptance of the two times he suffered the indignity of being refused service in bars as a “half-caste” when we went on a family camping trip to Western Australia in the 70s. It was, I later learned, not the first time. In a PoW camp in Japan an English PoW refused to work with him on the grounds he would not lower himself to work with a “half breed”.

Our family, like so many other Australian families, has numerous Indigenous connections. I have Indigenous cousins. My brother’s first grandson is Indigenous. But the questions remain hanging over us, as they remain over all Australians.

Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?

I have flown the great length of our vast nation to speak to you, from the snow and rainforest and rivers of the island of the Palawa in the far south, to here, the country of the Yolngu in the far north-east, a country almost mythical for its music, its art, its leadership. Five thousand kilometres I travelled, twice the distance of London to Moscow.

And as I boarded flight after flight, making my way slowly northwards, I wondered what joins us over such a vast expanse, what connects wintry worlds with tropical? What finally joins us as people into this idea that we call Australia?

And the answer is story. The story of us as a nation. The story of us as Australia and as being Australian.

And yet, in recent years, that story has grown increasingly threadbare as the poverty of its original conception has been revealed as too thin to hold, as the warp and weft of our national myths have under strain torn apart, only to be covered up with rougher patches crudely stitched into the growing holes: war memorials, Captain Cook statues. It was, as they say, a bad day when the first blackfella discovered Captain Cook.

 A member of the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu people from north-eastern Arnhem Land prepares for the Bunggul traditional dance at the Garma festival on Friday
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 A member of the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu people from north-eastern Arnhem Land prepares for the Bunggul traditional dance at the Garma festival on Friday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/EPA

Australia has achieved many great things as a state. But it will fail as a nation if it cannot find a way of admitting our Indigenous people, and with them, our continent’s extraordinary patrimony: 60,000 years of civilisation. When the first corals began to form of what we now know as the Great Barrier Reef that civilisation was already 50,000 years old. They had known unimaginable changes of climate, ecology and zoology. We stand as the inheritors of a people whose languages, cultures and Dreamings are founded in that experience of deep time unknown to humanity anywhere else in the world.

And yet we turn away from it all, and, with a growing hysteria, feverishly return to our crumbling myths, seeking to build new statues and new memorials to collapsing fictions.

Among the audience here are some of the most powerful people in Australia: leading politicians, senior bureaucrats, heads and executives of some of our biggest corporations.

I bring you a warning.

The world is being undone before us. History is once more moving, and it is moving to fragmentation on the basis of concocted differences, toward the destruction of democracy using not coups and guns to entrench autocracies and dictators, but the ballot box and social media.

 The bonfire of our vanities is fully loaded with the fuel of growing inequality, fear, and division
We see gay and transgender people being once more scapegoated, and we see race and religion used to divide. We see truth everywhere denied. Duterte. Orbán. Erdoğan. Putin. Democracy is withering in Poland. Slovakia. Cambodia. Once great nations are lost in division that with each passing day grows more intractable. The chaos of Brexit. The catastrophe of Trump’s white nationalism.

My warning is this: if we here in Australia do not reimagine ourselves we will be undone too.

Other nations did not foresee the moment of their undoing; they had perhaps not the materials and tools at hand to fashion defences, to reimagine their democracies.

Our bewilderment with the greater world we live in is buttressed by our determined ignorance of our own country. If Australia chooses to remain cloistered in that ignorance at this time of dissolution, it is no less pregnant with catastrophe than anywhere else. The bonfire of our vanities is fully loaded with the fuel of growing inequality, fear and division.

And yet, it is at this moment of peril that we have been presented with an extraordinary opportunity rarely given to nations, a way of reinventing our country in a way that makes us stronger, more democratic and more inclusive.

And that opportunity is the Uluru statement.

The Uluru statement of the Heart.

At a time when the common consensus was that the worst was in the ascendant it was an appeal to what was best. It was a great achievement of our democracy that those who, from the beginning of our nation, have been locked out, would now, for the first time of which I am aware, accept the sovereignty of the commonwealth in return for a recognition of their sovereignty within that commonwealth.

That it was done with dignity and with a generosity wholly out of character with the humiliation and hate that has been visited on Indigenous people for 200 years gave the Uluru proposals a majestic grace.

The Uluru statement was modest in its proposals but it demands a radical recognition of who we are. We are not a nation, we are state divided by race and a refusal to acknowledge history.

Race, of course, is not a personal or scientific distinction; it is a political distinction. Race, with its ideas of Indigenous Australia as a problem, can only be maintained through power, and it can only be undone and unmade by power.

At the heart of the Uluru statement is a single terrible, haunting sentence, which reads, “This is the torment of our powerlessness.” To end that terrible torment there is finally only one remedy: it is to accord Indigenous Australia a measure of power through constitutional recognition of its sovereignty.

 A government that claims to be of good heart to Indigenous Australia humiliated a generation of great black leaders
The great question of Indigenous sovereignty has been repeatedly acknowledged as a fundamental problem of the Australian state by successive national leaders. White Australia could not solve that problem. In a democracy that has constantly denied them, it was Indigenous Australia which, in a democratic process, came up with a solution.

But the historic magnitude of the Uluru statement was matched only by the smallness of the government’s response, which was akin to watching circus clowns standing on a wet soap bar. It was always going to end pathetically, and so it did, with a shameful lie the government knew was a lie, pretending a moment of democratic history was an attack on our democracy, the lie of the third house of parliament promulgated by a man who would go on to blame his newborn child for his many problems, a calumny sadly repeated by the prime minister.

I don’t doubt that, for the government, the constitutional and legal questions are complex, that the politics are pregnant with the possibility of failure. The Indigenous community is also of many minds on many aspects of these various issues. Yet in spite of these difficulties, in spite of labyrinthine politics, the Indigenous community managed to find common cause, and with one voice say what it wanted.

And one might have thought that our government would listen and emulate the hard graft, the gritty politics, the trust in democracy, and aspire, at the very least, to the same hard-won achievement.

But a government that boasts of its determination to fight hard for company tax cuts ran from the fight for democracy. A government with the stamina to resist the overriding public mood for a royal commission into the banks for four years washed its hands of the Uluru statement in as many weeks.

And a government that claims to be of good heart to Indigenous Australia publicly humiliated a generation of great black leaders. All that the government has achieved in so doing is to lay a fertile ground for proponents of extremism and violence to preach to the next generation of black leaders who will rightly think Australian democracy is a sham that excludes them.

The effort it demanded of Canberra was perhaps too large; it demanded it imagine the country anew, stronger, richer. It required people who knew a life of the mind and a life of the soul, a largeness and generosity of spirit, and all these things are not just absent in the Turnbull government but consistently attacked and destroyed by them whenever they appear in Australian life.

Perhaps they knew themselves it was a task beyond their desiccated souls. The Uluru statement was a historic moment for our nation and, by refusing it, the Turnbull government chose to write itself out of history. Of them, only shame will endure.

 Most Australians would be horrified to learn the full extent of the massacres
But if Canberra needs Australia, Australia does not need Canberra. By framing the Uluru statement as a political request that awaited a political response, by thinking it was about Canberra and not Australia, what has been forgotten is the immense power of the story Indigenous Australia is seeking to tell to all Australians.

And it is this which I think forms the heart of what Galarrwuy Yunupingu has characterised as a great gift to Australia.

The Makarrata – the less-discussed aspect of the Uluru statement – calls for a commission charged with two tasks: seeking agreements at various levels of government with Indigenous people and with truth telling about the past.

Indigenous Australians know the truth of us as a people for they have lived the lie of the white explorer and the white pastoralist who brought not freedom but chains, not food but poison, not home but dispossession, not law and order, but massacre, murder, rape and the stealing of children.

But most Australians do not. Most Australians would be horrified to learn the full extent of the massacres, of the fireside killings, of the wars of extermination, of the rapes, of the destruction and desecration of sacred sites, of the children taken, of the countless lives allowed to continue life without living. It is a terrible story, a story of shame, but it is my story as much as it is your story, and it must be told, and it must be learned, because freedom exists in the space of memory, and only by walking back into the shadows is it possible for us all to finally be free.

The Bunggul dance at this year’s Garma.

I hope one day someone finds an Indigenous word to describe the unique nature of this enduring tragedy, this eternity of crimes, crimes that continue and that continue to deform us all, black and white, a word particular to our national tragedy’s own epic lineaments of suffering, resistance and endurance, a word such as the Holocaust is to the Jewish tragedy, as the Holodomor is to the Ukrainian tragedy.

And that word would also perhaps include the way in which this tragedy was also other things, how those who murdered also made love, how those who orphaned also had children, how those who derided and persecuted the Indigenous also took on Indigenous ways, thinking and dreams.

I have spoken elsewhere of the extraordinary extent to which early Tasmanian settlers took on Palawa ways of shelter, diet, clothing and lifestyle. But consider another example from the Kimberley: when the colonial police were hunting down the great Bunuba resistance fighter Jandamarra, they came to believe that he was, as the Bunuba said, a magic man.

Many white settlers came to believe Jandamarra could fly and even police reports described bullets passing through his body. The Bunuba believed that a magic man could only be killed by another magic man, and so police brought one down from the territory and it was he who killed Jandamarra.

But who really won?

To defeat the Bunuba the whites had to enter their Dreaming, and accept their beliefs as the truth of the Kimberley. And in this way the story of the frontier is a story of birth as well as of killing, of values and mentalities changing as much as it is also of segregation, oppression and violence.

 Though the Uluru statement has been denied, it is not dead
If we can as a nation learn and understand some of these things we can also appreciate the second story which is as transcendent as the first is tragic, and that is a different story of the past, a story of glory. It is the 60,000-year story that manifests itself here at Garma.

It is in the Indigenous languages I hear all around me here, each a different way of divining the universe, unique and irreplaceable. It is in the cosmology and wisdom of traditional communities; it remains artfully written over much of our landscape in the fire-shaped patterning of bush, scrub and grassland; it stares back at us from the great rock paintings of the past and the extraordinary Indigenous art of today, from the films of Warwick Thornton to the paintings of Emily Kame Kngwarreye to the dance of Stephen Page, to the exquisite beauty of Michael Long holding the ball out to Carlton in the 1993 grand final, daring anyone to be better, as a grand final became wholly about his time, and his place, and his magnificent wonder.

And in that strange frozen moment of pure motion, as Australia thrilled as a man seemed to move at once backward and forward in time in defiance of time and space, it is possible to see also that our great struggle as a nation has always been to find ourselves in each other – the white in the black, the black in the white.

That is why though the Uluru statement has been denied, it is not dead.

I do not think that the majority of Australians have even started thinking about it. I do not believe that presented with the great drama of our nation going back into deep time that they will not be moved; that in being shown the vast tragedy of invasion that they will not understand the enormity of the crime; that in being shown the great wealth and diversity of Indigenous culture they would not feel an immense, shared pride.

And I think that they will come to the view that in denying black Australia that they have finally denied themselves, that this denial damages us all, and that they accept that it must now end.

If Australians can understand these stories as the mighty stones on which their nation could rest, I believe we could then combat the forces of racism, of hate, of fear, that are presently destroying other nations. We might even finally become a truly independent nation, knowing our strength resides not in obsequious alliances with power elsewhere, but within the marvel of our own people.

But for these things to happen the truth must be heard.

Black and white, we have become kin

I began writing this speech at my place on Bruny Island. Opposite my writing room across D’Entrecasteaux Channel is Oyster Cove, where, in a remote outstation, the 47 spirit-shocked survivors of the Tasmanian genocide were dumped by the colonial authorities. After hearing of their story – he called it a “war of extermination waged by European immigrants” – HG Wells wrote The War of the Worlds in which Martian colonists exterminate Europeans.

Tonight I am here in Garma, a guest of the Yolngu people, and I realise that war never ended. Not the trauma, not the pain, not the damage, not the ongoing injustices, not the cruelties, nor yet the humiliations, not the torment of powerlessness.

In Yolngu the word for selfish is gurrutumiriw, which translates as lacking in kin, or acting as if one has no kin.

And Australia as a nation, after 200 years, is faced with a fundamental truth. We are now entwined peoples; by custom, by humour, by friendship, by love, by work and by sport, in art, in music, in words, and through the land; in all these ways we have over 200 years found ourselves in each other.

Black and white, we have become kin. We cannot be selfish.

And because we are kin it is not possible for white Australia to pretend that it is not damaged by the war that so damages black Australia, that it is not crippled by the same wounds, that it too is not rendered oddly mute by the same silence.

We should aspire as a nation to the hard-won knowledge that a war that began over 200 years ago can now be ended, and with it the crimes, the violence, the massacres, the murders, the rapes, the stolen children, the smashed Dreamings, all this can finally become history rather than an enduring present.

 It doesn’t take 20 years or 50 years or forever to get there. It takes political courage
We can belong here if we choose to anchor our identity in Indigenous Australia’s history, a history that must include the cost of the invasion – and the path to that new identity is saying yes to the Uluru statement.

Indigenous Australia is offering the possibility of completing our commonwealth of Australia, a commonwealth brutally deformed at its birth by its exclusion of its First Nations.

Commonwealth is an old middle English word that derives from an older word, commonweal, which was understood as a general good that was shared, a common well-being. It suggests a mutuality and shared strength. It evokes relationships, the idea of a common inheritance. It is, you could argue, the counterpoint to the Yolngu word for selfishness, for lack of kinship. Commonwealth is kinship.

It is to a completed commonwealth that I wish to belong. A commonwealth not just of states but more fundamentally a commonwealth of kin, a commonwealth of the Dreaming, of 60,000 years of civilisation. That’s the land I want to walk to, and it’s time we began the journey along the path Indigenous Australia has with grace shown us. To tomorrow. To hope.

Garma festival: Indigenous sovereignty would be a 'gift for all Australians''

It doesn’t take 20 years or 50 years or forever to get there. It takes political courage. And it is we who must give our politicians the courage they lack.

For too long we have confused civilisation and our European heritage as the same thing. We have been blind to the sources of freedom and hope that were uniquely our own, the vitality and antiquity that were uniquely our own, the complexity and the beauty that were uniquely our own and always there just in front of us.

But, like Burke and Wills, dying of a hunger created by their illusions in a land of plenty, we couldn’t see the food that was there in front of us. We only had to ask and it would have been given. But for over 200 years we turned our backs and our souls withered.

“At Uluru we started a fire,” Galarrwuy Yunupingu has said, “a fire that we hope burns bright for Australia.”

 Galarrwuy Yunupingu at the Garma festival on Saturday

Indigenous leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu at the Garma festival on Saturday.

I began with a warning. I spoke of how our story as Australia is no longer holding. We have before us the chance other nations do not. If white can find themselves in black, as black Australia has through the Uluru statement sought to find itself in white, we can begin a new story – a better, richer, more sustaining and more hopeful story.

To do that though we must choose to become history’s actors, all of us, because no one else will change these things for us.

For Australia lies before us, waiting to be written into the Dreaming and the Dreaming into it. It is far from easy, but I believe that if the Uluru statement is taken to Australia, rather than to Canberra, that Australians are ready for this new story, that there has never been a better time, and that we must dare everything in our telling.

Yothu yindi. Garma. Makarrata. Yolgnu words that mean: coming together. Working together. Making peace together. This is our indispensable task as a nation and we cannot shirk it one more day. It is our time. Let us begin our country, as nobly as we are able, with kindness, with courage, with the love of brother and sister for brother and sister. Let us seize the fire.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Michael Quinlan Re-Evaluating Worker Mobilisation

In 2018 Professor Michael Quinlan published his book  "Re-Evaluating Worker Mobilisation" an examination of how and why worker combine showing new evidence based on his research that shows an astonishing 4000 instances of Australian worker organisation in the period 1851 to 1900.

In his hard hitting conclusion Quinlan writes:

In Australia union density has fallen by well over half on the most optimistic estimate since 1975 and substantial falls have occurred in virtually all the 'old-rich' countries (including Japan), even those like Sweden where unionisation was once around 80% of the workforce. Evidence that more equal societies were more efficient as well as fairer was ignored amidst an ongoing mantra of tax cuts for the rich/trickle-down economics and removing burdensome regulatory red-tape on business. In Sweden, Australia, the UK and other countries supposedly progressive political parties—some created by unions at the turn of the 20th century—played a pivotal role in this shift, claiming to do neoliberalism `light' an impossibility becoming increasingly evident.

The shocking Grenfell inferno in 2017 was not an accident but highlighted the consequences of neoliberal policies on social protection epitomised by the infamous One-in/Two-out and One-in Three-out rule on new legislation—new regulation requires the removal of existing regulations—implemented by successive UK governments and copied by the Trump-administration in the United States.

Subordination and inequality at work were and remain central to capitalism, whether that be clothed in the language of master and slave, master and servant or master and seamen from the 16th to 19th centuries or in the neoliberal discourse of flexible labour markets/market choice, multi-tiered subcontracted supply chains, franchisee self-employment or portfolio employment.

The movement of work to countries in Asia and elsewhere was overwhelmingly driven by a search for cheaper, more vulnerable/compliant and mostly non-unionised labour. In other words, more readily subordinated labour. This shift has not as yet resulted in much by way of the unions in these countries getting greater traction let alone securing a substantial redistribution of the growing wealth generated.

The reasons are not hard to find. In a race to the bottom, governments fall over themselves to make their countries attractive to foreign business. In totalitarian regimes like China—currently the world's manufacturing hub—nominally free workers (many internal migrants with inferior rights) have no right to join let alone establish independent unions.

Official unions are Communist Party functionaries and collective action largely occurs as informal workplace strikes, much like those that occurred in Australia 170 years ago even if the scale differs. In other crony-capitalist regimes like South Korea and more especially Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, unions are suppressed, strikes broken with state assistance, leaders gaoled and as in China much collective dissent remains informal.

In short, a crucial mechanism for redistributing income that made countries wealthy by raising total consumption levels and spreading social risk is missing and even corroding in those countries where it did occur last century.

History repeats but the same progression cannot be presumed. The growing inequality in the West is not helping to reduce wealth inequalities in those countries where work has shifted. Rather, the ruling elite in both, the fragment of the of the one-percent, is accumulating massive wealth while all but upper middle-class in the old-rich countries have begun to feel the residual pain. In key respects the new world of work in the 'Gig Economy' bears a striking resemblance to that of laissez-faire capitalism in the 19th century.

Meetings of the ruling elite like the World Economic Forum rum have begun to refer to inequality as a risk but just one in a list. There is little sense of concern let alone any determination to change policy settings that might alter things,—at their expense—because neoliberalism is unsustainable.

The ruling few—be they. global corporate CEOs or Beijing princelings—and the OECD neoliberal economists, financiers, corporate/tax lawyers, global agencies like the media outlets, politicians and others who serve them, aren't uneasy.

Michael Quinlan, The Origins of Worker Mobilisation: Australia 1788-1850, Routledge: London, 2017: 308 pp., ISBN 9781138084087, AUD 221. 

Reviewed by: Terry Irving, University of Wollongong, Australia 

When I was writing The Southern Tree of liberty, (2006), developing an argument about the early years of working-class politics in Australia, I relied heavily on articles by Michael Quinlan and his collaborators (Irving, 2006; Quinlan et al., 2003).

Before they appeared, historians of early labour had to work with measly information: some incidents of pre-modern convict resistance, a few tiny unions, a few short strikes, a few 'immature' workingmen's organisations. The result was, in his words, a set of 'fractured accounts' of worker activity.

The new approach in Quinlan's articles knitted the fractures and dazzled us with data. Let's not focus just on the narrow, formal aspects of worker organisation, he said, let's see how much informal activity there was. Answer: a hell of a lot. Let's also use a concept that makes sense of this activity, and that places it in the context of state and capitalist power, the idea of a class in formation — the working class. This is why his book is called The Origins of Worker Mobilisation — to put the stress on a class process rather than on the usual fare of labour history, strikes and unions, cultures and ideologies.

The title is also a pointer to its significance, which is far greater than its impact on those of us working in the field of early Australian labour history. Throughout the research that went into this book, Quinlan kept in mind the question that underlies all others in labour history namely, how and why do workers come together?

The evidence Quinlan presents in the book is both qualitative and quantitative, but it is the latter that gives the book its distinctive character. For three decades, using a specially designed relational data base, he has been entering information about worker mobilisation, informal as well as formal, making a file for each instance, no matter how small or ephemeral, and not just for New South Wales, but for the other colonies as well. He did this personally to ensure consistency.

He recorded evidence of strikes, court actions, go-slows, demonstrations, mutual insurance schemes, petitions, mass abscond-ing, sabotage and political meetings. He gained this evidence through the painstaking reading of a huge range of sources, including convict conduct records, police gazettes, official correspondence, court bench-books and colonial newspapers. By the time he sent off the manuscript to the publisher, he had recorded 6426 instances of worker mobilisation. Remarkably, this is probably only about two-thirds of all the instances of organisation for which evidence can be expected to exist, because, as he explains, his research in the court records is incomplete.

Friday, February 01, 2019

US – Trump and Venezuela

Washington Post

President Trump has chosen a side in the conflict in Venezuela, where opposition leader Juan Guaidó has named himself interim president after challenging the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro’s recent reelection. Trump, along with other international leaders, has formally recognized Guaidó, effectively promoting regime change in Venezuela.

Yet although international support will bolster Guaidó’s claim, Trump’s decision to insert himself into a struggle for democracy, now mainly driven by protesters in the streets of Venezuelan cities, will help neither Venezuela nor the United States. As a populist who uses, and abuses, democratic rules to undermine democracy, Trump is incapable of leading a transition to democracy in Venezuela. And his interference is likely to make things worse.

The United States has participated in the overthrow of dozens of Latin American governments since the late 19th century. These interventions have taken the form of direct military attacks, covert operations (often involving the CIA) and aid to internal actors bidding for power. By appointing Elliott Abrams as its point man in Venezuela, the Trump administration embraces that history of interventions. During the Reagan presidency, Abrams was central to U.S. actions that resulted in human rights violations in Central America. He was also convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra investigation.

Trump’s threats to invade Venezuela, along with his appointment of Abrams, show that even though he ran against the idea of democracy promotion and military adventurism, Trump has been unable to resist the U.S. government’s interventionist reflex. That reflex, based on the idea that the hemisphere is still an area of U.S. hegemony and that U.S. armed forces can “teach democracy” to lesser countries, has characterized the long history of the relations between the United States and Latin America.

As a reflex, it operates regardless of evidence about its effects. Venezuela is a case in point: In 2002, the George W. Bush government, using the services of Abrams, supported a failed coup against then-President Hugo Chávez. Chávez soon consolidated his power as an anti-imperialist hero.

So what does this history suggest about the probable outcomes of U.S. intervention in Venezuela today?

ACOSS urges Govt to address hours of paid work, not just numbers of jobs

ACOSS urges Govt to address hours of paid work, not just numbers of jobs

The Australian Council of Social Service is urging the Morrison Government to get serious about helping people who are unemployed and need more paid work, as part of its jobs commitment today. The Government should tackle under-employment as well as unemployment, and ensure people who are unemployed have a decent income and a real chance of picking up any new jobs that are created.
Read more

MYEFO: another fairness failure by the Morrison Government

ACOSS says the Morrison Government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook fails to share Australia’s prosperity with those who are living in poverty and, despite welcome investment in aged care, fails to secure essential services into the future. “The Budget update is yet another fairness failure from the Morrison Government. Instead of strengthening revenue and plugging the most urgent gaps in the social safety net – like lifting Newstart – it locks in slated social security cuts and legislated tax cuts for the top 20% of earners,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO. Read more
ACOSS urges Labor to improve disgracefully inadequate Newstart motion at ALP Conference – people cannot keep waiting in poverty for a review

A motion from the ALP Conference yesterday failed to commit to an increase, instead promising only a review, but debate continues today with a vote expected this afternoon. ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “We cannot continue to keep people waiting in poverty any longer for a review and the evidence is already in.”

Labor’s housing package is a historic commitment towards reducing inequality

ACOSS welcomes Labor’s commitment on affordable housing today and offers to work with Labor, if elected, to ensure that the package delivers for those struggling the most financially. “The cost of housing is crippling low-income people with many being forced into homelessness,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

ACOSS calls for fundamental reform of employment services on release of expert review of jobactive

14 December 2018: The Future Employment Services report, released today, recommends major reforms to the jobactive system, which currently burdens people with unnecessary, ineffective compliance and ignores realities of the job market.

Read more

Both the major parties have the opportunity to commit to a long-overdue, widely supported piece of reform

by Cassandra Goldie, The Age, Friday December 14, 2018. With the government releasing its mid-year budget on Monday, during the Labor Party’s national conference, both of the major parties have ideal opportunities to kick off the week by committing to a long-overdue, widely supported piece of reform. Newstart, the payment for people looking for paid work, has not been increased in real terms in a quarter of a century. In that time, the cost of living has gone up dramatically. Just think of the cost of housing 20 years ago. Over that time, Australia’s prosperity has grown to the point where we now have the highest median wealth in the world.

Read more

Philanthropic boost to raise the rate

The Australian Council of Social Service is delighted to announce that it has obtained significant philanthropic funding to dramatically boost the ongoing “Raise the Rate” campaign aimed at increasing the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and other related payments.

Australian First: Cross Party Support for Raising Newstart 

Both of the major parties in South Australia have agreed that Newstart is “far too low” and have called on the Federal Government to make an urgent increase, in the interim report of a Parliamentary Inquiry into poverty, released today.

Read more

Community sector condemns social security cuts for migrants

The Australian Council of Social Service has today condemned the Parliament’s decision to cut $1.2 billion from social security for recent migrants. “This decision will hurt people and their children trying to build a life in Australia. Our social security system should be built on equality,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.

ACOSS calls on the Senate to reject social security cuts for migrants

ACOSS, along with the community sector, has called on the Senate to do the right thing and vote against the bill to make migrants wait up to four years to access social security.   There is no justification for cutting off support for people, including children, who are in financial need. Read more

Nancy Wake